A Day in the Life of a Professional Organizer

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I don’t know about you, but I’m always curious about how other people spend their day. And because the old binoculars-in-the-bushes approach seemed to upset my neighbors, I decided to make it easy on all you by giving you the play-by-play of a day in the life of a professional organizer… here we go!

5:30am – Up and ready to kick my own butt at my all-women’s boot camp class. Okay, okay… you got me. I picked this day partly because exercising at an ungodly-early morning hour projects the kind of uber-productive image I’d like others to believe of me at all times. (Note: I will be saving kittens from a burning building and constructing a MacGyver-style all-terrain vehicle from popsicle sticks and duct tape later this afternoon.) But the truth is, I do often wake up early to work out, mostly because my job is physical. I need to be able to lift heavy stuff and carry full trash bags up and down stairs. So I do the burpees, I jump the rope, I try not to groan when the perky instructor yells, “One more set, ladies!”

7:00am –  Wake the munchkins. I find Mercedes in the boys’ room, trying to convince Orlando to scoot over and make room for her in his bed. He’s not budging. We go through the normal routine: breakfast, teeth, last-minute “You need to wear socks!!!” reminders as we’re rushing toward the door. Moms and dads, you feel me.

8:15am – In the van and off to school.

8:25am – Drop off. In his excitement to enter the learning environment, Reese walks in without a hug, kiss, or my minimum requirement: a high-five. Ah well… tomorrow’s another day. Orlando offers the high five, while M asks for “Kissy, huggy, ‘nother kissy, ‘nother huggy” at the door. (And this is how she continues to get whatever she wants…)

8:30am – Phone conference with a coaching client. She’s had a wrench thrown in her daily schedule and needs to brainstorm priorities. We talk through a revised plan for her day and I end the call by asking her what was most helpful. She tells me two things: 1) Suggesting she write down key discussion points prior to a meeting, and 2) Suggesting she tell people up-front how much time she has to meet. This feedback helps me know how to continue to help her.

9:00am – On the road for an appointment with a new client in Troy, Ohio.  Troy is a 40-minute drive north, so I pass the time with pop radio, singing along to Kelly Clarkston and Justin Bieber. Then I remember that one of my goals is to be more informed about the world, so I switch to NPR. After some blah-blah-war, blah-blah-politics, I feel more informed, alarmed, and am seriously planning a move to Canada.

10am – Arrive at client’s home. Ready to organize!

10am-1:30pm – Business time. We start the session with a tour of his apartment. We’ve already had a phone consultation, but now that I’m in his space, I have more questions. “What bugs you the most? What’s your vision for this space? What purpose does it serve?” After some discussion, we decide to start with his down-the-hall storage unit. We take everything out, organize like-with-like, sort out donations and trash, and put everything back, simply labeled with painter’s tape and Sharpie. (One of my rules: don’t make fancy labels for storage.)

He’s happy, and we move on to his apartment, where we tackle the WORST CLOSET DESIGN EVER. His closet is long and narrow–about 2.5-feet wide by 6-feet deep–with two horizontal bars installed at the depths of 2 and 4 feet. Who designed this??? By blocking off the back of the closet, they have turned a 6-foot closet into a 2-foot closet. I suggest installing ventilated shelving in an L-shape along with length and back, giving him almost 8 feet of hanging space, plus a shelf above. He agrees that this would work better, but has to clear it with the powers that be. I write “Talk to management about different shelving” on his homework list and we begin the process of doing what we can with what we have.

By the end of our time, all his pants hang on one closet rod, all his shirts and suits on the other, and his out-of-season clothing is stored along the back and side. He has donated the portable garment rack he had been using (which, by the way, was doing what portable garment racks do best–tilting sideways at about 45 degrees). Ah, organization achieved!

This pic is from a week later when I went back and installed shelving for this client. We didn’t achieve the L-shape, due to the size of shelves and the lack of bolt cutters. But we made a big improvement! And I got to use the power drill… always awesome.

At one point during our session, he notices that I don’t break much of a sweat as we carry boxes of books from his apartment to storage. “You must be in pretty good shape,” he says. Then he laughs. “Or else I’m in really bad shape!” (See? Boot camp!)

Another notable moment: we discover a beautiful hand-woven rug rolled up in his storage unit. I can tell this is something special. “Why don’t we take this back and put it in your apartment?” I suggest. When we unroll the rug on his floor, the effect is instantaneous. “I feel so much more at home now,” he says.

The rug illustrates one of the basic tenets of minimalism: use and beauty. I often think about this quote from William Morris: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. What we keep in our homes should be useful (such as functional closet shelving) or beautiful(such as a lovely rug). Bonus points if it is both. If we keep items that do not fit into either of those categories… well, then… I can hear the donation truck chugging up your street as I type.

As I’m leaving and we are carrying trash bags to the dumpster, he stops me: “Did you know that you are a blessing? You are. I feel so much better.”

This is one of the nicest things a client has ever said to me. And this is why I do what I do. Organizing not only changes your physical space, but it can completely alter your emotional space. My goal is to leave my clients calmer and happier than I found them. Goal achieved!

1:30-2:15pm – Drive back to Dayton. I’m curious to see if the world has improved in the last 3 1/2 hours, so I tune in to a little more blah-blah-war, blah-blah politics. Nope. Things still suck. (NPR, feel free to contact me for a feature story on how closet shelving and a nice rug can go a long way toward improving people’s lives.)

2:15-2:45pm – Home. Process email and brainstorm ideas for this very blog post.

2:45pm – Leave to get the kiddos.

3-8pm – Mom mode. Pick up the kids, chat up other mamas on the playground sidelines, read books about sharks, pretend I’m a shark, ooh and aah over Lego creations, rejoice silently at the canceling of T-ball practice, make dinner, give baths, one last story time, and…

8:00pm – Hallelujah! Kids in bed!

8:00-10:00pm – Me time. Catch up on some paperwork, spend time with Josh, read a little Harry Potter. (Yes, I’m just reading the series now for the first time. Yes, I realize everybody else read them like 10 years ago. Yes, I already know all the spoilers, so you will get no glee from revealing them.)

10:00pm – In bed. Happy and exhausted. I consider setting my alarm to get up for boot camp the next morning, but… nah. I think I’ll add a little more joy to the world by sleeping an extra 30 minutes.

Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. She is also in negotiations with NPR to create an uplifting segment called: “Changing Lives, One Rug at a Time.” After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please call her at 937-626-9030.

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