Clutter is a topic of endless fascination for me. Perhaps that’s because I seem to be constantly staring at it. I have spent the better part of many, many years trying to get a handle on my clutter problem, as I know deep inside my clutter-burdened heart there is a clear-headed, clutter-free person inside.
With the help of the passing of years, a burst pipe that led to an involuntary home renovation, a dumpster, and the wisdom of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (affiliate image link), I am actually closer to being clutter-free than I have ever been before.
While discussing Kondo’s book with my friend Diane Elkins, professional organizer and blogger at PositiveWorkspace.com, I decided it would be wonderful to interview Diane so you could get a glimpse of how she works with her clients. Diane is truly a gifted and inspiring person. I know she loves being a part of the significant life changes her clients make when they clear their lives of clutter.
A Conversation with Diane Elkins of PositiveWorkspace.com
What is your impression of what makes keeping one’s space in order so difficult for so many?
It’s usually a combination of (1) not having a designated place for storing items and (2) having too much stuff that’s accumulated over many years. Once you purge all of your unneeded possessions and are left with just the things you love and use, it’s simple to decide on a logical system for easy storage and retrieval. These simple systems become automatic to your daily flow and will happily motivate most to maintain their tidy living spaces.
What is at the center of your own approach to having a sensible, positive workspace?
Simplicity. Simple systems, broad filing categories, visual cues, pretty and inspirational mementos, and being very selective of what items I keep.
Can you describe the impact organizing one’s workspace has on productivity? On one’s attitude?
Clutter is distracting. It produces physical and unconscious chaos. Not being able to find what you’re looking for is one of the most frustrating experiences for a lot of people — including me! Clearing clutter and being smart about managing our surroundings is something we can all have control over to vastly improve our day-to-day lives. A clean, organized, streamlined space is freeing. It spurs creativity, it saves time, and is truly inspiring. You feel better and work smarter when you’re proud of your workspace.
What is the transformation process like?
It always gets worse before it gets better, which is a big part of why so many people opt not to start. We’re emptying closets and drawers, clearing our filing systems, going through books, magazines, and mail — most of us have a lot of stuff and my job is to help my clients identify what they want to keep and how to get rid of the rest.
Why do you think having the support of a professional like you might be critical to achieving success in this area?
It’s hard to know where and how to get started, and either the task feels so daunting that it never gets done, or people get used to their clutter and have no idea of how much better life could be. I will get them to where they want to be.
Having a knowledgeable and trusted partner to work through the emotional steps of clearing clutter and getting rid of items you have become used to having around, even though they interfere with productivity and happiness, assures that the task will get done.
There are a lot of decisions to make and I love being the support person who gently but steadily moves folks through these hard decisions and changes. I know what’s ahead for them and it is incredibly rewarding to be helping people move towards a new and much-improved reality. Overwhelm, frustration, and stress eventually change to excitement, clarity, and joy.
What do you think people don’t know about the power of working clutter-free but would benefit from knowing?
Working in a clutter-free space is empowering. Your thoughts, actions, and time are free to focus on the professional and personal goals most important to you.
How have you seen the decluttering process affect people in other areas of their lives?
This is the question that makes me smile the most. I did not anticipate the incredible ripple effect on lifestyle such as, increased energy, enthusiasm, business growth, and everyday healthy changes with diet, exercise, and sleep. This is the most rewarding part of my work and why I love what I do.
How are Procrastination and cluttered lifestyles interrelated? How can we assist Procrastinators to get a move on in this area?
We all have messes and it’s rare that someone will make tackling their clutter a priority. Most of us will procrastinate and until we purge our stuff and learn some simple organizing systems and habits for storing our things, it will always be the dreaded task. I recommend starting by purging all items that you no longer need or love.
Please give us a sense of how you work and the kinds of clients you’d be interested in working with.
I start by listening, asking questions, and listening some more. Learning the biggest frustrations and problem areas for each client and having a clear picture of how they envision their ideal space is the only way to start.
I then compile a custom detailed plan identifying what I hear the priorities being and how we can fix them. My clients must commit to consecutive weekly sessions until the project we’ve defined together is complete.
I give my clients “homework” between visits (the tasks don’t always get done, which is fine), but I like to provide the opportunity for people to work on the projects they can do independently to keep the organizing process affordable.
I respect that everyone has their reasons for keeping certain things and I will never tell anyone what to throw away or donate, but I will give my thoughts on why it might be best to let something go. Once we get going and are in the flow of organizing and seeing results, it becomes very easy for clients to make smart decisions about what to keep.
I only work with people who are ready for a big change and committed to the task at hand. I’ve learned over the years that it’s a waste of everyone’s time if there is resistance or hesitation. Trusting me and the process is the only way to see results.
Important Information on How to Work with Diane
If you’ve been telling yourself for years that you want to get organized but haven’t made any progress due to a busy schedule or not knowing how to start, or are feeling stuck and frustrated by the lost time and stress caused by your piles of clutter and paper, here are five ways I can help you get a fresh start and new outlook:
1. A Consultation. Let’s talk about your biggest areas of frustration and your vision for the ideal organized space. I will compile a custom plan with simple solutions for solving your organizational challenges, including product recommendations and e-mail support. $125
2. Phone Support. A consultation, custom plan, and four consecutive weekly (30 min.) phone calls with homework assignments. $225
3. In-Person Support. A consultation, custom plan, and 10 hours of on-site support, over 3 consecutive weeks. $545
4. Monthly Accountability Support and Upkeep. Fend off the piles by staying current and up-to-date with filing systems and supplies.
5. Coming soon… a Mini-Online Paper Organization Course with tips, simple solutions, and product recommendations for living clutter-free at home.
How to Contact Diane
I’m Diane Elkins. I love being the person behind the scenes supporting fun, busy, talented (but overwhelmed) people find simple solutions to their organizational challenges. I started Positive Workspace in 2011 to share the simple solutions, favorite products, and basic filing systems that helped me enjoy the benefits of a simpler, more organized home and happier days.
I am committed to researching and finding the best products and resources available for you. Read my blog for helpful tips and simple strategies for saying goodbye to your clutter and paper piles. Or contact me to discuss your specific challenges.
Thank you Diane for giving us so many great details about the brave work you do. Best wishes to everyone in your own journey to clutter freedom.