My road to organizing expert
It hasn’t been an easy road, and I’ve had plenty of struggles and setbacks, some practical, and some related to self-doubt. I don’t always find it easy to talk about myself, but my branding coach tells me authenticity is the new perfect—let’s hope she’s right!
Like all of us, I’m still a work in progress. But with each year that goes by, I grow more confident that in our ever-busier world, we need a simple process to keep us organized. And I know from experience that process needs to start with us taking a long, hard look at ourselves.
To begin, I want to go back to give you a sense of where my organizing habits started. Ever since I can remember, my friends and family have been amazed at how organized my home—and especially my closet—was (and still is!). Throughout my life, I’ve fielded a steady stream of requests to help friends clean and organize their closets and I’ve always happily obliged, because organizing is my passion. I would follow up each organizing session with detailed letters outlining what the friends who came to me for help could do to sustain the sense of order I’d created.
I don’t just organize closets; I also organize pantries, garages, offices, and business processes.
What started as helping out friends has become a viable business; I now have clients across the globe. I wrote my first book, Organizing for Your Lifestyle, to put my passion on paper, and share how simple it is to be organized. I can’t be everywhere at once, helping out the friends I’ve made all over the world. But even when I’m not there to personally guide old and new friends through the process of becoming organized, I can give them a copy of my book.
I’ve often been asked if my parents are super organized, and if I grew up in a very disciplined, neat home. Although our home was always clean and tidy, my mother was in no way as committed to organizing as I was. At six years old, I started to organize my cats by size, finding myself continually frustrated when they wouldn’t stay put. Then I organized my stuffed animals by color and size. When I became interested in fashion and started to build up my wardrobe, organizing my closet became my favourite secret hobby. I say secret, because I sometimes felt lame telling my friends that I was staying home on a Saturday night to re-organize my closet—and I did do this, on more than one Saturday.
So where did my organizing knack come from?
I think it must be from my Swiss roots. Switzerland is a country that’s uber-organized and efficient, perhaps stemming from its small size, which makes order essential. The Swiss tend to have smaller houses and living quarters than North Americans. They also tend to invest in quality over quantity, and often prefer a more minimalist lifestyle. My mother also confessed to me that one of my great uncles was an obsessive organizer. She remembers visiting him and being impressed by his extensively polished and organized shoe collection. So, maybe I inherited the organizing gene from my extended Swiss family.
Most of my practical organizing experience comes from living in small apartments and having to adapt to small spaces. I believe that as more and more people move to cities and face smaller living quarters, we’re increasingly challenged to do more with less. When living in a small space, being organized becomes a central part of any quest to be successful, which has to include making time for meaningful relationships and maintaining a healthy, beautiful body and mind.
Getting and staying organized will improve every aspect of your life, and smaller spaces leave less room for organizing errors. The first chapter of my first book, “The Science Behind Organization,” describes how my passion motivated me to research the subject of organizing. This research into organizing and decluttering proved what I already knew in my heart to be true: That getting organized not only reduces stress, but also provides peace of mind and an improved mood.
My natural affinity for organizing and later research on the topic has been further enhanced and shaped by my experience working with large, multinational companies. In the many roles I’ve had running business units or million-dollar projects, I began to develop a 4-step process I eventually used in practically every challenge I faced.
It may sound silly, but when I’m dealing with a difficult business challenge, I always start with making sure my closet is organized. Tight deadlines mean I don’t want to waste time in the morning. The amount of time it takes for you to find your shoes can make the difference been nailing a presentation and blowing it. Plus, closet organizing runs so much deeper than color-coding shirts; it really makes us assess our current and future organizing goals. I believe in a holistic approach to organizing and, as you’ll see, my 4-step process reflects that.