In this month’s Graduate Showcase, allow me to introduce Shari Robinson, professional organiser and owner of Sensibly Sorted, based in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, although she happily travels up to an hour to see clients.
I fired some questions at Shari, and she kindly answered them.
Who do you work with Shari?
Some of my clients have been NDIS participants living with disabilities like PTSD, Autism and Dissociative Disorder amongst other issues. I’ve had several clients with Hoarding Disorder to various extents and some private clients that need practical help to deal with their clutter. One lovely client just wanted help setting up her newly renovated kitchen – loved that one. My ideal client is one that has a sense of humour and is open to new ideas. I love clients that really engage with the process.
What brought you to organising?
I started Sensibly Sorted at the beginning of 2021, but I’ve loved helping people declutter and organise for years before that. I’ve always been interested in organising and decluttering on a personal level since I was a child. I have memories of reorganising my wardrobe and desk when I was in primary school. What I wasn’t so interested in was being tidy and putting things away where they belonged. As a mum I was always reading or listening to organising ideas and trying new things to keep on top of stuff and keep our lives on track. I’ve wanted to be a professional organiser for around 5 years, but the timing never seemed right, and I was always concerned about financial stability. I think I also had imposter syndrome and believed I could never match up to the women I googled, including you, Angela! I also felt that I needed training, but I just couldn’t validate spending thousands of dollars on a course without really knowing if it was going to help. Your online course for under $1000 made me take a leap. It felt like an expense I could validate in my head. I kept daydreaming about helping people and seeing how much happier they were once I had come in like a superhero and helped them get on stop of their stuff and their routines. I just loved all things organizing. One of my favourite things to look at on Pinterest was organising and storage solutions.
What was the pivotal moment for you starting out as an organiser?
I don’t think I had a pivotal moment that made me decide rather it was a growing feeling during 2020 that I was tired of doing a job I was good at but didn’t really enjoy. Funnily enough I watched the Marie Kondo series and whilst I didn’t necessarily agree with all her methods, I saw the amazing effect decluttering had on her clients and I wanted in. The thought of organising for a living beckoned and I started taking real steps to get some training and information to make the leap. I also had to overcome my husband’s resistance to the plan. He just didn’t get what it was about and was often reminding me that we needed to earn a decent income to be on track with our super and retirement. Somehow, I just got brave in 2020 and realized that I was sick of always planning for a future and not really enjoying the present, so I jumped. My husband is more on board now that he can see the money coming into the bank and he can also see how much happier and motived I am.
What’s your favourite thing about organising?
My favourite thing is seeing those ah ha moments when something I’ve said or suggested has really resonated with a client and they can suddenly see a way through the problem or even just one of the problems. I love organising wardrobes, kitchens and laundries.
What is one habit that helps your life run smoothly?
I do a few things most days to keep myself organised. I put away all the clothes and shoes where they belong, I keep a basket on the front hall table for keys and incoming paperwork. I wash all the dishes at least once a day and put everything away. I have a home for everything, so I know where to find it.
What do you attribute your success as an organiser to?
I don’t know that I am a success as an organiser as yet. I say that because I don’t have a large clientele or lots of networks for referrals to keep the work coming. I’m still getting my name out there and overcoming my loathing of doing social media stuff. On a personal one to one with clients I have had success. I think it comes down to a sense of humour, an empathetic, nonjudgmental approach and a real desire to know the client and their problem.
What is one thing people may not know about you?
Hmmm, one thing people may not know about me. I went to Canada for a year as a Rotary exchange student when I was 15. I went away as a shy girl constantly worried about what other people would think and came back, well, like this haha. I had to give talks and meet lots of new people and get involved in things. I had to manage travelling on my own and generally figure out stuff. It made a huge difference to who I am. A definite upside is that I am happy to do public speaking, provided I have some notes and know vaguely what I’m talking about. I think I just try to be me. It’s a lot less stressful.
What would you say to someone just starting out as an organiser?
I would tell anyone else starting out to get some basic training. Doing a course like yours pointed me in the right direction on several fronts. The component on what you need to set up was really helpful. You know, ABN, insurance, website etc. I then recommend getting more specific training. There are lots of complex clients out there and the more you know, the more you can help. I’d also recommend joining a local group of organisers. Meeting all the peeps at Professional Organisers of Melbourne meetings has been a game changer. I’ve had referrals, advice, and a bunch of new friends with a similar interest. Tell the people in your life that this is what you are going to do. It really kept me accountable and talking about what I would be doing and how I was achieving it was helpful for clarity. I am loving this new life. Apart from doing work that I enjoy I love the flexibility. I’ve been able to spend more time helping and spending time with family and friends. I love not checking in with a boss or having to account for every hour of my working day to someone. The downside is having to figure out and do a lot of stuff for yourself. Getting advice is great but you still have to do it. I think a big stumbling block is the website. My advice here is that you just need to spend the money and get it done. You can’t wait for everything to be perfect. My big stumbling block now is social media. I overthink every post and suffer writers block a lot! Stop worrying about lots of little details and hypotheticals. Once you start working a lot of the mystery dissipates and you can see more clearly about what you need. Always ask questions if you’re not sure. All the good organisers started somewhere too.
Such wise words, Shari. Thanks for sharing.
If you’re interested in launching your own professional organising career, take a look at my online training.