De-Clutter 2012 Challenge: Interview with Debbie Lillard, Professional Organizer & Book Giveaway

What a month of de-cluttering! I am seeing newly found space on the closet floor, shelves in the family look cleaner, and now I don’t have to push the hangers to the side to hang my clothes.

How did you do this month?

For being so awesome and making great strides in your de-cluttering your lives, I am going to sponsor a giveaway today…actually, Debbie Lillard, a professional organizer and author has generously offered Absolutely Organized and Absolutely Organize Your Family for the giveaway.

I know. I know. You are trying to de-clutter your house and are probably thinking, “Why would I want to enter a giveaway to get more stuff?” I hear ya. But her books will help, no, change how you de-clutter your space and organize your life big time. But before I get into her books, she has generously offered some advice for us on how to de-clutter and organize our lives more efficiently.

Interview with Debbie Lillard, Professional Organizer and Author

1. Why do we “collect” things only to “de-clutter” later?

The people I see do less “collecting” and more impulsive shopping. Sometimes that shopping is for products called organizers in an effort to get them organized. In reality a product can’t get you organized but can help maintain your system. That is if you have one. I think the abundance of stuff that we Americans have in our lives is a result of megastores, easy credit cards and an overload of advertising from many sources. So we see the ads, we decide we want something (although we don’t always need it) then those things are easy to purchase and because of credit cards we don’t even feel the pain of parting with our money! It’s instant gratification with a delayed consequence. Unfortunately sometimes that consequence is a loss of living space. So we get depressed or stressed out about that and we want to de-clutter. If our efforts are unsuccessful and shopping makes us feel better, the cycle continues. One client I work with who is a hoarder calls it retail therapy. But I contend that is not therapy if it ultimately robs us of a nice place to live and alienates us from friends and family coming over.

Be honest, how many of you used the term, “retail therapy” at least once last year? Uh, huh. So from this day forward, we should NEVER use that term nor believe that that solves any problems.

2. We have the best intentions in trying to de-clutter, especially, in the beginning of the year. What are the biggest pitfalls do you see, in trying ambitiously to de-clutter? And what advice do you have so that we can prevent them from happening? 

Biggest pitfalls I see in de-cluttering efforts are first buying bins, baskets and organizers without really knowing what you need to keep and how big a container is necessary. I also ask my clients before starting any project, “What is the function of this room?” Then everything in there should serve that function.

I recommend a process called “CPR.” It works whether you are organizing a junk drawer, a closet or an entire room.

First, Categorize everything in that space and keep the categories big, like paperwork, office supplies, toys, clothes. You can break them down into more specifics later.

Second, Purge. This does not necessarily mean throw it in the trash. I usually have a recycle pile, a donation pile and a move to another room pile when working with clients. You can even purge as you categorize but it’s helpful once you see how large each category is to pare down to what your really use, need and love.

The last step is Re-Arrange. This is when you put the pieces of the puzzle together. You decide where you want to keep each category and then what container or organizer would be helpful to keep it neat. Before you buy anything, measure the space and decide the look you want. Organizing products come in all shapes and sizes now so you can find one that matches your style.

The hardest part is then maintaining what you have done to organize. For this, you need routines! I recommend straightening daily, cleaning weekly and cleaning out seasonally. In my home I clean out my garage twice a year at the change of seasons. I also clean out clothes closets and toys about the same time of year; this keeps the clutter down and gets things back to normal.

I LOVE that – CPR! We definitely can use CPR around here, right?

3. What are three things we can do throughout the year to prevent cluttering our lives?

    1. Throw out the junk mail/sales circulars as soon as they come in. Better yet – get your name off of mailing lists by going to
    2. Always shop with a list and buy what you need whether that’s clothing, food, or items for your home.
    3. Find a charity or donation bin that is convenient to you. Put donations in the car and drop them off as you go to school, work or the supermarket. Make it easy to purge!

Thank You for your valuable advice Debbie! We might think we know what to do but in reality, we may need help from professionals like you, time to time. For more of her organizing tips, please check out her website and read her blog.

And to help you donate to charities, as per Debbie’s suggestion (#3), here are some organizations that will even pick up your donations from your home. Obviously, there are many others but here is a short list to start your off. Having them pick up your donations will save a lot of time but also your carbon print. And you are donating for a good cause too. It’s a Win-Win! – supports numerous charity organizations – supports Vietnam Veterans of America – supports Veterans of America – Salvation Army

It’s a Giveaway Time!

Back to her books…

Absolutely Organized and Absolutely Organize Your Family are wonderfully easy-to-follow books to help you manage your busy lives. Debbie shows you how to live in a clutter free home, room by room, and shares smart tactics on keeping rooms clutter-free so that there is no need to de-clutter. Debbie also has a ton of practical tips on how to manage our time and family schedule according to our lifestyle. You will love her organized (not surprised) chapters and clear break down of tasks for us to follow.

So, since you signed up to take this challenge, you are automatically entered but for extra entries, please leave a comment here – what are the biggest obstacles you are facing, while you try to de-clutter.

*Suggested retail value for both books are $25. You have to be 18 years and older and live anywhere on Earth to enter. Giveaway ends on Friday February 3rd, 2012 and TWO winners will be picked by and will be announced on Saturday February 4, 2012. I will ship the books directly to the winners.

Good Luck!


Kimberly the winner alicia the winter


Kimberly and Alicia!

I will contact you for your shipping information.

Thank you again Debbie for sponsoring the giveaway! And thank you everyone for entering. For those of you who didn’t win the book, you can buy them from your local bookstores or from Amazon (click on the titles above). They are inexpensive and they will help you organize your life painlessly! 


  1. says

    Terrific post!! I have a bit of catching up to do this past week, but the challenge started off good. . . my biggest challenge right now is in locating some salvaged shelving to help re-organize the inventory and craft items that will be kept:)
    Thanks for the post!!!

  2. dwhite2762 says

    This was a good post. I’m interested in organizing as well as de-cluttering. I have several areas that need to work through but the biggest issue I have an issue with is paperwork. Last week, I went to about 10 websites to sign up for paperless delivery but I can’t seem to keep mail out of the house. This week, I am going to go to mail order houses and have them remove my name from the distribution.
    I can’t decide what to do with the stuff that I do keep. My husband has a home business and we need to keep some receipts. However, the rest, I’m not sure that I need to keep it all. What do you keep and how do you get it all filed?

    • says

      Paperwork is the most common organizing problem. I say keep receipts if they are for items that may be returned, items you paid for by credit card (to check against your statement), tax deductions (save with your taxes for 7 years), or big ticket items that have a warranty attached to them. Regarding financial statements, ask your accountant. A real good filing system is Freedom Filer – they tell you on their instruction sheet what to keep and for how long. You can link to it through my website.
      Sales circulars and credit card offers are no-brainers though – recycle those immediately!

  3. says

    Great suggestions. I didn’t take the pledge but I have been de-cluttering and reorganizing! Hardest thing for me is getting my young daughter to give up toys she’s out-grown.

    • says

      Here’s a trick: tuck some away in a black trash bag and see if she notices. Give it about 3 weeks and if she doesn’t ask for them, you can give them away. If she does start looking for something you can magically find it!

  4. dwhite2762 says

    Problem …..I don’t file it (or at least in a timely manner). My husband keeps receipts and payables with his own method but I need to keep household utility bills, phone and so on since his business is in the house. Do I need to keep every piece of paper from my 401K accounts? Since it is online now, I’m thinking I can throw those in the shredder now. I keep warranties for some expensive things. Most of the clutter is a decision postponed, like invitations that I am thinking of attending, or articles that sound good to me now (but then are put into a stack for a long time).
    I have an app on my computer that snaps articles on the web and you can save those articles. It’s called Evernote and I am trying to keep interesting things on the computer now.

    • says

      Scan and shred! <—- my husband’s Modus Operandi.

      I think he uses shredder as his therapy. No joke.

      You are ahead of the game if you use Evernote. That is an awesome app.

  5. says

    The biggest obstacle to decluttering and staying organized, sadly, I’d have to say are my children. I find that every time I even try to get rid of things, they are in the box getting them right back out. If I’m cleaning, they are right behind me making another mess. It’s a terrible cycle.

    • says


      I am grinning because I imagine your kids are young (or if they are older, then, that’s even funnier) and my own kids have done exactly the same thing.

      But like what Debbie said in a comment above, try to de-clutter their toys when they are ‘looking’ like when they are asleep or out. And put the box where they can’t get to it.

      I also used to tell my kids that we need to share toys with underprivileged kids so that they can have toys to play with too. And if you share them, then, we’ll have more room to buy NEW toys. When they heard the latter, they immediately started sorting out the toy chest themselves. It taught them to ‘share’ and to ‘clean’. Win-Win!

  6. Jenna says

    My biggest obstacle is dealing with the emotions/memories attached to things. Reluctance to dig in because it means unearthing pain.