Interview with an Organizer – Daria Harvey
December 21, 2016
This installment of Interview with an Organizer features Daria Harvey, a North Carolina organizer with a mission – to help people face their clutter and get their lives organized. Read on for more about Daria’s path to organizing…
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?
DH: I have always been an organized person. There’s a picture somewhere of 3-year-old me and my stuffed animals lined up by size and type. While I was figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I worked as a media assistant in an advertising agency in New York City and as a focus group moderator in Chicago and also here in North Carolina. Then I became a mommy. I worked for a few years as a preschool teacher. All the while, I organized for my friends and family (and obviously myself). I had friend say “oh, don’t give me a birthday present, just come organize my office.” It wasn’t until two years ago when I realized I would lose my status as a professional volunteer when my daughter left for college that I told myself “it’s time.” And so I created Your Organized Life, LLC. It has been such a blessing to help others in a way that comes naturally for me, and to see firsthand how people’s lives are transformed through organization.
LH: Do you offer one-on-one services, virtual services, or both?
DH: I currently offer one on one services. I plan to roll out my virtual organizing services in the second quarter of 2017.
LH: What challenges do I face when working with individuals?
DH: I wouldn’t say I face challenges per se. Each client has a unique situation, a unique reason for needing my services. Within the first hour of working with a client I can generally gauge if I will need to be gentle during the decluttering process or if the client would appreciate a more direct approach. I always ask questions about the client’s lifestyle so I can design a system that will work for them. Organization is not a one size fits all solution.
Clients with hoarding tendencies can be somewhat challenging. I have to point out why their current living situation needs to change.
As for common challenges, sometimes it’s as small as forgetting to eat or hydrate. I get so excited about the project I’m working on I forget that I need to take care of myself while I am doing this often physically challenging work. I’ve learned to put some high quality protein bars in my work bag.
LH: Is there hope for hoarders? Have you worked with any?
DH: Yes, I have worked with a few hoarders. I do believe there is hope. However, a professional organizer is only part of the solution. The root of the problem is in the need to acquire and there can be many underlying reasons. A hoarding situation requires a professional who has been trained in this area or one working conjointly with a therapist.
LH: What are some other ways in which people benefit from your services?
DH: I always say “it’s not really about the closet.” The reason I say this is one of my first clients was a single mom with a demanding career. I organized several areas of her home, including her closet. In the course of the project I ascertained her morning routine and the types of clothes she wears to work. After I finished she was so happy! She said “now I can get ready so much faster in the morning. I have extra time with my daughter!” So it’s not about having an organized closet, it’s what having an organized closet (or being an organized person) does for your life. I have coached clients on time management skills and one woman said “I have a few extra hours in my day now!” So ultimately I feel that people benefit from my services by finding more time for the activities and people they love.
LH: How do I feel about children and organizing?
DH: Children can be taught to be organized and to put their things away properly. I was a preschool teacher for several years and I gave the children visual cues as well as written labels for where items should be placed. However, it’s not enough to say “clean up” or “put away your things.” They need to be shown how. Even more than teaching children to tidy up, teaching them to be happy with less is a great gift. Fewer quality toys and items to stimulate their imaginations is more important than having lots of toys.
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?
DH: Yes. To be completely honest, have less. Owning less means less to take care of and less to organize. Organizing things you don’t need is silly. Begin to ask yourself about every category of item in your home “how much do I really need?” I had one client with 60 coffee cups. How many coffee cups do you really need? Family of 4. Maybe 8 then? Like to entertain? Then perhaps more, but I doubt 60.
Find ways to do double duty. Each week I double at least one meal. Then I immediately freeze that doubled portion. Also, have routines. Each Sunday I plan the week’s meals, grocery shop, sync all my devices and set/review my calendar. This does take a few hours that I religiously set aside each week. But it pays off in a much more relaxed week.
Also, find ways to delegate. Even small children are more capable than we give them credit for. Finally, learn to say no. There are 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week. You are one person. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Remember, YOU get to choose how to spend your non-working hours. What do you want your life to be like?
LH: What would I suggest to the organizationally-challenged person as a first step in getting their house/life/everything in order?
DH: Ask for help! This doesn’t have to be a professional organizer. Perhaps a family member or a friend can support you. Turn it into a party! Take a few hours one evening and go through the closet.
The famous Kondo method is to approach the whole house at one time and organize category by category. And this may work well for some people. Are you the kind of person that says “I’d like to start running. I think I’ll train for a marathon!” Then this might be the method for you. However, I tell most clients and friends to start small, and to start with the one area that causes them the most stress. Often this is their closet or kitchen.
Finally, when organizing, recognize the difference between macro and micro organizing. The organizationally challenged person should count it as a win if all their socks have a matcher and are in one drawer. They do not need to be placed in sock cubbies according to color and thickness.
I guarantee when you take the first step and feel that first bit of organization success you’ll be hooked!
LH: Do you do any local demonstrations, community work or workshops (for individuals or businesses)?
DH: I am currently developing a time management workshop and pantry demonstration for 2017. In addition, I have so many ideas for my blog and I hope to write an e-book someday.
LH: Do I have any tips or advice for people interested in doing professional organizing?
DH: I recommend organizing for family and friends first. There is so much to be learned in organizing different types of spaces for different personalities of people. Also, speak with a professional organizer. The day to day work of the job is very different than the glimpses we see on TV. I have met many wonderful professional organizers online and I can say they are a helpful bunch!
LH: Thank you much for sharing with us. Please visit Daria at http://www.yourorganizedlife.org.