Chapter 1: Stevie CHAPTER 1 stevie
It’s so hard to know who you are.
That’s why I’m constantly looking in the mirror.
Who am I?
Who am I now?
What about now?
I check myself out from various angles, trying to clock a change. That’s what people do in moments of transition, right?
If nothing else, I find the sight of my reflection soothing. In my head, I’m a mess, but in the mirror, I’m solid. I’m a woman who has her life in order. I dress well, I do my hair, I have an open, friendly face. You would ask me for directions. You would trust me with your children.
If I were a town, I would probably be my hometown. La Jolla, California, is a place with a winning exterior. It dresses well. It’s ordered. It’s warm. Its lucky placement on a breathtaking portion of the Southern California coastline means it’s never had to try too hard. An image of La Jolla is an image of an easy life.
Considering the fortunate circumstances under which I grew up, there should have been no reason for my easy life to turn into a trash fire.
Except for that it did.
Because of one incident. I would call this one the inciting indent.
Unfortunately, the inciting incident had been on my mind all the time since moving home six months earlier, but it also wasn’t the point.
“The point,” I said to myself in the rearview, “is about starting over now.”
The light turned green. It was another perfect, sunny day in La Jolla, and I was driving to the house of a new client, Lauren Strong. I liked to use my car time to practice my spiel, and this is what I did now.
First, I quelled any potential embarrassment with my usual reminder: If anyone sees me talking to myself, they’ll assume that I am on the phone.
I cleared my throat.
And then I began.
“Do you have a picture in your mind of the person you want to become? And a profound sense of how you’ll feel when you become that person? Are you almost there, but not quite yet? If so, then let me help you!
“The difference between a clean life and a clean enough life might look small from afar, but it’s actually the Grand Canyon. Yes, you can put on a show for people. Yes, you can lie. Yes, you can live in a palace and wear great clothes and say the right things, but if your closets are packed to the brim with stuff you don’t need, and if you also feel a little bit dead inside, then who cares how sparkly your life looks to other people? If it doesn’t feel clean to you, then it’s not.”
I was practicing my spiel for Lauren, of course, but I was also practicing for a more successful future, possibly one that included a TV spot or a book tour—some professional event that starred me, a woman who was mic’d and teeming with unbreakable confidence. There would be a newly waxed stage and a rapt audience and somewhere nearby, a poster that said, STEVIE GREEN, DECLUTTERING GURU.
“Now you’re probably like, ‘Well, okay, I think my life could be cleaner, and why isn’t it already?’?”
I paused here for dramatic effect.
“Because you don’t know what you want. And that’s okay. Not knowing what you want makes you like everyone else. It also really sucks, and you don’t need to live that way anymore.
“The solution is simple, but there are no shortcuts. Actually, we’re taking the long way to make sure we haven’t left anything out. In order to figure out what you really want, we’re going to start by getting rid of everything you don’t want. You know that guess-and-check thing you used to do in math class? Have you heard the song ‘The Long Way Around’? It’s like that. By saying goodbye to all the incorrect answers, we’ll land at the right one, and the right one is your clean and honest life.”
Out of habit, I opened the center console and counted the bottles of screw-top chardonnay with my hand. One, two, three. I didn’t want to drink them. That’s why I kept them close by: to remind myself. I’d imagine the taste of buttery wine and feel the hot prick at the back of my throat and think, No thanks. They were like a stress ball. They reduced my stress. Plus, they were tiny and taking up barely any room in my life, so who cared.
“Your stuff is holding you back and weighing you down! You’re drowning in it,” I said, slamming the center console shut. “But not anymore. It’s time to free yourself. It’s time to become who you are.”