Lorie Marrero,
LivingOrder organizing and productivity consultant


Rate: $75 an hour residential
Found: Google

Lorie Marrero is a slim, polished woman whose oversize shoulder bag contains a mini file drawer. Seriously. She wouldn't get to the video store only to realize she'd left the overdue DVD at home, because it's filed under D. Opening my front door to her, I'm overwhelmed with inadequacy. I feel better after my dog rubs against her legs and leaves white hairs on her navy pants.

I open my office-in-an-armoire for her inspection. Like a doctor looking down a patient's throat, she says, "Ah-haah." Then she interviews me and discovers all the inefficient ways in which I store things, manage e-mail, waste time, etc. My multiple to-do lists on scraps of paper don't qualify as a calendar at all. Ditto for my contact management (those various, unsynchronized address books). She lectures me about my lack of a computer-backup system. (One of LivingOrder's clients had a laptop stolen out of her house. No backup. All files had to be re-created from scratch.) Ditto formy lack of a shredder (my dog doesn't count). Ditto for my mismanagement of online passwords. My ego is destroyed.

Just in time to be rebuilt in a new, more organized image.

She makes a list: Things to do per Lorie. Put all contacts in one electronic database, with notes for searching by keyword. Get a good shredder. Arrange daily, overnight, off-site backup, plus CDs as backup of the backup. Make a password-protected spreadsheet for all login info. Take one or two hours each week to review progress and plan.

Finally, she tells me I need a comprehensive master list of everything that needs doing: work, home, family, school. People who try to keep little tasks in their heads - "got to call Aunt Rita"or "e-mail new contact from the conference" or "the piano needs tuning" - only distract themselves. Those nagging thoughts are like flotsam and jetsam of the brain, clogging free-running thought. "You can be more creative without them," she slyly suggests. Okay, master to-do list it is.

Now we tackle the desk. The goal is to sort objects, using Lorie's "Action, Reference, or Trash" system. Everything to be kept, including staples and every scrap of paper, is then categorized as A, B, C, or D. The A and B stuff will stay around my desk (Ace and Best?). C and D stuff goes upstairs to a filing cabinet or bookshelves. Clutter and Detritus, say.

From one desk we extract four mail bins of extraneous C and D stuff. With the help of Lorie's handy-dandy label maker,­ where her fingers dance like Fred Astaire's feet, we file the important papers, shelve the important books, create a spot for supplies. My desk is a thing of simple beauty. I wonder if I can work there.

As Lorie leaves, I am on fire with the love of organization. Which is a good thing, because she left me a list of about 10 more things to do and a dozen things to buy. I consider staying up late to create C and D files or shelve C and D books (how can Faulkner be Detritus?). Instead, I go to sleep and dream that my uncle has come over to categorize my bookshelves. (All golf books, here!)

For most of the next day, despite the presence of the temporary personal assistant I'll describe next, I organize. I can't walk past an unruly drawer without applying "Action, Reference, or Trash" to it. I sort my daughter's school papers and artwork, and store them in bins Lorie told me to buy. I sort crayons from markers from pencils. I shelve C and D books. In a forgotten milk crate I find the Filofax I've been hunting for for the last two days because it's one of those yet-to-be-synchronized address books. I find my daughter's lost birth certificate. I toss a lot of junk into a trash bag.

Since I started outsourcing, I've filled two large garbage cans.

The unalphabetized, uncategorized book shelves annoy me.

The bin full of C and D files-to-be-­created weighs on me.

I hear myself repeating Lorie's advice: Never say, "Put it here for now" - find a permanent place for it. Is this rolling pin a B object or a C object? Does Tylenol count as an A object when you're so organized it gives you a headache?

I'm so busy organizing my work, I'm not working. Wasn't outsourcing supposed to free me to be more productive? What's happening?

What's happening is I'm seriously considering buying a labelmaker.