Oct. 12, 2022

Tracy McCubbin - Clutter, hoarding and your mental health | Mental Health Podcast

In this episode, I speak with Tracy, McCubbin, the author of Clutter Free, the last book on...
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In this episode, I speak with Tracy, McCubbin, the author of Clutter Free, the last book on decluttering you'll ever need. She's also a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, and a round awesome human being.

Tracy discovered she could see through any mess and clearly envision a clutter-free space. Her personal experience gives her an advantage over most professional organizers as she has a unique understanding of the organizationally and spatially challenged mindset.

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest, Tracy, McCubbin, who is the author of Clutter Free, the last book on decluttering you'll ever need. She's also a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, and all round awesome human being. Tracy, my friend, thank you so much for being here. How are you today?

Tracy: I'm great. Thank you for having me.

Michael: Yeah, it's my honor. Before we jump in, I'll say this as context, I've sat and looked at a lot of the things that you do and in the ways that you help people and on my end, I've thought in this space of clutter equals chaos and dirty homes, which are what I grew up in, in a very impoverished manner, are actually super bad for your mental health, it's something we don't talk about enough and everyone who has listened to this show over the course of the last almost five years now knows I'm a proponent of step one every single day, make your damn bed. Now, before we get into all that, I would love if you share a little bit about your backstory and how you got to where you are today.

Tracy: Yeah. Wow. So, I am the owner of a company called Declutter Fly. We are a professional decluttering and organizing business, we're based in LA. I have been in business 15 years, I recently did the Malcolm Gladwell, like how many hours to become an expert? And I was like, Oh, 10,000 hours. And then I'm an expert I'm like, I meant like 40,000 hours of decluttering and organizing. So, I'm living this, right? I'm working with clients every day. I'm seeing what are going on in people's homes and how they're living and how their homes aren't working for them, how their homes aren't supporting them. So, how I got to my business is a little bit circuitous. I grew up the child of a hoard, so my father is an extreme hoarder we're still dealing with it today, and I have spent my whole life watching the grip that someone's stuff has on them, the sacrifices he's made, the choices that he's made, what it did to me, feeling like my dad was always choosing garbage over a relationship with me. So, but the funny thing is when I started my business 15 years ago, I never put it together that was kind of a driving force. I'm just like, Oh, that's this thing. And I'm just really good, I'm an assistant, I've been a personal assistant, I have an accounting background, and so I started to do these jobs and they started to roll in and they started to roll in. I got very busy right away and I realized pretty soon it was because I had this understanding that our relationship to stuff and our relationship to our homes isn't about being a quote unquote good housekeeper, it's very emotional and its very kind of where you came from informs where you are today. And so many people, especially people who grew up in disorganized homes or homes full of chaos, didn't really kind of connect that their home is a tool their current home is a place where they can rest and restore and replenish, and that it's within their control to create the home that they want.

So, for me, very early on, I was like, Oh, this isn't about the stuff. This is about what's missing inside of us and let's heal that. Let's change people's relationship to their stuff so that they can be successful and happy and get out the door. And I think, you know, it was making that jump in the connection that got me to write my first book Making Space Clutter Free. And then now my second book, which is coming out in October, called Make Space For Happiness.

Michael: Yeah. And you know, the thing that comes to mind is I think so many people, and especially in America, we are a consumerist nation. We are about how much stuff can you have, how big is your closet, how many pair of shoes do you need. And growing up, what was really fascinating is I grew up in deep, deep poverty, homeless for a lot of my childhood, and I became detached from stuff in my youth until my late teens when people were like, Oh, you have to wear these kind of clothes to be cool. And then I started falling into that circle next thing you know; I'm working for a corporate Fortune 10 company. I've got $20,000 worth of clothes in my closet. Oh my God. I had probably 75 pair of shoes. Easy. And you know, you look at that and go, this is stupid. This is really, really, really stupid. But why? And II started rewinding ‘cuz I think the one aspect about anything mental health related is you have to get into the space of causation and correlation, right? And you saying, well, I help people declare immediately I go, Oh yeah, somebody in her family was a hoarder, right? or even her, herself. And my grandmother was the same, it was really strange that we had this garage that had everything in it, literally. And I would, I remember one time we went to clean it out and it was, you might as well thought we killed her dog because of what was happening. And now recognizing and understanding the mental implications of that. So, what I'm really curious about, I mean, I know there are people, this feels like one of those really like dark, shady, taboo ish secrets that you see on like A&E at two o'clock in the morning and I want to talk about a little bit more in depth, like really what is hoarding? What is that element of mental health and why does it impact people the way that it does?

Tracy: Oh, that's such a great question. This definitely a soap box that I'm on. I think the first thing I want people to understand if they feel like they're dealing with it or someone they love. Hoarding is a disorder, it's a mental disorder, it's not cute, you know, I see on social media all the time, people are like, Oh, I am such a touch of hoarder in me. I'm like, you don't have a touch of hoarder in you. It is very, I liken it for a long time it was sort of thought that hoarding was a symptom of OCD and now they're realizing it's a standalone. I think it's an anxiety disorder, probably with an addiction component. You know, I know with the hoarders that I've worked with in my own father, there's a dopamine hit when they acquire. You know, I got a deal or for my dad, it was tools and is tools and you know, he gets something from that. I also think when people have hoarding disorder, you know, a lot of the accumulation of this stuff is a way to keep everyone else at arm's length to keep the feelings away. You know, it's the same way that people go and have, you know, go to the bar for one beer and then they're eight shots in, or they're overeating. You know, it's a way literally to stuff down your feelings. So, I think that people need to understand that there's hoarding, hoarding disorder, and then there's clutter. Right. And there's a fine line between the two, but it's pretty clear and especially now with the social media, you know, and it's always been this way with magazines and you know, this idea that we have to have a perfect home, you know, it needs to look a certain way. And you have to represent, I come from the space that your home needs to support you, right? It's a place you need to get up and get dressed and make yourself healthy food and sit down and connect with your family at the dinner table, and if there's clutter everywhere and if there's step everywhere, that is very difficult to do.

If you have to move your clothes off your bed to get into your bed at night, to go to sleep, you are not gonna get a good night's sleep. Right? All this stuff is about, is getting in the way of you being your best self. It's not about a perfect home that looks pretty. Yes, I love beautiful things. I want everyone's home to look beautiful to them, but I want it to work right. If you have a very messy kitchen, if you have a dirty kitchen, don't do your dishes at night, counters are covered, I will bet real money that in the morning you're not cooking yourself a healthy breakfast, you're doing the drive-through at McDonald's, you're gonna go get a McCafé and then you're gonna get an egg McMuffin while you're in there because that space isn't lending itself to you taking care of yourself. So, the big component that I want people to understand is that having an organized home, making your bed in the morning, having a closet that's organized isn't about being right, or a good housekeeper or looking perfect it's about supporting you. And if you were raised in a home, didn't support all that you also didn't learn how to do that. And I really want people to understand some people aren't natural born housekeepers, some people aren't naturally organized, but it's a trait, it's a habit, you can learn. If you wanted to play violin, you were like, I wanna take up violin. You would get a violin teacher. You wouldn't beat yourself up that I don't know how to play to violin. So, if you're not naturally inclined or you didn't grow up that way, don't beat yourself up. But you can learn these skills and you brought it up. And I think it's a great way to start. Make your bed every morning.

Michael: Yeah. Do it without like, beating yourself up. You know, I think one of the things that I found most interesting in my journey, I mean, I remember being 21, 22, and my life was pretty chaotic and my bedroom was a disaster, my house was a disaster. It'd be weird because I would clean, right? And you would clean for hours and then in like five minutes, everything's a disaster again. And I'd be like, really? What the fuck is actually happening right now? And what I realized is, and this took a while to sit in, to come to realization and really going through the depths of this idea that I always contend with is causation and correlation where I landed, and this is me personally, is oh, my house being a wreck, my kitchen being a disaster is indicative of the way that I was treated growing up, and I'm simply punishing myself in the same way that they punished me, but subconsciously. And the only way you get through that is literally one step at a time and it became this thing where, I mean, I would battle myself, right? And it was like, Oh, you can't throw that shirt away, you might need it one day. You can't do this. You might have to have it. And I realized there's actually nothing that you will ever own that's going to make you love yourself.

Tracy: No, no, no. That's is the thesis of the new book, Make Space for Happiness. There is nothing that you own that is going to fix what's going on with you, I promise you.

Michael: So, how do you actually get to that though? Because that's not marketing, that's not advertising, that's not branding, that's not social media, that's not 99.9% of the content we see in the world, none of that's true because every time we drive down the street and we see the guy in the Porsche, we go, Oh man, I'm such a loser.

Tracy: You know it, it's so interesting. So, I've been based in Los Angeles, I have a lot of celebrity clients, lots and lots and lots and lots. And I can tell everybody out there they are no happier probably some of them less because they have all the trappings, their problems don't go away, it doesn't, that's that Gucci purse that, you know, those red bottom shoes, they don't fix anything. And that's the conversation that I'm starting in this second book in MakeSpace for Happiness is the idea. We've been talking about Decluttering for about 10 years now. Magazines my first book, everything it was great, but all of a sudden people declutter and then it comes. So, what I wanna talk about is that the upstream start of clutter, that clutter starts from you buying, from you accumulating, from you consuming. And that we need to realize that's not going to fix it, I actually call them clutter magnets, I call them these little like holes inside of ourselves that we are trying to fill with the stuff. So, for instance, if you feel like, I see this with grandparents all the time, they feel guilty or parents who work a lot feel guilty that they're not spending as much time with their kids so, they buy every toy the kid ever wants, every trip to the grocery store is a new Lego set, and so these kids have, all these toys and they're still having the same problems and they're still having the same issues. And what the kid really like kids, they'll play with the box, give 'em a cardboard box, you know, and these parents are overcompensating by buying, trying to buy their love and buy their way outta their guilt and it's not fixing anything. So, I'm not saying don't shop. I'm not saying you're never gonna want a new, squeaky clean pair of tennis. I'm not saying that, but I'm saying we need to understand and be accountable; be accountable that what we are bringing into our lives in the same way, what we put in our mouth and if we go to the gym or not go, that has a holistic effect on our whole life. And so, like you, yes, we're being marketed to all the time. You know, in the old days when I was a kid, there were three channels, right? You knew what time the commercials came on, you knew that was a commercial. Now, with social media and everything, you're being marketed to realizing, Oh, this is what this is, this actually isn't gonna fix my problems if I see the word antiaging one more time, I'm going to pitch myself like into my hot tub. You know, there's no antiaging, we're aging every day, it's the process like, yes, can you moisturize, wear sunscreen, take care of yourself, of course, but you're not gonna not age. And so, we're being sold this idea that our natural journey is somehow bad.

Michael: Yeah, you're spot on. And I think what happens is I know what happens, let me be very clear about that. The more things you accumulate, the more it's like just swipe the credit card, it's fine. And swiping the credit card leads to, Oh shit, now I can't pay the bills that matter, which leads to now the collectors are calling me, which leads to, well, I'm just gonna hide that bill underneath the other bills I haven't taken care of which leads to your sister calling you being like, what the hell's going on? Why are the collection people calling me? Which leads to more avoidance, which leads deeper down into the cycle of destruction. Now, how do I know this? Maybe I've experienced it. And I think about that and I'm like, wait a second. Hold on. Time out. Time out. What if selfcare is actually just simply not necessarily giving yourself what you want, but looking at what do I actually need? And what I discovered was I started asking myself a question what do I actually need right now? And as shocking as it is, it turns out it's not actually Gucci shoes.

Tracy: Yes. So, when I work with privately with clients, one of the very first things that we do is I have them swap that language exactly as you said. I stop saying you need, stop saying you need another pair of jeans, stop saying you need that because you know what? You don't. I can go into anybody's, almost anybody's closet, they have all the clothes they could ever need. So, swap it to want, I want a new pair of jeans, I want a pair of Gucci loafers, we're gonna want things, we're gonna desire things, we're human, we want pretty things. By changing just that one word you're right, you're like, Oh, right, this is not a need, a need is a roof over my head, food in my fridge, you know, the very basic things. And we're so out of whack of that, we're so, Oh my God, I need that. I need that. I need that. And so that is such a great takeaway for the listeners that there just this swap of those two words are so illuminating.

Michael: What does that do for them? Like if I'm sitting here, I'm with you, we're going through a session, you're giving me that nomenclature. What is that doing for me?

Tracy: It makes you accountable for your own life. It makes you a participant in your own life. You know, I go into homes that are cluttered and people say all the time, I don't know how I got like this, and I’m like well, a mask bandit didn't bring it in the middle of the night. You brought it in, be accountable for your life. You know, to me, that's amazing and positive that you can make changes to change your life it is within your capabilities. It's not to be you up like, Oh, you better be accountable. It's like, Oh my God, you wanna make a change? You're the master of your destiny like you get to make that change. So, swapping those words, puts you in an active state of being accountable to your own life.

Michael: I would have to imagine, and as someone who I coach people, I've coached thousands of people, we've helped so many around the world create massive change and shift in their lives. I would imagine that you also probably run into the person where it's just like they feel like no matter what they do, nothing can change, they're leveraging you, hoping that you're gonna come and rescue them obviously, that doesn't work because you can't fucking rescue people, but I'm wondering when you run into these folks who they feel too far gone, they feel like they're so far into the ocean, they can't seem the shore that they're out there drowning, they're reaching for you to be the life preserver. You say, Nope, actually you have to be the one to swim back, but I can help you get there. What do you do with those people? Like what is the conversation have that you're having with them?

Tracy: It's great. You know, we start small. You know, I always joke Rome wasn't cluttered in a day, you're not gonna make these giant changes, I'm not gonna have you be a weekend warrior and do your whole house. We're gonna maybe start and do an hour and do your closet and then you, the client, the person you're gonna sit with your win. I'm gonna check in with you and say how good did it feel that when you opened your sock drawer in the morning, it wasn't, it didn't explode, that you could get a pair of socks, closets are so interesting. There's a joke, closets are such a place of shame and, you know, body image and all that stuff and I go into so many people's homes and it's like their ready in the morning, and they're like, you can't find anything. So, they get dressed out of the laundry basket and you know, and for me it's like you're already starting your day at a deficit. You're already starting your day, feeling bad about yourself, feeling bad about your body, well, I already feel like I'm overweight, so I might as well eat, you know, danishes for breakfast, not that a danish every once in a while, for breakfast isn't bad. Right. But not every day, so it's about being successful and then sitting with that success and what do you gain? What do you gain from an organized closet? What do you gain from being able to park your car in your garage? I'm always getting people to focus on how does their life improve from doing this? And by the way, a lot of the time it’s simply just less stress. Right? If you think about it, and I know that you have talked about this. Have you ever talked about, like, do you talk to your listeners about decision fatigue? Have you gone over that?

Michael: Yeah, of course. For sure.

Tracy: Yes. So, if you think about your clutter, everything you own in your house is a decision. Where does it live? Do I wanna keep it? Do I have a place to store it? Can I afford it? Everything. So, if you have a lot of clutter in your house, you are putting yourself in decision fatigue. You have to decide, ugh, is it worth it to clear off the dining room table to have a family dinner, or do we just eat in front of the TV? Right? You're adding so many more decisions into your life that you're putting yourself again at a deficit.

Michael: Yeah. And I think the easiest thing in terms of decision making is just follow your gut ‘cuz you're probably right. You know, look at what you have, just say, yeah, because, and this is something I talk about all the time, like, your brain is lying to you. I don't trust my brain at all as far as I can throw it. I don't trust it. We get so caught up in that and I think one of the most dangerous things that you can do in your life is create a pros and cons spreadsheet, which actually used to be kind of like my existence around everything. I'd have to measure everything against itself. And then I was like, no, just trust your gut. You know? And one of the great things that happened for me in this journey was recognizing I have all this stuff and I'm miserable. And at this point, like it's interesting ‘cuz I think that there's this reflection of what your life actually looks like when somebody walks into it unknown and they see your house, your refrigerator, your closet, your garage, the inside of your car, Holy shit and then that part of you that's internal and you're like, how am I living right now? What am I doing? And when I kind of match up that intersection of over a decade ago, I'm 350 pounds, smoking two packs a day, drinking myself to sleep and I promise you, my car was disgusting, my refrigerator was disgusting, my bathroom was disgusting, my house was every my desk at the office. And you know, you have those people where they have that office drawer, it's like, Oh, holy god. I hope nobody ever opens that. Why do people get stuck in that?

Tracy: Yeah. You know, it's some shame they're holding onto, it's some feeling that they're not worthy, you know, that it goes back to something they were told some, you know, I don't deserve this and it just builds on itself. Right? And it's again that thing where you know, I look so much to decluttering and eating habits like, well, I'm already, you know, I'm already 20 pounds over, so what does it matter if I have McDonald's three meals a day? You know that once we get past this certain point, we just lump the stuff on top of ourselves and keep adding to the shame. And what I always say is, look, we're here today, you bought my book, scheduled a session with me, listen to a podcast about this. You took a step because something's not working, something's not working, that's the only reason it's not working for you. So amazing. Let's change it, right? Let's change it. Everything in our home, everything of the stuff, everything comes to us with zero meaning, it's just a coffee mug, it's just a picture frame, it's just a sweater, but we dump all this meaning on it, right? We dump all, well, this is the last coffee cup that my grandmother held in her hands before I never saw her again, this sweater, I was my first. We put all this meaning on it, so we give it meaning, which is great, but it also means that we can take the meaning away. And sometimes people put so much meaning onto things that they get a choke hold on that they can't let go of anything. And I think the same is like while I'm just a messy person or I just live like this, or I know where everything is and I can tell you it doesn't feel good to a dirty house, it doesn't feel good to get dressed out of the laundry basket, it doesn't feel good to have to push clothes off the bed to crawl into it to get a good night's sleep, it doesn't feel good. And I want you to feel good. I want you to be like, I'm gonna take this day by the go coase and get out the door and not make it harder on yourself. It's not about how you were raised or that you're doing it wrong, you're doing it the way you're doing it for a myriad of reasons. Let's change 'em.

Michael: Yeah. And nobody knows what they're doing like I think about this every single day. Like, I mean, we've had hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people listen to this show, tens of thousands copies of my first book, and it's like, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, any more than the next person, and you have to give yourself some grace and just go. I love what you said about, you know, celebrating, giving yourself a little bit of accolade because you know, it really might be you cleaned out that medicine cabinet, you know, you got fucking pills in there that expired 15 years ago. And it's like one section, one aspect, one area, one shelf at a time and to celebrate it but here's what I think is really interesting. People will hear this and they go, well that wasn't a big deal why does it matter? It was only one shelf.

Tracy: But it matters. I'm watching this amazing woman on social media, on this weight loss journey and she's has a lot and she's doing it on her own, and I've just been watching her every day and she like day one she just marched in place for like five minutes and for her that was what she could do, and she did it. And I think she's like on day hundred and 69, you know, and now she's going for 20 minutes. So, one shelf, one corner of your room, your car, that's a step you can build on, right? Because if you go in and you do your whole house and you don't look at the underlying root causes, as you say, it's just gonna go back. So, I'm saying do a small area, celebrate your success. You did that. Enjoy the change that came out of it. Oh my gosh. I cleaned out my desk drawer at work and now I don't open it and be embarrassed if a coworker is standing there, or I can find my pens, I can find my, you know, flash drive, whatever I need. It always goes back to our homes, our spaces, our cars, their tools, that's all they are, they're tools. So, is that tool working for you?

Michael: How do you get to the place of balance in this? Because I think probably five or six years ago I had probably course corrected too strongly and it had become I wouldn't call it OCD because I don't have OCD, but there was something in there about this massive sense of control and that got to the point where I actually noticed it was impacting my ability just to be a normal person. And I obviously, I think that happens with a lot of things, right? Suddenly you find CrossFit, you're doing 74 workouts a week, and you find this cookie recipe you love and you have it every single day until you're like, I don't want these anymore. So, how do you kind of balance that and then also like what does balance like ultimately look like? How can people know as if they have, I hate to use the word right, but if they're doing this in a way that is actually not counterproductive to the rest of their life?

Tracy: Yeah, that's such a great question. You know, I think sometimes the course correction, the over correction is a necessary step for some people, they kind of have to go that way. But then you have to do sort of the inverse of like, is this still supporting me? Am I to the point where I'm not letting my kids crawl on the couch ‘cuz I don't want 'em to spill? Like, is it causing are you getting beholden to being that? Look, we're human, being human is messy, your house is gonna get messy, you're gonna be traveling and not unpack your suitcase for a couple days like it's gonna happen and that's okay. And sometimes you've gotta let it a really good let litmus test, I tell people, is every room in your house, you should be able to tidy up in 20 minutes or less. So, if you get a phone call that you're like, Oh, my friends are coming over to watch the big game, you should be able to go through tidy your house every room in 20 minutes or less. If that gets out of whack, that's a really good sign that things are getting out of control. So, I think, you know, I think balance is the other side of that decluttering coin is that you don't become beholden to your space that you're not spending an exorbitant amount of time, or you're finding yourself saying No a lot. Don't sit on that couch. Don't use those glasses. You’ll be able to tell. I think that's the big for me is if you all of a sudden feel is being neat and tidy.

Michael: Yeah. And then it becomes an identity shift. Right? And that's where it gets dangerous. And I remember having these conversations with people and being like, I distinctly would say this. I'm the cleanest person you've ever met. And that became dangerous because now it's like, take your shoes off when you walk in and you have to put your cup on the sink and use the coat. And I'm like, Dude, it doesn't matter. It's fine.

Tracy: And that languaging, I'm the cleanest person I am whenever somebody, when I am so organized, I am so organized, my sock, I'm like, you are building an identity around that and you're not giving yourself room to be human. It's funny, I have a staff of 10 right now. I just hired another person, which is amazing, we're so busy. And I rarely, rarely hire the person that's like my sock drawer is perfectly organized, my sock drawer, you know, my underwear is color coded. You know, I always hire the person that's like, well, you know, my mom, I had to care for my mom ‘because she had a long term illness and I clean the house. You know, the people who come work for me are the people who understand the humanity of it, right, the humanity of the journey. But if they're so rigid in everything has to be perfect, they're not a good, it's not a good fit for my company.

Michael: Yeah, because in that place, and that was in my journey, I was seeking perfection. And in the same way, you know, it's funny, it's you replace one thing with the other, one thing with the other. I don't know that that ever ends and I'm probably replacing all that with something else right now. Like, you know, broccoli sprouts in my smoothies in the morning, like whatever that thing is. But it's really about awareness and paying attention and just saying, yeah, you know, I am human and if my friends come over, this is actually was just coaching one of my clients on this and said, if your friends come over and they see that you did not do everything perfect for them, they're not gonna know because that's in your head.

Tracy: Exactly. They're never gonna know. And the thing is, like, that's a great example. You're missing out on something if you are so worried about your house looking perfect for your friends to come over, that when your friends come over, you are not gonna be present with that ‘cause you're gonna be like, oh, are they putting that glass on the coffee table? And I'm gonna get a ring? Always do they like my dishes? You're not gonna connect with them because you're worried about this other thing. And I wanna point this out, I also think a part of this whole journey, right? We're all just here, as Ramdas says, we're all just walking each other home, this journey we're always learning and so sometimes the big step for me growing up, the child of a hoarder and in the divorced home and all the chaos that ever existed, you know. I know that when something in my professional life or something feels out of control, I will come home and organize my closet. I know it makes me feel better, it's like my little self-care, you know, I can go in there, I'll get rid of some stuff but the key is that I know when I'm doing it, like I know to myself like, Oh, you today was tough, this job was, this client was very tough, so stuff's going on with my dad. I know this is gonna make me feel better.

So, I think that when we acknowledge, right, this will just make me feel better, instead of being beholden to that behavior and doing it while we're not thinking about it, that's when we get the balance right, that's when we manage the behavior instead of the behavior managing us.

Michael: Yeah. I think that also, I would tie in this concept that I said in a lot of this too shall pass right this moment, these feeling, these emotions, even the dopamine hit from cleaning the closet under stress. Like, enjoy it for 17 seconds because the next thing is coming, it's right around the corner. And I think that, I hope people will hear this and, and not go and destroy themselves because things are a mess like life's a mess. You know Dr. Caroline Leaf, one of my favorite people on Planet Earth, wrote a book called Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess that's the game time and time again, it's about can you just continue to declutter those 20 minutes every single day? Right? Because ultimately, I mean, I look at my office on the other side of it. I'm like, that thing's not supposed to be there right now. But I just got back from a trip and the bags not packed, but I just got off the airplane, it's like, so, but do it. Don't let it overtake you. Find the time, find the space, and do it. What do you think if you were to break this down into just simplified framework of steps, are there 2, 3, 5 steps, anything that people can start executing against immediately to start seeing some change even as they're listening to the end of this?

Tracy: Yeah. So, the first step, the very, very, very first step is why? Why do you wanna get decluttered? Why do you wanna get organized? Write it down, put it somewhere where you can see it, because if you don't have a strong why, you're not gonna stay motivated, right? Like, Oh, I want my house to look good on Instagram that is not a why. I wanna clean out my back bedroom so my best friend, three years, that is a great why. And the why should also be something that you gain. Again, not something to beat yourself up, so get clear about your why. Why are you doing it? What will you gain? My soapbox again, offsite storage units. It's a billion-dollar business. Oh, I posted something, I got dragged, but I was like, No, I have been in hundreds of them. No one is storing anything in those storage units that's worth more their pay than they're paying. I'm sorry. You're not, there's no, and if it's in the storage unit across town, you don't need it ‘cuz you can't go get it. So, that's a big thing I do with clients all the time. And the first thing is, what would you do with that extra hour? How about an extra $400 in your pocket a month? How would that feel like saving money is a great motivator. So, when everybody just starts with the why. What's your why? Write it down. Remind yourself. The second thing, and I talk about this a lot too with, I call it the admin of being an adult, right? Paying your bills, dealing with your insurance, like you have to schedule that time in. If you're not naturally, if you don't, aren't drawn, being organized or cleaning, schedule the time in, put it in your calendar. Same thing. I love to work out when I'm there, but I don't like going there. I just know I love it. I feel great. It's amazing. I realize that this is not my strong suit. I'm not self-motivated about working out. I hired a trainer. I book the time. I have to pay if I don't go. I go, I go three times a week and I love it.

So, book your time, right? Like, oh, Saturday I have an hour. Sunday, I have two hours. And don't book your time after you've worked a 12-hour day and think you're gonna come home and do it cuz you're not, you know, do it when you can be successful. Set yourself up for success. So, you know, book sometime and maybe you need support, maybe you need a friend, like maybe you need to say to a friend, Hey, I wanna declutter for an hour. Can I text you when I start and text you when I finish? Can you just send me like, can I just say, Hey, I'm having a hard time. I came across my father who's passed watch collection. I'm having a hard time with this. Like, set yourself up for success. Don't do it to beat yourself up. And so that's really the big three takeaways are what's your why schedule the time with yourself and start small.

Michael: Yeah. And also, just simply understand like you're learning it's in transit. You're going to bring on new information, and that's why I think your new book is so powerful. And so, I would highly, highly suggest that everyone go and read it and get a copy. But before I ask you my last question, my friend, please tell everyone where they can find you?

Tracy: Oh, fantastic. My website, tracymccubbin.com is fantastic, but I am having so much fun over at Instagram and TikTok, @tracy_mccubbin on Instagram. I do these things you can declutter in under five minutes, it's just a really lovely, lovely, amazing community. So, that's where we're having a lot of decluttering fun. 

Michael: Brilliant. And my last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Tracy: To be unbroken means that I can see what's not working in my life, behaviors, words coming outta my mouth, thoughts in my head, and understand where they came from and change them in the moment.

Michael: Yeah. Brilliant. I could not agree more with you. Thank you so much for being here.

Unbroken Nation. Thank you for listening.

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Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.

Tracy McCubbinProfile Photo

Tracy McCubbin


Tracy has always referred to herself as “obsessive compulsive delightful,” but who knew she could turn that trait into a booming business? While working for a major television director in Los Angeles, Tracy discovered she had the ability to see through any mess and clearly envision a clutter-free space. Coupled with keen time-management and organizational skills, Tracy soon found more and more people were asking her for help. Before she knew it, dClutterfly was born.

Twelve years and thousands of decluttered homes later, Tracy knew it was time to take what she had learned working with her clients and write a book to help others dealing with clutter. She is author of the newly published book Making Space, Clutter-Free: The Last Book on Decluttering You'll Ever Need and is a regularly featured expert in the media, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, goop, Home & Family, Real Simple, mindbodygreen, NBC, KTLA Morning Show, KCAL9, and more.