Interview with a Profesional Organizer: Aby Garvey of Simplify 101 | Organizing Made Fun: Interview with a Profesional Organizer: Aby Garvey of Simplify 101

Monday, May 13, 2013

Interview with a Profesional Organizer: Aby Garvey of Simplify 101

Starting this month, I will be interviewing a professional organizer each month. I think this is really valuable that we talk with a professional and get their opinions and ideas on how they help others to organize. So, today I'm going to start with Aby Garvey, who also happens to run a blog and business that I've shared before, Simplify 101

Interview with a Professional Organizer: Aby Garvey |

Please tell me a little about you, your family, your career/job, and what you enjoy doing when you’re not organizing.

Professional Organizer and owner of Simplify 101: Aby Garvey |

My name is Aby Garvey. I am the mom to two kids, a 14 year old boy and a 12 year old girl. I’m married to Jay who also happens to be my business partner. (Crazy, right? It’s definitely an adventure!) Together we run, a professional organizing company that specializes in online organizing classes. I started simplify 101 in 2004. At that time I focused solely on in-home organizing services, but soon added virtual organizing (a.k.a. organizing coaching) so I could work with clients outside of my local area. Later, when Jay joined simplify 101, we started offering online classes which make it possible for people around the world get organized with the support of a professional organizer for a fraction of the cost of working with an organizer one-on-one. 

When I’m not organizing, you’ll usually find me hanging out with my family, attending one of my kid’s sporting events, or making progress on my goal to run 500 miles in 2013.

When did you start blogging and your website?

I started my website in late 2004 and began blogging in February 2006.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is that I get to help people make important changes in their life. When I help someone have a breakthrough moment that allows them to move past a challenging obstacle—that’s the really good stuff. That’s what this is truly all about for me—helping people live their best lives.   

What is the first thing you do with your clients when you go to help them organize?

When working with in-home organizing clients I start in one of two ways. One approach is to meet with the client in their home and put together an organizing plan. This is a terrific starting point for someone who is feeling overwhelmed and really doesn’t know where or how to get started on their organizing projects. The goal of this initial meeting is to figure out where to begin, remove the barriers for getting started, and map out an organizing plan. For clients who want to do the hands-on organizing on their own, this session gives them the tools they need to move past their roadblocks and get started.

For other clients it makes more sense to just get started organizing together. For someone who wants to work with me to organize several rooms in their home, or their entire home, we can start organizing right away and plan as we go. For these clients, instead of spending our first session planning, we start organizing in a space where the purpose is already pretty well defined such as the kitchen, laundry room or a closet.  

Organized pantry |

Are they embarrassed or just generally happy to see you?

Before arriving at a client’s home, we’ve spent time on the phone getting to know each other. One of my primary goals during this initial call is to put my client at ease. I remind her that every single person who has picked up the phone to inquire about my services was in some way unhappy with her home. My goal is to help her get where she wants to be—into what I call her personal organizing comfort zone.

No one pops out of the womb knowing how to organize, just as no one pops out the womb knowing how to do anything else. We learn how to organize by having a healthy organizing role model, someone who taught us to organize in a way that supports our needs, or by organizing skills through some other means. If you haven’t yet had the chance to learn organizing skills…it simply means you’ve been busy doing other things. It’s not something to feel embarrassed about. While clients may feel a little nervous when I arrive at their doorstep, they quickly remember that I’m there for one reason and one reason only:  to help.

Do you have any great before and afters of any jobs you have done?

Since starting my career as a professional organizer, I have intentionally shied away from taking before and after photos of my client’s homes. I have a few photos from when I have organized for family or friends, but with paying clients I’m there to help my client, not the other way around. It takes tremendous courage for a client to pick up the phone and call to ask for help, so my focus is on helping the client and making her feel more comfortable.

My readers have many questions for you, so I will ask you a few:

How can you stop from procrastinating?

I read once (I believe it was in the book “Only Nuns Change Their Habits Overnight”) that we procrastinate to avoid a feeling. I have found this to be incredibly helpful because if you can pinpoint the feeling you are trying to avoid by procrastinating, then you can begin creating solutions. For example, many people avoid decluttering because they’re overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. They may be avoiding feelings such as guilt, or embarrassment that they don’t know how to dig out, or frustration that things have gotten so far out of control. 

Once you know what feeling you’re trying to avoid, then you can step back and figure out what to do. For example, if you’re embarrassed because you really don’t know where to start on your clutter, you can reach out for help, or you can find ideas on the web about how to get started. If you’re feeling guilty about your clutter, you can ask yourself if you’ll feel more or less guilty if you start taking action. If you give yourself the space to acknowledge what you’re feeling or what you want to avoid feeling, it becomes much easier to take the first step.

Another terrific secret for overcoming procrastination is to identify one tiny step you can take to move your project forward. You don’t have to identify the best step to take. Just figure out any small step you can take. Then, give yourself permission to start on that step. The key word here is start. Don’t expect yourself to finish. Instead, be okay with starting and see what happens. You might be surprised.

When your home clutter has gotten way out of hand, where do you begin?

The answer to this question isn’t a trip to The Container Store. More stuff – containers or otherwise – isn’t the answer to our clutter problems. My answer for where to begin is to start by decluttering, letting go of things you no longer use, need or love. Start with your easy clutter, things you know in an instant you’re done with.

Keep in mind that simply getting started is far more important than finding the best place to start. It really doesn’t matter where your easy clutter is or what it is. The key is to start with something that’s simple for you to let go of, something you can get out of your home quickly and with little contemplation and second-guessing.

I also recommend setting a timer and decluttering for fifteen minutes at a time. Most people wait to declutter until they can finish. In other words, they wait to get started until they have a completely free Saturday or weekend. (And we all know how rare that is to find!) It’s much easier to find fifteen minutes, and it’s much easier to talk yourself into fifteen minutes of action than it is to find a full day and the stamina to use it for decluttering.

The real beauty with this approach is that once you start chances are pretty good you’ll want to keep going. So just start. Grab a timer and a trash bag, and send some easy clutter walking out the front door.  By the way, I have a mini guide that details this process for getting started. It’s called “Help! I Don’t Know Where to Begin” and it outlines my grab-and-dash decluttering process. The guide also includes a list of easy clutter that many of us have in our homes. It’s a simple way to get started and create some momentum. 

Thank you to Aby for giving her professional advice! If you are looking at finding a professional organizer, I have a HUGE directory of them HERE and you will probably find one in your area that you can help you! Please feel free to leave a question here if you'd like a future interview of a P.O. to help answer your question or if you've ever used a P.O. before would love to hear your experience!

P.S. Did you register for the Positive Parenting webinar coming on Thursday? Go HERE to sign up -- it's FREE!

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