Let me tell you about one of my average workdays. One sunny June day, Jared and Lisa invited me into their modest house in the suburbs of Maryland. From the tree-lined street their home looked welcoming. The grass was neatly trimmed, the garden in full bloom. A gray sedan was parked in the driveway. I rang the doorbell.
The door opened to an appalling site. The floor was invisible. Every flat surface was stacked high with papers. The walls were lined with wall-to-wall file boxes, some stacked on shelves or tables. Many of the piles reached the top of my head and I'm not a short man. The living room was so crowded that the kitchen had become their little boy Cooper's playroom. A toy train track ran through the legs of the kitchen table, its cars long ago scattered, tripped on, and lost. The family was overrun with what appeared to be scrapbooking materials: glue, notebooks, piles of photos, trim, and all sorts of craft material. In short, the house was a disaster. I glanced at Jared and Lisa. To all appearances they are clean, hardworking, upstanding citizens, no different from you or me. Jared manages a successful airport shuttle business. After taking a few years off to have their first child, Lisa has just gotten her real-estate license. Cooper was three years old and delighted in showing me his firm handshake. A great family. And a successful one, in spite of the clutter. But underneath their sunny exterior was tension. They wanted more from their lives and believed the chaos of their home was taking away from their happiness. There was an obvious question that needed an answer: Why was their house completely out of control?