Today I’d like to introduce you to Professional Organizer, Sue Anderson. I first learned of Sue when I discovered the great resource she created to help people find a home for their no longer used, loved or needed stuff. It’s called The Stuff Stop and it’s fantastic. Welcome Sue!
Business Name: Simplified Living Solutions, Inc.
Location: St Louis, Missouri
Number of Years in Business: 5 1/2
Having the privilege to play a part in making such a positive change in other’s lives on a regular basis has been the biggest highlight of my career as a professional organizer. There are two really big career highlights this year – the first is that I am currently writing my first book and I sense there are many more to come. This book is all about the psychology behind why people keep what they keep and how to make peace with letting go of it. I am extremely fascinated by the subject matter (insert dork alert here!). The other biggie is that I launched The Stuff Stop. It’s a FREE nationwide website that helps people match up their unwanted stuff with charities and ministries that can use the stuff to help people in need. Visitors are also matched up with businesses that can recycle or dispose of their unwanted stuff in a green way rather than having it end up in a landfill. The Stuff Stop has been a dream of mine for many years and it’s very exciting to see it become a reality. I am extremely passionate about the need to connect people’s unwanted stuff with people who are in desperate need of that very stuff, and to keep usable things out of landfills. The Stuff Stop does just that.
What is your favorite space to organize? Why?
I absolutely love to completely transform spaces – to take them from total chaos to total calm. I always say “the bigger the mess, the more I love the work”. Just the thought of getting to do it, makes me excited. But a real close runner up as my favorite space/thing to organize would be paperwork. It is so daunting and overwhelming for most people and it causes them so much unnecessary stress. I love helping people understand the real value of their paperwork because it really empowers them. Most of it is much less important than we think it is. We really only need to keep a fraction of what most people think they should. Do you know that we only refer back to 20% of the papers we keep? The other 80% lay there just in case.
What is one of your favorite organizing products? Why?
An “action system” for paperwork, which consists of a desktop file box and different colored hanging files. The action system takes your “to-do” pile of paperwork and assigns a task (and a home) to each piece of paper. Using an action system, you always know where to find things. You don’t have to look at a piece of paper over and over to try to figure out what action that paper needs. With the action system, the task needed for each piece of paper is already labeled and you can get right down to work.
What do you find is the toughest part about being an organizer?
Seeing how much pain people are in as a result of their stuff or disorganization. There is almost always a back story about how things got the way they are – tragic events in people’s lives, a death, a divorce, an illness, depression, etc. Although I say it is the toughest part of being an organizer, it’s also one of the most satisfying for me because we get to watch people’s lives being transformed right in front of our eyes because of the work we do together. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Do you think you were born with the organizing gene or have you developed the skills over time?
I think I was born with the gene but I definitely think I have developed my skills more over time with experience, and with all of the training and coaching I have had since starting my business. Though I’ve never been diagnosed as such, I believe I do have ADD and I think being organized was a skill I learned early on in order to stay on top of things – lest they be forgotten.
What area of your own home do you find the most difficult to keep on top of?
I don’t really have too much difficulty keeping on top of things but if I had to pick one, I would have to say my closets. A fellow professional organizer told me once that I was a minimalist. That was news to me. But the more I thought about that comment, I think it’s true. I just don’t have much stuff and so keeping it organized is not too big of a problem except for in closets. Things are just sort of in the closets….not in perfect little boxes for the most part. But because there’s not much stuff, even though most of the closets are messy, I always know where to find stuff.
What do you have a collection of? How do you display/organize it?
Boring answer…..I don’t have any collections. Stuff just doesn’t seem to have the same meaning to me as it does to the majority of people. I used to collect special ceramic teddy bears from Hallmark and I kept them in a shadow box on the wall. Boy, the words Hallmark and a shadow box probably really give away my age!
How would your mom describe your room as a kid (in terms of organization)?
My Mom says my room was tidy and orderly, never really messy. I had 3 brothers and I remember that their rooms would be filled with enormous clothes piles everywhere, littered with dishes, trash, etc. Rather than go out and play, I preferred to go “play” in their rooms. By the time I was finished, clothes would be cleaned and neatly piled or hung, and everything else would be in its place. So much fun! (Another dork alert here!)
Do you have an organizing mantra for yourself and your clients?
The two I use most frequently are to only keep the things you need, use or love. Reminding people to think about the purpose behind why they are buying or keeping things is a very powerful tool for them. My other favorite is teaching people that clutter talks. It talks to them all of the time and it’s never saying anything positive. (This is part of the book I’m writing – so exciting!) Clutter says “hey loser, remember when you said you were going to fix me”, “hey fatty, remember when you could fit into me”, etc. Eventually it leaves people feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and depressed.
In a few sentences, can you tell us what your approach is for taking clients from overwhelmed to organized?
I listen closely to their story, what’s working, what’s not working, what they hope things will be like once organized. I make sure they know I’ve heard them. I help them break the organizing process down into small manageable pieces and I try to make it fun and pain free, all the while taking in everything they say that will help me create a customized organized space that works specifically for them.
What is one thing you want others to know about working with a Professional Organizer?
A professional organizer doesn’t just come in and “clean up”. Though things get “cleaned up” in the process, what we’re really doing is working closely with you to determine organizing systems to help you get and stay organized. We ask a lot of questions because we’re trying to get inside your head to figure out how you think (not because we’re judging you). That way we can strategize the best solutions for your organizing challenges.
Before and after pictures are so motivating. Could you share an example of your work with us and tell us a little about what you did?
This client used ½ of her dining area as her home office. It was very cramped and she felt like the walls were closing in on her. We rearranged the furniture to open up the space and set up organizing systems for managing her various types of paperwork. We removed the glass door on the left side of the desk because it was blocked by a large pile of books and papers that prevented her from ever using what was behind the glass door. That alone made the desk more functional right away. Her new paperwork management systems we set up are housed there now. We helped the client limit the number of “cutesy” things she had, which visually made a dramatic change right away. Visual clutter can really slow you down.
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