This National Organising Week, we have been showcasing seven of our members – one each day throughout the week – to give a real insight into the life of a professional organiser, their challenges, successes and motivations. In our final interview in the series Sarah Owen of A Place for Everything in Hemel Hempstead shares lots of great advice, and tells us about her business.
Sarah Owen of A Place for Everything
What is your favourite thing or area to organise?
I love to organise, so it’s hard to pick just one thing or area as I enjoy bringing order and calm to all my clients, regardless of what they need help with. I love to help families because I remember how it felt to be overwhelmed by children’s stuff and not having enough time or energy to sort it. A lot of my work involves sorting toys and children’s clothes. I also get an immense sense of satisfaction helping people with their paperwork and working with them to implement efficient systems and routines to keep it in order. Paperwork is something that doesn’t generally get messed up by children so stays sorted for longer!
What habits have helped you to be more organised?
It’s the little things, like adopting good routines, which have made the biggest differences in helping me and my own family be more organised. For example, I insist that everyone puts their coats on the coat hook and shoes on the rack when they come home. (They don’t always remember, so I sometimes have to tidy up after the children, but the routine is mostly there). We have a bowl for our keys by the front door so we know where they are when we go out again!
I always carry my diary and notebook with me and write things down as I think of them or as soon as I make appointments. We have a perpetual shopping list on the fridge, so we add things to it as soon as something runs out. No more forgotten ingredients!
One of my mantras is “Everything in a home should have a home”. I am passionate about making sure things are put away in their proper place as soon as they are not needed. Where possible I try to tidy and re-set at the end of one day to be ready for the next. I find a day starts so much more positively if yesterday’s mess has been cleared away.
You’re a professional organiser – does that mean you live in a perfectly organised, neat-as-a-pin home?
I wish! I live with a not-so-tidy husband, two children (aged 7 and 11) and two cats. Some days it is more ordered than others and it is never as tidy as I would like it to be, but I do know where things are, and I do have efficient systems (I just wish everyone else in the family was as passionate as me about following them!) My daughter’s room is definitely the worst and she’s not even a teenager yet! Unfortunately, she hasn’t inherited my tidy gene! At the end of the day, our house is a lived-in home and not a show home.
What prompted you to set up your business?
Pre-children I spent 10+ years organising corporate events and loved the challenge of juggling lots of projects and relished the fact that no two days were the same. After having my children, I decided not to return to the events world, mainly because I couldn’t travel and be away from the family for long periods of time. I therefore wanted to find a job, ideally my own business, which would allow me to work flexibly and utilise my organisational skills. Having worked in the corporate sector for large companies, I often found it hard to see where I was adding value so wanted to be able to make a tangible difference with what I did next. I came across APDO and learnt more about the decluttering industry… and the rest, as they say, is history! I knew this line of work would suit my skill set and more importantly my work would really make a visible difference in people’s lives. Working for myself means I have lots of flexibility and I love what I do. In some ways it is like what I did before, as I work with lots of different people, and no two days are the same.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your business?
There have been so many challenges, as I would have expected in changing careers and setting up my own business. The first was overcoming the fear of failing, stepping out and taking a risk to try something new. I am so glad that I did step out! One of the biggest challenges I am facing as a small business is building my brand and finding clients in what is still a relatively young industry. However, I am relishing the challenge of being creative, finding new places to leave my flyers, write blogs, post on social media and talk to everyone and anyone that I come across about my business. In the past, I would have described myself as an introvert rather than an extrovert, so having to promote and sell myself has certainly forced me to step out of my comfort zone. A challenge that I am enjoying!
When you are going to a client, what essentials are in your organising bag?
- Black rubbish bags, blue bags for recycling and clear strong bags for charity shop drops
- Labels, marker pens, elastic bands, scissors and paperclips
- Examples of files for organising paperwork – e.g. clear wallets, document files
- IKEA/Lakeland catalogues for storage examples
- Rubber gloves
- Caffeine free tea bags
- Snacks, such as nuts and a banana. Clients often bring out the cakes and biscuits but because I am Gluten Free I prefer to bring my own
- Water – it’s very thirsty work!
- Thick socks, as I normally take my shoes off; they keep my feet warm!
What’s the most touching thing a client has ever said to you?
I think this is one of the best testimonials I have received. It was so satisfying to be appreciated.
“I really can’t praise Sarah highly enough. My flat was a complete nightmare with mess beyond description! I had arranged for a friend to come and help me, but was so embarrassed by how ghastly it looked, that I felt I had to find a professional declutterer. From the minute I met Sarah, I felt at ease and comfortable and didn’t for one second feel she judged my chaotic home. I didn’t know where to start as I was completely overwhelmed by it all, but Sarah came up with ideas that made complete sense. I am absolutely amazed by how much we have already done in a short space of time and completely delighted with seeing space again! Sarah is just really good at the job – organised, calm, warm, non-judgemental, helpful. She has a knack of encouraging me to get rid of things without in any way pressuring me. It is a huge relief to have found someone who can get me back to having a home again. Thank you, Sarah!”
What’s the best outcome you’ve seen?
I’ve been working with a client for quite some time now and we have decluttered their entire three-bedroom home. We are on the final room, the study, and we still have a bit more work to do, but we are nearly there. We have methodically worked through each room and cleared away years of stuff which is no longer needed. The house is safe to live in and the client is proud to call it home again. After several years of not being able to invite friends back, this client can now have guests. As well as clearing out the unwanted things, we have implemented new systems and routines to stop the clutter accumulating again. The client has grown in confidence and feels in control of their life again. Such an amazing achievement for the client and a huge sense of satisfaction for me that I have been able to support them on this journey.
Who’s your dream client? Who do you most like to help?
This is a really good question! I guess my flippant answer would be “my dream client would live in a really nice house and just around the corner!” In reality, I don’t have a “dream client” – I just want to help and support people who are struggling to get organised by themselves. I aim to help people regardless of their background or current situation and want to make a very real difference to my clients’ lives. It is always rewarding to be appreciated and to be told that you are making a difference.
What’s your top tip to share?
When organising, tidying or decluttering, I would say little and often is the key to keeping on top of things. Try not to let things pile up so that they become unmanageable and overwhelming. If things however do pile up, then tackle small areas at a time and celebrate what you have managed to clear; don’t give up on your goals for a more manageable home. Big journeys start with small steps and the destination of a calm and clutter free environment is most definitely worth pursuing.
If this week’s interviews have inspired you to pursue a career as a professional organiser,you can find out more about the benefits of joining APDO here..
Or if you’d like some help to get organised at home you can find your nearest organiser here.
You can read the rest of this week’s series of interviews with some of our professional organisers here on the APDO blog!