The Happiest Year: My Conversation with A Professional Organizer

There is a multitude of evidence that clutter is detrimental to our happiness and well-being (see here and here for examples) and a well-known statistic that, as long as our basic human needs are met, an increase in material goods do not positively correlate with an increase in happiness. I know I am always on the road to de-clutter, and I am really trying hard to decrease my own materialistic spending this year.

When I started planning my Happiest Year series/project, I brainstormed professionals I might be able to collaborate with for guest blogs or interviews.  For January’s de-cluttering/clearing/cleansing theme, I thought it would be fun to pick the brain of someone experienced in organization or de-cluttering, but…what would this person be called?  Does an organization expert even exist?

Turns out, they do, and they are called just that: Professional Organizers.

I searched this term on Yelp for a local organizer and the very first name that emerged was that of Tracy Paye, owner and operator of Miss Organized, a San Diego-based organization and feng-shui consultation company.  Tracy is exceptional because she is a Certified Professional Organizer, which requires certain standards be met and exams passed. Very few Professional Organizers are actually certified.

I reached out to Tracy to see if she would be interested in a consultation and she graciously agreed to talk with me for this post.

What drew me in even more to Tracy was that her website makes it clear that she approaches her clients’ organization from the emotional and psychological places from whence their clutter issues came.  From her website: “Learn HOW to be organized and WHY you became disorganized. Learning the hows and the why is what will give you long-term results instead of just a quick fix.”  I love this approach to fixing the problem and not just the symptoms!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my Facetime call with Tracy and I was actually a little nervous!  She asked me for a few pictures and/or video ahead of time.  She also mentioned that she is skilled in Feng Shui and that we could talk about whether that might apply better to my home environment concerns (which, honestly, I didn’t even have a clear idea of).

I called Tracy around 4 PM on a Monday.  She had reassured me that it would be fine for my kids to be there and she was used to little ones running around in the background, which I greatly appreciated, as I can imagine one of the roadblocks mom’s face when organizing or accessing a professional organizer might be not being able to find the time away from kids to chat.  I also learned through her interview with SD Voyager that Tracy became a single mom when her daughter was young and she was just beginning her business, so I knew she understood the struggles of modern motherhood!

We introduced ourselves and chatted a little, and Tracy began by asking me three questions:

  1. Is there an area in your home that you won’t be able to live with for even 3 more months?
  2. How are the functional (most used) areas of your home?
  3. What are the needs of the members of your household?

I immediately and intuitively said, “I know how I would answer that first question. My closet, I hate it!”

The Offending Closet

My bedroom walk-in closet had been driving me crazy for months.  In this new postpartum era, I have tons of clothes that aren’t that old but that I just don’t FEEL good in.  I also have new clothes I’ve bought on the fly in desperation for something that feels good!   So, though I feel like I’m constantly purging my closet, there is still an oversupply of my clothing in there.  And let’s not even discuss my husband’s side!

Somehow my response segued my and Tracy’s conversation into Feng Shui (I blame mom-brain for not remembering how!), and I confessed I am very intrigued by it.  Tracy explained that Feng Shui revolves around the idea that the energy in nine areas of your home, called bagua, influence nine different areas of your life: wealth, fame, relationships, family, health, children, knowledge, career, and helpful people/travel.  The energy you project in different parts of your home can “imprint” on the corresponding area of your life.

So here’s where this conversation gets a little CRAZY (in a good way!):  Without my ever mentioning where my closet is in my home, Tracy tells me that the upper right-hand corner of your home corresponds to relationships.  She continues that if you’re walking into that space and thinking “Gosh I hate this space!”, you could be projecting that hatred onto the relationship part of your life.

GUYS…my closet is EXACTLY in the upper right-hand corner of my home!!  Not only that, but I had definitely been struggling significantly with a relationship in my life!!  I couldn’t help but feel that finding Tracy on Yelp and connecting with her in this way was meant to be.

Okay, so I now have a connection between my least favorite spot in my house and my life…now what?

Tracy advised me that she likes to put project plans together when she works with clients and that we would put a little project plan together for my closet.  She also made a point to explain that when she starts doing work with clients, it often ends up much like a massage:  purging and organizing can often bring up emotional or psychological “toxins” that may manifest physically.  She mentioned that many of her clients get sick as they begin to clear out their physical clutter because it’s so related to mental and emotional clutter.  Tracy recommended plenty of water, self-care, and rest as I begin my mini-project.

As for the project itself, these were Tracy’s expert recommendations:

She recommended going through my things and asking myself three questions:

  1. Does it look good?
  2. Does it fit good?
  3. Does it feel good?

From there, I make three piles:

  1.  A yes pile.
  2. no pile.
  3. A maybe pile.

In order to qualify for the yes pile, an item has to meet the look, fit, and feel qualifications. A general guideline I liked was that there should be no question about whether you love an often or not in order to keep it in your home, in general.

For no or maybe items, Tracy recommended not thinking about where items will go right away. Just make a pile and get it out of there! You can always revisit it later to give away or consign.

The very last thing Tracy instructed me to do before we said our goodbyes was to set a date to begin and write it in my planner. She even made me put it in my phone calendar until I could write it down! She explained that setting an actual start date and a length of time for a project makes it far more likely that someone will start the project eventually, even if they don’t begin right on the start date.

You guys, I had the most positive experience with Tracy! I couldn’t believe the intuition she had regarding the feng shui involving my closet, and she even even stated when we first started talking that she had had a feeling that our conversation was going to be important/meaningful. Finally, she made principles behind organization so easy to understand. I look forward to starting on the real purging and organization of our closet and seeing the impact that will have in the relationship area of my life!

If you’d like to learn more about the services Miss Organized offers, visit Tracy’s website or her Instagram. Learn more about Tracy’s personal journey and philosophies at SDVoyager. Finally, you can find her book If Clutter Could Talk on Amazon!