BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Getting organized is a goal many of us share, but getting there isn’t necessarily easy.
Having a home or workspace where everything functions efficiently can take some knowhow, not to mention time and effort – but it is possible, and according to Psychology Today, it’s also worth it. A 2018 article by Dr. Alice Boyes says that decluttering creates a sense of confidence and can be energizing while reducing anxiety and alleviating family tension.
That is where professional organizers Linda Schellen-trager and Sharon Trabbic come in. With their business, Sustainable Organizing Services, the two local sisters have helped a variety of people get their homes, their offices and ultimately their lives in order.
“We are both energized by this kind of work,” said Linda. “I’ve done it as a hobby for friends and family for years. I had to downsize myself, and I just love everything about getting organized.”
People preparing for big life events such as downsizing or moving, creating home offices, managing household documents or preparing for the arrival of a baby have used their services. Their clients are also busy parents, single career-focused individuals who don’t have time or desire to do the work themselves and retirees looking to save their children the work later.
“We can help people unpack items and get organized in their new space and also help individuals who are going through a lifetime of items collected,” Linda said.
The women can even help to set up a Zoom area, dedicated to Zoom video meetings with a perfect backdrop and lighting.
“There is an art to it,” Linda explained. “It helps to have your computer raised up a certain way with the right light shining on your face.”
Melissa Portala, of Toledo, hired the pair to help reorganize her kitchen for more functional living.
“They had a complete plan and they really did a lot more than I thought they were going to do. The whole experience was amazing and like therapy,” she said.
The women transformed a bookshelf into an extra food pantry, recommended extra cabinet shelving units to maximize space, implemented new bins for the refrigerator and added window seating with storage in a breakfast nook.
“I have a very small kitchen and they helped me use the space effectively,” Melissa said. “It feels so good now to walk into the kitchen and know that I have complete freedom to be creative with what I am going to cook.”
They also helped Melissa reconfigure her basement by using half as a kitchen extension and storage area and the other half as a yoga room.
“The chemistry between the sisters is the secret sauce to their approach and they really are experts at organizing. Also, they are very down-to-earth and kind,” Melissa said.
When it comes to getting organized, Linda and Sharon say that hanging on to things for the wrong reasons is a common situation when decluttering. For example, keeping an item because of its value is a frequent reason given for holding on.
“People generally have way too much stuff for their space because it can be difficult to part with items that were expensive or hold special meaning,” Sharon said. “We’ve had several clients who have large amounts of inherited items to be sorted.”
For closet reorganization, one approach is to take everything out of the space and start over and to look your wardrobe with a fresh eye, Linda said.
“We generally recommend that if you haven’t worn it in a year, you might not wear it again, but 2020 was an unusual year, so that advice may be a bit too aggressive in 2021,” she noted.
The sisters also recommend donating any work clothes that are the least bit uncomfortable, have a bad vibe, don’t fit, are out of style or just the wrong color for you.
“Sometimes, clothes purging takes two rounds,” said Sharon. “Another good strategy is that when you bring in a new piece of clothing, donate an old one.”
Some people try to get organized, but they don’t know how to start or they purchase the wrong storage items to do it.
“Their heart is in the right place, but they can become overwhelmed. We encourage our clients to consider what is important and what makes sense for the space,” said Sharon.
Some tips for getting organized are to buy clear, sturdy storage containers with straight sides that stack easily. It is also very important to measure a drawer, closet or shelf before buying any type of storage container.
The ladies also recommend having a place for everything.
“It sounds simple enough, but it can be the key to it all. If a random button shows up, you know exactly where it belongs, so no throwing it into a miscellaneous drawer anymore,” said Linda.
Paperwork can be one of the biggest challenges to any home or office when it comes to organizing and decluttering.
At home, most paperwork lands in the kitchen – on the island, table or counter. Getting it immediately sorted and thrown into either the recycling bin or wastebasket prevents it from piling up.
Shredders are handy for unneeded papers such as documents that can easily be accessed online, including bank statements, credit card statements and some utility statements.
A binder that is dedicated to all important life documents, such as a living will, social security cards, birth certificates and more, is also recommended.
The sister team decided to join forces after spending decades in the business world honing their organizational skills. Linda has served as a communication manager, a creative director and a production manager for various businesses, and Sharon retired last summer from William Vaughan Company, where she served as chief operating officer. She also completed terms as president of the Rotary Club of Maumee and as chair of the CPA Firm Management Association.
Last summer, the women completed courses to become professional organizers, each now holding a PO certification, and in October they launched Sustainable Organizing Services.
“We really fell in love with the word sustainable because it has two distinct meanings that work well,” said Linda.
They are committed to finding sustainable solutions that are good for the planet and their goal is to come up with sustainable ideas and solutions for clients to maintain.
Having an organized, decluttered space brings peace of mind, happiness and a feeling of accomplishment, said Sharon.
“People are so grateful and so appreciative of what we do for them,” she said. “We help our clients feel so much better about their lives, and it makes us feel so good to do that.”
For information, please visit the company’s website at www.sustainableorganizingservices.com.
Prices vary depending on the project, and an initial consultation fee applies to the project cost. Flat rates are also available for some projects.