Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Beehive Blog Features Laura Lawrence at Harmony Within - Professional Organizer!

The Beehive Blog was tickled pink to speak to Laura Lawrence at Harmony Within and The Organized Woman Show.  Laura is an awesome Tweep as well so please make sure that you drop into the blog and say HI and follow her on Twitter!

Laura is an angel.  Her mission in life?  To Get People Organized!  Laura is a Professional Organizer (trained and certified!) that works out of Orem, Utah.  I was fascinated since I am the stack it, store it, hoard it and when all else fails, cover it type.  How does one become a Professional Organizer?  I figure that it is a calling and Laura has six children!  Being organized with six kiddos is survival in its purest form.
One of my favorite shows is "Clean House" so of course, I asked Laura about the show.  She said that while what she does is similar, it does not happen over night.  We can only imagine!
Laura approaches her business with a savvy combo of psychology, determination and a calm demeanor.  She was a treat to speak with and she made everything sound very reasonable which I am sure is important as she de-clutters lives.
Harmony Within began 3 1/2 years ago as a fun way to create a business.  Her clients are 90% residential and through some creative marketing and local donations, the business has taken off.
Laura speaks in acronyms.  I asked her what is the first step when she arrives at a client's home:
A C T.

A - Assess - Laura explains that it is about asking questions: "What is working now?  What is not working?  What has being disorganized cost you?  Not only in losing money but in time, relationships, stress and emotions?"

C - Create - Laura moves from Assess to Create: "What do you want for the space?  What do you want to do in the space?  How do you want to feel?"

T - Tackle - The final step is to Tackle the job.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After
We had a great conversation about generational organizational tendencies.  "The Depression Era generation never threw anything away.  Now their families in many cases are dealing with all that.  The exact opposite is the Now generation - they don't keep anything.  They have grown up in a digital world.  In between is the Gotta Have It All generation - (the early baby boomers) who had to have it all."

Laura also had an interesting statistic:  the average American spends 55 minutes per day looking for things.  Imagine the time that could be saved if we all could remember where we put *insert item here*!  That comes out to almost TWO WEEKS per year that we spend looking for things.  I would rather be vacationing at the beach!

The emotional aspect is something that Laura takes into great account as well.  She explains: "It is not about the things.  It is about the memory or the relationship that is attached to it."
Her ideal client?  "The client that is ready to move past what attached you to the past."

Once Laura has put her first acronym (ACT) to use, she then applies another acronym to get things moving: S P A R K.

S - Sort - Laura's strategy is to put like with like.  She completely empties a space with a handy bin close by labeled "goes elsewhere".  The idea in this phase to is to begin with "a blank canvas".

P - Purge - This is where Laura's hat really changes to therapist and chief supporter.  She explains: "This is the hardest part.  They have to start making decisions and there are a lot of emotions.  Many people have clutter because they did not want to make a decision."  Laura guides her clients through the process with tough but important questions:  "Do I use this in my life today?  Do I love it?  Do I have space for it?  If I needed it, could I get it somewhere else, such as borrowing or renting?"

Office Before

Office After
Laura also told me that she takes as much will fit in her vehicle with her every time that she leaves a clients house.  "I take it with me or it comes back - they will go dumpster diving. So I take it with me and I deliver it to wherever they have decided, such as Deseret Industries.  Sometimes it is easier to let it go if they know someone else has a need."

A - Assign a Home - After the Purge, Laura works with the client to determine what each part of the room will be used for.  She creates zones in a room according to what activity will take place in that space and then makes sure that the items used most frequently are in the "beachfront property - easy to grab and easy to put away".

R - Round up Containers - You know that feeling that you have when you walk through the store and see all those cool containers?  And you think - YES!  Today I will buy these containers and I will get organized!  Laura has been there and done that with clients - "I love containers but you must have a planning process.  You can't put the cart before the horse."

Laura approaches the container part of the process with calm, reason and frugality.  "We use what you have as much as possible.  Be frugal.  See what you need, see what you have, measure the space.  Should we have containers with lids?  or will that become another surface?"  Then you can go and buy the containers!

K - Keep It Up - This is the maintenance part of the process.  "Keep it up!  There are no excuses.  Daily maintenance of two to three minutes in each room.  Labels can also help you to remember and help the whole family to remember where to find it and put it away."
Throughout our entire chat, I could understand why Laura is so good at her job.  She presents with patience and calm and reason.  All traits that make it easy to enter the strange lands of other people's chaos and get them organized!

Most of all, Laura emphasized that this is a process.  As fun as it is to watch the shows on tv that magically organize people over night, the reality is that it takes about double the time that you think it will take.  "It is hard and intrusive.  For me, it is also about teaching and transferring of skills."

Laura wants to make sure that her repeat business comes from clients bringing her in to do a new area.  I asked if there were any clients that she would not take:  "I draw the line at genuine hoarders, diagnosed hoarders.  I will only work with a diagnosed hoarder with a therapist along for the ride because it is an illness."

Laura has certainly carved out a wonderful niche that puts her innate skills, her lovely personality and her ability to organize and support a client to fantastic use.

So for all of you creatively disorganized people out there that would like to find your home office or your arts and crafts rooms - Call Laura at Harmony Within!

Laura's rates are extremely reasonable to reclaim parts of your home, actually your life - her initial consultation is $50.  She works with all budgets and will create a plan to get you back on track!  She even offers phone and virtual consultations.

Laura teaches and does public speaking in the area.  Check out her blog:  Harmony Within for local events.  You can also tune in to her weekly podcast with Vicki:  "The Organized Woman".

Laura Lawrence

Harmony Within Website

Organized Woman Podcast

Laura on Twitter @OrganizedWomanS

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