'Clean House': Mark Brunetz writes the book on clearing clutter

mark-brunetz-320.jpg"Clean House" launched in 2003 on Style Network, and designer Mark Brunetz has been there right from the beginning of the show's mission to transform cluttered, chaotic houses -- full of "mayhem and foolishness," as host Niecy Nash puts it -- into organized, beautiful homes.

Apparently, along with clearing messes, the show has also been changing lives.

"I have to be honest," Brunetz tells Zap2it, "and say that I never realized it would change lives, the impact it would have at the level it's doing it. I got into it because I thought it would make a difference for people. That was part of my decision to be on the show."

But the scope of the impact eluded him until a few years ago, when the show left the Los Angeles area to tour America on its annual "Search for the Messiest Home in the Country" (the fourth iteration is happening currently on Wednesday nights on Style, with the conclusion airing on June 30).

"It's only when you get outside of L.A.," Brunetz says, "that you start meeting the people who are really watching the show, the people who really are impacted by it. There's the people who say, 'I just cleaned out my garage yesterday after watching your show.' You're going, 'Wow.'"

Now, Brunetz has taken his mission and that of "Clean House" to the next step with the release of his book "Take the U Out of Clutter: The Last Clutter Book You'll Ever Need," co-written with self-help author and stress-management consultant Carmen Renee Berry.

The goal of the Berkley Trade paperback, being released on Tuesday, May 4, is not to give readers strategies to organize and eradicate clutter, but instead to first recognize and reconcile the thought processes, memories and emotions that have led them to pack themselves in tightly with stuff. Once those are dealt with, the objects connected to them can begin to be released.

"There is a kind of universal shift," Brunetz says, "towards, 'Hey, maybe it's not really about my candlesticks; it's really about my attachment to my attachment to my candlesticks.' I didn't want the book to be deeply psychological, because it's such a new domain in many ways, but I wanted it to be from that place, and that's really why I partnered with Carmen.

"Together, what she allowed me to do is say what I wanted to say, based on my experience having worked with thousands of homeowners, and being out in the trenches of people and their stuff. I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but I wanted to map it out in such a way that people could, A, follow it, and B, get something out of it."

Much of the book centers on the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and how they are connected to objects in the environment.

"The whole idea of the stories we live in," Brunetz says, "and how much they pervade our daily lives is a very poignant way, a very integral way to look at how we live.

"The conventional wisdom is, 'Yeah, I have a memory. I look at something in my house, and it reminds me of my grandmother,' and all that, but yet, why aren't people doing something about this? 'Oh, I know I shop a lot. I just love shopping.' But then why do you continue to shop and fill your house with things you don't need?

"People are unable to, as I write in the book, put their hands on the wheel, the wheel that is the control center, the nerve center, if you will. I hope this book does this."

Brunetz also points out that, even if the house gets cleaned, the work continues.

"It's the same for weight loss and for clutter," he says. "You wake up to it every day. There's a point where ... it becomes second nature. Without a doubt that happens, but we have to get there."

Speaking of getting there, it's still a couple of months until the finale of "Clean House: Search for the Messiest Home in the Country," but filming has already completed. Fans may remember the saga of Sharon Baglien, the retired police detective at the center of the third "Messiest Home."

"Overwhelmed" by nearly unimaginable mountains of clutter, which strained her relationship with her adult daughter (not to mention the floor of her attic, and the walls of her garage), Baglien had great difficulty recognizing her part in all of it, eventually storming off before the final reveal.

Brunetz says this year will be something different.

"It's just an accumulation of life circumstance," he says, "nothing really heavy like the last one -- not a lot of resistance, not a lot of craziness. It's just a really good family that made a lot of bad choices, if you will, which resulted in a house where the only door you could close, aside from the front door, was one bathroom door."

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