Professional organizer, Kristin Bertilson, knows how hard it is to get organized. Anyone who’s ever tried to straighten up their own desk or file cabinet understands – each scrap of paper is a decision that you can’t take lightly. Sure, it’s a mystery now, but you definitely had a good reason for holding onto that scrap of paper. The fact that it’s dated for 2002 is irrelevant.
“Every single piece of paper is a decision,” says Bertilson, who owns Corvallis-based Queen B Organizing. “Yes or no, yes or no – it’s exhausting!”
Organization, she says, is a skill many of us were never taught and now feel ashamed to not already know. That’s where Bertilson and her team of organizers come in. For her, professional organizing is less about helping clients find the perfect containers, and more about helping them make difficult decisions.
“Most of our things are all about memories,” Bertilson says. “Like the china from your great grandma that you never use, but can’t get rid of.”
In her experience, clothes and books are hardest for customers to part with. Clothes remind us of our past, says Bertilson – it’s the size I used to be, or the dress I wore on my first date with my husband – while books indicate that a person is educated and successful enough to relax and read.
Having another person to help with these decisions can make the de-cluttering process easier. Bertilson recalls going through her childhood things with a friend’s help, “it was a lot easier to let things go when I shared the story one last time,” she says.
In other cases, organizers try to figure out alternate solutions. Maybe they create a photo album of their kids’ artwork rather than keep all of the crumbling pages, or make a quilt out of old shirts. But always, the client makes the decisions.
“We’re not strict, and there’s no judgment,” Bertilson says.
Bertilson, who started her professional organizing business in 2010, knows how vulnerable it can feel to invite another person into your space. That means divorce paperwork, moldy boxes in the basement crawl space, and the ever-embarrassing junk drawer. To make a client comfortable, she believes an organizer has to ask the right questions, and more importantly, listen carefully to the answers.
“We’re in your stuff,” she admits, “it’s not just about the space, it’s also about each body reaction. We do not tell you what to get rid of. We ask questions. ‘What do you use it for?’ ‘Will you use it within a year?’ ‘If not, could you buy it again easily if you needed it?’”
Bertilson started Queen B Organizing out of a bedroom in her parents’ house. Her parents encouraged her to start after she meticulously organized 50 years of photographs for her mother. Her dad found the National Association of Professional Organizers online, and had soon bought her a ticket to their annual conference.
“They saw in me a skill that I didn’t,” she explains. “I can walk into a room and see a space put away.”
The first day of the conference was about how to start an organizing business, and Bertilson realized her parents were right. That night, her business name came to her in a dream. The next morning, she printed cards at the conference hotel front desk to hand out.
Since then, Bertilson has hired 17 employees and has worked with clients as young as five. Along the way, she started running estate sales, and she now runs 60 each year. She also project manages moves and does just about any other organizational project you can think up.
When we met, she was preparing for a gift-wrapping demonstration, and the next day, she would help two clients decorate Christmas trees and wrap presents. Bertilson moved into an office on Walnut and 9th two years ago, though she’s always looking for more opportunities to expand.
“I come from a family where you take chances. There was no right or wrong decision, there’s just a decision.”
Failure, she says, is not something she worries about. “We’ve always been brought up to be strong.”
For more information about Queen B Organizing, visit www.queenborganizing.com. Typical home organization .
By Maggie Anderson