BEFORE AND AFTER — Sherri Papich, owner of Organize Your Life, said she takes a personalized approach with each client. Papich said she has helped organize home offices, corporate offices, living rooms, store rooms and everything in between. Photo submitted by Papich.
I have this friend.
My friend has a problem with – stuff.
When my friend comes home from a long day of covering the news in, say, “Winterville,” he finds junk mail piled on the desk; next to the front door are bags: Plastic bags, paper bags, all sorts of bags, dumped off with one arm, because the other arm is usually carrying a baby – a baby who is usually crying. Don’t even mention the pile of mismatched shoes or the – tennis racket? How did this get here?
Anyway, after a long day, the clutter is enough to stress my friend out.
Which is why, when Sherri Papich, professional organization guru and owner of Boston-based Organize Your Life LLC, offered to give my friend a demonstration, he could hardly contain himself.
To those familiar with any of the hoarding and home organizing TV shows that have multiplied in recent years, Papich’s crew may seem a little light. Papich and Organize Your Life are a one-woman operation – there is no camera crew, no team of cleaners, no fleet of trucks ready to haul away junk and leave the house spic-and-span. For one thing, Papich said, she likes to keep things low-key.
“People feel bad about their clutter – it’s a huge reason they don’t call,” she said. “I don’t sit down and talk to my husband about your clutter. I just don’t do that. Confidentiality is huge.”
Papich said the process she uses is very personal – and personalized. To be a good organizer, “you have to be a good listener. [That’s] huge. You have to be, just to find out what kind of style” a client has. “It’s all customized, every single day. It’s all about asking the right questions,” she said.
Whether it’s a home office or a corporate office, a henhouse or a whole house, Papich said she will work with her clients to find what makes sense for them, in any kind of space. “Organization is definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing; it’s all customized,” she said. “I like to look around and see what you already have organized, and see if you can apply that to other situations.”
According to Papich, every Organize Your Life project is different.
“I [work with] housewives taking care of their children, maybe their husbands have a business; I [work with] single men; people taking care of their loved ones. I have a variety of clients and I like it that way.” Her work has taken her all over Western New York, helping clients organize homes and office spaces, even helping a local school make sense of a chaotic art supply room. She works with “the whole spectrum; that’s the way I like it,” she said.
The organizer said she has had a wealth of experience. For Papich, organizing became a way of life early on. “I’d moved 19 times before I was 18 years old, so that taught me to simplify, how to go through my stuff. I’d have to un-box my stuff and decide: OK, I can take this with me; I don’t need this.” Since then, she has worked in housekeeping, managed the supply room at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital and served as a bank teller – where she could not help but organize the bank’s back room. As a mom, Papich said she has introduced all sorts of helpful systems at home, and assisted her husband – a mobile mechanic – in organizing his truck, which she said streamlines his on-the-go repair calls.
But, Papich said, it was “many, many years before I realized I could make money” organizing. She went into business for herself in 2008, and has since worked with clients all over WNY. She was even contacted by the TV show “Hoarders” for help with a project.
Papich is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and is certified to work with all sorts of organizational challenges, including chronic disorganization and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. She said the ICD offers “[psychology] classes, learning-style classes, [courses on] mental disorders, [and] time management,” and opportunities for “ongoing professional development.” The organizer said she plans to continue her training and add to her credentials.
In the end, she said, it’s all about helping her clients live the way they want to.
“It’s very fulfilling, what I do, to help people live their best lives.”
At the aforementioned friend’s house, Papich had her work cut out for her. After arriving at his home and sizing up the situation, she went straight to work on the mountain of junk mail on a catch-all desk. First, she suggested a number of ways to cut out unwanted mail entirely, explaining who to contact to get off certain mailing lists and pointing out a smartphone app that would help streamline the process. She established bins for recyclables, to-dos, papers to be filed and a bin for donations. Everything was labeled using supplies from Papich’s “Mary Poppins bag” – her ever-present satchel of organizational tools and other hardware.
“I’m a female handyman,” she said, and explained that she is often called on to fix things around her clients’ homes.
After helping to clear away the clutter and creating a personalized system for dealing with clutter, Papich made sure to collect any unwanted items that could be donated and hauled them off to Gabriel’s Closet in Colden.
“I make it a point to donate,” said Papich. “I compost, I recycle, I donate the things you don’t want and I see what fits with your life.”
Papich suggested a number of ways to keep organized, like guarding important papers in a fire box and setting a recycling bin nearby. All of her suggestions have so far worked well for my friend, but all that may change with her next visit.
“Every place I go to is different,” she said. “What makes sense for one person might not make sense for another.”
For now, the catch-all desk is clear. There is a corner just for baby stuff. The stray tennis racket went into a box labeled “2nd floor,” along with other items headed upstairs, and away it went. Lately, when he comes home from a day at the paper, my friend is breathing a sigh of relief.
For more information about Organize Your Life, visit http://youcanorganizeyourlife.com
or call 560-5990. Follow Papich on Twitter @SherriPapich
and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Organizeyourlifellc.