Challenging clutter

Natalie Conrad

PHOTO courtesy of Natalie Conrad

Natalie Conrad calls October a perfect month for conquering your clutter at home. “It’s right after summer and back-to-school, which can be busy. And, it’s right before the holidays, so you get to really set the stage for the season.” Conrad is “The Organizing Mentor,” a self-styled Chico teacher and personal decluttering coach. She’s inviting people to participate in Organize to Downsize: 30 Day Declutter Challenge, Oct. 1-30—at no cost to them. Conrad, 49, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, as well as the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, and Faithful Organizers. She previously worked in banking, finance and administration, and said her previous employers were appreciative of her organizational skills. A Philadelphia native, she grew up in many places in a military family before settling in Sacramento. She moved to Chico four years ago. To register for the challenge, which begins with a kick-off Sept. 29, go to Participants get a 30-day decluttering calendar with daily tasks, a weekly group coaching call, and access to a private Facebook page for daily encouragement and tips. Conrad can be reached at 643-7496 or online at

How did you decide to start an organizing business?

I had to take a leave of absence from my job in Sacramento to take care of my son, who was ill at the time. I started enjoying reading again, about doing what your passion is, and not just working for a paycheck. I thought, “What is my passion?” And I have always enjoyed organizing—it’s just in my DNA. I’ve been doing it [professionally] 9 1/2 years now. It’s lots of fun.

How do you actually help people become more organized?

We have a declutter group with 125 members, though only about 20 people actually show up in person. It’s very emotional for people. People have so much guilt, shame and fear over their clutter. It’s a courage thing to show up. I’m passionate about helping people with their clutter. I love when I teach a certain subject that helps them feel empowered. I use lots of media. I just want to reach as many people as I can. My favorite are the workshops and classes [in person]. I’m at my happiest when their eyes light up at a new idea.

Why do the “30-Day Declutter Challenge”?

Personal coaches have challenges, like boot camps, so I thought, “How can I do that?” The key is to take small steps. Don’t look at the whole monster. It’s all about forward motion. Some improvement is better than not any at all. I had someone say she was going to be on vacation the first week of October—could she still take the challenge? Of course. You don’t have to compare yourself to others. If you can end October in a better place than you began, you’ve made forward progress. Once people get there, they realize they feel lighter and freer. It [clutter] can become the one thing that holds them back, before they can do what they really want. It can be that last obstacle.