After 40-plus years keeping offices humming along as an administrative and executive assistant, Kathy Stiles is now putting her organizing superpower to work as a Liberator at Major Organizers.
Q: You spent your career working in offices around the country and traveling with your husband to do Christian ministry work. What prompted you to take the plunge and get into professional organizing?
A: I decided to reinvent myself a few years ago and began working as a nanny/house manager. I would do organizing projects on occasion. I quickly realized that when organizing I only checked my watch to be sure I wasn’t running out of time — as opposed to wanting the job to be done — because I enjoyed it so much. A client showed me her overflowing pantry and suggested I work on it while their daughter was taking a nap. I felt like a racehorse waiting to be let out of the gate! I was referred to Major Organizers by a couple of my clients, and the rest is history.
Q: What is the most challenging part about organizing your own home?
A: Living with a husband who says he has no left brain. 🙂
Q: What organizing approach have you found that works for you both?
A: We have a mail station at our entry next to the kitchen where we keep incoming mail, receipts, pens, sticky pad, keys and a wall calendar. My desk is close by, where I have folders for the mail to be sorted into (to pay/to do/to file). I have a large dry erase board next to my desk that shows my weekly schedule since it varies a lot. My husband is usually good at putting the mail and receipts where they belong, and he’s great at looking at my schedule!
Q: What are some of your favorite organizing products to use, whether in your own home or in a client’s?
A: I love the lazy Susan turntables for kitchen cabinets and pantries, especially the two-tiered ones. I also like the spice racks with adjustable shelves—these maximize small spaces well, allowing one to see every item easily.
Q: What are some of your favorite organizing tips, whether you figured them out yourself or learned about them from a client?
A: Something I figured out for myself to maximize the use of a walk-in closet is to put everything I wear in the closet instead of using a dresser. It’s much more convenient. I use a hanging four-shelf unit for shirts, sweaters, pants and pajamas, as well as various-sized fabric baskets, for panties, bras, socks, tights and undershirts.
Q: What would you tell a client nervous about hiring a professional organizer for the first time?
A: I’d find out what makes them nervous and go from there. Many times it’s that they’re embarrassed for anyone to see their mess. In this case, I’d reassure them that it can be daunting trying to figure out how to manage our stuff, that every human being has the same challenge and that some of us just need extra help in this category. I also reassure them that we are great listeners and that we are not judgmental! I suggest that they schedule an in-home estimate and let them know there will be no pressure regarding hiring us.
Q: Can you share a story of a time you made a major impact on a client’s life?
A: I was on a team job helping a client get her childhood home ready to put on the market in the summer. Her father was deceased and her mother lives in a nursing home.
Mom was an avid clothes shopper and hadn’t gotten rid of business clothing from the 1980s, much less anything newer. Dozens of clothing items still had the price tags on them. Even after 15 bags were filled with donations, there was enough clothing to fill a boutique. The client had me hang them on seven clothing racks in the large living room and sort them into types and colors.
Then once we were gone, Mom came over and went shopping. She picked out all the clothes that she wanted to keep, and on my next visit I put them in several closets in the home (to be dealt with later). Our client was relieved that Mom didn’t notice what was missing and that everything was so organized that she was able to easily maneuver through the “boutique” in her wheelchair and make choices. Our client was thrilled with the outcome.
Q: It’s times like these that fill you with joy as a Liberator. What are some other rewarding parts about being a Liberator?
A: What I most love are two things. First, I love connecting with clients and hearing what they have to say about their situation and needs. We also get to connect with each other, and I learn in a few minutes what personality type I’m working with and how to bond with them. It’s crucial.
Second, I love to see the smile of relief and satisfaction once the job is done. It’s very satisfying and exhilarating as a Liberator!