Continuing our series of interviews with professional organizers, today we have Clare Kumar, Certified Executive Coach specializing in organization and productivity.
Please tell us about yourself and your business.
I’ve been a professional organizer and productivity coach since 2005, and became a Certified Executive Coach in 2016. My team and I work with motivated professionals to shift from busy and frustrated, to productive and fulfilled, through being better organized and developing skills to create sustainable personal and professional productivity. We deliver workshops, coaching (in person and virtually) and provide hands-on services.
What are your clients’ biggest challenges?
Client’s challenges often show up in physical and mental overwhelm. My corporate clients complain of days in which they work constantly yet don’t often feel they accomplished something meaningful. Constant interruptions derail focused time during the day and lead to extra evening work.
Physical overwhelm can come from, for example, offices filled with paper (and items that family members have dumped there), messy front hallways with bags and shoes competing for floor space, pantries with plenty of expired items.
Some of these challenges stem from a lack of physical space, lack of organizing knowledge or ability to focus, and even lack of energy, but many come from a lack of process to schedule time effectively to invest it in organizing or restoring order.
In your experience, how does a person’s physical space affect their ability to manage their time effectively?
I would flip this on its head and suggest that it’s the ability to manage time that can affect the ability to manage space. It is true though, that the smaller the space, the more organized the space has to be to make the most use of it, and the more rigorous the person has to be in putting things away and restoring order. But this doesn’t necessarily drive more time.
If a person is not good at managing time, they may not make time to put things away after use, leading to a pile up. Since chaos has a tendency to attract more chaos, this can lead to the overwhelming situation of having three weeks of laundry to put away, for example.
These days when people are so busy, how can they integrate organization into their schedule?
One of the best ways is to make putting things away part of a process. For example, a vacation isn’t over until the luggage is unpacked and back in storage, the clothes are washed and put away. Thinking of tasks and including all the required activities is helpful.
Another example is coaching kids, and maybe even adults on unpacking daily activity bags and backpacks so that papers needing to be signed end up in the right place, lunch containers get washed, sweaty laundry gets to the washer, and no one trips over bags by the front door.
Scheduling a tidy up time on a weekend morning (not evening, when you’re more likely to be tired) to restore order to particular spaces can be very effective. Doing it together as a family builds kids’ skills as well.
What are your top scheduling tips for busy people juggling multiple roles (work, family, education, volunteering, etc.)?
Make sure you regularly audit your time commitments to make sure they still make sense. Don’t continue to do something just because you’ve always done it. Set intentions for the way you use your time. Streamlife offers a LifeTime Management™ Workshop and coaching to help people prioritize and schedule more meaningful activities in their lives.
What are your top recommendations for how people can be more organized?
I’ve created the Four Step P.L.A.N. to Get Organized™ which is a simple way to remember the key steps you must take, in order, to become and stay organized.
The four steps below are critical to achieve an organized space, one that supports what you want to do, and how you want to feel. If any area is neglected, it creates an opportunity for chaos.
For each space, we identify its purpose – both what you want to do there and how you want to feel, aiming for five or fewer activities. Your vision for each space will serve as a guide. It may be a challenge to decide between competing priorities and, if you live with others, competing styles. Discussing your objectives, needs and preferences will help make sure everyone is on board in creating and sustaining an environment in which you can all thrive.
Divesting of possessions that do not support your vision will liberate both your space and your mind. There are several reasons we hang onto things, and for many this is often the hardest part of getting organized. We help by talking through items that you’re not sure about with so you feel comfortable making the right decisions. We start by sorting to know what we’re working with, editing – to distinguish between items to be kept and those to let go, and divesting – getting the unwanted items out of the space.
For each activity in a space, create a zone to house furniture and storage related to what you want to do. Items must be placed so that they are both comfortable to access and are well-preserved. When arranging, pay attention to details about the space, the items you wish to store and your preferences.
Creating order is one thing. Maintaining it is another. We all have different tolerance levels for visual stimulation, so it is important to develop maintenance habits that suit you such as regularly putting away items, editing possessions to create space or reducing shopping trips.