Review: 21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge by Mari L. McCarthy

Thursday, February 19, 2015
by Angela Mackintosh

I used to be the type of person that cleaned frantically when the doorbell rang. Well, maybe not that bad, but I did put in the extra effort when I knew company was coming over. God forbid people find out how messy I really am! Yet, over the years and after reading many books on the subject, I developed a cleaning routine that involved small daily tasks like doing the dishes and wiping down countertops, and a thorough weekly cleaning. On the surface, my house looks pretty tidy and organized, but don’t open the closets! A bowling ball might just roll out and land on your head. So when CreateWriteNow’s journaling guru Mari L. McCarthy wrote her latest book on decluttering, I jumped at the chance to review it.

21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge is a three-week program designed to help you take control of clutter and figure out the reasons behind the way you approach organization. The first half of the book is filled with journaling exercises that get to the root of what’s causing the pile-up and the second half of the book is taking that knowledge and applying it with step-by-step actions to physically clear the clutter. At the end of each journaling session there is a ten-minute burst to speed-clean one area of your home.

This is my favorite journaling challenge yet. In the introduction, Mari says, “Your home should be a place of tranquility, comfort and relaxation . . . How you organize your personal space has a significant impact on your productivity . . .” This couldn’t be truer for the work-at-home writer. Our personal space has a tremendous influence on our writing productivity.

The 38-page workbook is organized in a logical progression of journaling steps that work toward your ultimate goal of clearing your surroundings and your mind of clutter. Sometimes I wondered where in the heck Mari was leading me, and then Aha! The next day revealed everything we’d been working toward. For instance, Day 3 examines your Life’s Purpose—who you are and why you are here. Say what? I didn’t understand what that had to do with cleaning. But after answering a series of questions it became clear to me that my home environment wasn’t aligning with my life’s purpose and goals. I could go into the specific reasons why—lack of privacy, no space to nurture my artistic needs, etc.—but there is a genius in the way that Mari poses her questions that will help you realize what’s holding you back.

Days 5 and 6 examine personal patterns and how they influence organization, stress and productivity. These questions were a little embarrassing to work through for me because a lot of them hit the nail on the head. They tackle Decision-Making, Time Management, Space, Focus (distractions, procrastination), Emotional Saving (shopping, collecting), and Changes to your personal life. I found the answers revealing and it made me take notice of areas I need to improve. The workbook follows up on some of these areas in later days—such as dealing with Time—but others are left to your own devices. That was okay with me because I plan on free-writing about them some more, which Mari recommends.

Other exercises of personal interest include Day 7: Mental & Physical Clutter, where you take a pen and do a walk through of your home noting your feelings and reactions; Day 8: A New Vision, where you create a mini vision collage that gets used throughout the challenge; and Day 9: Personal History, which examines the house of your childhood and how orderly it was when you were growing up. Here you write about what your responsibilities were and your habits and how they influenced who you are today. I found all these sections extremely useful in getting through my blocks. Plus, I came up with some great story material by revisiting the past!

By Day 14 you are creating a Plan of Action, and the rest of the days are all about doing. You have finally lightened the load of most of your mental clutter and are moving forward with physical decluttering and organization. Day 15 tackles your Daily Habits and gives you quick and easy tips on things you can do each day that take less than five minutes to complete! Days 17 through 20 focus on organizing specific areas in your home—Closets & Crevices, Kitchen, Living Room, and Bedrooms. And finally, in Day 21, Mari provides you with mindfulness tips to help you achieve Lifelong Habits.

I feel so much lighter after working through the exercises in the 21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge. I have targeted the mental blocks that have been holding me back from aligning my environment with my life’s purpose. I’ve created positive rituals to keep my space orderly and serene. When I walk through the front door now I feel welcomed and happy because I know everything is in its place and I can relax. On the far end of the house, I find an organized office with clear countertops and flat areas for laying out paperwork, books, and research materials. In the corner I have an easel with a nearby rolling tray that holds painting supplies. I still have a ways to go with some of my personal resolutions, but now I have an action plan to move forward with my goals. And this weekend, it’s time for a garage sale!

Find out more about the 21 Days Declutter Your Life Journaling Challenge here. The next challenge starts March 1st. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to align their home or workspace with their life’s purpose, or simply to anyone wanting to maintain a peaceful, organized home. The 21 Days Declutter Your Life e-workbook is available through CreateWriteNow’s store (save 20% by entering the code DECLUTTER at checkout), and on Kindle, Nook, Scribd, and Kobo. Find out more about author Mari McCarthy by visiting


Renee Roberson said...

Wow, thanks for such a great and thorough review, Angela! The Declutter Your Life Challenge sounds like something I most likely need to tackle myself. I have a huge problem with clutter myself, but then get paralyzed and can't do anything about it. Through some essay writing, I've figure out a lot of it has to do with the fact that my parents basically lived like gypsies when I was a kid and we never stayed anywhere long enough to accumulate things. I've lived in my current house for 11 years so you can imagine how much clutter we've accumulated!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks, Renee! I know what you mean. I've been downsizing the past few years through two moves, but before that I lived in a 4000 ft loft with 20 ft ceilings for 10 years! You wouldn't believe how much stuff I'd accumulated…and as an artist, you feel like everything is a potential art supply. To give you an example, we had 32 mannequins that we got rid of at our garage sale. LOL

Margo Dill said...

Me too, Renee! I need to declutter!

Margo Dill said...

Me too, Renee! I need to declutter!

Robyn Chausse said...

LOL, Angela, I completely understand the accumulation of "stuff." I love to do upcycle crafting, which means every pretty box, bottle, etc... holds promise--but where to put it all? Ugh! I've been trying to clear out the garage for three years now just to make some room for craft storage! I finally just put a large baker's rack in my office to hold supplies, but it's spilling over (and not too pretty to look at). Just looking at the volume of clutter in my house makes me feel energetically/spiritually exhausted. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only messy person here!

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