In the years I have been designing homes, specifically remodels, I have been eyes to many different homes, styles, lifestyles and people. The pattern I have noticed is that the retiring baby boomers are often sizing up in their retirement homes and younger couples who are building or remodeling their first homes are building a more modest size. Certainly, the retiring age group has more money and more accumulation of belongings after a long career and 20+ years of raising their children than the younger people who are just starting out. But more than that, the younger people have a different perspective and attitude that comes from the era they have grown up in. The 80’s 90’s and 2000’s have been the home of 2 recessions, 2 wars and multiple military conflicts and a rising awareness of healthy and green living. Maybe some of these things have had an impact on a younger generation on how they might like to live in their homes.

For some clients, I find my self designing as much (or more) for the people’s stuff and their guests than I do for the people themselves who actually live and breath in the home. Stuff plays a huge roll in our lifestyle.

I can say from personal experience that my own STUFF is too vast for my comfort level and that it is getting in my way. Purging STUFF is not so easy, especially when you are negotiating with family members and yourself for what must leave your home. It also takes so much time and energy. I have noticed that my clients who have a cluttered home often have a cluttered lifestyle. Similarly, I have also noticed that my clients who live in a simply decorated, clear home void of mass collections of things (weather neatly or not so neatly displayed) have a calm and peaceful way about them. They seem happier without all that STUFF cluttering their home and their lives.

STUFF is psychological.

Last year, when I met Dawn Janssen of Simplify Life, I knew she would have some great stories of how she had helped people. She and her partner Susanne Rodriguez are the owners of Simplify Life and help people de-clutter their homes and their lives. Their clients- who call them angels- range from true hoarders to people who simply need help organizing their closet and everyone in between.

They have found that true hoarders are usually an artistic type of person who can see a great future use for a thing and have a hard time letting go of it. They also say that many of their clients, hoarder or not, have a memory or sentiment attachment to a thing and keep many of these things as reminders of the past. They find comfort in consistency and hang on to their stuff. But when these things, kept for legitimate reasons, start closing in on their clients, they see that the person can lose a sense of self because of the maintenance, mental energy and chaos that the person must live with. In some cases, their clients have simply moved out of their homes and left their stuff behind because the negative energy was too intense to deal with.

Simplify Life will get a call from a new client in many cases because of a life change. A death, divorce, or simply an “AHA” moment because they have finally reached a saturation point. Dawn says, “We love our clients and we come in to help unfold a persons life. We help them with kid gloves or sometimes firmly”. Their clients sometimes just can’t do it on their own. Susanne says, “We are both systems gals and we are looking for the best course of action for each client as individuals”. They truly want the process to be stress free and cleansing.

A typical consultation starts with asking the client, what is the goal? What is the client hoping to achieve with their services? Some people are embarrassed about their homes, but Simplify Life is never negative. They evaluate each person’s lifestyle and proceed with a plan of action. Dawn and Susanne are good at turning spaces into beautiful, healthy and functional spaces with what is already there in the home.

They will ask that decisions be made and also do understand that it can be a slow process for some people. They do not suggest purchasing other furniture, plastic storage bins or decorating items. They encourage their clients to use the many good storage solutions already in the home and get rid of the extra stuff as opposed to buying more stuff to put the stuff in. The whole idea of the process is: Less stuff = Less maintenance.

After a home or space has been sorted through, they use many levels of resources to remove unwanted items from the home. The most common way is to have a garage or an estate sale that will help offset the cost for their services, but a trip to GoodWill and an itemized list for a tax write off might be more valuable. They also use Freecycle, free ads, paper shredding services and a number of contacts who need specialty types of things for their business such as artisans, fashion designers or furniture consignment shops. As a last resort they will send it to the dump, but not before a last ditch effort to find a home for it.

There are some really good references that Dawn and Susanne offered for us to check out:

Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli
The book is about how we labor over rituals and things surrounding Christmas instead of enjoying the people and moments of what the season is really about. See it on Amazon.

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. This book is written by a professor of psychology and a professor of social work who have spent 20 years studying the sufferers of hoarding. See it on Amazon.

Too Many Toys by David Shannon. This book is an awesome illustration for children on how holiday gifts and fast food toys can overcome a child’s life. See it on Amazon.

When they are done, they have happy clients. A common quote is “I love being in this room!” My guess is most all of us could use some help with de-cluttering some part of our homes. Dawn and Susanne have the right touch and a good service at a reasonable price. If you would like a chance to meet them in person, please visit their latest project which is an estate sale this weekend! The address is 3302 Yellowpine Terrace off of Anderson and Shoal Creek. More info here Call them anytime at 512-771-8743 or visit their website at