Simplify Your Environment: Simplify Your Life (23:01)
Host Brian Leitner welcomes Kristen Christian and Lisa Foley, the owners of Bee Organized, to this week’s podcast. Lisa and Kristen share tips on how being organized can not only help you simplify your life, but also bring peace-of-mind and a calmness to your family or yourself. They offer tips on:
- How to determine if you need more organization in your life
- How to take the first step
- How to be successful in your goal to simplify or de-clutter
- Things to think about if you’re planning on leaving valuables to loved-ones
- Points to ponder if you have a knack for holding on to lots of “things” if you are worried you will lose the memories
Everyone has a relationship with “stuff”. Consider if it’s a healthy relationship, or one that brings you down. Is it bringing you negative energy or positive? Often, people hold on to “stuff” because it represents a time in their life. This podcast addresses the psychological aspect of holding on to “things” and what it can do to your life when you “let go”.
Brian Leitner: Welcome to Your Life, Simplified. My name is Brian Leitner, and I’ll be the host of this podcast. 80% of clutter in your home is due to lack of organization and not having enough space. Think about that for just a second. Getting rid of the clutter in your house would eliminate 40% of the housework that you do. There are a great deal of statistics that lend itself to why being organized improves your life. I have personally met with a great deal of clients, and it seems to me that a fundamental aspect of being successful is being organized. And so, today I’m going to welcome two guests, Kristen Christian and Lisa Foley, and they have an organization called “Bee Organized.” I know a little bit about the practice, and what you guys have told me is really, really interesting, and I think our listeners would really appreciate this. Please introduce yourselves. Tell us a little bit about that business.
Lisa Foley: Well, thank you Brian for having us. I’m Lisa Foley, and here with Kristen Christian. We founded our company in September of 2015 and just did not expect the demand. As you said, so many people just are overwhelmed and burdened by stuff in their homes. And our whole goal is to come out there and help people simplify their lives by simplifying their environment, their homes, their cars, their schedules, so that they can be more in line with their lives on a daily basis, more present and more at peace.
Brian: Most people don’t as a child think, one day I will grow up and I’m going to be X. I’m going to be this organizer. So, how did you fall into this and how did you come up with this concept or idea?
Kristen Christian: Lisa and I grew up together in Denver, and I remember very specifically talking to her on the phone in high school. And there was always a vacuum going in the background. And so, she came from this background, but did either of us grow up saying, “I’m going to be a professional organizer?” No. But as we got married and had kids and were setting up our own homes, together would in tandem organize each other’s spaces, find a good spot for this, that and the other. Simplifying the crazy life of raising kids and busy families. So when both of us were at a point where we needed to financially contribute to our families, we started looking around at a business that we could start. And it was just such a natural fit because this is what we love, helping make life simpler, and we do pretty good at it in our own lives. We thought, let’s go get paid to do so.
Brian: Tell me a little bit about the process? I’ve heard of professional organizers, but candidly I don’t know a great deal about them. What is a starting point look like? When do I even need one? Those sorts of things.
Kristen: Absolutely. Typically, when someone comes to us, they’ve had it, they’re fed up, they’re feeling like they have so many balls in the air, they cannot catch a break and get the right foot forward. What we do is a lot of times just come in and wrap our arms around people and tell them to breathe and give themselves some grace, and we always say the words, “Organization is a journey, not a destination,” and remind them that you know what? It’s taken a long time to get the way you’re living. We’re going to take it step by step, and are with you. We really come to our clients with the compassionate, open, nonjudgment heart. Then we start off with a free, in-home assessment where we come in and take a look at the space. We asked a lot of questions.
Kristen: Typically, we try to fine tune or focus on one area of the house that they’re calling about, like the basement. Oftentimes it comes to be the whole house in that assessment, just because they’ve ripped the Band-Aid off, and they’re showing the spaces so they kind of want to show it all, and then what we can do is help them prioritize. We oftentimes remind them of the visual of there’s a Shel Silverstein poem about a little girl sitting down at the table eating a whale and that you can’t eat a whale in one sitting all by yourself, but in the poem she doesn’t. At the end, she’s this little old lady at a table and bones and we remind people of that because you just got to do it bite by bite, step by step. What we do as Bee Organized, is we come in and roll up our sleeves and do it right alongside with them, with all the resources that we have, the philosophy and remind them of their end goal. We really try to come up with customized, sustainable solutions that work for them, so that they have a chance at success.
Lisa: We always say we want repeat business but just not in the same space. Another benefit of using a professional organizer is it’s an appointment. So, they have to set aside the time to go through the items that, you know, when you have young kids or just depending on the season of life, it’s your parents’ home that you’re going through. It’s very difficult to find a six-hour window of time where you’re not getting squirreled away to go to a soccer game or something. So, that’s a huge benefit of using a professional organizer like us.
Kristen: We talk about an organizational remodel. You’ll pay a lot of money to have a closet remodeled or a back deck put on or your kitchen remodeled to better your life. We’ll look at this as an organizational remodel, bring in help, get it done right the first time and a fair amount of time and in a way that it’ll be able to be maintained.
Brian: That’s a really interesting point. And you think about the fact that we’ll spend X amount of dollars to remodel something. Sometimes things don’t need to be remodeled, right? Maybe they just need to be reorganized.
Kristen: A lot of times when we go in and there’s a basement that you can’t walk through, we clear it out and set up a play space and a yoga spot for mom, they just gained square footage in their house without adding. They just took back space.
Brian: Something else you mentioned, if you said you ripped off the Band-Aid. I’m just thinking emotionally, there’s obviously folks that have hoarding issues. People that have had things for so many years and can’t get rid of it for one reason or another. They’re emotionally tied to it. They don’t like change. Whatever those reasons are. Talk a little bit about the emotional aspect that someone might go through this process.
Lisa: Everyone has relationship with stuff. The question is how is that relationship? Is it a healthy relationship? Does it bring you joy or does it bring you down? So, we’ve kind of identified several different profiles of people and why they hang on to things. It could be just in case. I need to hang on to this, just in case company comes by. Or there’s the memory keeper who hangs on to things that they just cannot part with because it’s as if their memories will disappear if they get rid of the items. So, we have several different profiles that we’ve identified, and by doing so, we can kind of talk that same language with that person when we’re working with them going through their stuff.
Kristen: Yes, but even though if they know and then they can identify what profile they fit in of ours. There is embarrassment.
Kristen: We always say our biggest competition out there is embarrassment, because people don’t want us to come into their deep, dark spaces. We’ve even had a client say she would rather be standing there naked instead of showing us her basement. And it’s sad. We had a client, I was just speaking to the other day, and she said that before we came, when the doorbell rang, she had panic because she didn’t want anyone to see how they were living. And that is sad. We can help them change that. And that’s kind of the mission that we’re on is to help simplify. It doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re not looking for perfection. We’re not looking at perfect Pinterest worthy before and after, but with really simplifying, and a lot of that comes from purging a lot of what you had and like you said, of getting rid of a lot of stuff, we can help them find simplicity.
Brian: It really sounds like almost on the front-end you’re helping people know that it’s okay. Everyone starts somewhere, just to get you over that hump. And then they truly are able to open up and find value in that and live a better life.
Kristen: They absolutely do. And think about what’s in your basement. It’s your past. It’s your history. It’s what you were or wished you’d become. It’s that high school swimmer who was going to go on to the Olympics. So you’ve got all the kickboards and all that. It’s like seriously, you don’t even touch this. And years holding on to law books because you went to law school but you never did anything with the law degree. So really that’s bringing you negative energy. It’s bringing you down. And I’m reminding you what you didn’t do, what you didn’t become.
Brian: You said think about what’s in your basement. I’m thinking about the three years I went to graduate school for taxes, but the books are still down there. There’s probably 15 of them. My wife would love for you to throw them way. The reality is, they’re out of date anyway. But for some reason, and maybe it’s because I spent a whole lot of money on it, they’re still there.
Kristen: So, we call you a memory keeper and a money minder. I remember what I paid on that, and not going to get anything on eBay for right now.
Brian: I agree. They should be thrown out and for some reason they’re still there.
Kristen: Because it represents a time in your life and a direction you were going in there.
Brian: Hopefully there are better memories in my life than going to tax school. One of the other things you mentioned were the resources that you guys bring to the table. Do you mind sharing what some of those are?
Kristen: We work with a lot of people trying to get them to purge and get rid of a lot of their belongings. A side note here, we don’t force anything. It’s always their decision, but we’re kind of there gently nudging. But if we can help them find second lives for their belongings that they feel good about, we have found that people are more likely to let go. We had a client where their parents had passed, but they had a lot of fabulous religious Catholic books. So we’ve found the Catholic church that wanted those books. We have passed along old wedding dresses on to drama clubs and theater organizations. So they feel good about letting go of those pieces. And they know that they’re not just going to go sit in a landfill or sit at a donation site.
Brian: I’m a dad of two kids, married, and my basement’s a mess. How do I know when to engage with professionals like yourself? I mean to your point, when it becomes too much, it depends on what your threshold for pain is. Right? Is there a rule of thumb or things that you’ve seen with people that you brought in already?
Kristen: We see a lot of times people in transition. We work with a lot of people who are downsizing or up-sizing or right-sizing is probably the right terminology to use on that after someone has passed away. So, a lot of those big life events, they have to have us come in, just show the house, or we’ll go in before a remodel of a basement. They can’t have the contractors come in if there’s stuff everywhere. Also just wanting to simplify. We had a client this week where she’s having a huge surgery next week, so we came in to simplify her workspace and her home office so that she could better attend to it while she was recovering. So yes, life changes and life events. Definitely “our mother-in-law’s coming into town.”
Lisa: It’s really different for everybody. We have a client that called us. Her basement wasn’t even all that bad, but it was a huge contention in their marriage.
Lisa: And she said, my husband may really leave me if I don’t get this figured out. And she wrote a note and said, you have really saved my marriage. That is so personal, and it’s so different for everybody. The time the phone rings for us, they’re just so overwhelmed, and they don’t know where to start. But that level of pain is different. We had a client whose mom passed away seven years ago, and she’s had a couple of boxes in her master closet of stuff that came from her mom and not necessarily good feeling stuff. It was almost bad mojo, and she walked past it every single day in her master closet, and she finally just had it.
Brian: Sitting back and listening to this, I can’t help but think about the way people are sort of embarrassed about maybe their health and what that looks like. And so, some of what you’re saying, I was embarrassed to answer the door because I don’t want someone to see my basement. I’d rather them see me naked. So, a nutritionist might come to the house and say, “Show me your pantry. What’s in your closet? What are you eating?” And that’s embarrassment, and it’s all about getting over this hump. There are a lot of analogies to different areas of one’s life as it relates to this and being organized. This is a more difficult question, but if you were to come over, and, let’s just say, improve the look and feel of my basement, you don’t how big that basement is. Just really trying to get an idea of what does an engagement look like duration wise. Is this something that takes a few days? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Kristen: It really depends on the house and the people, how quickly people make decisions and the amount of stuff that we’re looking at. We work with the homeowner, on the beginning of every single project, we take everything apart, they eyeball everything and make a decision about whether they want to keep it, donate it or sell it. And we’ve kind of talked through each and every item in the basement. We make a huge mess, big piles of what’s donated, what’s trash, what’s keep, what maybe needs to go to some other place in your home. And then we’re kind of done with the homeowner at that point. They can go and move on and then we put it all back together and tie it up with the bow. All labeled containers. And so that’s kind of a sudden shift. And the idea is that when we’re done, all of it is done. There’s no homework, there’s no pile of, take this to sister Sue’s house, and take this over to donate. We take care of all those odds and ends with the idea that you’d never have a contractor come in and do your kitchen remodel without finishing putting away the knobs back on. We get it all finished and done.
Brian: What about for that individual who says, “Hey, this sounds good. I’d like to be organized.” Maybe I would have a reason to not want to hire someone, can’t hire someone or so forth. Can you guys give maybe a few thoughts, actionable l ideas on how they can get organized and on their own?
Lisa: I think the first tip is going through the purge process. You really have to look at everything and touch everything. It’s very difficult to organize all of the same stuff. You’ve got to eliminate what you’re not using. It’s the 80/20 rule. We all use 20% of what’s in our home. We wear 20% of what’s in our closet. So just taking the time, setting an appointment for yourself to go through each space at a time, take it in bite-sized pieces and don’t try and tackle, like Kristen said, the whole house or whale at a time. And we like to call that purge process, the power purge. And really if you don’t eliminate things, because the reason everything is unorganized or untidy, it’s because you have too much, and nothing has a home. And so, if everything has a home to go to, then in living and whatnot, it may not be perfect or kids may not put them back the same place, but at least it has a home and then you have a chance of staying organized or getting organized.
Kristen: Just to back up a little bit, we have three very specific questions that we ask people during that purge process. And that is, do you love this item? Does it bring you happiness? Does it make you smile? Okay, then you can keep it. Does it have a specific purpose right now or in the very near future? Okay, keep it. If it’s valuable or irreplaceable or an heirloom or whatnot. Okay, let’s keep it. Maybe that doesn’t mean forever, but we’re going to talk about it. If you say no to any of those questions, why in the world are you keeping this item? Have things that you know feed your soul and help your life be better in your home. Everything else needs to go. So, if you follow those questions, that purging process that Lisa was talking about is so easy. What else, Lisa?
Lisa: Well, just stay on task and see it through. If you’re making a pile of donations, actually take them to be donated or have someone come and pick them up. If we have the pile sitting there and just adding more chaos, you start pulling out of the pile when you didn’t want to have that either. That’s why when you call the Bees, we take it with us that day. So your kids can’t go through it but also maintain when you organize a space you can’t just then forget it and be done. It’s kind of like when you lose weight. You can’t just go back to your old diet, old way of eating. You have to maintain or that weight will creep back on. Same thing. You have to maintain your spaces, but if you get them organized then just a few minutes a week, maybe will help you maintain those spaces.
Lisa: Obviously the biggest words we try to impart upon our clients is organization is a journey. It is not a destination. Give yourself grace and try and make it fun. Have a friend come over, play some music. I mean it does not have to be a horrible task, but it is hard. It’s emotional like we talked about. It is hard going through your things. So, if you have a friend there to hold you accountable or your mom or someone who can just help you through that and help make those decisions, it will go a lot faster and a lot easier.
Kristen: Another tip. If you’re at this stage in life where you’re looking to possibly make a move, downsizing, getting out of the big house, we have a lot of clients who come to us and say, “I need help cleaning out and getting rid of this stuff so my kids don’t have to,” and thinking just long range and a lot of times people get caught in a timeline and so they’ve got to get the house on the market or somebody falls ill and they’ve got to get into assisted living.
Kristen: If you do things now so that you take that pressure stress at the timeline out, then you can take your time finding the right solutions and second homes and whatnot for those pieces. One thing we will say is, your kids are not going to want a lot of that stuff. Your kids, your grandkids, the times have changed. Decor has changed but have those conversations right now. There’s lots of different ways that you can offload that stuff. Maybe even make a penny or two or have it go and know that it served its time in your life. It served its purpose at that season in your life, but now you’re in a different season of life.
Brian: I think that resonates really well, especially with people. My generation, so I’m Gen X, and my parents were given China at a certain age or maybe my in-laws as well. And it’s really that generation, and the reality is, I mean in my family, I don’t need the China. I don’t need those glasses. It’s really just clutter, and it just sits in the basement somewhere. And so, to your point about that may be valuable to them, but at the end of the day, your kids just don’t want that. They moved on, and that it was never important to them. To your point, having the conversations today make a lot of sense.
Kristen: And not keeping out of guilt, right? Somebody is not going to come from the grave and kill you. If you get rid of your Aunt Polly’s China. The garage is the space that we see that the most. If the garage is unorganized, there are 10 hammers 17 rakes.
Brian: Our listeners are all over the country. So obviously they may not be in the Kansas City area. They may listen to this podcast, I’m thinking to myself, “Hey this, maybe this makes sense, but I am in a different state.” Is there something they can do? Can they go online and find someone such as yourselves?
Kristen: We are part of NAPO, which is the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. That is a nationwide organization, so people can go on there and put in their ZIP code and find organizers that are apart of NAPO, which is a nice thing because you know they follow the code of ethics that organizer should. And I know you’re going to get quality people. So that is one way that you can and also Bee Organized as growing. So, we hope to be in other markets throughout the country.
Brian: Those are great tips. I love that format and your organizational structure that you provide. Before we close out the show, we ask this of all of our guests, what is the worst financial decision you’ve ever made?
Kristen: My husband and I fell prey to a timeshare salesperson. The worst financial decision we made, not that I’m bagging timeshares all together, but just for us personally in the way we travel, it was not the best idea. I need those salespeople on my staff. They’re good. They’re really good.
Lisa: My husband and I are newly married, setting up the new house, got into some kind of furniture club that we had to pay a membership fee. We did not buy one piece of furniture from them. There ended up being so many limitations and stuff, and we didn’t have a ton of money just starting out right. Both of us just kicked each other for a year or so. We all make mistakes.
Brian: No, listen, listeners can learn from this and be sharing this. We all have plenty. I really do want to thank you for being here. If people want to learn a little bit more about your organization, it’s www.beeorganized.com. There you have it. I really appreciate having you on the show.
For those of you who are listening, thank you. Thank you for taking the time. I hope you got something out of this, and you can apply some of this to your daily life and experience some of the benefits of being organized, taking your home or office to the next level. If you’re listening to this and have any follow-up questions regarding how to become more organized or wanting to share topics that you’d like to have us discuss on this show, please email your thoughts and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. We know that your time is incredibly valuable, and we hope you find this podcast a worthwhile investment of your time. Thank you for listening.
The views expressed are for commentary purposes only and do not take into account any individual personal, financial, or tax considerations. It is not intended to be personal legal or investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any security or engage in a particular investment strategy.
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