What I’ve Learned in 15 Years of Professional Organizing

Sunday, September 1, 2019 marks 15 years since I officially opened for business as a professional organizer. In September 2004, I was doing business as Breathing Room. That is what I wanted my organizing to give people. However, it wasn’t long before I changed it to Matt Baier Organizing. That way, you never forget my name and what I do. Because it can be hard to pronounce my name, I developed a tag line that helped: “If it’s SPACE you desire, call Matt Baier.”

Circa 2008 before the grey hair of self employment really set in.

Enough about me.  I want to share with you some of the useful things that I’ve learned in the last 15 years. They are mostly things about organizing for a living, but they can help you with your organizing challenges.

The Benefits of a Team

It wasn’t long into my organizing career, before I realized I needed help. You can be great at organizing alone, but when you are organizing for someone else, your focus is split. Helping someone get organized requires a lot of physical work and a lot of conversation. With an assistant for the physical work, while I spoke with the client, we maintained a much better momentum. I later trained assistants to become managers, so that I could focus on building the business.

So if you are helping a friend or family member with a big organizing project, I recommend the same. Choose just one advice-giver. Multiple advice-givers are likely to be conflicting and confusing. Confine the sorters and distributors to just the physical work. When everyone plays his or her part, you will progress much quickly and smoothly.

MBO team members LInda Moser and Fransoise Arnold excited to celebrate 15 years Sunday.
The First Member of the Team

I always like to tell a client that he or she is the first member of the team, as decision-maker. It’s our job to make those decisions much easier. Ultimately, only the client can make decisions on her stuff. We can’t do that part. However,  there is a lot we can do that doesn’t require the client’s unique knowledge. So bear that in mind, if you are helping someone get organized. Much of what follows is how you can help.

Prioritize Before You Organize

There are many reasons to get organized. So it is important to get clear on exactly why you are organizing before you start. For example, if you are helping your mother downsize and sell her home, then organizing systems are low priority. What is high priority is converting her home into a product for the marketplace. It’s easy to lose steam when decluttering. That’s the time to return to the priority. Then you can focus on what you are gaining rather than what you are giving up.

Context Drives Decisions

If you are helping someone get organized, don’t just dive in and start randomly grabbing items. I always explain to clients that we need about an hour to make space and sort items by category. This will make reviewing easier, because context drives decisions. It’s much easier to assess relative value when you see all like items together.

Sorting like-with-like is another example of something you can do to help, that doesn’t require a unique knowledge. You just have to promise that absolutely nothing gets tossed while you do this!

Action Feeds on Clarity

Our clients know that we always set up zone signs when we work. These signs designate a review zone, keep zone, empties zone, and exit zone. This is so that everyone is on the same page. We are all clear on what stage we are in. With clear zones and ground rules you can move much faster, because action feeds on clarity. 

Momentum Trumps Perfection

“I should probably throw this out, but I just don’t know if I’m ready yet.” We hear this all the time and clients are surprised by how we respond. We say, when in doubt, don’t throw it out. Why? It’s because nothing will slow the process faster than having regrets. All we ask is that she identify why she is keeping it. Is it a keepsake? Is it a potential decor item? Whatever it is, keep it in that category and keep going with the easier decisions. When it is revisited at a later time, it will have the benefit of context drives decisions. Today you don’t need to make the perfect decision. Today you are are going to push through and feel good about the process. Momentum trumps perfection.

Quantity Dictates Systems

Clients often want to know what organizing supplies they can buy before we get started. It’s too early. It’s like a doctor making a prescription before a diagnosis. We first need to work through the review process to assess priorities. When we do this, we reduce things down to manageable quantities. Only then do we start thinking about where things should go and the structures they require. Quantity dictates systems.

Limitations Breed Freedom

This one may sound like a contradiction, but hear me out. Once you have gone through  the exercise of prioritizing your possessions and assigning appropriate systems, you are organized. That doesn’t mean that you are in a permanent organized state. It means that you have designed a vehicle to help you stay organized. There is no such thing as an organizing system that works without your participation. Systems exist in dedicated zones, which are essentially limited areas for each category. You have arrived at them systematically, so they are worth preserving.

They are the structure that keeps the less important stuff out of the way. This allows you to pursue the most important stuff.  That’s true freedom. When you allow one of these dedicated zones to overflow into another dedicated zone, then you lose ground. You are slipping back to an environment without intention. That is a place where you lose your freedom.

Circulation Prevents Accumulation

This is a principle that I have held since my earliest days as a professional organizer. This means that staying organized depends on a plan for movement in a series of manageable, reliable steps. The same could be said for getting organized. This is a realistic organizing approach and here’s why. It recognizes that you may not always have the time to advance an item to its final home. However, you can always move it forward to the next manageable, reliable stage. Need further explanation? Stay tuned.

So what does the future of Matt Baier Organizing hold? For one thing, I am now offering virtual organizing. This is an economical service to focus on paper management and time management systems. But the big development is that I am finally publishing my organizing book. Longtime followers may recall that I started my ‘book-in-90-days, ” 5 years ago:-) Let’s just say the entrepreneur part got in the way of this aspiring author/entrepreneur. This year, however, my word is “publish.” 

The book is all about the last point on my list: Circulation Prevents Accumulation. The title is The Circulation Solution: The Ultimate Organizing Approach for Lasting Clutter Relief. In the weeks to come, I plan on releasing excerpts from my book in posts. I would love for all of you, who gets something from my posts, to read it. Of course I will be most grateful for the Amazon verified reviews, if you feel so inspired. 

To thank everyone who follows us, I am extending out offer of the month for first time clients TO ALL CLIENTS PAST AND PRESENT. Whether you have been thinking about starting or REstarting work with us, now is the time! You can save up to $160 off our services with The Anniversary Special. The offer ends September 30, so contact us soon at 203.428.6294 or matt@mattbaier.com.

Many thanks!

Matt

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