Where are the before & after pictures?
The results of getting organized are as internal as they are aesthetic. Even when we clear 20 years of paper off a desk, the desk is still the same time-worn desk it’s always been. It’s clear, but not magazine-worthy. In looking at dozens of my proudest before/after shots, I realized that the results we're rarely captured, drastic as they may be. The intricacies of the systems and the intimacy of our conversations don't show through a camera lens. These stories capture the heart of both the process and result.
THERESA SAPIENZA: Recovering from a loss
Why Theresa called:
Theresa had always kept a meticulous house until her husband of ___ years passed 15 months previous due to illness. Her children nudged her to start working with an organizer to reassemble and redefine her systems - especially with paper. Redefining was going to be a sensitive task, as her husband had left systems that had been in place for decades. Folders had his handwriting, his logic, his stamp still on them. Theresa once tearfully said, “in doing this, you realize that the small things are not small at all."
We worked our way up to the office by starting in the dining room and living room, addressing the places to where the papers had spread. In the first few sessions we tossed a surprising amount from what were relatively small stacks, sending all remaining papers to the office. Once in the office, we realized that the easiest way to introduce newness for Theresa was to rearrange the room. With a fresh set-up, both memorabilia and papers found homes, and Theresa found some peace.
ANN HARRELL: The COO mom
Why Ann Called:
A busy mom of 4, a student, and COO of a growing company, Ann’s home office looked as scattered as she felt. Ann was drowning in a tangle of personal and professional paper, making it near impossible to focus on her overflowing to do lists. In addition to clear surfaces, she also immediately needed better workflow habits.
With personal and professional life coming at Ann fast, I instantly knew she needed accessible systems more than an empty desktop. We created a series of desktop file boxes to house each major life and work category. From there, the infrastructure was in place to receive the documents we kept. Most sessions were spent with us meticulously, but steadily, sorting through each of the ten or so banker’s boxes of paper piled high. Sessions were punctuated with productive conversations on how to incorporate her gridlocked calendar with her to do list.
RENE EDWARDS: Suddenly working from home
Why Rene Called:
While recovering from an major fall, Rene needed to transform her music room into a home office in order to work from home. This wasn’t as simple as bringing in a desk and computer, as the small music room also housed a treadmill, keyboard, stacks of magazines, overflowing bookshelves, and paper piles just about everywhere else.
A typical session with Rene finds the two of us sitting at her dining table. In front of us, we spread as many stacks from the office as can fit. During each visit, we sort, toss, and brainstorm creative, recallable category names and homes for each paper we keep, leaving her with a clear table and a new, small series of files. Time flies as we tell stories and discuss shared dreams over the envelopes, bills, and pieces of Rene’s writing. Some of my most “I feel like I’m using my God-given gifts” moments have been at this table with Rene.
Why Kelly Called:
Kelly does not allow her career as a government attorney define her. Kelly has a robust activity list that includes running, writing, drawing, volunteering, singing, kung fu, and learning multiple instruments. These rich and varied interests manifested as a home office buried in colorful layers of the creative process. Thriving with ADHD, Kelly needs a space that inspires her, not a sterile workroom.
In some sessions we rearrange furniture, assemble and decorate binders, or create custom planners from scratch with magic markers. Other days, we simply untangle the minutiae of life that would otherwise bore Kelly to tears. She has nature walks to lead and jazz concerts to attend! How dare these receipts and email print-outs creep in on precious play time! She feels a little more able to enjoy the artistic side of life guilt-free after each session.
Why Cassandra Called:
Cassandra’s sister described her as “the messiest organized person I know.” Here’s why: at first glance, Cassandra’s spacious DC condo could grave the cover of a design magazine. (I initially thought, I need lessons from you!) However, lurking behind the scenes were closets, drawers, bags, and boxes full of documents, mail, memorabilia and receipts: all evidence of a well-travelled, literary, and romantic life. Due to a chronic illness though, Cassandra has sudden and unpredictable stretches of debilitating pain, rendering the stashes of mail the least of her worries.
Turns out, Cassandra has taught me a tremendous amount. She was my first client who said “Let’s Evernote this,” teaching me about this life-changing tool with each session. Many of my illustrative “here’s what I did with my client” blog posts have come from Cassandra’s home. We sometimes unearth a buried box, while other days we put out immediate fires, sorting visible piles that have crept in between sessions. We also are steadfast in revisiting Cassadra’s filing system, making sure that it evolves with her life and burgeoning new business.