Today I’d like to introduce a wonderful professional organizer I met last summer at Peets Coffee in Irvine, California. Sandra Polett recently organized a get-together for a group of women at her home and I could immediately tell she practices the art of organization. Everything in her home was in its place, her table was professionally decorated with home-made flower arrangements, a pink tablecloth and cones filled with candy for a Valentine’s brunch.
Interview with Sandra and helpful tips on how to get and stay organized right away.
1). What is the first thing you do when asked to help someone?
First and foremost I interview the person to see if they are really committed to investing the time and money necessary to do the job. The next thing I do is try to determine if our personalities are a good fit. I work very closely with my clients and am privy to a lot of personal information about their lives. They have to feel comfortable with me. A sense of humor is definitely an added plus. If I feel I am not the right person for the job I will not take it. I have a network of very capable organizers that I am familiar with and I will refer it to someone I think is a better fit if necessary.
2). What is the number one project you are called to help with?
Paperwork. Despite all the hoopla about the paperless society we are far from it. In some ways it has gotten worse because of all the new written disclosures that the government requires of financial institutions, a deluge of “pre-approved” credit card applications and all the new paperwork the schools require regarding internet use, use of children’s’ photos, bullying etc . We are all drowning in paper.
3). What is the Number One task we can do to stay organized?
I call it “defragging”. When you finish a project, finish the project. By this I mean if you come home from a trip take 10 minutes to go through all the reservations, local tourist maps etc and throw out what you don’t need and file the rest. When you finish having the new windows installed throw out all the competitor’s quotes you didn’t use and all the post it notes you accumulated during the process. Most people heave a sigh of relief that the project is done, throw the debris on top of the pile and go to the next thing. With our busy lives it adds up fast.
My favorite “stay organized” tip for people with children is to do a “walk through” before bed each night. Walk through every room in the house and see if there is anything of theirs that is not in its place. Collect all the hair brushes, shoes, and library books and put them in their place. If you do this religiously and don’t let it build up it only takes a few minutes.
4). What is your favorite project?
Paperwork. Sounds crazy but I am a real dot your i’s cross your t’s kind of person and have a financial background so it is really rewarding to help someone who is overwhelmed and unable to determine what to keep, what to throw and how to organize important paperwork. While looking at clutter all day is definitely stressful I think knowing that you are not on top of your important paperwork is even more stressful. Missing a deadline or being unable to find something you need for taxes can snowball into a situation with serious consequences. My second favorite thing is bedroom closets. Who doesn’t enjoy looking at clothes and shoes and making them beautiful?
5). If you like a home that’s clutter free, and your spouse is the opposite, what advice can you give?
Bring in an objective third party. Often when an outsider asks the person in a very pragmatic way to explain why they are keeping a particular item they have to admit that they are not being logical. A man I worked with who had an entire garage full of Motor Trend magazines comes to mind. He said he might need to refer back to them when he was fixing up an old car he planned to restore. I asked him how he would ever go about locating a specific article pertinent to his need. After some thought he admitted he wouldn’t and would probably “just go to the internet instead”. It was like an “Aha” moment for him. His wife had tried for years to get him to purge but the conversation was always fraught with too much emotion thus putting him on the defense.
6). What is your one “GUTSY” tip?
This is a tough one, and definitely requires guts, but start the dialogue with elderly relatives now. If you have an elderly relative with a house chock full of a lifetime of belongings try to get them to understand what a burden it will be for their loved ones. To have to deal with cleaning out an overstuffed home at the same time you are dealing with all the logistics of moving a loved one into a downsized living arrangement or dealing with grief when they pass away is a recipe for disaster . The stress in these “under the gun” clean outs is almost unbearable for the family and creates anger, resentment and a lot of mistakes in judgment.
7). Who is your “ideal” client?
One who is really engaged and excited about the process and especially those who hug me at the end of the job and tell me the weight of the world has been lifted from their shoulders. It is so gratifying to see their stress melt away and know that I was instrumental in making that happen.
Who is Sandra Polett?
Currently living in California, Sandra was born and raised in Delaware, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics from Hood College in Maryland and has also lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
She spent 15 years in the pension planning industry and has a Q.P.A. (Qualified Pension Administrator) designation from the American Society of Pension Actuaries. She also worked in the Regulatory Affairs department of Merck & Co. Pharmaceutical and been a feature writer for the Branchburg News in New Jersey.
Sandra has been a professional organizer for over six years and is a Golden Circle member of The National Association of Professional Organizers and the Organizer’s Network of Orange County. She organizes both homes and small businesses.
She has been married for twenty – six years, has one teenage daughter and is a volunteer with her local chapter of The National Assistance League.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 838-6807.
Any questions for Sandra? Any organizing tip you can’t wait to have answered, please ask Sandra, and she’ll answer in the comments section.
Oh gosh, I'd be the nightmare client for her as I'm the opposite of organized at home!
Great advice! I have been getting much better at staying on top of clutter and if feels very good. When I think my home is cluttered I watch Peter Walsh on OWN and then feel so much better. 😉
Thanks for the post!
Thank you. The tips on defragging and doing the night-time walk through with children are ones I shall act on. One day I will be clutter free!
I have a question – are creative people (writers, artists, musicians etc) likely to be more cluttered than scientific types, do you think? Is it a left side/right side brain thing at all?
I had the opposite opinion of you Ladyfi.
Good for you staying clutter-free.
Glad you stopped by. I'm proud of what you did to your desk.
I also like your question, although I know scientists who are piggy, like my son.
Antares Cryptos says
Interesting post, but from a different angle.
I bet, your son can find which pile that paper he needs is in.
Lateral visual thinking.:)
Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane says
It's a good thing you can't see my office right now! I'm not the worst untidy person, but I'd love to be better organized. When the clutter starts getting on my nerves I dive in and get it fixed, but I never seem to be able keep it up on a daily basis.
Fortunately I move across oceans and continents every few years so that helps getting rid of tons of stuff and make a fresh start 😉
It's time again, right now. Maybe soon!
Yes, creative types are somewhat more disorganzied than others but only by a small margin. The biggest problem with artistic types is that they tend to get easily distracted because so many ideas are always flowing through their brains. I often find myself using the phrase "keep your feet on the track". However…. that being said, the most disorganized client I have is a very successful attorney. Go figure.
Thank you Sandra. I will try harder to keep my feet on the ground. I think you've hit the nail on the head – I know I get distracted twenty times a day!
Thank you so much,
PS Sonia, I've added a link to your site, hope that's OK. You're so inspiring and upbeat!
I hope my son can find his papers.
I think you ans I are the same person.
So true. Perhaps there's also a male/female difference regarding who gets more easily distracted. I wonder if that's true.
Thanks Stephanie. Very kind of you.
Ballerina Girl says
Thanks for leaving the comment about viewing my blog..
I'm not quite sure why it is like that with yours. I have darker blue lettering against a white backdrop, so I'm not sure what else I could really do!
Hope it works out
excellent post. i especially like defragging!