Interview with a Professional Organizer: Linda Samuels | Organizing Made Fun: Interview with a Professional Organizer: Linda Samuels

Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview with a Professional Organizer: Linda Samuels

This month I want to introduce you to Linda Samuels. She is a compassionate, enthusiastic professional organizer and coach, a professional organizer. Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® founder of Oh, So Organized! (1993), author of The Other Side of Organized, and blogger on organizing and life balance. She has been featured in The New York Times, Woman’s Day, Bottom Line Personal, Westchester Magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and Connect with Linda on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blog, or website. Sign up for a free monthly e-newsletter with bonus tips at 

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

My husband and I live 30 miles north of New York City in a fabulous little town embraced by the Hudson and Croton rivers. Our two daughters are in college and beyond, so we’re revolving door empty nesters. Our small home radiates color (visitors are greeted by a purple front door) and it’s my favorite place in the world. I’ve been a professionally organizing the chronically disorganized for over 20 years, and when I’m not helping them find relief, I’m entertaining family and friends, recharging with a walk in the woods or by the rivers, journaling, dancing to R & B, laughing, baking chocolate chip banana bread, reading psychology and self-help books, and traveling around the United States.

When did you start your website and/or your business?

Oh, So Organized! was launched in January 1993. My first website hit the Internet in 2001.

Tell us about your book that you've written.

As you might imagine, being a professional organizer for more than 20 years means I’ve seen a lot. All those stories (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) along with my expertise and passion now live in my book, The Other Side of Organized-Finding Balance Between Chaos and Perfection. The book offers readers advice and inspiration for creating that sweet spot of harmony we all crave. It’s not about becoming ultra-organized (which can be overwhelming to some.) Rather, it encourages people to get organized enough that they’re able to reduce the stress of life’s many details, make time to embrace life’s passions, and reach a level of organization that’s comfortable for them. It’s about the joy of discovering what lies beyond the chaos and perfection.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love that moment when a client can finally see past their overwhelm. Hope floods in and they’re ready to create the changes they desire. I’m continually inspired by their dedication, growth, and the transformations they make.

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

My first priorities include establishing trust, gaining a better understanding of my client’s goals, strengths, and needs, and learning as much about them as they’re comfortable sharing. While we’ve had at least one phone conversation prior to my in-person visit, it’s not until the first session that I get to really “see” what they’ve described. This visual component adds another layer to my understanding. Once we’ve talked and toured, we make a game plan and begin the actual organizing work. The “work” we choose varies depending upon many factors like timing issues (moving deadlines, visitors arriving, or new baby joining the family) or sequence preferences (approaching easiest or most challenging areas first.)  My goal is to have them feel real progress by the end of that first session, be comfortable with our working relationship, have clarity about what to focus on next, feel less stressed and more hopeful about the future (whew! It’s a high bar but someone has to hold it.)

Are they embarrassed or just generally happy to see you?

Both responses are normal. Mostly though, my clients are happy to see me. And I’m always happy to see them.

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

With one exception, I don’t have any before and afters. Establishing trust is crucial for creating positive, lasting relationships with clients, and I believe that taking photos can potentially undermine trust and privacy concerns. Even though I totally get the power and value of before and after photos, unless my client asks that we take them, I don’t suggest or do it. Many years ago, one client took before and after photos without my knowledge. When we finished the work, she gave them to me as a thank you gift and said, “You can share them with anyone you want to as long as you don’t tell them who I am.” Her words confirmed my thoughts about the sensitive nature of our work and the importance of confidentiality.With clients that are overwhelmed by their belongings, have difficulty letting go and have strong emotional attachments to their possessions, I’ve taken photos or shot videos to facilitate the letting go process. Giving them time to talk about the objects and archive them digitally, honors the memories, allowing them to release the physical item and reduce clutter.

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

This Summer we will be moving and our baby will be born. I am not sure we will be in the new house before the baby gets here. Any ideas for a convenient and easy to keep organized way of keeping all of baby's things together in a compact space? I am considering putting off creating a nursery until we get to the new house, which may be as far as a month after Baby is born. 

Luckily, babies don’t really take up that much space. (It’s just their stuff that can be a challenge.) One easy way to keep all the supplies together is to convert a 4-drawer dresser into a changing table. Put a changing pad on the top, use the drawers below to store diapers, clothes, wipes, towels, small toys, and other supplies. Attach hanging shelves to the side of the dresser for storage space. Put a diaper pail next to the dresser, and wa~la! You’re all set.

Simply Kierste

Recommended thought process for keeping/letting go of Christmas cards?

Below are some questions that will help you decide whether to keep or let go of Christmas cards. 

  -- What’s the value of keeping these cards?

  -- Are you keeping them so that you can update your address and family member names list?

  -- Once you’ve updated the list, do you still want/need to keep the cards?

  -- Do you enjoy displaying the cards during the holiday season?

  -- When the decorations come down, can the cards come down too?

  -- Where will they go? Will they be recycled? Will they be stored?

  -- If you’re going to keep cards, do you have a place to store them? If so, how many years worth of cards do you want to keep?

  -- Do all cards have equal meaning or significance to you? Can you develop a set of keep/letting go guidelines that make sense?

The choice to keep or let go is a completely personal decision. For me, receiving the card is like getting a lovely call or hug from a friend. I read it, think about the person or people, enjoy the message, update address changes, keep a select few, and recycle the rest.

Thank you so much Linda! Such great ideas she has and lots of great ways to help us all keep accountable for organizing, decluttering, and letting go of things! If you have a question for a future interview with a professional organizer, leave it here! I'll try to incorporate that into another post! 

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