Aug 8, 2022

Sunbound Asks: Karin Fried of Organizational Consulting Services

Nat Miller

This week on Sunbound Asks we sat down with Karin Fried, a professional organizer, member of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD), and owner of Organizational Consulting Services located in De Borgia, Montana. We had an amazing conversation with Karin on a broad range of topics covering her near decade and a half as a professional organizer. Learn more about Karin and her business by checking out her website here, or by reading our interview below.

Q: How long have you been a professional organizer?

A: Probably about 14 years.

Q: How’d you get into professional organizing?

A: I had owned a company back east, but we were planning on moving out west to Montana, so I sold my company and started thinking about what I was going to do once I got there. I happened to stumble across something that said professional organizing was a real job, and I was shocked. A lot of organizers, myself included, started organizing everything in our lives when we were young, whether in our home or for our friends. I was just so blown away and so excited that you could get paid to organize someone’s home or business or life. I started putting everything into place to start a new business, and the day after I sold my other business, I hung out my sign and started organizing. I probably have more fun organizing for clients than they do. I leave their jobs and come home and am so excited that I’ll think “I want to reorganize my own bathroom.” I love when you can step back and say “wow, this looks great, I can find everything.”

Q: What’s your favorite type of project to work on since you started your business?

A: It’s a toss-up between pantries and closets. It’s probably because those two are the biggest issues for most people. For closets it’s because everyone thinks they don’t have enough space, and for pantries, because they’re not organized correctly. If things are folded and put in their proper place, you’ll be able to find things easily which is amazing. And it’s also really fun! Clients are always thrilled when they can finally go into their pantry or closet and find what they’re looking for. 

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

A:  Probably one of the clients I saw in the first few years who was a child psychologist. It wasn’t totally a hoarding case, but it was close. Her house was in a really bad shape. But when we were done after the first half of a day, I sat down to write out the invoice, and she said “I’ve never sat down at my dining room table before.” And it was a real “whoa” moment that she now had a place to sit down and for her kids to eat. It was really great that it was the first time she was able to do that. In general, my favorite memories are watching the client’s expression after you’re done and seeing the look on their face at the transformation where that they can find things and that they’re happy. It’s so different than when you first walk in, it’s really great seeing clients beaming. 

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

A: There’s so many shows out there now that everyone knows all the tips and tricks. But I always tell people to keep it simple. Sometimes when people call you they’re very ready, but they’re sometimes very nervous the first time. I tell them don’t buy anything, and also don’t worry. Some clients will have a bunch of bins and other things they bought to stay organized, and I will tell them that they can start simple with something like Ziploc bags. Clients are sometimes really worried about the expenses and think that they have to buy all these organizing products that they see on TV shows, but they don’t. I always say keep things simple, use what you have, and relax. 

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

A: Always put things away when you’re done with them. Everything’s got a place, and there’s a place for everything. When you take it out, put it back. It’s a really simple habit, but most people are not taught it. They know it logically, but they don’t do it. If you use something, put it back where you found it. Once I was working with a high end client who was a doctor. We actually spent 2 hours going room by room by room giving her ideas, telling her what she could tweak. When we got to her refrigerator, I suggested putting all the condiments together on one shelf to keep everything alike together. She thought that was the biggest breakthrough ever, she called her husband in from outside just to show him. She was a doctor, but this isn’t brain surgery, and she had just never thought about how to keep her home organized. Everyone can learn great organizing habits.

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

A: When I moved out of Missoula I’d go into town and work (or I would go into Idaho, we’re near the border) a lot, but I’ve been teaching more and more virtual classes for people with hoarding issues. I used to do two classes in Missoula, but then when I moved out to De Borgia I started doing virtual classes also. So that has really gone well recently. I even have clients internationally in London and Australia. It’s been really neat being able to work with them virtually. They can walk around their home with their laptops and talk about their issues. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of coaching. What we do is coaching and teaching and transferring skills. It’s been great being able to give people the help that they need without having to be on site and it’s also helpful to do it at anytime, or in shorter or more unique session time frames. It gives clients a lot more options than having to carve up a big chunk of their day. 

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

A: Most people think you can just wake up and be an organizer. I get a lot of queries from people who are interested in organizing, and while it’s very nice, there are years of training both through NAPO and the ICD to become a professional organizer, including a lot of certifications and classes and meetings. I’m usually in 2-3 classes or seminars a week. So there’s a lot of education that goes into it, especially when you’re working with groups who might have particular needs. For example, I have a certification for working with seniors, as well as individuals with ADD and those who have hoarding issues or time management issues. There’s so many different groups of people to work with, so it’s crucial to have an educational framework. We really put a lot of time and effort into having the best information and knowing how to work with people in the best ways because certain groups have different needs. With seniors for example, there might be safety issues (such as carpets that can slip and cause falls), or needing to put things at lower heights due to mobility or strength issues. Working with seniors will be different than working with a family or an individual with ADD, for example. 

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

A: I think I’ve spent my whole life juggling 600 things. But probably teaching about time managing or organization.I really love teaching classes and seminars. So probably that or farming. I have about ten garden beds and working in the garden is very relaxing. So if I wasn’t a professional organizer I bet I’d be playing in the dirt. 

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

A: I’m sure you have the NAPO and ICD websites, but they’re amazing for information on either how to find an organizer, or things like what an organizer does. There’s lots of information through those two groups, and I think they’re the two best sources. 

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