Aug 19, 2022

Sunbound Asks: Professional Organizer Jennifer Lava

Nat Miller

This week on Sunbound Asks we sat down with Jennifer Lava, a professional organizer, NAPO member, and family historian who lives in Austin, Texas. We had a great time welcoming Jennifer to the blog, covering topics like how she got into professional organizing, why she loves helping people unpack at their new homes, and how her work as a family historian intertwines with her work as a professional organizer. To learn more about Jennifer Lava and her business check out her website here, or read our interview below.

Q: How long have you been a professional organizer?

A: In September I will mark my 16th year of business. 

Q: How’d you get into professional organizing?

A: It was one of those things where I was always a very organized person. In all of my previous positions my other duties as assigned were often organizing-related assignments, and as I continued with my career doing a number of different things, I realized that I was sort of tired of working for other people and that it wasn’t going the way I would have liked to work. I looked into organizing as a profession, found NAPO, and realized that professional organizing was a real thing and brought real work. So I made the leap. 

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

A: I love all kinds of projects, I really just like organizing, so it’s hard to say one type. I do like organizing with creative people. I would say that’s my niche - working with people who are a little more left brain than right brain. Helping them with the way they think and get organized is a fun challenge and I really enjoy trying, whether it’s helping them to organize their creative space or their non-creative spaces (where sometimes it’s a little harder for creative people to stay organized). It’s fun working with people and seeing how their creative minds think while they are still trying to stay organized.


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

A: One of the ones I think of the most is a client who I helped unpack her new home. I had gotten most of her kitchen unpacked on the first day, and just the look of relief on her face and the tears that came to her eyes at the thought of getting to be able to cook in her kitchen right away and sleep in her bed right away. It really looked like true relief and happiness on her face. Being able to help someone so much really feels amazing. Getting settled in your new home is just such a good feeling, particularly when you can have someone help get all the hard stuff out of the way. And she was this happy after just the first day! She still knew we had more work to do, but was just so relieved by everything we accomplished on that first day.


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

A: I’m not sure how unconventional it is, but I really do encourage people to use what they have. So much of the world is telling people to go buy things to be organized, but so many people already have things if they look around. When I work with clients and we’re sorting through their things, which is the biggest thing we do, I have them set aside all the bins and dividers and containers that we’ve been emptying. When we go to put things back we “shop” their house, and only “buy”those containers they already had and are now empty. Often you don’t need to shop outside of the home because all the containers you need are already there. I always encourage my clients to help me help them think about how they can use things they already have. Buying things before you start organizing is putting the cart before the horse, the main problem is usually that we already have too much stuff. 


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

A: I think what we were just talking about. I don’t have to frequently declutter because I have a process for letting things go. If I’m ready to get rid of something – whether it’s because I’m not using it or I don’t like it, whatever the criteria is – I make sure to get rid of it. I always keep out a box of things I want to donate, and when the box is full, I donate it. I have a system for always filtering things out. I don’t think garage sales are the best idea, but I could never have one anyway because I never have things sitting around. I always make sure to get things out.


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

A: I think virtual organizing really is the best new trend. It’s a great way for the client to get help in short bursts, while still being held accountable. My typical organizing session for an in-person client is 3 hours, plus I often have to drive across town and all those other things. But I’ve found that even just doing an hour to an hour and a half with a client virtually - and then a couple follow-up visits once a week or twice a week – will help the client stay accountable. They can get more done, it’s a lot easier on them, and it’s also more affordable. Another great benefit is that virtual organizing means that professional organizers can service more people in more places that need help where there just aren’t organizers. Between clients I’ve worked with and talking to other professional organizers, people have found that accountability is much higher and that they’re getting more done with virtual organizing. Everyone has a better experience. 


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

A: That we’re not there to make you get rid of all your stuff. And also that it takes time. It’s not an instant thing. We can’t instantly fix your problems. We really want to, but there’s no quick fix to being organized. But it’s also not so bad! My clients and I become very friendly. I certainly see parts of their lives they’re nervous about, but we end up having a nice time together. Professional organizers are very nice people! Trust me, I know a lot and we’re all very nice!


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

A: That’s so hard to imagine because I’ve been an organized person and in all the other work I’ve done, organizing became a part of what I was doing. One of the things that I’ve added to my organizing is doing family history research and preservation with my clients. My degree was in history, so I think coming back around to this aspect would be the other thing I would want to be doing. I really like history, I was going to be a history teacher and it just didn’t work out, so being a family historian or genealogist would be something else I would love to do.


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

A: I’m going to be a NAPO person here, but I would say that the NAPO Stand Out Podcast series is a really good resource for people to learn a lot of different things about organizing. There are some really good tips there, and it’s probably my favorite source for information. 


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