Amy Van Arsdale De-Clutters My Life

“06880” — my blog — has a clean, uncluttered look. I’m proud of that, and work hard to maintain it.

My office is another story entirely.

It’s cluttered. It’s messy, disorganized, and filled with stuff I think I need, but really don’t.

In other words, it’s like nearly every other home office in America.

Every home office that has not yet been professionally cleared, de-cluttered and reclaimed by Amy van Arsdale, that is.

Amy van Arsdale

Amy is a Westporter. In 2008 she, her husband and 4 kids lived near Old Mill Beach. In preparation for renting their house for the summer, she moved everyone’s personal items to the attic.

When she returned in late August, she retrieved only what her family needed, loved and used.

It was a lot less than what she’d moved upstairs.

The next 2 summers, Amy did the same thing. Each time, there was less to bring back downstairs.

And each time, she got more and more efficient.

After Amy put her new skills to use helping downsize her mother, and move her aunts into assisted living facilities, she realized she was on to something. Not only could she de-clutter people’s homes — she could do the same for their minds.

The result was Cleared Spaces: a lifestyle service helping people live better, with far less.

Marie Kondo’s recent fame has shined a light on the process of de-cluttering. But Amy has been doing it for a decade too.

Plus — unlike Marie — she doesn’t leave, then come back weeks later to see the results. Amy is there with her clients, every step of the way.

In fact, she does all the dirty work for you.

I know first hand. The other day, Amy came over to de-clutter my office.

Well, part of it. Even a miracle worker like she could not do everything in one afternoon.

Amy began with a closet. It’s where I’d stuffed everything — old newspaper articles, scrapbooks, report cards from Burr Farms Elementary School, tax returns dating back to the Reagan administration — in the belief that it was important and useful.

That closet was where I needed to move all the crap from my desk and the rest of my office. But first it had to be reclaimed.

Ta da! Thanks to Amy, I’ve reclaimed the closet in my office.

“Eighty percent of what I do is purge,” Amy says. “People have too much stuff, and it’s not sorted well.”

No shit.

So Amy spends a lot of time helping clients figure out what should go, and what must stay. “People pay me to stand over them, and do what they can’t do,” she says. “It’s not brain surgery,”

Her mantra is simple, but key: “If you don’t need it, love it or use it — get rid of it.”

The space Amy creates is not only in the home. It’s in the mind too. She is a certified Kripalu yoga teacher. When she de-clutters, she doesn’t dwell on that part of her life — though she does start with “take a deep breath. People are nervous that I’ll get rid of everything.”

But Amy firmly believes “you really don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy.” Clearing out physical space is centering and relaxing.

My desk still needs a ton of work.

It sure is. As we worked together — she handing me boxes; me realizing I didn’t really need to keep all the correspondence about every book I’ve written, but that I loved every photo I found; she sorting everything I was tossing into bins marked “recycle,” “incinerate” and “donate” (to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations) — I felt awe.

And relief.

Amy was right. I felt better. Lighter. Freer. I was ready — eager! — to attack the piles of who-knows-what cluttering my desk and chairs, filling up my floor (physically) and my head (mentally).

Amy is a pro. She’s non-judgmental. She’s confidential. And — this may be most remarkable of all — she hauls most of the stuff away, fitting whatever she can into her SUV for distribution to Goodwill or the dump.

Amy van Arsdale gets set to make a dump-and-Goodwill run for me.

She even brings bins. This woman is the real deal.

Amy’s services go beyond de-cluttering. She does estate dissolutions, and helps senior citizens downsize. (“Your kids don’t want it!” is another favorite mantra.)

She’s available too for “virtual organization”: telephone consultations, or video chats via Skype and FaceTime.

I’m glad we got together in real time though. Amy was fast, efficient — and fun.

I’m enjoying my un-cluttered closet. I’m ready for the next round.

And I don’t miss all those old Christmas cards, my notebooks from college, or that VHS cassette telling me how to use my Kaypro computer at all.

(For more information on Amy van Arsdale’s Cleared Spaces, click here.) 

20 responses to “Amy Van Arsdale De-Clutters My Life

  1. Richard Fogel

    great work,no skeletons in that closet

  2. Einstein once said,,,”a messy desk is a sign of genius”

  3. Amy is the BEST! My clients swear by her. Glad she was able to work some of her magic on your office, Dan!

  4. It estimated that over the course of the lives of a member of modern affluent society we collect upwards of several million artifacts !

  5. This lady sounds like an angel of mercy. Interesting connection she makes between physical de-cluttering and spiritual discipline. I’m thinking about calling her up. My wife sometimes threatens to set fire to my office, and maybe I need to get out ahead of that solution.

  6. Jean Whitehead

    I hope you kept the Burr Farms report cards……?

  7. She’s one of the loveliest gals around…but I’m afraid for her to come to my house because she would definitely get rid of the boxes and boxes I have of both my kids grade school thru college papers! EVERY SINGLE ONE!!! Oy Veh

  8. As you know, we finally went through this process on our own when we sold our house. It was indeed liberating.

    And, as we learned quite a while back, taking photos of stuff that has personal meaning or scanning it will often suffice. But you do have to have the willpower and self-discipline to go through this on your own—not to mention good health (so we had some help in physically removing some things).

    I certainly hope you saved your diary/journal from your childhood. I’m still waiting for you to turn that into a best-selling memoir!

    PS I think this is a business my mom probably would have excelled at. She’s lived in an apartment in Manhattan for more than 30 years—where virtually everyone feels they don’t have sufficient space and many rent out storage spaces—and she’s consistently had the emptiest closets I have ever seen.

  9. Every time I throw something out, I always need it the next day. That’s why I’m a pack rat.

  10. Donna O'Donnell

    Amy is the very best. In addition, she is kind and a pleasure to be around.

  11. Deb Holliday Kintigh

    You have a BIG work surface, Dan!! Every inch of mine is currently buried, so I’m thinking bigger must be better!! 🙂

  12. Two questions….would she travel to Massachusetts? and what did she do with all the stuff she left behind in her own attic?!

  13. Kristin Hantler

    Amy is a gem. I’ve exclusively recommended Amy to all of my clients (either moving or selling furniture) and all have been thrilled. It’s hard having some random person come in and sort through your personal belongings – it’s emotional and taxing – but Amy somehow makes the process fun, and bonus that she’s super efficient. Go Amy, what a wonderful write up.