The Profession of Organizing

Choosing The Right Type of Professional Organizer For You

Many people don’t even know that professional organizing is “a thing” - and yet, there are tens of thousands of us, working in more ways than you could imagine! Some organizers work as a side hustle, and others do it full time. Some organizers ride solo, and others build large companies. Some organizers work with families, others specialize in estate sales. There truly is an organizational fit for every person who needs help reclaiming their space!

Something else you may not know about the professional organizing industry: just because you meet and hire the business owner does not mean that said business owner will be in your home working on the project - or even that the organizers on your project will be employees who have been trained and supervised by that person! It is extremely common in the industry for professional organizers to hire other organizers on a contract basis for jobs they can’t handle on their own.

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

There are upsides to this, for sure. This strategy ensures there are enough people on your job to get your project done in a reasonable amount of time. It brings the overall price down because the going hourly rate for independent contractors is well south of the value of the business owner’s time. It’s also a professional development mechanism - it’s very common for organizers just starting out to do different contract gigs to learn the trade. I did it myself - and still do for organizers I really like working with when they come up short and need a hand!

There are also downsides. As a contractor, I have shown up to a gig for an organizer I have never met in person and been directed into a room and told to start sorting. The only filter applied was a phone conversation and a contract I signed with the organizer’s company. What’s more, on a multi-day job, the team might have been different every day! So just when the client starts getting comfortable with me, I’m done for the day and an entirely different person might show up the next morning.

The downsides are why I will never hire independent contractors. I would sooner refer you, a potential client, to a larger organizing company I know and trust, than I would take on the burden of sending unknown, untrained people into your home and hoping that it all turns out well. My service is built on a strong personal relationship between me and my client, which allows me to create organizational systems and setups that are specifically tailored for them.

That said, my style of service is certainly not for everyone! Many people prefer handing off the job to an efficient team and marveling at the end results. So, if you’re contemplating hiring a professional organizer, consider the following.

An larger organizing company or service might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a gorgeous “after” photo that looks like it’s out of a magazine.

  2. Your space is a large and/or tightly cluttered home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is the exact aesthetic featured in the organizing company’s photos.

  4. Your main concern is pricing.

My kind of individual organizing consulting might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a system that works and lasts.

  2. Your space is a smaller home/apartment, or a discrete project area within a larger home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is custom tailored to you, your needs, and your existing home style.

  4. Your main concern is security and trust.

If you think my style of organizing might be a good fit for you, let’s talk! You can schedule your free in-home organizing consultation here.

LMW

And Now For Something A Little Different...

It’s happening, guys. We’re going to video!

I absolutely love talking to everyone I meet about my job, my business, and my industry. There’s just so much going on there - almost everything in our lives relates back to our homes how we live in them, how we were raised in them, how we think about them. In fact, I often try to hold myself back so that I don’t completely take over conversations or bore people out of their skulls!

One of the major joys I get in talking to people about my work is that they ask me all kinds of amazing questions. My clients do, too. And since we’re all curious about what goes on with people and places we aren’t familiar with, I figured it might be interesting for you if I shared some of those questions I get… and answered them in case you were wondering them too!

So with no further ado, I present my first shot at a FAQ video. The lighting is terrible, my iMovie skills are remedial at best, but I’m proud of my message and the fact that I’m sharing it with you today. Please enjoy, comment, subscribe, tell a friend, and all that jazz these YouTubers do these days! And of course, if you have any questions you’d like to see me answer, leave a comment or contact me directly: lucy@lmwedits.com.

Thank you for your indulgence as I embark on this new adventure of my face on the internet!

LMW

Join me, Lucy Milligan Wahl, a professional organizer living and working in San Francisco, as I answer the number one most commonly asked question I get!

Organize a Closet for the Present: How To Handle Changing Sizes

Like many women, I hate clothing sizes. I hate how inconsistent they are from brand to brand, I hate how they tell you absolutely nothing about fit or proportion, I hate that only a certain range is considered normal for an adult woman, and more than anything I hate the power they have to affect my confidence and self worth.

I know I’m not alone, because in my years of organizing, the subject of clothing sizes continues to be one of the most delicate, emotional things I handle with my clients. An awful lot of women (and many men!) have a visceral hate-hate relationship with the size tags on the clothes in their closet. 

IMG_1089.jpg

Body dysmorphia can come at you from every angle. I’ve worked with thin, fit women who see a much larger person in the mirror and can’t really believe that their old clothes are falling off them. I’ve worked with women who have gained weight suddenly and still try their old clothes every morning hoping against hope that they’ll fit again. And pretty much every woman whose closet I’ve worked in has recited a laundry list of things she hates about her body and how it looks in clothes.

How do I help? I encourage my clients to love themselves now, just as they are, and curate a wardrobe that makes them feel their best today. After all, the entire purpose of organizing a closet is to make sure that getting dressed is an easy and pleasant experience! 

And clothing that doesn’t fit doesn’t exactly arouse pleasant feelings. Clients who have made a weight change that’s positive for them dread a return to their old size, while clients who have made a weight change they perceive as negative feel guilt and shame that that they can’t wear their old clothes.

So, I recommend that if a weight change has been recent and/or sudden, that clients do store a wardrobe of things they love at a size they are likely to return to within the near future. I suggest that they give themselves a reasonable time limit, and if the clothing still doesn’t fit at that time, to donate it.

 However, if the weight change has been maintained for a longer period of time, I do encourage my clients to donate all clothes that no longer fit, even if they were once loved. This process is usually difficult, but it allows the client to focus on the present, and living with and loving the person they are here, today.

After all, that’s what I’m trying to help my clients do: be present!

LMW

My Most Difficult Organizing Job

Last week, I was explaining my work to someone, and they asked me a question I actually had never been asked before. They wanted to know what had been my most difficult job, and why.

I have been so fortunate to have absolutely wonderful clients over the past few years. There really have not been any horror stories - my clients have listened to me, trusted me, and been honest with me. I value the relationship I have with each client, and remain incredibly grateful they have allowed me into their lives to help them.

That said, one job does come to mind. The client wanted me to help unpack following a move - which is a great time to get organized! However, this person was also absolutely unwilling to consider changing any habits or getting rid of any items at all whatsoever. This person believed that I could wield some sort of organizer magic to make the stuff they owned take up less space and look prettier, without requiring them to put in any effort to change.

IMG_5426.jpg

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that’s not what it’s about. I do not wave a magic wand, and I do not do cosmetic fixes. I create an organizing system that works for each of my individual clients, and then I make it look beautiful. People come to me because they realize that their space is not working for them, and I do my very best work when they are willing to undertake change.

Plus, when you come right down to it, organizing and storage are limited by the rules of physics. There is nothing I can do to make a certain number of shirts suddenly take up less physical space. I cannot bend the space-time continuum! This is why I always tell people that organizing is not about the storage, it is first and foremost about the stuff.

So there you have it: my most difficult organizing job. And if that’s all I’ve had to deal with, then I count myself very lucky indeed!

LMW

One Small Taste of Success

My sister and I are close. Not physically - although we live in the same city, we often go days or weeks without seeing each other or talking on the phone. But emotionally, very much so - we’re really open with each other about everything from gossip to family conflict. We HATED each other as children (something something sibling rivalry something), but a switch flipped some time in high school, and I’ve been proud to call her one of my very best friends ever since

All this to say: we were chatting the other day, while my not quite two year old niece tried on all my costume jewelry and harassed the dog, and got to talking about work. She’s a bigwig at a financial services startup, a relatively recent promotion for her, and has been on fire about it since the day she got the gig. She has always been incredibly smart (much more so than I) and the kind of dedicated, hardworking employee anyone would want to have, but this is a whole new level of passion that I’ve never seen before.

Except… I kind of have. In myself.

When I started LMW Edits, I knew that it would be fun and a challenge, but I didn’t know if it would really work as a going concern and I had pretty minimal goals.  I wanted to have a full roster of clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, and serve them well.  That was it!

Where the work gets done.

Where the work gets done.

For the first three years, I worked towards this relatively modest goal. I loved the work and I loved my clients, but I didn’t feel an inner drive to make my business my life. I still treated it as a job, relishing my time off and feeling a little big of a drag on Sunday nights as I faced the work week.

And then, last year, I started to see a shift. It started with the local conference put on by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) SF Bay Area Chapter, where I saw Debbie Hoffman speak. Debbie is a former Wall Street rock star who shifted her focus to coaching small business owners on the finer points of follow up. I really connected with what she was saying, scheduled a consultation with her the next week, and signed right up for her one on one coaching program.

Getting out there on behalf of my business!

Getting out there on behalf of my business!

As I started to work with Debbie, two things happened. First, I began to see more success: more clients coming in, more interest in my blog, and yes, more revenue in my bank account. Second, I began to dream bigger. The experience of working with so many varied and wonderful clients had started to give me the confidence to express my views on all things organizing related (as many of you have seen here on the blog), and I began to think about how to connect to a larger audience.

LMW Edits is still very much a work in progress, but I’m more passionate about my business and its potential than ever before. I have lots of projects in the pipeline, think about my business constantly, and work more hours than I ever thought I had the capacity to work. And this is all organic and intrinsically motivated - no one is standing over me telling me what to do, I’m just so fired and up and inspired that I absolutely have to get it all done. And all it took was reaching out to someone who inspired me and getting that first small taste of success!

LMW

Shift Your Productivity

When I’m working, I have a lot of tabs open. There’s personal email and calendar, work email and calendar, all my work resources like accounting, blogging, CRM, and social media, and then whatever else I’m clicking around on doing research or finding product links. It gets really overwhelming and cumbersome to manage all that within one browser!

In a stroke of perfect timing, a blogger I follow wrote a post recommending an innovative solution to the multi-tab disaster: Shift. He raved about the ease of use and how it streamlined his workflows.

However, I was hesitant, because the tier of service you really need to run a business costs $99 per year, and as a small business owner I’m trying to make sure that every nickel and dime I spend makes an impact.

Finally, after another day spent clicking back and forth between tabs, I’d had enough. I looked over the options one more time and downloaded Shift, the Advanced version.

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

You guys, I totally love it. I have three Gmail accounts, and Shift makes toggling between the mail, calendar, and drive windows a total breeze. My personal favorite touch is that when you open a document in your Google Drive account, Shift pops it out into another window automatically. So helpful to be able to tile Google Docs and Sheets across a computer screen - it really makes the Google Drive experience feel a lot more like traditional word processing.

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

I’m really glad I chose the Advanced version, too, because I’m using the crap out of those features. Shift accommodates super helpful Chrome extensions including Boomerang (which is actually changing my life, scheduling emails ahead of time is my new favorite thing) and Lastpass (which I’ve raved about before and makes life so much easier). It also tiles some of my favorite services right inside the app, like Xero, my accounting software; Hootsuite, where I manage social media posting when I’m really feeling on top of my life; and even iCloud which makes grabbing all my iPhone photos for blogging a breeze.

Shift is a new product, so there are certainly some downsides that come with the growing pains of any new technology. For starters, it's definitely a Google and Cloud driven software solution. They do offer support for a limited group of other email account types like Outlook, but my lame old Yahoo email address that I use for junk mail is still out in the cold. Actually… maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

The other thing is that there are still plenty of really useful apps that don't work with Shift. I would be over the moon if they could provide seamless integration with blogging software and my CRM program, for example. However, the good news is that they’re adding linked apps and services all the time, so the functionality is only going to get better over time.

Bottom line: Shift is well worth the investment if you live your digital life in the Cloud, appreciate high quality design, and want to level up your productivity.

What other great digital productivity solutions have you found?

LMW

***This post contains referral links, which may earn me cash back or service credit on the linked sites.  All opinions are my own.**

The Truly Accessible Organizing Manual

Getting organized is like a lot of other self improvement processes such as healthy eating or exercise - we all know we should do it, but it often takes a particular “a-ha!” moment to get us moving in the right direction. Today, I’m continuing my journey through some of the most popular organizing books so that I can help direct you to the organizing philosophy that connects with you and gives you your “a-ha!”

So, if you find Marie Kondo too exacting, Swedish Death Cleaning too weird, or Emily Ley too traditional, it may be because you’re starting from zero and you need just the basics on how to maintain a livable home. In this case, I have found the organizing manual for you: Unf*ck Your Habitat, by Rachel Hoffman.

IMG_0659.jpg

There are two things I love most about Rachel Hoffman’s book. First: she maintains that organizing is for everyone. Male, female, single, coupled, able bodied, differently abled - Hoffman maintains that no matter who you are, you are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the space you live in. I could not agree more. As I always say, organizing is not about appearances, it’s about creating a functional home environment that supports all the things you want to do with your life. That’s something everyone needs!

Second: she gives it to you straight. While there is not even a speck of meanness in the book, and she explicitly discusses strategies to deal with limitations related to both physical and mental health, Rachel Hoffman doesn’t coddle her readers. She is straightforward with what it takes to get to minimum standards of of a human living space, and real about the amounts of work involved. Because that’s the thing: living an organized life does take a little work. It actually takes less work than living a disorganized life, but it’s certainly not an effortless magical ride.

Some people might find Unf*ck Your Habitat too basic. For example, if you already have a house cleaning schedule, clear flat surfaces, or a regular schedule for doing your laundry, you’ve already mastered the fundamentals and you might be ready for something more in-depth. But if you don’t understand and fully live the fact that doing your dishes is a three step process (“wash, dry, put it away goddammit” - love this!), then this book is for you.

Are you ready to “unf*ck your habitat” but don’t know where to start? Give me a call! I’ll meet you wherever you are and help you create the beautifully organized home of your dreams.

LMW

The Clutter/Shopping Death Spiral

Which came first, the disorganized home or the shopping habit?

Let me introduce you to the phenomenon I call the clutter/shopping feedback loop. In a disorganized home, clutter accumulates, which prevents you from efficiently finding and using the things you own, which leads to more purchases of things you may already own, which you then try to store in a disorganized environment, which then leads to more clutter… and around and around and down the death spiral we go.

An actual LMW Edits original: please ask before using this image!

An actual LMW Edits original: please ask before using this image!

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

People often think that they just need to stop shopping in order to resolve this downward clutter spiral. True, this is one way to disrupt the feedback loop, but it’s actually pretty difficult. Plus, you can never let up - if you slip back into the shopping habit, the clutter will just start accumulating again.

Why do I say “just not shopping” is the more difficult solution? Because as humans, we have limited willpower, and marketing is in our faces literally 24/7.

I keep a spare “junk” email account for online shopping and ordering. I was sick of all of that stuff cluttering my main inbox (I'm always working towards the holy grail of Inbox Zero) but I still wanted access to deals. I rarely pay full price online because there’s always a coupon code or sale going on!

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 3.14.43 PM.png

Here’s a screenshot of my trash folder from this afternoon. Literally every email is screaming at me to “buy buy buy!!” All of these messages arrived within a 8 hour period. And that’s a curated list, I unsubscribe from mailings from any store I know I won’t shop. AND that’s even before I go online or outside to do, well, anything essential to modern work and life.

How can any human be expected to just go cold turkey on shopping when a) they need things and b) it’s so incredibly easy to just buy them? It requires way too much willpower!

The good news is that there’s another way to disrupt the clutter/shopping feedback loop: organize your space. By organize, I don’t mean move things around or put them in pretty containers - you still can’t find that thing you ordered on Amazon last week if it’s at the bottom of a very delightful woven basket! By organize, I mean take yourself through the whole process of decluttering, setting up systems, storing items appropriately, and maintaining your organization through simple daily habits.

If that sounds overwhelming, that’s why I’m here to help. I’ll guide you through the whole organizing process so that you can finally live clutter-free - and laugh at all of those promotional emails as you mass-delete them!

LMW

A Manual for Organized Living

A blogger I’ve followed off and on recently posted a gushing review of Emily Ley’s new book A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living.  So of course, you know I had to pick it up and read it through my professional organizer’s eyes!

IMG_0153 (1).jpg

What I love most about this book is how Emily clearly explains that an organized home with systematic routines is the foundation for the rest of your life, rather than the end goal. She rejects the fetishization of organizing so common on blogs and Pinterest, which I find incredibly refreshing!

I also love how she consistently drives home the critical importance of simplicity. I’ve found in my own work that less is almost always more, and Emily shows how it’s possible to simplify in a variety of ways without losing quality of life or experience.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly for its target demographic: female, Christian homemakers in heterosexual marriages with children who live in single family homes in suburban environments.  If this is you, you are going to love Emily and her wise, practical advice!

If this isn’t you, Emily’s perspective might frustrate you. She comes across as an earnest, kind person who is doing her best every day. That said, there are blind spots in this book. She suggests that we store food in the pantry and tools in the kitchen, perhaps not realizing that having a pantry itself is a luxury.  She exhorts us to pull back professionally to make room for family life, which makes it clear that her household is privileged enough not to require two full time working parents.

A Simplified Life proves to me that there are as many perspectives on organizing as there are people who love to organize and believe in the power of an organized home. So, find the one that speaks to you, and use it to help you create the organized home you’ve always wanted!

LMW

Welcome, Gilt City!

If you, like me, are a subscriber to Gilt City San Francisco, you received a deal from me in your inbox this morning!  Exclusively through Gilt City, I'm offering 40% off your first three hours of organizing, plus as always the initial complimentary consultation. This is truly an amazing deal, one I haven't offered before, and I encourage both my existing and prospective clients to jump on it!

IMG_0072.PNG

How can you make these three hours with me work the best for you?  The way I see it, there are two approaches.  First, we can treat this special 3-hour session as the start of your total organizing project.  We'll begin work on the area that's bothering you the most, and at the end of the appointment schedule future sessions in order to get that perfectly organized and functional space you've always wanted.  The second option is to treat the 3-hour session as a tutorial for you on how to continue your organizing project alone.  I'll walk you through the basic steps, and try them out on a small area of your space.  And of course, I'll continue to be available via text/email, and we can always schedule another session if you're feeling stuck!

IMG_0073.PNG

I know many people resolved to finally get organized this year, and I also know that a goal without a plan is just a wish.  If your goal is to organize your home so that you can stop feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and start spending your precious time on the activities and relationships that matter most to you, a good plan is to work with a professional organizer.  Don't miss this great opportunity to work towards your goal and save a little money in the process!

Limited quantities of this exclusive Gilt City deal are available (I am, after all, but one woman), so don't wait!  I'm looking forward to working with you.

LMW