A place for everything & everything in its place

We all know how it happens.

You come home from work, look through the day’s mail and let it land where it wants. Soon it adds up and you say you’ll tidy up later. You avoid the garage because you never really unpacked those last few boxes from when you moved, and now they’re overflowing. You duck for cover every time you open your front hall closet. The incoming mail and other odds and ends of your life have multiplied faster than hormonally hyped rats.

It’s everywhere — stuff. Disorganization has taken over.

Don’t be intimidated, says to professional organizer Judy Lynn of Coupeville.

“I always ask people ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ and I tell them ‘One bite at a time’,” she said.

Lynn is among a growing number of professional home organizers who are helping people sweep away the often-suffocating clutter in their lives. Thanks to a boom in home improvement media, professional organizing has come into the spotlight. Television shows and periodicals explain how there are actually people out there who love to organize (gasp), and they’re more than happy to do it for you. They are unbiased third-persons, not friends, relatives or loved ones who question “When are you gonna get rid of that stuff anyway?” They help thin out, reorganize, reconfigure, and freshen spaces.

“People are stressed out because they don’t have time to do what they really need to do,” Lynn said. “That’s my job, I give them time to live their life.”

A Coupeville resident, Lynn has been a professional organizer for four years under the business name “Consider it Done,” and is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

She came into the profession after she retired as the director of the Coupeville Arts Center. When she left, Lynn received a copy of the Elaine St. James bestseller “Living the Simple Life.” The introduction to how an organized home, office and other personal spaces could lead to a better life caught Lynn’s attention. She immediately researched home organizing as a profession and began attending meetings of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

Lynn specializes in organizing home and small offices, estates, creating filing systems, and downsizing for relocation. Because of her association with the Coupeville Arts Center, she often helps organize artist studios.

The demand for her services is huge, according to Lynn. She has a client list of almost 120 people. Some clients ask her to travel to locations such as Colorado, North Carolina and Florida.

Coupeville resident Anne Harvey turned to a professional organizer to help tame her home office. Harvey is on the faculty of Antioch University in Seattle and says she never really seems to have time to do any filing.

Between telecommunicating to work and traveling back and forth between her home office and her campus office, the home office became a little over worked and organizationally neglected.

Things in her office weren’t in piles. They were in masses.

“There was about a third of my office I avoided at all times because it was so overwhelming,” she said.

Harvey estimates a project that would have taken two full days or stretched over six months was completed in just two concentrated hours with Judy Lynn.

Harvey said she learned to compare home organization to overhauling a garden.

“If you look at the whole mess of weeds you’re going to be intimidated,” she said. “But when you start pulling up a couple at a time you realize you can do it.”

Organization as an art

One room in the Greenbank home of Doris Northcutt has been an artist’s work in progress for a while. Northcutt has been an active quilter for the last 20 years, and during that time the fabric, threads, batting, books, and other crafting necessities have grown in number.

“If there was a place for things I couldn’t find it,” Northcutt said.

Together, Northcutt and Lynn transformed the quilter’s jumbled space into a functioning and flowing studio where every thread, needle, and fabric square had its place. Lynn restaged furniture in Northcutt’s downstairs, and worked to create a filing system in her home office.

“Sewing is messy in the first place so needed any help I could get,” Northcutt said.

Lynn would love to say she as organized herself, but “You wouldn’t believe the stuff I have,” she said. “There’s just plain more stuff today than there was 50 years ago.”

Cutting down clutter and retrofitting one’s life into a more usable format isn’t always as easy of a task as it is an idea.

Personal stuff, personal organizing

A professional organizer visit is as personal as a doctor’s visit.

“This is an emotional thing for many people,” said Jodi Fuentes, a Clinton resident who for the last year has been working as a professional organizer.

Fuentes is a former nurse who now carries many of her professional traits from that career field over to her “Whirl Wind Organization.”

“I’m still working with people and helping them feel good,” she said. “If I can take a mess and make it better and in turn make them feel better then I’m satisfied.”

Fuentes’ work with clients varies from home offices and other rooms of the home to boxing up loved one’s belongings and inventorying retail merchandise.

To help understand how she should reorganize an area, Fuentes said she will normally ask her clients about their habits.

“It helps to know where they stand when they’re in the kitchen, what cupboards they reach for the most and how they bend down to reach them,” she said.

A key ingredient in the organization process is finding a system that works for that person or family. Looking at who the person is, what they do and the things they need is essential.

Lynn told about working with a woman writer who had all sorts of printed out poems and stories intermixed with the important papers on her desk.

“For some people those would have been considered junk, but not to her,” Lynn said.

So, Lynn kept the pieces of inspiration around and filed them under “Things that make me happy.”

Once your system is set you have to follow it or all untidy hell will break loose again. Put bills to be paid where they need to go, if it’s trash — junk it, everything has it’s place — use it.

“This takes self-discipline,” Fuentes said.

The myth, Lynn said, is that people who are organized are obsessive compulsive, but she assures it’s not what it seams.

“It’s not about being neat, clean and perfect,” she said. “It’s about finding what you want when you want it.”

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