Over the past couple of years, I’ve featured some wonderful colleagues on my webinars. Seven of these successful professional organisers have generously shared their wisdom and their tips for new organisers. With the whole world feeling a shakeup at the moment, I thought it would be interesting to circle back with them and find out what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. And to see what advice they would give a new organiser starting out right now.
I spoke to (in alphabetical order):
- Joey Camilleri from Creating Positive Spaces
- Kirsty Farrugia from The Art of Decluttering
- Wendy Hanes, CPO, CPO-CD, from Skeletons in the Closet and Hoarding Home Solutions
- Chantal Imbach from Photos in Order and DIY Photo Organising podcast
- Amy Kennedy from The Organising Bee
- Amanda Lecaude from Organising Students and Organising You
- Amy Revell from The Art of Decluttering
I asked them 5 questions, starting with one about how they start their day.
Q: What’s your morning routine? Do you hit the ground running or ease into the day?
While there’s a mix of early risers and those who’d rather ease into the day slowly, it’s clear that a morning routine that sets you up for the day is part of these organisers’ success plan.
Amanda: “I usually wake up between 5-6am and start the day with exercise (currently at home but usually at the gym). I do this 4-5 times a week and it sets me up for the day. I am very much a morning person and think it is the best time of day! I have no problem getting going each day and tend to be the most productive in the morning and afternoon compared to the evening. Even when I was in school, I would get up early and do homework before school rather than have to do late into the evening. My family is not quite the same and that is okay as I do enjoy the peace, quiet and space to get a start on each day.”
Joey: “My morning routine starts at 5:45 am with the alarm going off, (I have always been a morning person). My goal is to be out of bed by 6:00 am (this does not always happen). The first two hours of most mornings are blocked out for what I call me time. During me-time, I make a coffee, and while the kettle is boiling I do some yoga and for the remainder of the time, I like to spend it doing some personal development, either reading a book, listening to an audiobook, or reading the newsletters that come in. However, more recently I have been using this time to tackle a personal project of organising my photos (which has also been a learning experience in itself). I would say 90% of my morning start this way, but I will confess that some morning me-time is spent sleeping in.
Wendy said: “My morning routine is very important! I get up and empty the dishwasher while the kettle boils (part of my night routine is to run the dishwasher), then I have a shower, get dressed and make my bed. That means I’m clean, my kitchen is organised, and my bed is made by the time I’ve finished my coffee. Occasionally I allow myself to get up and work in my pyjamas and I feel ratty all day.
Chantal: “I am – and have always been – an early riser by nature. Hence, I don’t need an alarm clock and I simply wake up when I had enough sleep. I am a book worm and usually read a few pages before getting up. I’ve learned to keep the phone away from the bedroom. The day simply doesn’t start great for me if I check social media and emails or read the news when still in bed. I enjoy having some quiet time while the rest of the house is still asleep. Due to COVID-19 and remote schooling, our mornings have become a bit slower and quieter, since nobody needs to rush out of the house. However, I find a basic routine really helpful to keep myself and the other family members on track. We are applying some rules, such as no work or school in pyjamas or unbrushed teeth or hair. Making the bed and letting the daylight in and similar little things. I find that routine helps enormously to improve the mood and to start the day well.
Kirsty: Pre-covid my routine was to get up when the kids got up and have a shower while they made themselves their lunch and breakfast. My hubby is now working from home, so he gets up with the kids and gets them ready for school while I check out Facebook and emails before hopping in the shower to start my day.
Amy Revell: “I’m NOT a morning person. I wake 1 hour before I need to leave to see my client for the day. I listen to two podcasts in bed while checking emails, social media and banking. I listen to The Squizz and Our Daily Bread, takes about 15-20 minutes in total and then I get up, have a shower and eat breakfast while at the computer answering emails and getting a start on the day’s work. I’m a night owl so I sleep in as much as possible (usually about 8:30 most days).”
Amy Kennedy: “I can’t say that mornings are my favourite time of the day, I do need to ease into it. My absolute favourite time of the day is the period where you lie half-awake in bed, so cosy and warm, still in a dream state as though you a floating on the clouds before the thoughts of the day enter your mind. But once my feet hit the floor, I have a very set routine. I need to with 3 young children. My routine is focused around ensuring my children are preparing themselves for school. Aside from enjoying a slow morning coffee, I must say that I’m not overly good at taking time to care for myself in the mornings. I would love to be one of those people that get up early to exercise, have a cooked breakfast or to journal, but for me right now in this season of my life focusing on my children’s needs, as well as spending that extra hour in bed is more important right now.”
As for me… I hit the ground walking, and my routine helps get me out the door even though I may be still bleary eyed. Once back from my 45-minute walk, I eat a leisurely breakfast and look over my to do list. And then, around 9am I clock in.
So now we know how these organisers get out of bed each morning, let’s investigate what gets them out of bed. Whenever I host a panel of speakers on my Successful POs webinar series, I ask about their definition of success. Naturally, success is personal thing and I love the varied answers they give. So now, with the effects of COVID-19 hitting everyone hard, I asked…
Q: Has your definition of success changed in the past 6 months?
Whenever I interview colleagues, I ask about their definition of success. Now I wanted to know if the effects of the pandemic had made a difference to their previous answers.
Joey kept his answer simple. “No.”
Amanda: “Success is what you individually want it to be and for me it has always been pretty much the same.”
Chantal: “That’s a really good question and I have to say I never thought about it in connection with COVID-19. At the beginning, it all felt so unreal and there was a phase where I would have said success is when we’re all up and dressed. Luckily, this didn’t last long. I feel we have become more appreciative of what we have and enormously grateful that we are all healthy and that we live where we live – at the border of a town with a lot of green around us and the opportunity to get some fresh air every day. Some days also feel successful if we simply managed not to get onto each other’s nerves too much!”
Wendy: “My definition of success has always been doing what I enjoy. The last six months has given me the breathing space to reflect on what that actually is.”
Amy K: “No, I don’t believe it has. My definition of success is defined by my level of happiness. Waking up and going to bed happy every day. I do have financial and productivity targets, but for me feeling content and happy with my business and business outcomes, helping my clients create positive lasting change, as well as happiness in my personal and family life is what drives me.”
Amy R: “I think pre-COVID a few more of my markers of success were around income, but since COVID those have changed to reflect the benefit of having a business where we’re the boss and embracing flexibility, agility and sustaining success over the long term.”
Kirsty: “It has been wonderful to be in partnership with Amy and see us both trust each other and God during this season. I have been grateful for us to be able to focus on our wellbeing during this season and to see that as a crucial part of a successful business.”
So, it looks like success is achievable, definable and recognisable even with such a major shift going on in the world. We never know what’s coming next, but these organisers sure do have a positive mindset.
Next, I wanted to know about the things that had changed in their businesses.
Q: Has your business model or service offering changed or pivoted in any way since the beginning of this year, when COVID-19 hit?
Q: What is something that has not changed since the start of the pandemic?
Kirsty: “Our Sydney branch of The Art of Decluttering has been servicing more clients virtually than before Covid hit. I love that people are using Zoom more these days so virtual sessions don’t seem as daunting to clients. I have seen significant transformations in clients’ homes through virtual sessions and I love that I stay clean while they do the dirty work ;-). As Amy mentioned we have run a few more rounds of our Head, Heart and Home course than originally planned for this year, as a way of generating cash flow during lockdown. We were so thankful that we were already in the online course space and so it wasn’t even a pivot for us, just a change of focus.”
On what has not changed, Kirsty said: “People’s recognition that stuff doesn’t bring them happiness and in fact too much stuff has inhibited their ability to connect with each other and themselves during this pandemic. I am thankful that this season has brought that into sharper relief for the many people who are reaching out to our industry now.”
Amy R: “As a whole business we have run additional live rounds of our Head, Heart and Home Decluttering Course that weren’t planned to accommodate people being home more. In Melbourne specifically we have found our private clients have all put their sessions on hold, but we are busier than ever with NDIS clients. We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of NDIS clients needing help to set up their homes during lock down.
Our podcast, during the first lock down, went from a weekly podcast to daily episodes which our listeners loved. The need for people to clear clutter to experience freedom in their homes. This hasn’t changed. The delivery has changed for some people (online rather than in person) but we’re still helping people overcome the same obstacles.”
If you’ve watched the first webinar in the Successful POs & What We Can Learn from Them series, you might notice that Amy’s business has changed since that was recorded. She and Kirsty combined forces to bring all their podcasting and in person services under one umbrella – The Art of Decluttering. Clearly this is working for them.
Amanda: “Fortunately for me the majority of my work with students has been online for some time now so all I had to do was move a few local students who I had been seeing in person onto working with them online. I need to operate this was as I have students across the country these days and it means I can see and work with more without having to spend time travelling to and from. What definitely hasn’t changed for me is my focus on myself – making the time to take care of myself as I am a much better person all round if I do this. For me my non-negotiable is pretty much my exercise routine – it took a bit of adjustment to having to move it online but I am fortunately self-disciplined enough to do it and infact am actually doing one more session a week than I would have done before!”
Wendy: “I’m very picky about who I work with given the current restrictions. I have discovered though that I prefer being with clients than being at my desk. In fact, I procrastinate a lot when I don’t have appointments outside of the house. I still eat well, sleep well, exercise and keep up some level of grooming. It’s the foundation of my sanity.”
Chantal: “COVID-19 has accelerated the implementation of what I had already in mind. Last year, I had started to move more towards online coaching and thinking about creating photo management courses. This crisis gave me the kick I needed to just start, and I created my first online course within a short period of time. It was a steep learning curve, but I really enjoyed it and I am so glad to have taken the plunge. I want to move more towards teaching and also launched another online course that consists of live webinars over the course of several weeks. It was great fun and I am looking forward to now refining and improving this course to serve my clients even better. I am one of the very lucky ones who has not lost work or income or who had to get used working from home. In fact, my workload has probably grown. I expected business to slow down because people might now not be prepared to spend money on their photos due to this crisis. However, it doesn’t seem to be the case at all, for which I am very grateful. Hence, my workload and my workday in general has pretty much stayed the same. This probably also helps not to get too anxious. When I do get worried, I try to focus on all the good that is still happening in our lives, but I am also very aware that not everyone is as blessed.”
Joey: “My business model has changed. Before COVID-19, I would be doing a lot more face to face sessions with clients, which was good financially however I did start to burn out which was not good for my health and wellbeing. While COVID has been devastating, it has also been a blessing for me as I’m now reducing the number of clients I see in a week, which has helped to reduce burnout and also give me more time to work on my business. I have also had the opportunity to launch my virtual organising service which has been successful with both new and existing customers. Demand for my service has not changed. During the first lockdown in Melbourne, I made a decision to cease face to face sessions. I expected that demand for work would decrease, however, the opposite was true, many existing clients were still eager to continue working during the first lockdown and I still had new enquiries hitting my inbox. This was a huge surprised as I thought that people would put professional organising on hold as it was not an essential service, I was wrong.”
Amy K: “The Organising Bee will see a change in 2020 and I gave a little hint towards this in an earlier interview with Angela Esnouf, however it’s not directly as a result of COVID-19. Rather COVID-19 has provided the momentum to fast track some existing plans that I have had in the pipeline. My aim is to launch in Phase 1 in September this year to coincide with the 5-year anniversary of when I registered The Organising Bee and Phase 2 in February 2021 to align with 5-year anniversary of when I launched my website and officially opened for business. I’m super excited about these changes. They definitely are a big step forward for my small business as I set myself up for future growth and change.” How exciting!
On what has not changed, Amy K said: “Being based in Canberra, we are very fortunate that our restrictions haven’t been as bad as the rest of the country, so right now as I write this my business and family life has returned to resemble some form of social distanced normality. Demand for my home organising sessions remain strong and continue to grow despite the downturn in the economy, I have resumed in-home client sessions under a strict COVID-19 Safety Plan. My children are back at school and have resumed their extra-curricular activities, so I am back to providing my ‘mum’ taxi service.”
So again, we see that these successful organisers, even through turbulent times, take a positive attitude and make the most of the situation. That’s inspiring.
Finally, I couldn’t let them go without asking…
Q: If a new organiser approached you for advice today, what would you want them to know?
Wendy Hanes, CPO, CPO-CD, is a thought leader and the most highly qualified organiser in Australia, which is why I’m so pleased to be in partnership with her in Hoarding Home Solutions. Wendy said, “Just being organised yourself won’t make you a good organiser. And being a rescuer won’t make you a good organiser. You have to like working with disorganised people and be open to learning, because when you are just starting you have no idea how much you don’t know.”
Amy Revell continued that theme of looking at the bigger picture. “Being a professional organiser and declutter coach is SO MUCH MORE than just helping people deal with their stuff. I’d also say that unless you have a desire to be a business owner as well as a professional organiser, see if there is someone local you can work for. I think in our industry the assumption can be you need to be a small business owner to do what we do, but there’s great opportunity finding and working for an existing practitioner.
Kirsty agreed that it’s not just about “the stuff”. “It is really important to have a clear sense of self, to know yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses but to also know that this profession will help you to grow in your understanding of all of these things. If you are a people pleaser, it is also really important to have clear boundaries, to know what jobs are beyond your expertise and also to know what is yours to carry and what is for your clients to carry. This profession is very emotionally intelligent heavy, so the more you know yourself and the more you are able to read others, the easier it is to be of service to others.”
Chantal recommended, “I’d tell a new organiser that it takes time to build a business, especially if you are starting part-time and that it is ok to take that time (if you can). I’d also say to start with what you love most. If you feel most confident when decluttering and organising pantries, start there. The business and your offering will grow organically from there. Even though I have to say my business only really started to take off once I had found my niche, don’t stress too much about it. It will all fall into place and you’ll know exactly when you found your speciality. And once you have, stay open to change and enjoy the journey!
Amy Kennedy said, “When I started my business, I expected to simply go into a client’s home with some stylish containers to make their pantry or other space look beautiful and organised – but professional organising is a lot more much more complicated than that. We humans are complex creatures and in many cases our homes are a good representation of what is going with our mental or physical health. I would advise any budding PO to learn as much about the industry and do as much professional development as you can, particularly in the areas of chronic disorganisation, mental health and chronic pain, along with understanding how people think, learn and process information is a crucial part of building an organising system that is functional for a client’s needs. Plus, to trust themselves and their own abilities. They wouldn’t be starting a business in this industry unless they had existing skills and passion for it. When we second-guess ourselves, we are our own worst enemy.”
Amanda advised, “Make a start and don’t worry too much about having everything perfect and up and running before doing so. I can honestly say my business has always continued to evolve as I have grown, and I have been fine with that! Enjoying what you do is also so important!
Joey had three things to share:
- “This work is more about the person than stuff which was something I learnt very quickly. With the clients, I see the disorganisation they are living with stems from either mental or physical health challenges. So while being good at organising is great, I think to be successful in this industry you need to be able to take the time to listen and understand a person’s problem and come up with solutions to solve that problem, that meets their needs. I have established many organising systems for clients that I wouldn’t use personally as they wouldn’t work for me, but they work for the client and that’s what is important.
- Invest time in your personal development. I think I have invested more in personal development than in any other area of my business.
- Get involved in the professional organising community. I don’t think I would have lasted as a Professional Organiser without the support of the Professional Organisers of Melbourne group.”
I want to personally thank all 7 contributors to this post for being willing to share their wisdom. It’s a privilege to hear from such successful professional organisers.
If you’ve gained some wisdom from this article, I encourage you to visit their websites and show some appreciation.
They are a testament to the saying…
“A rising tide lifts all boats.”