Spring Cleaning to TidyWild, Part 1
Updated: May 22
The Birth and Transformation Home Organizing Business
I didn't plan to become a home organizer.
I would've called you crazy if you had told me ten years ago that one day I'd be perfectly happy spending hours in one room, digging through piles, helping people part with their panties and coaching them on finding happiness beneath their clutter.
Ten years ago I was an avid outdoor-woman and environmental educator. I worked more than full time as the program director for an outdoor company and had my hands more than full.
I hired 20+ people each summer, taught people of all ages to kayak, managed summer camps with mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking and stand up paddleboarding, created, marketed, managed and lead kayak trips for up to 90 people at a time, and regularly lifted 75 pound kayaks over my head.
I was also working myself to the bone in a very male-driven industry and spending every single sunny day in the Pacific Northwest helping other people have a really good time while spending all my own good times texting, calling and managing all those people, programs and pieces of equipment.
I was exhausted. I got thumb aches from all the texting. I lived and breathed outdoor programs but rarely went to play outdoors just for fun and freedom, which is saying a lot considering nature is my church!
One day while laying in a hammock with my to-be husband, I started crying when he asked how I was doing. A couple days before he'd seen me in full action after a 12 hour day in which I'd managed all the things and people while paddling 17 miles. The next day I had paddled another 17 miles, and towed a woman in her kayak for the last 2 miles against the tide.
He said, "I don't think this is sustainable." I knew he was right.
It took me until winter and a few more male-dominated debacles before I quit.
I had no idea what I was going to do next, but I knew it was the right thing to do for my health, life and mind.
I walked away from what had been my dream job and all the meaning it brought to my life. I no longer had a title, a badass job, a daily outdoor workout, a gajillion and one things to do.
I tucked myself away in a house in the woods and hardly talked to anyone for awhile. I told myself things would work themselves out before I ran out of money.
I did a cleanse. I started writing a book. I stuck a giant piece of butcher paper on the wall and wrote every single idea that came to my head about what I might want to do. I promised myself I wouldn't judge myself for anything I wrote.
I wish I still had the paper so I could remember it all, but I know it included nurse, writer, teacher, biologist, artist, private outdoor guide...
Home organizing wasn't even a blip of my imagination. I didn't even know it was a job.
Eventually one corner of that butcher paper started filling out: women's trips. All kinds of lists and ideas bubbled out of that corner.
I wanted to be surrounded by women. I wanted to help women live badass lives. I wanted to help women feel confident to pursue their dreams.
I wanted to be happy in my job. I wanted to help others be happy.
But I also needed money.
The idea of Spring Cleaning had come to me at age 19 when I cleaned houses to help pay for college and housing. I'd thought, "If ever get hard up, I'll start a business called Spring Cleaning," then I'd tucked that thought far, far away.
Well, I was about to be hard up, so I made a poster and posted it at the local post office and the gas station down the road.
I secretly hoped no one would call.
But I got the first call two days later...it was my neighbor at the top of my driveway!
So I had my first job and it was the easiest commute ever...
And I realized in the first session that I loved helping women, but I hated cleaning.
Since that was my only plan at the time, though, and I was too burned out to figure anything else out, I went with it.
Very soon I began helping friends not only clean, but clear their closets and cupboards, drawers and desks.
And I found I had a knack for it. While they were nervous and unclear about how to clear their things, I found that the bigger the mess, the more excited I'd get. It was like a life-sized 10,000 piece puzzle (I LOVE puzzles).
I chose not to question it and just let myself enjoy the strange ride I was on.
Friends started telling friends, who told their Moms, who told their sisters, who told their bosses, and Spring Cleaning Home was off and running.
I eventually made it official, got my business license for Spring Cleaning Home Organization, created an intake form and figured out how to create a website.
I loved it, but bumbled along for a couple years, unsure what I was doing and occasionally felt deeply jolted about this leap from program leader to pantie drawers.
People started asking me if I'd heard of this Japanese lady named Marie Kondo. They'd read her book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and said it was fabulous, life changing, amazing. After about the 10th person mentioned it, I decided to check it out.
But I'd have to wait a long time to check it out from the library! There were over 100 holds at the local library (seriously), so I bought a copy.
About 10 pages in, I looked up at my counter, which until then had seemed perfectly fine, and realized I was going to completely reorganize my entire house.
Now, I'd gone through a LOT to get my house to where it was - I'll tell that story another time, but I'll just say I had fully experienced the overwhelm and shame, frustration and "I can't do this" my clients experienced...
But reorganize I did.
And eventually I found myself in a completely different home - one that still brings me immense joy on a daily basis.
The basic philosophy and techniques in the book were so simple, but so transformative!
Imagine your ideal life
Surround yourself with things that bring you joy
Let go of things that don't make you happy or you don't use
Make a decision about every item in the house
Organize by category
Organize things perfectly just once
The philosophy and experience totally revolutionized my work, home and relationship. And they made decluttering and organizing with clients so much easier and more efficient!
I loved the philosophy so much I flew to New York City by myself - my first and only time there - to train with Marie Kondo herself.
And what came next is for Part 2 of the Spring Cleaning to TidyWild story...
Photo by Don Willott
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