Clutter and Organization Strategies For Adults and Kids with Laurie Palau

Getting organized can be especially challenging for neurodiverse people. Sometimes it seems as if our environments fall in either one of two extremes—everything neatly in place, or everything in total chaos. It’s like a battle of the OCD versus the ADD. 

But one woman’s clutter might be another woman’s “I’m okay with this!” We all have a unique pain point when it comes to organization and time management. Can’t we slide along the spectrum instead of living in the extremes? How do we create a functional environment for ourselves within all of our stuff—one that reduces stress and overwhelm, and fosters productivity? And can we teach our kids to do the same?

This week on the podcast, my guest is fellow podcaster, author, and clutter expert Laurie Palau. With neurodiversity in her own family, Laurie has figured out a way to meet adults and kids where they are, by giving them strategies to tackle their unique issues with all types of clutter—both tangible and intangible. 

Clutter is really a symptom of something bigger, Laurie says. If we determine “the why of clutter,” we can take actionable steps to make our lives simpler and easier. Warning: You may have to dive deep into some emotions, like guilt and fear. But I know you can do it.

If just the idea of getting organized freaks you out, listen in to our conversation for practical, tactical advice on where to get started. And for ways to communicate with your kids to help them manage their clutter too. (You’ll never tell your kid to “go clean your room” the same way again!)

About Laurie Palau

Laurie Palau is the author of the book HOT MESS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO GETTING ORGANIZED; host of the popular weekly podcast This ORGANIZED Life; and founder of Simply B Organized, a lifestyle company helping people live simply and work smarter.

Her advice has been featured in national publications including Real Simple and The New York Times.

Laurie speaks on the topics of clutter, parenting, and entrepreneurship.

Her CLUTTER CLINIC™ is a nationwide workshop providing strategies to help your team, group, or organization feel more empowered to tackle the areas where they feel most overwhelmed. Her latest work connects the dots between personality type and clutter, through the lens of the Enneagram.

A self-described homebody and coffee lover, Laurie lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her husband Josh, two (almost grown) daughters, and dog, Jeter.

Visit her website and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Links & References

Time Stamps

  • [2:30] – Neurodiverse kids and adults need extra strategy and support to get organized

  • [3:21] – Organization takes Amber to her calm place

  • [5:58] – The why of clutter

  • [6:46] – Sustainable and lasting change is better than Instagram-worthy 

  • [10:35] – Clutter is a symptom of something bigger

  • [13:08] – Organization is a learned skill

  • [14:36] – Modeling behaviors that you want your kids to adopt

  • [18:36] – Being intentional and specific about what “clean” means

  • [20:35] – Amber’s husband’s body doubling strategy and distraction with music to help the kids clean their room

  • [25:01] – Laurie’s three main types of clutter

  • [24:59] – Emotional clutter stems from guilt or fear and causes decision fatigue

  • [26:46] – People with ADHD struggle with calendar clutter

  • [29:54] – Resistance to wasting and the sunk cost fallacy

  • [33:01] – How Laurie empowered a boy to let go of his stuffed animals

  • [36:27] – The last 10% of the project is the real feeling of accomplishment

  • [39:47] – Which room to declutter first if you’re overwhelmed

  • [44:31] – Put time on your calendar to deal with clutter


Amber Hawley  0:04  

Welcome back to the podcast. I have a really awesome guest with me today. I have Laurie Palau, who is a podcaster, and clutter consultant. And she is here to talk about a couple of different things. But I want to first welcome you. Welcome, Laurie.


Laurie Palau  0:24  

Hi, how are you? It’s so nice to be here.


Amber Hawley  0:26  

Yes, thank you. Well, we, there’s a lot for us to talk about. So I kind of want to jump right in. But right before we do, can you, you know, maybe expand a little bit on what, I say clutter consultant, but there, you do a lot of things.


Laurie Palau  0:42  

It works, it works, it’s totally fine. So I am, I have a company called Simply B Organized, I do host a podcast called This Organized Life, clearly, we have podcast listeners. And I’m also a mom. And I started an organizing business really trying to help people reduce some of the stress and anxiety and overwhelm that they were feeling. And I started that over a decade ago. And as a mom, I saw the struggles that my kids had and how they process information differently and how they handled clutter differently and what physical organization look like to them versus time management and they kind of all fell under this big umbrella. And so I began to kind of study clutter and study people’s patterns of behavior. And I now really talk about it, I have a book and a talk it about on the podcast, I talked to real people and experts, and really try to help people a) feel less alone, because we all struggle in some way with some type of clutter, or it could be over control of a situation. 


Laurie Palau  1:44  

But also, as a mom, I’ve spoken pretty candidly, I’ve had my daughter on my show, and talk about kids who are a little bit neuro, not as neurotypical and specifically kids and adults who have ADHD, and some procedural processing and other types of, I hate using the word disorders. But, you know, areas that they need a little extra support. And so I, rather than just kind of wave a white flag and say, Well, this is the hand I’ve been dealt, so be it, I think there are solutions, and you may just have to work a little harder, just like some people, you know, they can naturally play piano where other people have to practice every day or some people are naturally skinny and other people have to diet all the time. You know, sometimes people have to work a little harder, but it’s achievable. It’s just a matter about putting the right practices for you in place.


Amber Hawley  2:39  

Awesome. And anybody who’s listening to the podcast before knows, or who has met me in person, I always say like organization is my porn, like I love it. I, you know, I have, I have like what is called under Dr. Amen, he talks about, well he uses a different word, but I call it obsessive ADHD. So I tend to be a little OCD-ish. That’s like how I get to my calm place. But like many people with ADHD, or, you know, neurodiverse people, it is either complete, like organization, labels, everything, or it’s like chaos, like there, it’s all or nothing, those are my two, those are the places I live, like so many people. And so when I get to that place where I get everything organized, and together, it’s like I feel so calm. So I love talking about organization. And we’re definitely going to be talking about that today, because that is your expertise. 


Amber Hawley  3:36  

But what I thought was really interesting, as well is kind of what you just touched on about that journey of how to support your kids, because so many people who are, you know, neurodiverse whether that’s, you know, ADHD, or autism, or just something else where you, your brain works a little different. A lot of that stuff runs in families. So, you know, there’s that struggle of, hey, I have ADHD, and I have, my brain works differently. And I have to kind of do things differently. But then I have children with ADHD and my husband is ADHD. So then that adds extra layers of like, how do we make this work? Right? in a family where we all have different ways. So I thought the, you had talked about like your, is it both of your daughters or just one?


Laurie Palau  4:22  

No, just one and my husband. So one and a husband. So yeah.


Amber Hawley  4:27  

Well, that’s enough. But. But yeah, I kind of I thought it would be really interesting to hear from somebody who, who, you know, isn’t in that struggle, necessarily. But how do you support your family members with that? So yeah, maybe you can jump in and kind of talk about that a little bit more about, you know, how, how do you, because you don’t, your brain doesn’t work that way. But how did you kind of learn to support them in the ways that their brain worked? 


Laurie Palau  4:57  

Well, I learned pretty early on when I started my business. And I really started to be intentional with working with people other than myself. Because when you organize for yourself, and you know the way that you like it, and you know, you can make decisions, if you’re someone like me, like it was easy to make a decision, and I was able to make a decision and then implement it. And I found that to be just pretty organic. And when I started my business, I started realizing that that wasn’t as intuitive for a lot of other people. And so for myself, I started really looking at why certain strategies work for some people versus another. 


Laurie Palau  5:38  

So my whole approach really has to do with the why of clutter. What is clutter? How do we define different types of clutter, and then once we can give some sort of language, because I think a lot of times, it’s not so much about giving a label as it is about giving language. And once you can give language around something, then you can say, okay, so here’s what we’re dealing with. And this is a way that we can, a strategy that we can use to try to apply to it, as opposed to, this is the way to do it, and giving a how-to approach it’s like, let’s look at the why. Let’s look at where you’re struggling. And then we can start to figure out what’s going to work for you. 


Laurie Palau  6:15  

And so that’s really kind of how it all kind of evolved is starting to really not just come in there with an action plan, and say, “This is how we’re going to tackle this,” because anybody could come in, and, you know, work their magic, and make your space look like an HGTV show or a Pinterest page or whatever. But what happens when you walk out the door? What happens there? And so I’m about sustainable and lasting change. And so rather than have something just look perfect for a minute, or, you know, Instagram-worthy, how is this really going to impact my life in a positive way? What are, what do we need to do, whether that means hanging a checklist on your bathroom mirror, which is something that we did for years in my house, whether that means color coding labels, whether that, whatever it is that’s going to help you reach the point of success that you’re trying to reach, and it doesn’t, and everybody’s benchmarks are going to be different. 


Laurie Palau  7:15  

And so I just started experimenting, really, and I think the greatest gift for me was having a child who was neurodiverse in that particular area, because first of all, it humbled me as somebody who was like, Yes, this makes sense. You come home, you do your homework, this is what you do. And this is the, you know, sequential steps that we take to get things done. And all of a sudden, I had a child who’s brain worked completely different. And so, you know, aside from the many years of yelling, and screaming and tears, but here we are on the other side, and she’s thriving, and she’s in college, and has learned strategies that work for her. And for me, it’s about not finding the one right strategy. It’s, it’s a work in progress. And things evolve. And just being aware and being able to hit that pause button and say, Okay, this is what I need, and have, again, putting this language in, for people to say, this is where I think I’m struggling, because a lot of times, there’s so much frustration, because we can’t articulate what we’re feeling. 


Laurie Palau  8:24  

And so what I try to do, especially when it comes to clutter, because I always say clutter’s really more about how it makes you feel, you know, some people I would walk into somebody’s house, and I would see, you know, one pile of papers, and they will be freaking out that their house is like “I’m a hoarder.” And that I could walk into somebody else’s house, that there’s like, what I deem is chaos all over the place. And that’s not bothering them. So it’s where’s your pain point? And how can we help you get to the desired result?


Amber Hawley  8:52  

Well, you hit on so many things that I want to go, you know, expand on here. Because you know, the interesting thing is when I work with couples, and one person is like, has ADHD, and you have the other person who like likes things a certain way, right. And I’m kind of that way too, like, I like things to look aesthetically pleasing, like I like them to look pretty. And so some of the solutions for somebody with ADHD is having things that like don’t necessarily belong, or like you said, like a checklist on the mirror that kind of stuff. Like you don’t get your ADHD moments. Excuse me, you don’t get your ADHD moment when you are like “oh look.” And then there’s a checklist on the mirror. 


Amber Hawley  9:37  

But and so so many times like the other partner is like resisting those things because they’re like, I just want it to look pretty, can’t they just remember. I’m like, no, they don’t, like they need that support. And so it’s finding that balance of Well, would you rather have it look quote unquote perfect? Or would you rather stop being frustrated by the things that you, you know, brought you into therapy or you’re complaining about, so I want to start with that, that I love, I think that’s where people have to kind of take that step back is understanding, like setting up your environment functionally, even if it doesn’t look aesthetically so pleasing, right?


Laurie Palau  10:17  

Well, yeah, 100%. And I always say that clutter is really just a symptom of something else. It’s a symptom of something bigger, whether it’s anxiety, or shame, or uncertainty, or overwhelm. All of these different, you know, feelings and emotions can result in clutter. It can also result in tactical things of just not using your time wisely or being over scheduled. There’s all of these, I call them the five clutter pitfalls. And so I talk about them quite a bit. I have like a free download on my website. You guys can link up to that if you want. 


Laurie Palau  10:55  

But I have um, you know, I talk about that a lot. I talk about what are the types of clutter, we’ve got different types of clutter. And where are people struggling? And then again, like you said, What is your goal, because our goals are that we want to have peace, we want to have calm, we want to have all of these other things, we want have healthy relationships, we want to not feel like you’re always constantly playing catch up or racing out the door, or whatever it is. Because to me that’s more important than, you know, not having a checklist on your bathroom that nobody sees anyway.


Amber Hawley  11:30  

Yeah but you would be surprised how much pushback there is on that when you have, again, when you have more than one person, like you’re saying, if you’re doing something for yourself, it’s so much easier to make that work. But when you have, when you’re working within a family, and everybody has their idea of like how things are supposed to be, that’s always where it gets a little more tricky. And you have to kind of negotiate that, right? 


Laurie Palau  11:53  



Amber Hawley  11:54  

Yeah. And I do appreciate, there are times where, you know, I can be that person where like one, we have this like moveable island in our kitchen area. And when that’s really cluttered, I’m like, our house is a shit show. Like nobody picks up after themselves. And I find it stressful. But reality is it’s like one thing, right? Whereas like you said, I’ve also run into people where they live in, like you said, chaos. It’s like not full on hoarding, but it’s super cluttered. And they’re like, oh, no, I’m fine with it. My experience is that they’ve actually kind of shut down, they, they’re not, it actually isn’t best for functioning. So there’s, you know that, but at the same time, we all have to do what we have to do. And if that’s not their priority, right? Like they gotta figure something out. But usually people, that’s kind of like a misnomer of like, oh, I function in this chaos, like, I know where everything is.


Laurie Palau  12:50  

Well people adapt. That’s the thing, people adapt. But being organized is a learned skill. Learning a lot of this stuff, it is all teachable, which is great. Because again, it’s not saying this is the one way to do it, there’s a lot of different ways that you can get to the same result. But it’s a, it’s a matter of, part of life skills is knowing how you can incorporate these certain practices, and especially is for parents, you know, I’m very big on teaching kids organizing strategies when they are young. 


Laurie Palau  13:26  

And parents need to also model that behavior. You know, I have had people that I’ve talked to that get very frustrated, or clients I’ve worked with, that they’re frustrated at their kids, because their kids don’t do X, Y and Z. And I can completely relate to that. But I always say, are you modeling that behavior yourself? You know, are you are you making your bed? Are you opening the mail every day? Are you putting your jacket away? Or your personal you know, all those fill in the blanks, right? So you want your kids to do all of this stuff? Are you modeling that behavior and again I get it as parents we do have a level of do as I say not as I do. But I think in the grand scheme of thing, for things like, this is going to be for the betterment of your mental well being, your physical well being, you’re going to be more productive, which is going to reduce anxiety, all of these intangibles, especially for kids that hard to really grasp. Um, really modeling that and just letting them, just leading by example a lot and kind of explaining for me, explaining what I’m doing as I’m doing it and why we’re doing it.


Amber Hawley  14:36  

Yeah, and I think that’s the key right, because I know for years like I, I definitely do. I mean nobody’s perfect. Like there are times where, when we’re in like stress mode or if I’m launching, or something particularly, we’re in a busy season right, then things are not perfect and by all means my house is never perfect. I’m not trying to claim that, except for you know that one day, that five minutes after it’s been cleaned by somebody. But but at the same time, like I generally, I put everything back where it belongs, like everything’s labeled and color coded. 


Amber Hawley  15:09  

Nobody seems to care about that in my household. But what I realized was, like I would, I would do the modeling. And I would talk to them, and they’re like, oh, I don’t care. I remember my kids being like, I don’t care. I don’t mind. I said, you want people to come over and think you live in, in a sty? And they’re like, Yeah, I don’t care. That always cracks me up. But what I realized is, I needed to actually, like you said, explain to them why I’m doing something and like how to do it. 


Amber Hawley  15:35  

So I think that’s the other piece is, if you are somebody who is good at organizing, like telling your kids or your family, like letting them know how to, like you said, this isn’t a skill that everybody learns. And, you know, sometimes we need it really explicit. I still think the modeling is important. But sometimes we need that explicit, like feedback of like, this is how you organize a bookcase. Or this is why you do this, right?


Laurie Palau  16:02  

Well, I absolutely. And I think you, you hit, you know, you hit on something really important that I just want to expand on, which is really about being very, very specific. We take a lot of things for granted. And, you know, I’ll give one of the most popular, you know, expressions that most parents at one point or another have uttered to their kids, which are “Go clean your room.” And we hear that, and then how many times have you gone up there and you’re like, it doesn’t look any different, or they just shoved all their stuff under their bed or in their closet, or in a corner or whatever. And I was guilty of this too, when my kids were young. And I really kind of took a step back and realized that’s a very broad stroke term, go clean your room? What does clean mean? What does that really look like? 


Laurie Palau  16:52  

So if you want to kind of get very granular and kind of geeky about it, I always say first of all, we want to start small, because I, we all know as adults, I don’t care if you’re neurotypical, or atypical, clutter can be very overwhelming at, for a majority of people. And especially if you don’t do this for a living where you’re like, Yes, I can dig into this. So clutter is overwhelming. And people, which is why people procrastinate in the first place. So imagine that in the mind of a child who already wants to do things that feel good. And this is something that is not. So then you couple that overwhelm with this broad stroke, no direction of “Go clean your room.” Well, what does that really mean? 


Laurie Palau  17:35  

So being very, very specific into saying, Okay, here’s what I want you to do, I want you to pick up all your dirty clothes, and I want you to put them in the hamper. Or I want you to pick up all your Legos and put them in this bin, or I want you to take all of the books on the floor and put them back on the bookshelf. So being very intentional and specific about what you’re asking, is huge. Because again, in a kid’s mind, shoving it all in the closet, so when you open it up the floor is clean, that is cleaning their room. And you’re not teaching them. So if we really want to empower our kids to teach them these things, we need to explain them, and we need to break it down because we don’t aren’t just born knowing. So what does that really look like. And the other advantage to being specific, is it makes it less daunting to say, Okay, we’re gonna, all I need you to do right now, I just need to pick up all your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. That’s all I need you to do right now. And then, tomorrow, later, whatever, or once we’re done that we’ll talk about next steps. 


Laurie Palau  18:43  

But make them very simple, easy benchmarks to achieve. Because then they start to build momentum, then they start to build competence, then they start to realize, Wow, it really didn’t take, I spent more time, you know, whining about and procrastinating it where it could have been done already. So if you take them, and these are great strategies that you can use for adults too, but specifically for kids when you just say okay, this is what I, I can see the finish line. And so then they know what the expectation is and how to meet it.


Amber Hawley  19:14  

I love that. And yeah, I found that too where, like you said it’s, what does actually clean mean? And my husband still does that. Like I remember when he would quote unquote clean the playroom. He would literally get one of those giant like janitor brooms and like sweep everything into a corner. And I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me like this is insanity. But for him, and he has ADHD, it was so overwhelming because it’s different when it’s your stuff and you know we don’t, we, we don’t have a lot of stuff so we try to keep it easy. But when you have toys and three kids and all that stuff, it all adds up. But I do love having that, that very specific, like you said tangible, which is hard. If you’re feeling stressed out and you’re like “I just want your room clean,” you do actually have to take the time to give that, those, those steps to them, right? But eventually they learn that stuff. 


Amber Hawley  19:50  

I know one good strategy my husband does is when he cleans with them, which is an ADHD tactic, it’s body doubling, right? Like, so he’ll be with them in the room. And he always says, Okay, how many songs do you think it’s gonna take for us to clean your room. And so he’ll have them pick a song, and they, so they pick a song, and they, they do you know, clean during that song. And then they pick a next song. And they keep doing it like that. So it kind of makes it fun. And, and it’s like, there’s something else kind of occupying their brain besides the part that’s like, Oh, my God, I hate this. When is it gonna be done? You know?


Laurie Palau  20:39  

I love it. I’m all about distraction, and trying to find the fun in it. I know, as an adult, when I would use years ago, you know, I would when my kids were little, and they would go off to school, I would get on the phone and talk to my girlfriends while I was unloading the dishwasher and making the beds, you know, or now I listen to podcasts when I’m doing certain things just because again, you want to find these distractions. 


Laurie Palau  21:04  

And I do think that there is safety in numbers, people like to have, they like that accountability, they feel it’s, for a lot of people, it is a calming effect having somebody there. And, and that’s what we, that’s a lot of the purpose that professional organizers serve for their clients. In addition to giving them the direction, it’s just having that other person that’s sitting alongside you to help you navigate through something that can be, you know, again, overwhelming.


Amber Hawley  21:39  

Yeah, yeah. And I always think, especially because sometimes you can get really bogged down in the minutiae of it when you’re organizing. So knowing you have this expert sitting right there, like, who will give you the strategy or, or at least keep you from obsessing about it and just kind of like, oh, no, we’re gonna do this and move on. I know, I’m such a huge fan. 


Laurie Palau  22:01  

And that’s another thing. And again, I don’t you know, I don’t want to kind of go off on too much of a tangent. But I know, you know, especially people, and I’ve gone through this with my daughter who have ADHD and possibly struggle with some OCD, you can easily become fixated on things, which slows down the progression of progress. And almost becoming, like, hyper. I’m like drawing a blank. I’m having like a brain freeze of what it’s called. But it’s like, you’re like hyperfocusing.


Amber Hawley  22:30  

Well you’re hyperfocusing.


Laurie Palau  22:32  

Yes. Thank you. Okay, I literally had a brain freeze. So yeah, you’re hyperfocusing on a task, which can be paralyzing. And so being able to have somebody that, that kind of redirects you, and throughout the process to remind you of like, okay, here’s where we’re going, can be extremely helpful, especially with somebody who can, their brain can easily go into that loop.


Amber Hawley  22:57  

Right, right. No, that’s so great. So you had talked about, you know, for the, for the person who’s neurodiverse, and they’re the adult themselves. You talked about that there are different kinds of clutter. Can you just touch on that? I think that’s important for people.


Laurie Palau  23:16  

Absolutely. It’s like one of my favorite things to talk about. So in my book, I talk about three main types of clutter. And they are, and then you could trickle them off into subsets. But for all intents and purposes, three main types of clutter. You’ve got your physical clutter. And your physical clutter is the stuff that you would think. It’s the stuff that you see. It’s laundry, paper, mail, toys, extra clothes, all the physical stuff. And that usually results from either more volume than space, like I have too much stuff versus the space, like the ratio, or, and/or, not having the right system in place. So maybe I have a lot of stuff, maybe I have the room for it but maybe I just need, maybe I need some shelving, maybe I need some product. So again, identifying, is the physical, what is, what’s the reason for this physical clutter. So that’s your first one that most people think about when you hear the word clutter. That’s what most people think about. 


Amber Hawley  24:13  



Laurie Palau  24:14  

Second type of clutter is what I call emotional clutter. Now emotional clutter stems from guilt or fear. And so it’s that, so and so gave it to me, my kids made this for me, it cost a lot of money, so I can’t get rid of it. What if I get rid of it and I need it? What if somebody, what if Aunt Edna comes to visit and she asks where that vase is that she gave me that’s sitting in the back of the closet. You know, all of these scenarios. So what happens with this emotional clutter is it puts us into this state of paralysis. Exhausts our decision fatigue, or exhausts our ability to make decisions so we struggle with decision fatigue. 


Laurie Palau  24:50  

And then inadvertently, that emotional clutter then results in physical clutter so then we get stuck. So you could have physical clutter that is strictly like, I’m not emotionally attached to this, I’m just a shopper, and I like to shop and shop and shop and shop. So you can have that independent of the emotional. But then if you are somebody that’s very much a sentimental person or again, you have all of this, you know, fear, you know, kind of looming in the background, that not only just weighs you down from a mental load, but then it also results in having that physical component on top of it. And then


Amber Hawley  25:27  

And then the third one.


Laurie Palau  25:27  

Yeah, no, no, yeah. And then the third one is what I call calendar clutter. And calendar clutter has to do basically with how you’re using your time. Are you adding more stuff on your to do list, or more stuff than you have time? So I always say, think of your, your calendar, like a closet. If you keep adding more things, oh, I can volunteer for this, oh, I can do this, oh, I’m going to do that all these things, but you’re not taking anything out, eventually, things are gonna fall through the cracks. So you can have that. 


Laurie Palau  25:58  

But you can also have calendar clutter by not using your time wisely. And I specifically see this a lot again, not to stereotype, but a lot of people with ADD or ADHD, struggle with calendar clutter, because they intuitively are not geared to, like naturally be good at procedural processing. And again, I’m like, I’m very much broad stroke generalizing. But a lot of people really struggle with that calendar clutter. And that was a piece that I really had to work on, again, specifically with my own daughter, is really helping empower her to learn those strategies so that she could then go off, like she’s, you know, make sure that you could be a functioning member of society and go off to college and be able to do all these things. 


Laurie Palau  26:42  

And calendar clutter, again, they’re all intertwined, the physical, the emotional calendar, they’re all intertwined. But most people, when I work with them have one that’s a little bit more dominant. Most people can say, this is where I feel like I struggle most.


Amber Hawley  26:59  

Right, right. Yeah. And I agree, like, so that kind of calendar clutter, that’s something I talk about a lot. That’s, I do like a quarterly workshop, and we talk about, you know, your real schedule and getting real with your commitments, and all of that kind of stuff. And, yeah, it’s a huge thing. Because, you know, even though I don’t like to, I don’t like to use clinical terms as much, because I want it to be clear, but, you know, people who have ADHD struggle with executive functioning. And so there is a way that it impacts how we’re looking at things and how we’re processing things. And so you’re, like you said, it’s a huge one. And like you said, I think, I think usually, there’s, you know, there’s impact in all areas, but there is usually that one that’s like standing out the most at the time for people. 


Amber Hawley  27:48  

I’m going to go back to the emotional clutter, because I think that one is what keeps a lot of people stuck. Because when I’m working with clients, you know, coaching clients, or therapy clients, and we’re kind of going through to set up their schedules and their processes and their systems to kind of create efficiencies so that they’re not in this constant state of overwhelm, I think it’s that emotional piece that we end up working on a lot to understand, like, what’s the resistance or what’s holding you back from making these changes? Because like you said, a lot of this, it’s like, oh, you could look at it and say, Oh, this is very easy. You just have to do X, like, go through your closet and clean it out, or you know, whatever. 


Amber Hawley  28:27  

But it’s not that. It’s all of this emotional stuff that keeps you from, that makes it really hard. It makes it feel like, oh my gosh, like to you, that’s an easy thing to just go in and do. For this next person, it’s like, you’re asking me to climb Mount Everest, and you’re not prepping me. I have no supplies. Right? And so I think, I think that one is such an interesting one to talk about. Like I even know for myself, like I have this value of not wasting. I don’t like to waste things. And, but I’m, I consider myself a minimalist. Like my version. Not, not the guy who has one jacket, like we, we have more than that.


Laurie Palau  29:06  

You have more than one fork that you pass around, yeah.


Amber Hawley  29:09  

We, there are multiple forks because I have a family of five and we like guests. So you know, we have stuff, right? And yeah, I don’t want to constantly have to be washing the friggin dishes. So we have more than one. But that idea of wasting. And so like for me, you know, as kids, especially with younger kids, they accumulate much more than we do as adults, right? And, and then it gets to that point of like, okay, they’ve grown out of this stuff, or they’ve moved on from this stuff or this, you know, all this junk has come home from school or from parties or whatever. 


Amber Hawley  29:42  

And I go through it and so now in my basement, there is a table that is filled with stuff that it’s like, okay, I know I need to either donate that like I’m not attached, like I’m not one of those people who’s like, well, I’m going to spend all my time on Facebook selling this thing for $5 and coordinating with people. I do that every once a while, like, I’ll try. But I realized, like, that’s not what it is. But I, I’m not in the mental space of ready to deal with it. But I can’t just throw it away. Like the idea of like filling a landfill with something that is still nice and usable for someone else. And so I don’t know, is that something you see a lot with people?


Laurie Palau  30:17  

I see it all the time, I see it all the time. I think most people want to be responsible, like, environmentally responsible. And the interesting thing is, most people, they also want to be financially responsible. Like, I’ve talked to people so many times, they’re like, I spent so much money on this, or this cost so much money, I can’t just give it away. And I think there’s two kind of parts to this equation. So I always tell people, first of all the money, it’s been spent, it’s gone. Right? You can’t get–go ahead.


Amber Hawley  30:51  

I was gonna say that’s actually called sunk cost fallacy, this idea, and that’s where, that’s the one I have let go of, right? 


Laurie Palau  30:56  



Amber Hawley  30:57  

Like this, like, but it’s, but you’re right. It’s a huge thing for people. I hear it all the time. I’m like, letting that thing go and like, having it out of your space frees up your mental energy, right? Yeah, but there’s that idea of like, I spent so much money on it. And now I somehow have to keep it to make it value, to make it not a bad decision.


Laurie Palau  31:16  

Right. And what I say to people all the time is, it doesn’t have to, you can have, you can be responsible, it can be a both-and. You can be responsible and get rid of this. And it’s how do you get rid of it? How, where are you donating it to? Um, do you have time for like a quick story because I have a specific story about this. So this was years ago, I was working with a client and I was helping her in her basement. They’d gone through a move, and like so many people, they just packed up the contents of their house, moved it to the new house. And then we’re left to like, what do we do with all this stuff. So we were going through and I was helping her go through it, and she had, probably her son was probably about 10. And he was about the same age as my, as my daughter. And there was a, two huge boxes of stuffed animals, like two ginormous boxes of stuffed animals, because, you know, they take up space. 


Laurie Palau  32:09  

And they had been in the basement and they’d been in the house for a few months. Like it wasn’t like they just moved in last week. So clearly, these haven’t been missed for a while. And I said to her, what do we do with these stuffed animals? And not to mention, like, a lot of them were kind of babyish and he was like 10 or 11 at this point, you know, like, are we keeping them? Are we getting rid of them? What are we doing? She’s like, he refuses to get rid of them because you know, he just refused to get rid of them. I can’t do it like, I can’t talk to him. But he’s adamant about not getting rid of them. Maybe you could talk to him. 


Laurie Palau  32:39  

So, he came home from school. I was like, come on down to the basement. And I knew him because again, our kids went to school together. And I said, What’s, what’s the deal with these? And he said, he said, I just don’t want them to go into a landfill. I don’t want them, because I said why, I go, do you miss them? Like, do you want them in your room? Should we try to? And he’s like, no, like, they’re kind of babyish, I don’t really want them. And I was like, Well, how come I can’t get rid of them? And again, this goes back to language, right? And that communication piece? And he said, Well, I just don’t want them to end up in a landfill. 


Laurie Palau  33:13  

I said, Oh, well, what if I could tell you that I could donate them. There’s the ones that didn’t have like the googly eyes, I could donate them to an animal shelter. Then there was this other charity that was local that actually did take some stuffed animals. So I said, Well, what if I could get them like, donated? So they weren’t just going into the trash? And he was like, well, that’ll work. I said, well, here you go. There’s two big boxes. I said, I’m gonna give you, I gave him a laundry basket. I said, here’s the deal. I’m gonna be back on Monday. Over the weekend, fill up the laundry basket with as many as you want. And that’s the ones that you’ll keep and everything else, I’ll take them next week. So he was like, deal. So this way, he was still able to make some decisions. 


Laurie Palau  33:53  

It came back. And there was two stuffed animals. And I was like, he started doing it. And then like got distracted. You know, I’m thinking, okay, there’s two in there. So he came home from school. And I was like, bud, like, so what happened? He’s like, I did it. And I was like, Well, there’s only two of them, because they’re the only ones I want. And I was like, for real? And he’s like, yeah, I really have no attachment to these guys. And these are really the only ones I care about. So you could take the rest of them. 


Laurie Palau  34:26  

And it was, I didn’t wave a magic wand. I didn’t yell and scream. I just had a conversation and a solution. And that was enough to make him feel empowered. And that’s where the magic happens. Because now that behavior’s changed. Because now he understands there’s, it’s not an either/or, it’s not like I either have to hold them to protect them from going in the garbage, or this. I can find another solution. And so now the conversation is, I don’t need this anymore. Mrs. Palau, where can I donate it? Where can it go?


Amber Hawley  35:02  

Oh I love that story. And I think that’s the key, right, is like honoring what is the resistance, the anxiety, or, you know, what is the thing that you’re actually looking for? But like you said, it’s about how you word things and how you approach it. 


Laurie Palau  35:15  

Yes, yeah.


Amber Hawley  35:16  

I also think that’s the value when you hire a professional organizer is knowing like, they can be the one that like, I will take it to, because, you know, I know, I know myself and my people, my ADHD peeps, where it’s like, like I said, I have this thing and like, I need to go donate this stuff. But I’ll put it on a table, because I don’t have the time right now to make that happen. Yes. And having this person who’s like, I shall just take it with me and actually do it.


Laurie Palau  35:43  

Absolutely. It’s that last 10% that always like, think about any project in your house? Anything, how many times do we do something and you’re like, I got it 90% done. And then I have that last 10%. But that last 10% is what gives you that, that real feeling of satisfaction, that real feeling of accomplishment. And that’s what starts to really move that needle in that direction. And so it’s doable. But again, I really feel like communication and understanding to meet people where they are. 


Laurie Palau  36:15  

I’ve spent the better part, especially the last four and a half years, really studying personality, really looking at the science behind why people do what they do, and different strategies and why they’re, why a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. And so so much of my stuff is, you know, I always like to say I’m not a psychologist, I just play one on TV. But I get, I’m not licensed, but I’ve done so much studying and research around personality and how each and how different personality types resonate on different things. And it’s just been, it’s been a game changer.


Amber Hawley  36:56  

Yeah, I agree. And I, you know, I’m a huge fan of all the personality assessments and understanding yourself, because the better you understand yourself, like you said, then you can find those solutions that work for you. And, yeah, I do think it is a game changer. So I absolutely love that. And, and like, like you’re saying, even within, even being ADHD, that shows up so different. Like the way my husband’s ADHD shows up so very different than mine. So many, you know, so many of my clients and best friends who have ADHD, it looks very different for everyone. So I love that idea of, you know, having somebody who’s helping you kind of ask the right questions, and figure out those creative solutions. 


Laurie Palau  37:40  

Right. right.


Amber Hawley  37:40  

That’s so fantastic. Um, I guess, I know, I want to be thoughtful of time. But I want to bring up one that I see a lot with clients that I’m working with, to when they’re in this place of, they have, let’s say, the physical clutter, or maybe it’s even digital clutter, but they have this clutter that’s happening. And it’s keeping them from being able to stay focused and kind of, you know, have, like, focus on the things that they need to be doing for their, for their business, or, you know, like function at that, at the level that they want to be functioning, is they feel like it’s insurmountable. 


Amber Hawley  37:40  

And so like having done, I’m, like I said, I’m somebody who loves organizing, I’ve hired a professional organizer. So I’m a huge fan of it. And I’m always like, Oh, no, this if you could just take like this one day or this one weekend. And, you know, like, it feels manageable. But when people are stuck in that space of like, this would, I don’t have the time because it would take me weeks and weeks and weeks and days and days and days. And what, what do I do? Where would you start? I know that’s hard, because like you’re saying you’re not in the nuance of the person. 


Laurie Palau  38:46  



Amber Hawley  38:47  

But like, what would you say to people who are in that place of like, it feels overwhelming?


Laurie Palau  38:52  

Yeah. So it’s a great question. And I always, and I’ll try to be as specific and not just, you know, woowoo, about it.


Amber Hawley  39:01  

When it’s not a specifc person, it’s hard. 


Laurie Palau  39:02  

Yeah. So first of all, I say, start, start small. I know this sounds cliche, but start small, because I think once you can see a project through from start to finish, you feel that momentum. Now you could say, I, this, my spice drawer is stressing me out. Doesn’t mean you have to tackle your whole kitchen, it means you could just do that one drawer, or this one cabinet. So I’m going to give you a couple of, hopefully the kind of like tactical, you know, suggestions. 


Laurie Palau  39:35  

If you are somebody that struggles with emotional clutter, I always say start in the bathroom, or start in a pantry. Those are my two favorite places to start because they both have expiration dates. There’s very little emotional clutter in either of those places. Now again, somebody, theoretically my daughter, who is all about magical thinking, well, she’s gotten better but you know, little scraps of paper and pencils all had feelings, so I get it, any space technically could have feelings. Everybody needs a friend, I get it. But if you start at a pantry with food that expires, or a bathroom that has products that could expire, they’re great places to start, because the decisions often times are removed from you. This expired in 2013, it’s got to go. 


Laurie Palau  40:23  

So those hard and fast decisions where you can make progress quickly are very easy, or where I strongly suggest that people start, because that’ll give you that direction. It also, both of those places usually have kind of like a big predefined space. So say, I’m going to start in the garage or the basement, like that’s like an abyss. You know, that’s to me, I always say that’s like somebody saying, I’m not a runner, but I’m just gonna run a marathon. Like, no, you’re gonna do a one mile fun run, and you’re going to like, you’ll be fine first, and then start to build up from there. So start in one of those two places, I would say, if emotional clutter’s your thing. 


Laurie Palau  41:04  

If it’s not so much emotional clutter, pick a small space that is your pain point. So if your pain point is, you know, the mudroom or the command center when you come in the house, and there’s mail or whatever, think about, but be very actionable. And think about, write down actually, what do I want the space to function as, because I think what happens a lot of times is we make these, and I’ve been guilty of it myself, is you get these emotional feelings. You’re walking through the garage, and you tripped over something for the 80th time, and you’re like, I’m done, that’s it. And then you just start tearing everything apart because you’re like a crazy person. And I’m speaking as personal experience. But what happens is you start to lose steam midway. And because you didn’t have a thought out plan, you were just acting emotionally, you lose sight of where you’re going. 


Laurie Palau  41:55  

So be real clear, try to like not do it when you’re in the height of emotion. Think about okay, this is what I want the space to look like, and what steps do I need to take to get there? Okay, so if I want to have less piles of paper, when I walk in our drop spot, okay, do I need to have, um, do I need to have like a bin for our incoming mail? Okay, we’re going to sort the mail every day, we’re going to put them into two piles, or three piles. We’re gonna do recycle, we’re gonna do stuff that we have to do, our action file bills we have to pay, whatever. And then we’re gonna have like our “to file” or reference, something that you get that you need to keep. And we’re going to separate them. So not to say I want to do it and have the goal. 


Amber Hawley  42:41  

But I think it’s important to have the goal and the steps that you’re going to take to get there. Because what happens is we all set goals, it’s like saying, I’m going to set a goal because I want to lose 20 pounds. Great, that’s awesome. But if you don’t have a plan of how you’re going to do that, and the steps you’re going to take, it’s, you’re gonna get frustrated, you’re gonna feel defeated, and then you’re just gonna be like, forget it. And so I think it’s really important, whether you’re listening to podcasts, you’re reading books, you’re reading blogs, you’re hiring a professional. If you are, if you want to get somewhere and you’re not sure how, there’s so many free resources out there to kind of help you along the way of, and just talking to people. This is what I’m looking for. I’m not sure how to do this. Can you help me?


Amber Hawley  43:26  

Yes, no, I love that. I think, I think that’s great advice. And that can always be the hard part is like you said, not, not being in that emotional space and just saying, I’m going to do this right now. Or, because then you lose the momentum. And then you feel like, oh, look, it’s not doable. I, you know, it’s gonna take me forever, because there wasn’t a plan. So I think that’s such great advice.


Laurie Palau  43:46  

The other thing I just want to say also, which I think is huge, regardless of what type of clutter you struggle with, is if this is something that’s important to you, put it on your calendar, put it on your to do list, put it on your planner. This is the day that I’m going to, even if you don’t, you know I’m going and actually like have it as an, an action item. You know what, Saturday morning, I’m going to pay the bills, I’m going to go through the mail, I’m going to do laundry, I’m going to go through the closet, you know, we’re going to purge the linen closet on this day. Put it as something that’s on your to do list. Because if you just wait for there to be free time, it’s not going to happen. Because let’s be honest, we don’t have that. So we have to be really intentional about putting that as something that we need to do just like we, we have to go grocery shopping, we have to do all these other things. It’s not sexy and glamorous, but it’s about how it makes us feel afterwards.


Amber Hawley  44:44  

Oh, yes. And it feels good afterwards. Yes. Well, I know we could talk forever because you have a lot of, you know, expertise and all of these strategies. But if people wanted to find out more information about you, where could they go?


Laurie Palau  44:58  

Oh, absolutely. So the hub for everything is my website, which is: simply, the letter B like Boy, organized ( My podcast is also a great place. You can also connect to it from there. But my podcast is called This Organized Life. And, again, we’re all over social media. But we’ve got, again, tons of free resources, we have experts. I do clutter coaching, but we also have in person, professional organizers that we align with that we that we endorse and support all over the country. So if there’s somebody, if you’re out there, and you’re like, I need help, but I need somebody, you know, I’m not sure where to go look on our, you know, come to our website, we’re great hub for like, any type of strategy that you’re looking for.


Amber Hawley  45:42  

Oh, fantastic. All right, so head on over there. But I love the the podcast name, This Organized Life. And, yeah, go there and find the resources. I love that you also have referrals to local people, for people because I think that’s always, when I’m working with people and they actually need that extra help. It’s like, how do you find that person that is in their neighborhood to give them that help? 


Laurie Palau  46:05  



Amber Hawley  46:06  

Thank you so much for coming on and sharing with us, and head on over to, right?


Laurie Palau  46:15  

You got it. You got it. 


Amber Hawley  46:16  

Good, good. All right. Thank you.


Transcribed by

The Inner Circle

a unique membership for ADHD {and ADHD-ish} biz owners who live in Distraction City, with shiny object syndrome, and live life with other tendencies that keep us from doing our best work.

You want a sustainable life. A work/home/school/family stability that WORKS, functions on good habits, systems, and approaches that set us up for immeasurable success both personally and professionally.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join The My Biz Bestie Community today: