A day in the life of Maggie McDonald by Mary Feliz

Decluttering can be deadly

If you’ve been living on this planet, or even in a nearby solar system, you’ve been barraged by messages from news outlets, best sellers, and talk shows about decluttering, downsizing, and tidying up. They may have inspired you or, more likely, made you feel like a hoarder, a slob, or worse.

Rest assured, you’re probably neither. As a human being, you’re subject to the laws of physics, among them those involving entropy. Entropy is just a science-y word for the fact that disorder has a way of winning out over order. Always. It’s the law.

For me, that means job security. I’m a professional organizer, and I’m here to bust a few myths. Decluttering won’t make you happier, thinner, or more successful. It won’t make your teenager confide in you or solve a problem with a cheating spouse. If you’re seriously allergic to dust mites, it might make you healthier in the long run, but as you dig through your stuff, you’re going to inhale a lot of dust. It won’t be good.

Marie Kondo’s blockbuster The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing makes a case for the sheer joy of tidying up, as if it’s a new designer drug. It’s not. Tidying up is tedious. It’s hard work, it takes too long, and it’s relentless.

So why hire an organizer?

Because I can shorten the process for you. I can help you focus on your goals and keep you from getting sidetracked by your high school yearbook while you’re clearing your bookcase. I can prevent you from diving into an Internet black hole to discover what your prom date is doing now.

Once you’ve done the hard part of sorting, organizing, and paring your belongings to only what you need and want, I can set up a system to help you keep it organized with as little effort as possible. I can get rid of all the items you no longer want in a jiffy, no matter how bulky those items are.

Will I make you get rid of your grandmother’s collection of ornamental china? Or your childhood teddy bear? Or that pile of decaying rubber bands that you just might need one day? I’ll probably encourage you to toss the rubber bands. They tend to rot with age and become useless. But you can keep whatever you need to keep. My job is to help you decide, stay on task, and find a great way to store the items you’d like to preserve.

Will I judge you? Never. Talk shows and flashy magazines might make you feel guilty about your clutter, and many shops will urge you to ease that guilt with the purchase of matching hangers and nesting storage boxes. But I’m here to help however I can. For instance, if you love your grandmother’s figurines, I can help you find a way to safely display them, dust free, instead of keeping them stashed in a box in the attic. Or if you’re tired of packing them up with every move, I can help you sell them.

Many potential clients avoid calling an organizer because they fear what will happen when the expert goes home. Let’s look at that. If you’re like most of my clients, I’ll work with you as long as you’re willing to pay me and until you’ve got a firm handle on an organizing system that you understand and can use.

But if you’re like most people, your dedication to your new system will wear off. Life will intervene, and you’ll choose to comfort a crying child instead of sorting your bills. Or you’ll call 911 and get out of the house when a fire starts instead of folding all the clean laundry and putting it away. Life happens. Physics happens. It’s the law.

And that, again, means job security for me. If I’ve done my job well, I hope you’ll call me back from time to time to restore order and give your system a tune up. We can look at how things have changed in your life and what challenges you have. Maybe you have a puppy who likes to chew and you can’t store things on low shelves any more. Or you’ve had shoulder surgery and can’t reach any of those pretty hats you stashed on a high shelf. We’ll resolve those problems together to make things easier.

Organizers aren’t magic. But we can help quickly and without judgment. For some of us, receiving help without judgment is a mystical experience, but decluttering won’t solve all your problems. In fact, for some of my clients it can be downright deadly, but that’s another story.

To find an organizer in your area, consult the National Association of Professional Organizers at www.napo.net.


You can read more about Maggie in Dead Storage, the third book in the “Maggie McDonald” mystery series.

As a professional organizer, Maggie McDonald brings order to messy situations. But when a good friend becomes a murder suspect, surviving the chaos is one tall task . . .

Despite a looming deadline, Maggie thinks she has what it takes to help friends Jason and Stephen unclutter their large Victorian in time for its scheduled renovation. But before she can fill a single bin with unused junk, Jason leaves for Texas on an emergency business trip, Stephen’s injured mastiff limps home—and Stephen himself lands in jail for murder. Someone killed the owner of a local Chinese restaurant and stuffed him in the freezer. Stephen, caught at the crime scene covered in blood, is the number one suspect. Maggie finds herself in the middle of a political hot-button issue when she discovers that only witness is an undocumented teen. Should he come forward and risk deportation or stay mum and let bad guys run amok? Or can Maggie come up with a unique solution before putting her friends, family, and herself at risk?

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About the author
Mary Feliz writes the “Maggie McDonald Mysteries” featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. The third novel in the series, Dead Storage, was released July 18, and is available in all eBook formats. Paperbacks can be ordered from any bookstore and online.

All comments are welcomed.

16 responses to “A day in the life of Maggie McDonald by Mary Feliz

  1. Thanks, Dru-Ann, for welcoming Maggie and me onto your blog. I’m happy to answer questions any of your readers have about the books.

  2. Christi King

    I enjoy this series, especially since their is a golden retriever involved!

  3. I can identify with this book. This is the summer of decluttering our home and cleaning out my mother in law’s house. Trying to organize items and getting rid of those things that you wonder why you even still have is for sure a time consuming task.

    • I think it’s all the micro decisions involved in a massive decluttering effort that tend to do me in. I’m totally in awe of your ability to tackle two projects at once. In the world of professional organizers, I think that must earn you a cape and tights…a decluttering super hero(ine)!

  4. She is correct! It is hard to declutter and half the time you do not notice that things are piling up all over the house.

  5. Barbara Hackel

    I haven’t read any of this series (because of my guilt at my own messes???) but intend to correct that. Love the Golden on the cover! Thanks Dru Ann and Mary for an inspiring post! 🙂

    • Lots of readers tell me that they had to overcome their fear of judgment to pick up the books. The LAST person to judge your organizational skills would be a Professional Organizer. They know exactly how difficult continuous organization can be. (And the dog? Belle was originally almost an afterthought on the cover of Address to Die For. She’s been getting bigger on every subsequent cover!)

  6. Didn’t realize book 3 was out. I love this series. Love the dynamics between Maggie, her husband and her family, plus a lovely dog. Always a good mystery and organizing tips. A winner!

  7. Celia Fowler

    Maggie’s comment about keeping you focused when you want to sidetrack is so important. When it came time to clean my daughter’s playroom, we would only do it in 10-15 minute spurts, because she would find old toys she wanted to play with every time. But when we just had a smaller, more manageable time just for cleaning, it helped keep her (and me) focused before the playing began!

    • Setting a timer for 10-15 minutes is a great technique at any age, Celia. All those micro decisions can be exhausting, and as time goes on you become less effective at making them. Decluttering and organizing can seem so daunting we put it off forever. But almost anyone can find 10-15 minutes from time to time. And make those 10 minutes really count.

  8. Sounds great and I am decluttering myself…a Universal theme lol…