Clients

Organizing Is For Everyone

I have had clients who are men, women, children, adults, black, white, Muslim, Mormon, gay, straight, trans, cis, couples, singles, parents, DINKS… and the reason I tell you this is not to enumerate the rainbow of human diversity but to emphasize that organizing is for literally everyone. If you are a person who is just trying to get through this thing called life, organizing can help you!

Often when I tell people about my business, I get a funny reaction: “Wow, that’s so cool! I mean, I don’t need an organizer, but I’m sure lots of people do.” Sometimes, this is probably because those people are actually pretty freakin’ organized. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of the time, it’s a defensive reaction - they feel like organizing is not for them. And reading between the lines, I find that it’s usually for one of these three reasons.

It’s not that this teenager didn’t want a made bed - she just didn’t know how to do it while keeping all the elements she wanted involved.

It’s not that this teenager didn’t want a made bed - she just didn’t know how to do it while keeping all the elements she wanted involved.

1) I’m just not an organized person.

For better or for worse, American culture reveres hard work and achievement. Not only that, but we seem to have been indoctrinated to think that a high level of achievement is more than result of hard work: it’s an actual personality trait. Here’s where the danger lies. If aptitude for organizing is a personality trait, then you’ve either got it or you don’t. 

How depressing is that?

Fortunately, there is no such thing as “an organized person.” Organizing is a skill. Some people are taught it and some aren’t; some people find it easier and some find it more difficult. But everyone can learn organizing principles, and use them to live an easier, simpler life.

2) I don’t really care about being organized.

Apathy is a funny thing. After all, if you don’t care about something, then you don’t have to think about it or consider the way it may be affecting your life.

My challenge to those who profess not to care about whether or not their home is organized is this: have you experienced life in an organized environment? My guess is either you haven’t, or the way in which that environment was organized didn’t work for you. And I predict that if you can create organizing systems and patterns that work for you, you will see a significant improvement in your quality of life.

3) I don’t have time to get organized.

This single guy knows what he likes in his home - he just needed help figuring out the details of how to make it all work.

This single guy knows what he likes in his home - he just needed help figuring out the details of how to make it all work.

Speaking of time… man, do I have a whole lot of empathy for people who are short on time. This world is tough and people are run ragged. Sometimes, even to me, it seems the height of absurdity that I ask someone to stop their life cold for three hours and focus on their stuff.

And then, every time I finish an organizing session, I remember why I do this. Whether it’s the woman who says she instantly feels ten pounds lighter, or the couple that finds joy in home cooking again, or the dad who finally feels like he’s regaining control of his life after his divorce, my client see real, tangible results even from the first organizing session.

In a way, you don’t have time NOT to get organized. The time you invest in creating an organized home will pay you back huge dividends of time in the future: time that you won’t be spending hunting for things you need rightthissecond or bickering with your partner.

More than anything, I want you to know that not only is organizing most definitely for you, but also that you deserve a beautifully organized home that truly works for you. You’re worth it!

LMW

Is There Hope For Teens' Messy Rooms After All?

You guys, I’ve discovered a secret super power. I love working with teenagers to organize their rooms, and it seems that they like working with me too!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

There could be a few things going on here. For one thing, I think it makes a difference that I’m not a parent. I have a lot of friends who are parents, and I hear from them about their struggles, so I can definitely empathize with parents’ frustrations with their teens’ messy rooms. At the same time, I’m not a parent myself, and so in some way I still self-identify as someone’s daughter rather than someone in charge. This allows me to relate directly to my teen clients.

In addition, from the very beginning of my business, I have maintained that my client is the person who lives in the space I am organizing. This may be the person who is paying me, but not always. This means that when I’m working with a teenager, I’m talking directly to them, and listening to their needs and desires for the space. 

Here are a few things I’ve noticed when working with teens and their parents - perhaps these observations might inspire you to approach your teen and their room situation from a new angle!

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

  1. No matter how messy a teen’s room or how long it’s been that way - they may hate it as much as you do! Just because someone lives in a disorganized environment doesn’t mean that’s their preference, they may just not have the resources or energy to change it. So often a teen needs help getting started and tools to keep going, rather than discipline.

  2. Teens learn how to live in a home from their parents over the course of their lives. So, if your home has perpetually disorganized areas, it should not be surprising that your teen’s room follows suit. And as a result, they’re going to be pretty resentful if you ask something of them (a clean room) that you don’t ask of yourself. Think back to your teen years - didn’t you hate hypocrites like none other?

  3. The teen years are all about the struggle for control. Teens feel like they’re ready to be adults, and parents are totally freaked because they know decision making skills have not yet been… refined. The good news is that a teen’s room is a pretty safe space to give them practice with taking ownership. If you let them organize their room the way they want to - even if it doesn’t map exactly to your vision - you very well may get a tidier space and a happier kid.

Above all, if you are the frustrated parent of a teen with a messy room, I beg of you: please, please, please DO NOT declutter and organize the teen’s room without their participation. It will totally backfire on you. Why? By doing so, you’ll break their trust. And trust, as we all know, is a really hard thing to get back.

 If you have questions about how to help your teenager get started on organizing their space, let’s talk!

LMW

Organizing for Network Marketing Success

Network, or multilevel, marketing has a mixed reputation these days.

In the 20th century, joining a network marketing company like Avon or Tupperware gave women a chance to earn their own money, make their own purchasing decisions, and gain a little more independence than they otherwise might have had. Sounds great, right?

Fast forward to today, and there are more multilevel marketing companies than I could possibly name. You’ve probably seen a few of them on your Facebook feed: Beachbody, Beautycounter, Scentsy. Some of the products are great… and some aren’t. And unfortunately, the networks are structured so that most reps don’t actually make much, if any, money.

I’ve worked with a few representatives from some of the most popular multilevel marketing companies around to help their organize how they incorporate their business into their home. This is a huge challenge, and solving it can be the difference between a rep who makes a tidy sum, and one who breaks even or loses money. As I see it, there are three main organizational struggles, all of which an be solved by sticking to basic organizing principles.

1) All. That. Inventory.

This is my client’s current inventory after culling products that were not the current version (therefore not sellable).

This is my client’s current inventory after culling products that were not the current version (therefore not sellable).

Multilevel marketing reps aren’t just sellers - they’re required to purchase the physical product themselves before they sell to the end user. This is a serious space challenge… if you live in a relatively small apartment or house in San Francisco, what exactly are you going to do with all that inventory?

We have to get real. The company will be pushing you to buy, buy, buy! They make their money when YOU buy, not when your CUSTOMERS buy - that’s when you make your money. So, as with any kind of purchasing, you need to buy according to your own individual needs and priorities. If the lip balm is flying off the shelves but nobody wants the body butter… don’t buy the body butter, even if the company gives you a huge incentive to do so.

And in terms of storage, just like any other collection, designate a specific storage area and pledge Do Not outgrow said area. This means you’ll have to make tough purchasing decisions, but it will also mean that your partner or roommate won’t want to stab you with that cool new earring they just stepped on!

2) Fun marketing ideas, oh my oh my!

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The companies know that they can’t just shove out product and hope it sells - they have to help their sellers market the stuff! Although social media is definitely a major part of any multilevel marketing strategy, most of the companies still push the traditional party setup where women get together to socialize and see the products firsthand. So, a lot of the marketing materials come in the form of stuff: paper, banners, trinkets, etc. that all need to be stored.

Again, you need to consider your own needs and priorities. You literally couldn’t implement every marketing idea the company sends you - you’d never sleep, or eat, or spend time with your family. So instead of keeping all the marketing materials that come your way, instead only store the ones you like to use and see great results from.

3) Tracking your (ideally) bumper crop of customers, orders, and shipments.

So you’ve purchased your inventory, received your marketing materials, and started making sales. Now, how do you keep track of all these folks? Many of the companies still use paper order forms for in person parties, and the online ordering systems can cumbersome.

My advice, as with most things, is to go as paperless as possible. Paper not only takes up storage space, but also is harder to search through, compile, and use for marketing purposes. I highly recommend using some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) tool. 

Here’s the key: a CRM has one major thing in common with any paper filing system you can think of: you have to actively use it. Whether digital or physical, an information management system is a dynamic product and not a set it and forget it type of thing. So, there will be a learning curve - but I promise, if you start when you have so few customers it seems a little ridiculous, and stick with it, you will see major impact on your marketing efforts and sales.

Need help setting up organizing systems for your network marketing venture? Get in touch, and we can schedule a complimentary in-home consultation for you!

LMW

Overwhelmed by Creativity

Creativity comes along with a lot of stuff. One of my very first clients absolutely loves scrapbooking. She has a ton of backlogged projects and is always finding new inspiration. She also has all the latest and greatest scrapbooking tools and a bountiful supply of card stock, paper, ribbon, washi tape, etc. for when the creative mood strikes! As you might imagine, all this equipment and material takes up an awful lot of space and is relatively complex to keep organized. 

A little #organizationporn for all my needleworkers and color enthusiasts!

A little #organizationporn for all my needleworkers and color enthusiasts!

When I work with highly creative, inspired clients, I’m still doing the same thing I always do: helping them to edit their belongings so that we can create a streamlined organizing system that supports their goals and is easy to maintain. This does mean that I help my clients edit their raw materials and project ideas. And edit is a pretty word for delete, or throw away.

This may sound like I’m trying to limit my clients’ creativity in the interests of creating a gorgeous organizing system. And I can see that perspective. But here’s why I believe that even the most creative people benefit from careful editing.

  1. A human being only has so much time and energy. Many incredibly creative people I work with can think of more projects in a day than they could complete in years. And the more projects you add, the more stuff accumulates… but the more projects remain unfinished, or even un-started. Which leads me to…

  2. The feeling of accomplishment when you’ve finished a creative endeavor and send it out into the world - whether it’s submitting a book for publishing or just getting that photo you’re so proud of framed and hung - is incredible. It’s rewarding, and it fuels you for the next project. If you have too many ongoing ideas, you’ll never actually get through any of them, and you’ll rob yourself of the opportunity to be proud of your finished product. And anyway…

  3. There’s freedom in limitation that can lead to all kinds of surprising inspiration. It’s like kids who play for hours with the box a playhouse came in and don’t seem all that interested in the house itself - the blank canvas of a box, although it has fewer features, gives them more room for imaginative play. Plus, there’s a dark side to endless possibilities…

  4. I often work with clients who feel a sense of guilt or inadequacy from knowing that they are not following through on some great ideas. I ask them the question: will it feel better to keep this project around and know that it’s available to you to work on, or will it feel better to acknowledge that you don’t have the time and energy to complete it and let go of the idea to focus on other projects? It’s often not until I voice this question out loud that they realize how much a of a burden some projects have become!

I have to admit, I identify  and sympathize strongly with many of my creative clients. As I build my business, I’m always coming up with new ideas and projects! But I have to remember to focus on delivering my services to the very best of my ability every day, and add only those things that I truly have the time and energy to maintain.

So, creativity is not the opposite of organization! In fact, a great organizing scheme can really support your creative projects and help you bring more of those brilliant ideas to fulfillment. 

LMW

Just Get Rid Of It! - Couple Struggles Part 4

For more on organizing for couples and the issues that come up, check out the earlier posts in this series!

  • Part 1: Every Couple Struggles

  • Part 2: Who’s Really “The Organized One”?

  • Part 3: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?

Today, we’re diving into what happens when partners have very different levels of tolerance for the sheer amount of stuff in their space. Some people prefer a really minimal environment, containing only a few objects that have been carefully chosen. Others like to be surrounded by a bounty of things, all of which have personal meaning and aesthetic appeal.

Just like we talked about in Part 2, neither one of these approaches is necessarily the correct one! A minimalist may be missing out on memories, connections with loved ones, or even experiences that they aren’t prepared for. A maximalist may lose time and energy trying to find and use things that they may actually prefer to spend somewhere else.

The commonality is that these types frustrate each other! In particular, I often find that the maximalist partner wants to work meticulously through a space in order to organize it, while the minimalist partner believes that if they just throw everything away and start from scratch, all their problems will disappear.

Now, if you’ve read anything on this blog, you know that I do believe very strongly in the concept of less is more! It’s so important that I start each and every organizing project with the decluttering process. This is a critical step, because it opens up storage space and ensures that the client is surrounded by only the things they love and use.

However, this process is also crucial for a reason many of my clients don’t expect. By going through all of your things and making decisions, you can piece together the story of how you got to this place where the level of disorganization really frustrates you. You can see patterns: what you hold on to that you don’t actually use, the types of things that cause you guilt, the patterns in consumption that have led you to waste things. Decluttering can be incredibly eye opening.

On the other hand, if you were to just throw everything away, you’d avoid that entire critical learning process that informs and motivates behavior change going forward. Also, in the case of a couple, the person whose stuff got tossed might feel betrayal and distrust towards the person who talked them into it!

I worked with a wonderful couple living in a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco. He definitely leans minimalist, while she forms a stronger attachment to things and has trouble decluttering. When we first started to work together, he expressed that he just wanted to see her “get rid of” a large percentage of her stuff.

This client’s beautifully organized “command center” - everything neatly organized, with just the most meaningful inspirational touches she needed.

This client’s beautifully organized “command center” - everything neatly organized, with just the most meaningful inspirational touches she needed.

So, I carefully guided them through a middle ground. By respecting the wife’s attachment to things and being willing to take the time to talk through each and every object, I was able to get her comfortable with reducing the amount of stuff in the space in order to accommodate their larger goals for their home. And by discovering the true meaning and intention behind the things she decided to keep, I was able to help the husband understand how to incorporate those things into their life in specific ways so that it didn’t just feel like “more stuff.”

So if one of you just wants to toss everything and the other can’t bear the idea, know that there is room to meet in the middle if you’re both willing to commit to the process. After all, there’s more to each of you than just being a minimalist or maximalist!

Stay tuned for the final post in this series: strategies you can start using immediately to find common ground on the often-fraught topic of organizing your home with your partner.

LMW

Who's Responsibility Is It, Anyway? Couple Struggles Part 3

For more on organizing for couples and the issues that come up, check out the earlier posts in this series!

  • Part 1: Every Couple Struggles

  • Part 2: Who’s Really “The Organized One”?

Today, we’ll explore what happens when one partner either doesn’t acknowledge that organizing is a problem, or doesn’t want to participate in the organizing process. It’s really tough to organize your home when one half of your partnership doesn’t want to get involved in the process or see any value in the result! I actually see quite a bit of this, and the pattern is fairly similar. 

One partner is responsible for the upkeep of the home, and they’re at the end of their rope. It might be because they don’t have enough time, they’ve outgrown their skill set, or life circumstances have added complexity to a routine that used to be comfortable. Either way, their home isn’t working for their family, and it’s stressing them out big time.

The other partner isn’t stressed at all! Their day to day experience hasn’t changed much, so they don’t see the problem as significant, or something that requires their input.

I’ve been working with one couple to declutter an all-purpose storage room and garage in preparation for a remodel to create a home office. The husband is really successful, driven guy whose career demands that he spend very little time in the home, so it falls to the wife to run the household. She’s also incredibly busy with growing her business and parenting two young children, and she feels a significant amount of guilt and shame that she’s allowed parts of her home to become cluttered.

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At the beginning of our first organizing session, my client and I couldn’t walk very far into the room. About halfway through the second session, we started discovering boxes of the husband’s old school work, papers, and memorabilia, and by the end of that day we had cleared approximately 3/4 of the floor space.

I encouraged the wife to show him the progress, and ask him to take the time to go through his own belongings to contribute to the success of the organizing project. She was realistic - he doesn’t have time, she explained, and when he’s home he wants to be with the kids. All fair, I told her, and we’d organize the space no matter what happened with his stuff. But as I left, I encouraged her again to invite him to participate in his own way.

When I arrived for the third organizing session, the room was even clearer - the husband had been impressed by our progress and inspired to contribute! He had sorted through all of his papers and downsized the collection significantly.

This only happened because we showed him what was possible in the space, rather than trying to convince him of the value of organizing or forcing him to participate during the organizing sessions. We respected his ownership of his own things, and inspired him to engage.

As a matter of fact, I still haven’t met this husband, and that’s ok! The point is that the space that was completely stressing out my client is getting organized, and enabling her to move forward on the remodeling project.

It’s not for me to dictate who should handle what in a household - those sorts of negotiations are not in my scope of work! Instead, it’s my job to meet each member of a couple where they are, and to move the project forward productively while respecting each of their time, needs, and belongings.

LMW

Who's Really "The Organized One"? Couple Struggles Part 2

If you’re just joining us, take a peek at my introduction to this series on how differences in how people approach organizing their homes can cause relationship strife!

Today, I’m tackling the most common flavor of imbalance between partners when it comes to organization: the partners have accepted their roles as The Organized One and The Disorganized One, and The Organized One is in total control.

But, you might say, doesn’t this make sense? The person who’s better at something should be in charge of it! Well… not necessarily.

In many cases, the more organized person blames the less organized person for 100% of the clutter. Guys, if there’s one thing my mom taught me, it’s that it takes two to tango. Sure, it’s possible - even likely - that one person contributed more to the clutter than the other, but I have never worked with a couple in which one person was in fact perfectly organized.

This is a pile from a day of organizing in my own home - I never show my clients’ dirty laundry without permission!

This is a pile from a day of organizing in my own home - I never show my clients’ dirty laundry without permission!

One couple I worked with was dealing with what they affectionately referred to as “The Pile.” This was an ever growing and changing heap of things they didn’t know what to do with and didn’t have time to think about. The wife was suffering quite a bit of guilt about it and using humor to deflect… and the husband wasn’t exactly absolving her of that guilt! They both were totally devoted to the story that The Pile was her fault and hers alone to deal with.

Well, imagine both of their surprise when we found quite a few items belonging to the husband in “The Pile” - and not only that, but things that mattered to him that he had been looking for.

No one’s perfect, especially when it comes to organizing. And this is a key component of my work: showing my clients what’s really going on in their homes, and how everyone who lives there can contribute to creating a more organized environment no matter their natural organizing aptitude.

In the case of the couple above, the root of the problem was that they didn’t have designated homes for all of their stuff in places that made sense to both of them. During our time together, we edited their collection of belongings and created systems that both partners committed to using together. Was the process tension-free? Certainly not! But when I arrived at their home a year later to reorganize their spare bedroom for their new baby, most of the systems were still working.

So if you’re The Organized One and frustrated with The Disorganized One, it might be time for a little self-self-examination about how you might be contributing to organizing problems. And hey, Disorganized One - you might have more desire and talent for organizing your space than you thought!

Next up: what happens when one partner just doesn’t see what all the fuss is about?

LMW