A new year begins. It’s that special time where we take stock in our lives and declare that we’ll make ourselves better people–fit, well-rounded, efficient, clean-living members of society. After all, in the wake of the holiday season we have maxed out the credit card, put on 10 lbs of “nog weight” and can’t remember anything from last Tuesday apart from ordering that fourth martini.
So we wake up one morning, dust ourselves off and make bold pronouncements about how we are going to change. Two days later we’re still on a roll, but there’s playoff football on this weekend. Of course then we have that ski trip up to Hunter Mountain planned, the special batch of chili for the Super Bowl, obligatory chocolate on Valentine’s Day, a lazy long weekend in February and before you know it–BAM–we’re putting a round of pints and 6 shots of Tullamore Dew on our Amex at the pub for St. Patrick’s Day.
The calendar itself provides umpteen obstacles to the proverbial fresh start of the New Year, let alone the day-to-day personal calendars that lend to that seemingly inevitable backslide into bad habits. Hoboken resident Mary Carlomagno knows all too well. “I was living this very fast-paced corporate lifestyle–alcohol, coffee–I kept adding and adding and adding things to my life,” says Mary, “but I wasn’t adding any more happiness.”
Give It Up
Mary’s first book, Give It Up: My Year of Living Better with Less, chronicles her 2003 decision to eliminate the clutter in her life and gradually refocus on what was important to her. “I started to do what I ended up calling, ‘Lent for a month’–giving up one thing at a time every month.” Her method was pretty straightforward, stating, “I’d go cold turkey on coffee one month, then cold turkey on chocolate, and then the next month I’d start something else.”
When asked if she maintained the streak from a previous month she curtly replied, “I needed to keep my sanity–It was hard to give up coffee for four weeks.” But the pragmatic give-and-take did its part in illustrating what was and wasn’t vital to Mary. “I gave up really important things–I gave up shopping, I gave up alcohol. It was hard. It limited any social interaction, as these things were very much a part of my entire existence.”
But she soon began to see her vices for what they were. “They were all these rogue habits I had picked up and practiced over and over again without examination,” says Mary. She refers to the respites as, “sort of my little Walden Pond, only I didn’t have to go to the woods to figure it out.” As the philosophy began to take hold, the benefits her experiment became apparent.”I did it for about a year; I started to learn how to change and the notion of change,” she says. “I learned I can go into a store and not buy everything, and that I could start making decisions in my life.”
Clearing the mind, filling the pages
With a background in book publishing, there seemed to be an obvious next step. Yet Mary emphatically claims, “I didn’t have the intention of writing about it, I just wanted to do it to be happy and gain some appreciation for the life I was leading, which had become kind of empty.” But the universe has its own funny little way of filling voids, as Mary explains, “with all of that peacefulness that had entered my life, creating a space in my life–which is very important for well-being–I let something new come in, and what was new for me was writing.”
The unique approach to a common problem brought a lot of attention to Mary’s effort, and it wasn’t long before she was appearing on The Today Show, Martha Stewart, and Oprah, between writing for Real Simple, Woman’s Day, and a slew of other top periodicals.
As her first book was primarily anecdotal, her second work, Secrets of Simplicity, is more of a philosophical examination of the process. “From Lao-Tzu to Thoreau, I explore what simplicity means in our lives. It’s a very American thing to have so much stuff–so much that you don’t even know what it is anymore. It’s okay to keep SOME things from the past and you can re-organize anything,” says Mary, “but I’ve decluttered my whole life.”
Secrets of Simplicity also serves as a workbook and journal for those interested in taking their own steps towards decluttering. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done. I’m a suburban New Jersey chick who went to the mall a lot, and now I’ve become an expert in this odd field of clutter.”
From Mary’s office, a converted linen closet on Jefferson Street in Hoboken that exemplifies space-saving efficiency, she runs Order.–the period being a pivotal part of the business name. Whether it’s organizing the home, streamlining the office, managing your time, or even running errands, Mary applies her knowledge and helps clients optimize their efforts–be it one-on-one or via workshops. “I don’t have a PhD, but I can walk the walk and I’m intuitive, having done it for over 5 years,” she explains, sternly adding, “I’m pretty familiar with the excuses–and it’s usually a lot of excuses.” But having been there, Mary knows that any solution needs to be practical in its application in order to be effective. “I try to make it acceptable, understandable and do-able.”
Organized in Hoboken
“I’ve been here since ’92,” boasts Mary. “I came here post-college to move into New York and I never left–I always felt Hoboken’s warmth and sense of community while still having that urban feel and sense of sophistication. That’s really what has kept me here, and you find it’s a city that as you grow older, get married and have children, it’s a city that evolves with you and I love that about it. It’s a comfortable place to be.”
For more information on Mary Carlomagno, her books and the services she provides not just here in Hoboken but throughout the Metro Area, visit orderperiod.com.