Get to Know Your Organizer: Shawna

Shawna Childers – Owner of Organizing KC
Lives in Overland Park, KS

What interests you about professional organizing?

I find it fascinating how we as humans have such an affinity for possessions. It’s super interesting to me how we attach our emotions to physical items and through that, they somehow get power over us. I’ve always loved having a place for all of my items which started with losing one of my all-time favorite barbies when I was just a wee little one and having the four year old equivalent of a nervous breakdown. I then decided that they would all be stored in the same place so I’d never have to lose another one again. Even as a teenager, I’d hear a friend complain about not being able to find something in their bedroom and I’d go on a crusade to help them clean their room and keep a better inventory. I love being able to help someone save time and de-stress by being able to keep their items in a manageable system. Life is too short to spend unnecessary time looking for things or to feel bad about how we’re keeping them.

How did you get into professional organizing?

As I said above, I’ve been ‘into’ it for as long as I can remember, except I didn’t know there was actually a career path dedicated to it. I spent my teenage years and early twenties working as a nanny. I’d spend a lot of nap times organizing clothing drawers and putting things away in a system that made sense and made my job easier and more efficient. The families always loved the systems I’d implement and they would usually comment on how refreshing it was to have saved some time whether putting things away, or trying to find them.

Late twenties, my supportive household role naturally transitioned into becoming a Household Manager. I then worked for several busy individuals as a personal and executive assistant. By that time, I had heard “you should be a professional organizer” from so many people, so finally, in early 2011, I started researching the market. Organizing (solutions) KC was born in July of 2011 with a simple website and some amazing referrals. Since, I have opened branches in 3 different cities, developed a detailed professional organizer training program and have worked with hundreds of clients to help them live simpler and more organized lives.

What’s the best part about helping clients get more organized?

Usually when we’re doing our initial consultation and a client is taking me through their space or showing me a project that needs organizing help, they are frowny, frustrated, and feeling pretty overwhelmed. Their energy is dragging and I can tell they aren’t as happy as they could be. The best part about transforming someones space, implementing systems for their business, or just helping them “reset” an area of their home are the end results: lots of smiles, their feelings of relief, and the personal sense of satisfaction and inspiration that radiates from them. When I leave clients homes the energy is completely different. The rooms flow better, the attitudes of the occupants are more positive and uplifting and there’s no longer an air of dread lingering about. I love leaving people to enjoy their space instead of avoiding it or staring at it with discontent. My favorite part is when a client realizes “oh, that wasn’t that bad” and are then able to face other challenging areas of their home or life with a new “can do” attitude.

What’s the biggest challenge in helping clients get more organized?

Hmmm. The biggest challenge is probably encouraging people to get rid of things that are broken or that they no longer use or need without seeming too pushy or that I don’t understand it’s sentimental value. We all have things that we keep around because we cherish them and because there’s an amazing memory attached, but often times we don’t actually need to keep the item just to keep the memory.
I’ve found that taking photographs of sentimental items help a lot with preserving the memory. Instead of Grandma’s huge antique quilting machine taking up a ton of space in your garage, why not have it beautifully photographed and displayed on the wall in your laundry room? Chances are, you’d see it and think of her more often, and you’d have some prime storage real estate for say… parking your car?

What’s the most common question people ask you about organizing?

The first thing people usually ask me is, “So, is your house super organized?” And yeah… it pretty much is. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have more than enough to keep up with like everyone. I don’t always get to vacuum up the never ending whirlpool of dog hair swirling around on my wood floors as often as I’d prefer or give the shower a good scrub down, but I’d say most of our items have a specific home and that home is part of a system that works for us. I don’t like wasting time trying to find things or money on having to buy new ones.

What’s a typical session with you like?

Slightly uncomfortable, fun, and challenging. Ultimately it’s extremely rewarding – for both of us. Most people initially feel a little awkward showing their mess to a stranger, but don’t worry, we won’t judge! After the consultation and we figure out what exactly you’re needing help with we devise a plan of action and dig right in. Depending on the kind of project you have (space, business, unpacking, etc) each session is a little different. Usually it’s a clearing out, categorizing, and replacing with order kind of process. I prefer the atmosphere to not be so serious and stuffy during our sessions, so while we work expect me to throw out some dry humor and unusually lame anecdotes. 🙂

What’s your favorite organizing tool?

It’s probably a toss up between containers and labels. I love containers (especially for small items) because they take what could (or used to be) a crazy mess and package it nicely into one specific area. I love labels because once you put a label on something it’s kind of like you’re making a commitment to only put that kind of item in the container/section which I find reaaaaally helps with not ending up with a crazy random junk drawer or area. Once you decide what that area’s purpose is through a label, it’s a lot easier to think “nope, this doesn’t go here, let me put it where it actually belongs”. It’s putting things away where they actually belong that is a major component of not only getting organized, but staying that way.

What’s the best 10 minute organizing tip that could help someone get a little more organized?

Pick a small area that you use EVERY day. It could be your make-up drawer, the bathroom medicine cabinet, your work space, the silverware drawer… anything.

1. Take out as many of the items as you can.
2. Sort them into 3 piles: use often, use sometimes, use rarely/never.
3. Do a quick wipe down of the space using your favorite smelling cleaner.
4. Get rid of or find another home for the items you rarely/never use. Why keep it around if you aren’t realistically ever going to use it? If it’s because of sentimental value, put it with the rest of the sentimental value items or find a creative way to display it.
5. Replace the remaining items in this order: things you use most – up front, and things you use least in the back.

What do you spend your time doing when you aren’t organizing?

When I’m not organizing I spend a lot of time thinking about organizing. No joke!
I’m kind of an improvement junkie and luckily, so is my amazing husband. We end up having a lot of really interesting abstract conversations about why we do the things we do and how to make our lives better and in turn, those around us. When I’m not swimming to shore in a cloud of theories and ideas, you can usually find me homeschooling my two young daughters, playing with our nature home school group, doing the nap-time hustle at home, or out on a trail breathing fresh air and soaking up the sunshine.

What’s your favorite household appliance?

Hands down, it’s the Vitamix blender.

I used to do a lot of juicing, but got tired of leaving out that amazing fiber. The Vitamix crushes it all up, making a silky smooth drink out of rind and all. I use it mostly to make green juices because I would so much rather chug down a glass of greens than spend 20 minutes chewing them. It makes me feel the way cows look just chillin’ in a field slowly grinding away on that greenage. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Close runner up: my robot vacuum. We have a middle of the line version and it is completely amazing. Dog hair doesn’t pile up and it really cuts down the amount of dust hanging out.

What are three words that best describe your personality?

perceptive, open, and pro-active

And finally… What are a couple of your favorite online resources for organizing? – I absolutely love how Courtney is focusing her life and doing so through her belongings. Her capsule wardrobe course, Project 333, is revolutionary. – Joshua has a bunch of amazing pointers on downsizing, living intentionally, and focusing on priorities over possessions.

And finally, (follow me!) – You can find almost any kind of organizing project on there. So many amazing tutorials and blogs about organizing. The internet is a beautiful thing.