Jul 25, 2022

Sunbound Asks: Gayle Goddard of The Clutter Fairy Houston

Manny Cominsky

Today we’re chatting with Gayle Goddard, a Certified Professional Organizer whose business The Clutter Fairy serves the greater Houston, Texas area. We sat down recently withGayle to discuss all things professional organizing, including the ways Gayle likes to keep her own life tidy and organized, and how she made the switch from being an accountant to being a Certified Professional Organizer. Check out our conversation below to learn all about Gayle’s work and to pick up a tip or two for keeping your own life organized. 


Q: How long have you been a professional organizer?

A: I’ve been a professional organizer for 15 years. It was my second career, and I’ve never been sorry that I switched gears.


Q: How’d you get into professional organizing?

A: Time for my origin story! I had to have a surgery in my mid-40s which forced me to take 6 weeks off. I hadn’t had that much time off since I’d been in college, it had been decades since I’d had that much time off in a row. I was getting bored and so I went to see some friends. When I got to their place they had to sweep all this stuff off the couch just for me to have some room to sit. Sitting there I looked out and could see that everything all around me in the room was just a total cluttered disaster. We had a shared bead hobby, so I used this as an opportunity to start helping them get their beads organized over the summer. I distinctly remember that over the course of the summer I was having so much fun, but every time I would look up from the organizing I saw that my friends weren’t having any fun at all! But this was my lightbulb moment – I realized that I love doing this and I’m great at it, but for others it’s a total pain. And so in 2007 I gave my first workshop and started the business. I really love my job and every day is fun for me, so I’m super happy to have made the switch.


Q: What’s your favorite type of project to work on?

A: I love working on craft rooms. I’m a crafty chick, and I have a big dedicated craft area. So I love helping people get control of craft areas by organizing all the materials and supplies, making sure that the room works well, and that they can do their best work in there. But the work I do the most often is helping people who live alone who feel like they’re drowning and need to be dug out. I really love this work as well, as it lets me help people get control over their lives and put a plan in place to stay organized.  


Q: What’s your favorite memory as a professional organizer?

A:  I had a client who had had a long medical history where she had had heart surgery and some other surgeries that required long convalescences, and so also a lot of medical bills. She received so many bills that she had developed a bit of a phobia about dealing with the bills. When she hired me it was to help with general organizing, but even though she hired me to help her organize, she wouldn’t let me touch the mail until about a year and a half in. Then when she did let me touch the mail, she wouldn’t let me touch it without her first taking an anxiety pill. But from there, we were able to create a process of sitting down and going through the mail little by little. One day when I arrived for work she told me “you know if you just open the mail every day, it doesn’t pile up”which was the exact organizing lesson we had been working so hard to master. It was amazing seeing her make the shift from being so anxiety ridden she piled the mail up on the patio to get rid of it, to being able to confidently go through it, and it was such an amazing mental shift to see. I will always remember the moment she said that to me. 


Q: What’s your most unconventional professional organizing tip or trick?

A: I don’t know that I can call myself unconventional, but as opposed to other organizers who may have very particular methods for how they think things should be laid out or presented, I’m generally more laid back with caring less about how it looks and care more about how it works for you. I have less investment than other organizers in exactly how it looks, and way more in how it works for you. If a system makes sense to no one but you, then it makes sense for the person who needs to understand it and that’s what is most important. Customizing the solution to what you actually do in your life is the key to success.


Q: What professional organizing practice do you use most in your own life?

A: I am one of those people that does not keep a lot of excess products around. I’ve found that people who bulk buy a million bathroom products, make up, etc. get into trouble with clutter. That’s why I use up what I have in a room before purchasing new things there (confession time, the one exception is for my one hobby, where I have a million and one beads!). But otherwise, whether I’m in the kitchen or cleaning or in the pantry, I like to maintain stocks as low as possible. I’ve found that this is a successful way to manage clutter that I always preach to my clients. 


Q: What’s your favorite new professional organizer trend?

A: I have been doing a lot of virtual organizing. I’ve found that the pandemic introduced a lot of people to doing things on Zoom, and the end result is that people are way more willing to try and let me coach them through their decluttering via video. What’s amazing about this is that I can talk to people who are far outside of Houston and still provide help. This is particularly important for people who are, for example, moving but are outside my service area and want help planning their move. It’s really nice to be able to help at a conceptual level, working effectively as a remote project manager. I’ve found that now that everyone is Zoom-happy, there’s been a lot more demand for people from long distance or out of state to use my help. I can talk to someone for an hour and create a plan for them, and then after that I can keep pushing them along and keeping them organized remotely, which has been very successful.


Q: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about professional organizing?

A: That it isn’t like the TV shows! People sometimes don’t realize that a professional organizer is there trying to be helpful and to help you make your environment more comfortable. I think people sometimes worry that a professional organizer is going to be someone who is very judgmental because they’re very organized. People might think that professional organizers are going to make people give up things they don’t want to give up, and that they’re going to lose control. But an organizer doesn’t do that at all, we’re just trying to help you figure out what the steps are to figure out how to organize your life, whether it’s creating a clearer space, or a more functional space, or downsizing your home.Whatever the goal is, we’re there to help and be supportive, and do it without judgement. A professional organizer will help walk you through the decision, but you still make the final decision yourself. 


Q: If you weren’t a professional organizer, what else would you be doing?

A: I spent 25 years as an accountant but having not been one for 15 years I don’t think I could go back to it. So maybe I would be doing something creative because I have so much fun being creative. I really love the service aspect of professional organizing, working with people and supporting people who need guidance or physical support, and I really get a lot of reward out of that. So it would be something service oriented. 


Q: What professional organizing resources would you suggest for our readers?

A: Well my YouTube channel is always great! In addition, I always tell other professional organizers that NAPO is an amazing resource. It has not only helped me so much with my business, but it also keeps me in contact with other organizers and provides countless resources. NAPO is incredibly helpful and keeps me evolving as an organizer. And even if you aren’t a professional organizer and just want some help organizing your life, you can find some great blogs written by professional organizers on NAPO. One organization that I would want to call out in particular is Additude Magazine, which is an amazing organization that focuses on ADD in adults and children, and has a lot of great resources including an online magazine and all sorts of great additional materials. For many people with ADHD, organizing can be a struggle, and Additude Magazine has a ton of amazing resources that can help out.   

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