burning questions with the queen of uncluttering, erin doland
Erin Rooney Doland always impresses me. She’s A+ organized, but not chilly ‘n uptight about it. She’s a ruthless time manager, but always has time to help.
She hangs with Quakers and speaks to the high-powered women’s groups. And she’s smart, really smart.
She is: Editor-In-Chief of the uber popular Unclutterer.com, a Real Simple.com columnist, and a mama to a new baby and a new book: Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life, with a foreword by David Allen and a glowing endorsement from my (other) favourite organizer, Peter Walsh.
Erin Doland’s motto: simplicity is revolutionary. Clear the clutter so you can pursue what you love the most.
1. What do you know the most about?
When I was five, I got it in my head that to get your driver’s license you had to fill in every street name on a map of the town where you do most of your driving. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I discovered driver’s license tests have nothing to do with memorizing street names. But, every time I rode in a car for eight years of my life, I would repeat, study, and store to memory all the street names that passed me by in Topeka, Kansas. Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — I’ve never been able to rid myself of this habit. To this day, you can name two addresses in my hometown and I can give you perfect turn-by-turn directions between them. The same is true for every town where I’ve lived, and pretty much any place I’ve visited. Honestly, if I’ve looked at a map of a place I haven’t even visited, I’m pretty decent at giving directions. I don’t get lost. My husband calls me his “little GPS.” While other people’s brains are filled with valuable scientific proofs and theories of the universe, my noggin is stuffed with street names.
2. Inspiration flashback: When is the last time you thought, “Yes! That person has so got it going on!”?
I think this way about those I choose to spend time with. The vast majority of people in my life inspire me on a daily basis. Their energy is contagious. I try to avoid toxic and negative people at all costs. I don’t mean that I abandon my friends when they’re going through a rough patch — in fact, this is when I try my hardest to pay my friends back for all they times they have been there to support and inspire me. I’m talking about avoiding people who believe that there is a limited supply of happiness and success in the world. I crave joy and laughter and conversations that take me to unexpected places, so I surround myself with people who do exactly this.
3. What are you trying to discover?
I enjoy discovering the unexpected. Just today I learned that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright wore pins and broaches when she met with foreign dignitaries to convey clever, hidden meanings. She wore jeweled wasps when she wanted the other person to feel a sting, a tiny missile when she met with a Russian foreign minister, a snake pin whenever she worked with Iraqi officials — all sorts of things. I had no idea, and I find this sort of planning and subtlety to be fascinating. I even think it makes me respect her more.
4. What global policy, credo, practice, or law would you like to decree?
Most days I have trouble figuring out what is best for me and my family, so I’m glad to not have to shoulder the responsibility of governing large groups of people. I probably wouldn’t make laws if I did have that kind of power. I’d work mostly on removing them. I’d start by getting rid of laws and/or traditions that violate the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — such as nations that continue to turn a blind eye to slavery.
5. What question in your life has had the biggest impact?
“What would I do if I were not afraid?” It’s a quote by a woman named Martha Mangelsdorf and my personal answer was life-altering. I changed careers, became a writer, authored a book, adopted a child, and pursued even more of my dreams after I answered this question.
6. What book(s) are you always telling people to read?
Einstein’s Dreams, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Getting Things Done, Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, anything by T.S. Elliot, Dashiell Hammett, and Haruki Murakami, and now my book.
7. I’m going to give you a word. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you read it… Ready? The word is: LOVELY. The first rich, stinging sip of my morning coffee.
Viva la simplicity!
Bonus reading, moi, on Unclutterer:
Choose from the heart: Clutter free and feeling fine
Ruthless Simplicity: How to ward off doing more and burning out