Professional Organizing: Why I Chose it as a Profession and Why it’s My “Thing”

Why I Chose Professional Organizing

Transitions

Photo of Red Mazda 3 iGrand Touring on dirt road with hills and cloudy sky ahead
On the road outside of Dillon, Montana

In the spring of 2016, I decided to take a cross-country road trip to visit my brother in California, and friends in several other states. I’d left an unfulfilling job as a branding manager, and had completed ten online courses and earned a certification: CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management). My past experience included training and development, process improvement, time management and strategic planning. I have a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Services Administration. How could I put my knowledge and experience to use in an interesting and meaningful way? Professional organizing was not even in my dictionary.

Organizing Across America

I’d rewritten my resume, but no job postings intrigued me. If there was ever a “right time” to take a soul-searching solo road trip, this was it. Normally an analytic planner, I decided to shake things up. So just one week after hatching the idea, I packed my red Mazda 3 and took off on I-10, mapping out my first two days of travel the night before.

Photo of 2017 Road Atlas: "Road Trip 2016"
Road Trip 2016

My only measurable resolution for 2016 was to read a book a week, and I didn’t think of that until March. I was woefully behind, so I listened to audio books as I meandered through Louisiana, tore through Texas at a terrifying (and lawful) 85mph and marveled at the changing landscape of the west coast. With rare exception I’d reserve a hotel just an hour in advance. Before bed I’d peruse the large road atlas I’d purchased for the trip to see what interesting sites lay ahead. Then I’d read myself to sleep. The 18 books I finished that summer changed my mindset and my life. I decided it was time to pour my hard work, skills and experience into a business of my own creation. But what would it be? My objective was to decide that before I crossed the Florida/Georgia border on my return home.

While at my brother’s home in California, I decluttered his living room, weeded out paperwork and organized his office and staged a workout area for him. In Washington State I eyed a friend’s craft area and imagined different ways to organize her supplies. During my weeklong visit in North Dakota, I helped one friend get set up with a cloud service and taught her more about her iPhone.

What started as an in-between-jobs adventure intended to last about three weeks, morphed into a month of travel and two months of coordinating and overseeing a massive home improvement project for my elderly parents in Pennsylvania. My mother had only asked for help hiring someone to replace 40 year old carpet, but it was evident a total renovation was needed.  When I assessed their home with a more critical eye, I discovered a broken window, disintegrating screen door, unsightly garage doors and a leaky roof. Moreover, my father could not manage the step down into the family room to watch TV with my mother. So he sat at the table and looked down an across the room while my mother sat on the sofa below so she could hear better. Repurposing  was needed if they were going to “age in place” as long as possible.

So the plan was to do complete all necessary repairs, sprucing up and upgrading in preparation for a sale in the future. My mother and father could enjoy their sparkling “new” home until that time. Included would be a new entertainment center in the living room so they could watch their favorite shows together in comfort.

In order to have wood flooring installed and the entire interior painted, I had to declutter, discard obvious trash, expired medications, and food, etc., organize and then move everything but large furniture out of the house and into the garage. I’ve joked I may need therapy after this, but there was something bittersweet about seeing not only memories of early years with my brother, but also of the vibrant, creative life our parents had B.C., “before children.”

After interviewing a steady parade of contractors (43 to be exact), ranging from painters and flooring specialists to window installers, paving companies and roofers, the work began. My parents were safely tucked away from the fumes and dust in a local hotel with me running food and miscellaneous supplies back and forth in the evenings. Once the flooring was complete, I returned clothing, linens, lamps, pillows and other accessories to original or new homes, with the excess stacked in the garage for sorting and purging later. Professional organizing and staging. Anything there would have to earn its space or be let go.

My “Lightbulb” Moment

Photo of black mat on floor with weights nearby. Caption: "Guest room turned into exercise space."
My brother’s guest room turned into exercise space.

I spent the return drive to Florida analyzing why I enjoyed the experience so much. I liked coordinating the contractors while guiding and supporting my mother as she decided what to let go. Although there were many tense moments, my mother and I are closer now. It was great to see the improvements, and even better to see my parents enjoying their “new” home, sans the chaos. Then I realized I’d been doing this kind of work for friends and family on my adventure, and prior to that in homes and offices. Really, for much of my life. I’ve worked hard for other companies over the years and decided it was time to put those efforts into my own business doing something that has always come naturally to me. As I crossed the Florida/Georgia border, I heard the term, “professional organizing.” I didn’t even realize it was a “thing,” but it was going to become MY “thing”: professional organizing and workplace productivity.  Zen Your Den™ was born.

Oh, and about that reading goal for 2016? I finished my 52nd book on December 31. It feels good to accomplish a goal, and to help others do the same.

Do you need help with a big goal this year?  If I can help, call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or contact me here.

Barbara Trapp, CAPM
Professional Organizer
Zen Your DenTM
Professional Member, NAPO (National Organization of Professional Organizers)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

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