Interview with an Organizer – Debbi Reid
December 6, 2016
Debbi Reid is a Maryland organizer who turned a layoff into an opportunity for a new, rewarding career. We’re pleased to have her as a guest in Interview with an Organizer. Read on to learn about her warm, individually-tailored, human approach to organizing and helping people manage their clutter.
LH: Can you tell me a little bit about your history? What was your path into professional organizing and how long have you been doing it?
DB: When I was a little girl, I kept my very pretty bedroom very messy. One day my father told me if I didn’t keep it clean he would throw everything away. Well, I must not have believed him, because I came in from outside playing one day and there he was, pulling all the mess from my closets and under my bed and putting it in a big green trash bag. Although I was very upset, it turned out to be a new start – partly from fear of having my things thrown away again. I also realized that I enjoyed seeing my belongings in order – everything having a place. I then began organizing the clothes in my closet by type and color, and I found that it made me happy. My mother had a very, let’s say, “busy” walk in closet, and I used to go to it and just stare at it because I wanted to organize it so badly. But I didn’t dare touch it, of course.
Fast forward to around 20 years ago when I was working for a nonprofit in DC. One day I came to work and there was a woman there moving things around in the office supply closet. I asked who she was, and someone said “She’s an Organizer.” At that point I realized that they had actually paid her to come and organize our closet! That day I thought to myself, “I want that job!”
I began to dream of being a Professional Organizer, and when the internet came about, I searched one day and came across NAPO National Association of Professional Organizers. I thought, what?! There’s an association of people like me?! It was then that my dream began to really take shape. Around 2013 I started thinking about what impact I would leave in the world after I’m gone. I was a married mother of 2 with a professional job in event/meeting planning and logistics. I was working in DC, commuting from Maryland, and living a good life. Yet, I still thought there was something more out there for me. When I was downsized from my job in 2015 I thought, it’s now or never. Now is the time to do something that impacts other people’s lives on a larger scale. I began organizing for anyone who would let me (for free), and I found that it brought me indescribable joy! I realized that it truly was changing people’s lives. Those who were overwhelmed, and couldn’t function the way they needed to…from lack of organization, too much clutter, and hanging on to things that were holding them back from success. They were changing, with my help, right before my eyes!
LH: Do you offer one-on-one services, virtual services, or both?
DB: Currently, I offer mostly one-on-one help. I call it “help” because many, if not all of the people I work with just need help. I get the call when they are overwhelmed, don’t know how or where to start, and can’t seem to make organization a priority. My approach is very supportive. I help people change their lives mentally and physically through organization. I act as a coach, providing hands-on guidance and help.
I’m not a licensed professional, but in most cases it’s a counseling session. My talent is organizing but I have found that my gift is in helping people think through their issues and then, together, we can come up with solutions that will work for them. I also enjoy providing workshops and presentations to address the needs of people in a group setting, throughout the DC/DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) area. The schedules, times, locations, and registration information can be found on my Facebook page.
Interesting you should ask about virtual services, because I’m now exploring the idea of providing online content in video format. That idea is still in the early stages of development, but I would love to provide my brand of hands-on, supportive, organization solutions for individuals and businesses nationwide, and even globally! In the meantime, I do feature organizing tips, wisdom, and motivation on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. I’ve actually had a wonderful response globally on social media, and I’ve found that the internet is a great way for me to have a positive impact beyond my immediate geographic area.
LH: Do you do business and personal/individual organizing?
DB: I work with individuals in their homes, home offices, or places of business. I offer a number of “Organized Solutions” that change lives for the better! Some key services I provide are those which address effective paper management, optimized storage, cluttered kitchens, closets, garages, and home offices, and perhaps the most dreaded of all – moving, downsizing, packing, and unpacking. While I’m certainly not the only good professional organizer available, my caring, comprehensive, and solution-oriented approach is the quality that I feel makes me unique in the realm of organizing.
LH: Do you ever have people relapse into former bad habits or “fall off the wagon?” If so, how do you deal with them?
DB: I actually wouldn’t use the terms “relapse” or “fall off the wagon.” What I tell people is that there are seasons of change in our lives. When the seasons change, we may need to make adjustments. When organization solutions and new habits are no longer working, there are underlying causes to uncover. It’s all about acknowledging that reality, and making the appropriate adjustments. I do check in with my clients to see how a solution system is working or not working. Based upon their feedback, I ask a lot of questions and offer follow up tips and solutions. This sort of collaborative communication is what leads to positive change. Occasionally, I will need to do an onsite refresher as well, to get clients back on course. It’s my mission to help them discover the reasons behind those bumps in the road, and help them alter course to find what really works for them and their unique situation.
LH: A lot of people find the time constraints of modern life at odds with their ability to organize. Do you have suggestions for people who are short on time?
DB: Here’s the thing, it’s all about prioritizing. Every client I have worked with has simply needed a fresh start, regardless of whether it’s just a closet, an entire home, or office. Many of them used to be organized – or at least things were once not as out-of-control in their lives and homes. Life happened to them. Whether it is a death, divorce, more children, less children, loss of a job etc. Something has shifted and they have gotten off track. They need a fresh start, and can’t do it alone. That’s when the help of a professional can enable that new beginning. Few people benefit in a lasting way by having someone come in to just organize and declutter their stuff. People really need to understand their habits, and why they do what they do or don’t do. They need to take part in decision making, and be a part of the process for making the adjustments to enable new habits, so that they can become just that – new habits. All systems do not work for everyone because we all have different thought processes, different lifestyles, and different abilities. If an organizer is truly listening and understanding their clients’ needs, that client will understand that adjustments, large and small, are needed as the seasons in their lives inevitably change.
LH: What would you suggest to the organizationally-challenged person as a first step towards getting their house/life/everything in order?
DB: Here’s that word again – they must make getting organized a priority, first and foremost. We always make time for what is truly important in our lives. Next, they should take the time to think about not only what they do, but why they do it. Based on that, they can then set up personalized systems that work for them. Giving everything a home, setting up systems that make it easy to put away, and easy to retrieve. When they are overwhelmed, they should understand that organizing is not just about making everything look pretty. And if the system they set up is not working, analyze and adjust. Still having a hard time? Call a professional. Don’t go it alone!
In conclusion, I’d like to stress that it’s not just about clutter and purging. Solutions are found through understanding how and why you do the things you do, have the habits that you have, and finding the best way to make the changes you need to make to live a better life. Understanding those things can change your whole perspective, and that’s where I come in as a professional, getting people organized in the way that works for THEM, and increasing the odds of them maintaining the systems after I’m gone. If I can help people learn to think differently, they will do differently!
LH: Thank you for sharing your story with us. It was a pleasure having you as an interviewee.
Find out more about Debbi’s services, including links to her social media accounts on her website.