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Confessions of a Professional Organizer

A lot of people are talking about “tidying up” these days. They say that having an organized home can improve your health, your relationships, and your overall well-being. As a professional organizer I see those benefits all the time in the lives of my clients. Some tell me that they’re happier and more calm. Some tell me that the organizing process, especially the purging part, feels amazing. They feel lighter and liberated. So, if organizing is so wonderful for many reasons, why is it so hard for some people? Why do I have such a flourishing business?

Organizing can be challenging for several reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as the person not having time to tackle their organizing project. Let me rephrase that — the person has deprioritized their organizing project and would much prefer to do other things. Sometimes it can be more complex, like a spouse not partnering with the person to sort through their things together. Sometimes the person has allowed so many things into their home over many years and is drowning in their own belongings. They are so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to begin, and the thought of starting gives them severe anxiety. Do any of these reasons resonate with YOU? They resonate with ME

Hi, my name is Laura, and I’m a recovered “pack rat.”

Although I have been organized all my life, I have often been surrounded by stuff. I called them “collections” and was fiercely territorial of my things. Having spent my entire childhood in the same home, I was able to accumulate a large amount of collections in that house. Rocks, model horses, books, stickers, souvenirs, pencils…all sorts of wonderful collections that made me happy. You know what doesn’t make me happy? Moving. Cross-country. FOUR times.

When I worked for Google in Human Resources, I moved across the country four times for various assignments. I loved the opportunities and experiences those moves afforded me, but I didn’t love moving. Each time I would have to sort through my belongings and prioritize which ones should come with me and purge the rest. One eye-opening moment was when I was packing my boxes to move from New York to California, and my roommate questioned why I was bringing a small bottle of corn syrup. “Because I’ll likely need it in California, and it’s not expired. I don’t like to waste things,” I replied, thinking, “I’m so resourceful!” She calmly responded, “Laura, you can replace it when you need it in California for $2, whereas shipping it will cost approximately a million dollars.” Talk about being resourceful! She was so right! It shifted my whole way of thinking! After that experience (and a few other nudges from roommates) I began to truly let go and prioritize the important things. While I thought it felt great to hold tightly to my collections, I soon discovered how incredible it felt to release my grip on those material possessions.

Today, I am not a minimalist. I surround myself with things I need and love, along with a couple extra things that I might need…I am resourceful, afterall. But I know how to prioritize and make decisions on everything that comes into our home. And I can empathize with my clients who are struggling to let go and tidy up. I know that organizing can be a challenge, especially the purging part, but I get to coach my clients across the finish line and bask in their glorious feeling of achievement. Organizing is indeed wonderful for many reasons, but some people need guidance to get tidy. I have a successful business because I calmly and gently help people take the necessary steps to achieve their ambitious organizational dreams.

If YOU are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about tidying up, you are not alone. Fortunately, getting organized requires a pretty simple formula: purge, sort, (perhaps purge again), and then organize (while continuing to purge regularly afterward). This can apply to your email, your clothes, your photos, or even your rock collection. You don’t have to become a minimalist, but you’ll likely enjoy life more when you live with less. I know I do.

Want to start tidying up on your own? Here are a couple tips to guide you:

1. Manage Incoming Paper. Set up a mail-sorting station in a convenient place in your home for incoming mail, work documents, and school papers. Sort through it everyday, and don’t let it stack up. Touch each piece only once. Sort into folders — action, to pay, to file, etc.

2. Make a Master To-Do List. There are lots of apps out there, but I highly recommend ToDoist, a free app that I use to manage all ideas, tasks, notifications, priorities, and projects. It allows you to share the projects with family members and set up recurring tasks.

3. Make the Most of Your Space. Go vertical in your pantry and closets. Consider using backs of doors and cupboards to add functionality to your home.

4. Make Labels. It’s inexpensive to buy a label maker, and having places clearly marked will help show family members where things belong when it’s time to put something away.

If you are looking for someone to coach you to the finish line of your organizational goals, know that I am here for you and am a great resource to help you through a challenging process. My team and I offer in-person consultations in the Milwaukee area (and beyond, for a small travel fee). Additionally, we now offer non-local organizing services for determined DIYers looking to get tidy with virtual support. Whether you want to be a minimalist, a “recovered pack rat,” or just get your head above your piles, YOU can do it! And I can help, if you’d like. I’ve been there too.

Laura organizing her necklaces
Me, organizing one of my collections: necklaces!

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