Episode 034: Declutter Your Life to Embrace Change Says Mary Carlomagno

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Mary Carlomagno orderperiod organization

Mary Carlomagno

Bestselling author Mary Carlomagno learned about dealing with change by spending a year giving up stuff. The simple act of purging possessions, bad habits and obligations got her unstuck and transformed her life in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Mary built a successful career in publishing in New York City until she was laid off in 2004. The year prior to her layoff, she started giving up something different each month. Looking back she says giving up stuff taught her how to change and prepared her for the change she was about to undergo after losing her job. During the next year of her life she went through a ton of amazing changes; she got married, bought a home, started a business and publish a book that became a best seller!

Her year of giving up stuff inspired her to write Give It Up: My Year of Learning to Live Better With Less. She has written two additional books on simplicity. Her journey even landed her on the Oprah Winfrey Show!

Key UnStuckable Takeaway

Learn to subtract from your life, instead of just adding to it! 

Mary realized she kept adding more stuff and more obligations to her life, but never subtracted anything from it. Her life was cluttered. She realized that by subtracting things from her life, she could make room for change.

Her year of giving up stuff wasn’t just about simplifying her life, but learning how to change her behaviors. She says her year-long journey, “Challenged me to make change when I was unable to make. The whole process really became about learning how to change.”

If you are feeling stuck, but aren’t sure what it is that you want, try giving up a few things. Many times we keep stuff longer than is necessary or keep doing something the same way even if it’s counterproductive because it’s comfortable to us. You just might start realizing what’s really important in your life when you start letting go of stuff, habits or obligations that have overstayed their welcome.


  • Mary got very stuck in her publishing career because she stopped challenging herself.
  • After feeling stuck for about a year she started talking to people about it and surrounded herself with supportive people.
  • Unknowingly, she started seeking out lots of meetings and encounters with entrepreneurs.
  • After graduating from college Mary wanted to become a writer and when she was feeling stuck, she wanted to start moving back toward that goal.
  • When Mary was laid off in 2004, she decided she wanted to start her own company by pursuing two of her interests: organizing and writing.
  • The year before she was laid off, Mary was reflecting on her life. She realized she was always adding to it and decided to change her behavior by starting to subtract things from her life.
  • She gave up different things for a month at a time over a period of 12 months, which became the basis for her first book. She gave up things like coffee, chocolate, alcohol, using her cell phone, etc.
  • Her year of monthly challenges prepared her to deal with the change of losing her job.
  • After being laid off she started writing a book, got an agent, met her husband, bought a condo and started a company.
  • Mary believes that anyone who has achieved a high level of success has done so by practicing rituals to reinforce the habits they have built.
  • She also advises enjoying the process of change is as important as the goal you have set for yourself.
  • After Mary’s second book was published, she went on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009. (She ended up being interviewed by Oprah for the entire length of the show, discuss organization and simplifying).
  • She never let her Oprah experience define her or her career.
  • If you have a crazy business idea Mary says just try it. If it doesn’t work you can always stop doing it.
  • Learn from people who are doing something similar to what you want to do.
  • “Leap and the net will appear.”

Quick Action to Get Unstuck

Mary recommends observing someone who inspires you.

She happens to be inspired by watching the contestants on American Idol put everything they’ve got into their dream and she applies that to her life. As you observe someone who inspires you, think of one or two of their habits for working or living you would like to try to emulate. Get started by:

1. Identify someone that inspires you, whether you know them or not.

2. Observe that person however you can by either talking to them, reading something they wrote or watching them work.

3. Now choose just one habit that you think was critical to their success you would like to emulate. Take small steps as you integrate the new habit into your life.


Mary’s Website OrderPeriod

Mary’s Books

Mary Discussing Simplifying Your Life With Oprah

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