Professional Organizer + Disorganized Friend = Valuable Lessons

First, let me start by saying that, if it weren’t for my friend, Tracy, I probably would not even be a professional organizer, or at least, it would have taken longer to find the profession that is my true calling. Tracy, demonstrating the intuitiveness that I have come to know is her classic style, guided me to the field of professional organizing in 1999. I was living in Michigan at the time and working as a lawyer–the career I trained, studied, and prepared for most of my life, and which has never brought me real satisfaction–and expressed to Tracy that I wanted to do something more creative, hands-on, and that would directly help people. My husband, Sean, whom I also must give credit to for helping guide me to professional organizing, used to tease that what I was really excellent at was planning lives. Indeed, his slogan for my not-yet-created organizing and coaching business was “Montanaro, Inc. – We Plan Lives.”

Tracy was surfing the Web and discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers website, as well as that of the local New York Chapter. She forwarded the link to me by e-mail and basically said, “See, what you do is a ‘real’ profession!” This was news to me. I thought, “People pay to have their lives organized? There are ‘professional organizers’ who do this type of work for a living? Amazing. And awesome!” I then spent a lot of time researching the profession, as well as brainstorming how and when I could “legitimize” my organizing skills by launching a business.

It wasn’t until the year 2000 when I relocated back to New York where my husband and I are originally from, that I seriously explored the organizing world as a profession. I attended a one-day conference sponsored by NAPO-NY, “Putting the ‘Professional’ Into Professional Organizing.” It was there that I learned what is involved in running an organizing business and what sets a professional organizer apart from someone who merely likes to organize. I realized that I have been organizing people’s lives on an “amateur” level my whole life, and that my organizing and coaching skills transcended my work as a lawyer, educator, mediator, administrator, writer, public speaker, and ออแกไนซ์ performer. Becoming more excited at the prospect of launching a business as a professional organizer, I decided to “practice” on Tracy, one of my closest friends.

Tracy and I met through our high school chorus, and were co-stars of our high school musical. Our friendship blossomed over the years through college, graduate school, relocation, and marriage. We always supported each other and considered the other a nice combination of a guardian angel and a tough cookie; hence, our nicknames for each other–Thelma (Tracy) and Louise (Lisa). I had been providing organizing and coaching services for Tracy for years: assisting her with writing letters to creditors, planning her vacations, reviewing her resume and cover letters, preparing her for job interviews, etc. It seemed only natural to start my career as a professional organizer with my number one consistent informal client, my disorganized, but brilliant and wonderful, friend.

Interestingly, some people thought this was not such a great idea. “Don’t mix business with pleasure,” is the old adage. “You don’t want to spoil the friendship if something goes wrong,” people warned. As a lawyer, I often referred friends and family to other lawyers when asked to assist, often because the area of law was one that I did not practice in but, sometimes, because I did not want to mix business with pleasure. Yet, I felt entirely comfortable doing organizing work for Tracy. “Well, she IS one of your best friends, and you had been doing organizing work with her all along,” you may be thinking. This is true, although the work I had been doing for Tracy all along was never part of an official professional endeavor. No, the reason I chose to do organizing work for Tracy was because it just felt natural. Not just natural; more like it was what I was supposed to be doing.

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