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Mental Health

The Intersection of Mental Health and Home Improvement: A Conversation with Alumni Member Mara-Marie

We are so excited to welcome a very special Jilly Academy Alumni member to the blog today, Mara-Marie Putsep! She owns and runs Mara-Marie Interiors, a mental health-informed decluttering and home organization services business that has recently relocated from the Vancouver area to Central Alberta! We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing her expand her business in this new region and sat down to chat with her so that you, too, could get a glimpse of her journey! 

What do you do/what is your industry?

My name is Mara-Marie, (Mara for short), and I am the owner of Mara-Marie Interiors – where I offer non-judgmental, patient and compassionate decluttering and home organization services to those who suffer from anxiety, depression, and/or neurodiversity in Central Alberta. 

While home organization typically involves providing aesthetically pleasing storage alternatives to the busy spaces in your home, my approach focuses more on why my clients are struggling. This way, I can create a personal, functional and budget-friendly solution specific to their needs. For many people, having a stranger in their home can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. My goal is to ensure my clients know that I understand first-hand how vulnerable it can feel having a stranger in their home. I want to work with them through the process, ensuring that they feel in charge of how fast or slow we go and that they have a hand in all the decision-making. 

Sometimes, a start-to-finish service is imperative for those that are looking for help in their home before they start working on their mental health journey. This can look like assistance going through a loved one’s belongings after suffering a loss, decluttering a space that has become crowded with clutter due to depression, or finding an organizational system that works if you struggle with anxiety or ADHD. Living with mental illness is hard enough as it is, but I believe that self-care starts at home and that turning your safe space into a functional one should be possible no matter where you’re at in life.

Mental health-informed home organization service owner Mara-Marie from The Jilly Academy

How did you get started in your industry/job role?

Growing up, I was very lucky to have a mom that was passionate about interior design. After my parents split up when I was 6, my mom and I were on our own and, for a while and stuck living in not the most ideal places. Her passion came in handy because, as a single mom, she had to become creative. Sometimes these places weren’t in the best neighbourhood, and sometimes, they were tiny. But somehow, my mom always knew how to make them work for us, even with the very little that we had. 

Eventually, she learned how to utilize every nook and cranny. And since we had to move so often, she became a pro at decluttering, unpacking and storing everything efficiently, which was crucial for us to come home and relax during one of the most stressful periods of our life together. Fast forward to when I was 11, my mom and I were in a car accident. My mom severely damaged her back and was now living in chronic, debilitating pain. 

As an 11-year-old, I didn’t really understand what was happening as she always tried to hide it from me. But eventually, she couldn’t, and I didn’t recognize her anymore. Life had become a scary, emotional roller-coaster, and my mom’s mental health took a big hit. The painkillers that doctors were prescribing her had changed her. Some days she was devastated, most days, she was angry, but every day she was depressed. Sometimes getting out of bed wasn’t an option. 

At the time, ICBC (British Columbia’s Auto Insurance Provider) had provided cleaners to come to our home once a week to help us with daily chores. And although we were grateful for the help, we always felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. More often than not, we felt forced to clean before the cleaners would even arrive because we didn’t want to feel any judgment. This feeling was something that stuck with me throughout the years. 

As life went on, we had to continue to move as my mom lost her job due to the accident and the depression she suffered from after. By the time I graduated high school, we had moved 14 times. We were exhausted. I was living in a constant state of fight or flight, and my mom knew it was time for her to start therapy. 

After a long, difficult road, my mom was eventually able to get off her painkillers and find healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her trauma and pain. She channelled a lot of her energy into making each place we moved into cozy and safe for us because having a home that was comfortable and functional was important to continue growing mentally and emotionally. Watching her over the years has really shown me that navigating mental illness is possible. Mental illness doesn’t just go away, but waking up in a space where you feel in control can help in so many different ways. 

As for me, I developed this passion not just for home organization but also for connecting with people I could relate to, and that could relate to me. We all have crazy stories, and I got into this industry so that I could be the service that my mom and I so desperately needed all those years ago. 

Jilly Academy Alumni Mara-Marie Putsep at work on her mental health-informed home organization service.

What do you love the most about what you do?

My absolute favourite part of my job is seeing the weight lifted off my clients’ shoulders. This was something I discovered after working with my very first client. After losing her husband suddenly from cancer, she became depressed during the pandemic and needed help decluttering. The house was crowded with decades of memories, but for her to move on, she wanted to put her house on the market. 

She was nervous and not entirely convinced that we could make it happen. After 2 weeks, we decluttered and organized almost her entire house together. When things got too overwhelming, we would take breaks, drink tea, and share stories. We laughed and cried A LOT. She sat me down once the job was finished and was so in love with how she felt in her home again. The relief on her face was the most rewarding feeling I had felt in a long time. At the beginning of the pandemic, I quit my corporate job due to exhaustion from burnout, and I hadn’t felt that rewarding feeling after a day of work in years. That was when I knew I wanted to keep going. That is when I fell in love with this industry. And oh ya…she decided to keep the house!  

Share a business WIN from the past year!

A major business win was booking my very first client through my new website! Past clients were always through word of mouth (thanks, friends), but never in a million years did I think I would grow up to start my own business! Let alone have people care enough to submit inquiry forms through my own website! HOW NEAT IS THAT?! (I realize that the internet has been a thing for a long time now, just let me have this…okay?)

Share a personal WIN from the past year!

Learning that I am in fact, WORTHY! This past summer, I met a lot of women at Jillian’s “Academy at the Farm,” and sharing stories and being vulnerable with each other really solidified that what I want to do in this life matters. It has empowered me to continue to share my stories and use the traumas that I have experienced in life and turn them into something good! Since then, I have started to share real and raw experiences in my life through Instagram. I find when I do that, I start hearing similar stories from complete strangers, and I am constantly reminded of how much we all have in common. Connection is so important, and when we can talk to each other and connect, we all win. 

How has your experience been with The Jilly Academy?

I don’t think we have enough space on this page to talk about all the good that has come out of my Jilly Academy experience. No, seriously. I have made lifelong friends in this community, met other women-owned business owners that share the same core values as me, and now my idol (Jillian) knows who I am LOL. 

The Jilly Academy reminded me that we all have to start somewhere and although Jillian has a team supporting her, throughout the course, she recognizes that many of us starting out are a one-man show. The course was not meant to overwhelm us but rather inspire us and really figure out what makes us excited. I live with ADHD, and it is super easy for me to become discouraged, so this course helps me when I feel like I might fall off track. 

Jilly Academy Alumni Mara-Marie Putsep's mental health-informed home organization service

Advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs, content creators, or others within your industry?

If I were to offer any advice, it would be the same kind of advice I would give my younger self. Do not minimize yourself. Imposter syndrome is real, but don’t let it get to you. Don’t try to hide. Do things that make you happy. Be yourself, always. Laugh louder. Leave the world a better place than how you found it. Say things with conviction, and wherever you go, go with your heart. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I was born with a rare heart condition called “Pulmonary Atresia,” and the surgeons and staff at Vancouver Children’s Hospital undoubtedly saved my life. I had my first medical procedure at 8 hours old, followed by two open and two closed heart surgeries, all by the time I was 3-years-old. We spent so much time at Children’s Hospital that my mom lived in a trailer in the back parking lot for quite some time. They weren’t sure if I would make it, and at first, I didn’t. I was a blue baby that turned into a miracle baby. Because of this, I donate 13% of each completed job to Alberta Children’s Hospital! 

Thank you to Jillian and her team. I am stoked to be here, sharing my story with all of you reading. 

Love, Mara.

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