The job of a professional organizer may seem superficial, associated with drawer containers and label makers, but it has spiritual implications, said Sarah Cronin, owner of Simply Inspired Home Organizing. The 40-year-old mother of four, a member of Church Mother Mary in Burnsville, brings many talents to each client’s home — and a ready helping of compassion.
Q) What makes the New Year a good time to get organized?
A) New beginnings feel so good. We have struggled through the last month and a half of stress and turmoil over the holidays. We are ready.
Q) Do you have an increase in your business at this time of year?
Q) Why is organization important?
A) When people are frustrated, it’s because there’s a disconnect between their current reality and what they hope for. Organization is a tool to help bridge this gap. It’s also often a shift in mindset – fine-tuning expectations and using an organizational process to meet between reality and hopes.
Q) Is the organization of things related to the organization of one’s life?
A) Our things help us do what we want to do – go out, cook a meal – or get in the way. Having a base where things live helps reduce that friction in our day-to-day tasks. If your kitchen utensil drawer keeps getting stuck because the potato masher won’t fit and every time you try to cook you curse that drawer, it’s not a peaceful meal.
Q) Do you see any parallels with the spiritual life?
A) It comes down to simplicity. For our spiritual life, if we are distracted by all those bells and whistles demanding our attention, it distracts us from our essence and who we are. It’s the same with the organization: we want to remove the excess, the clutter.
Q) Deciding what to purge is not easy.
A) Starting with what I call an “inspired goal” helps. What do you hope this space achieves? Does it help us achieve this goal? Another useful question is: do I have something else that I use instead? Kitchen gadgets are the worst for that! We don’t need 10 single-use tools when we have one multi-purpose tool. Everyone has their own level of comfort with the amount of stuff around them. I’ve never met a couple who’s like, “Oh yeah, we totally agree on all of these things.” Often people want to make huge changes: “My goal is to get rid of 80% of these things.” Holy smokes, it’s emotionally draining! I prefer to load two bags of groceries per month.
Q) What helps people separate from things?
A) Take care of your mindset. Do you come from a scarcity mindset? Are you worried that you won’t have enough to dress your children? And then realize it’s a privilege – you’ve had enough! — and flip that switch to pass some on to those who can use it.
When we were having kids and didn’t know if we would have another one, I knew if I was going to get rid of it and need it again, I could post a message on Facebook and get it dropped 10 friends. a bag of 2T boys clothes. Ask yourself: if I needed this, could I get it easily? Most of the time the answer is yes.
Q) A person can be buried under a child’s clothes!
A) Keeping all the stuff maybe is a problem. My daughters loved the leggings. They weren’t going to wear jeans or those thick corduroys. This was not going to happen!
We have friends who are still going to bring us clothes for my daughters. I say, “Yes, I’ll take it, but on the understanding that I’ll pass on whatever we don’t need.” I could just keep two things. Maybe I don’t even show my daughters.
Q) Ditch the “maybe stuff”. Embrace your life today. That’s it …!
A) Exactly! You don’t want to open your closet and see pants that don’t fit. It’s tricky for moms. These pants are maybe five years old now. It’s probably time to let them go. I can buy new ones if I get to this size again. It’s accommodating: I don’t have to be a certain height to be dignified – and yes, I don’t need those things right now. They can go elsewhere.
Many people have been guilty or ashamed of their clutter and they have a voice in their head, so I work hard to be a positive, supportive voice that manages to counter whatever should. We blame ourselves.
There are many things that look pretty but have no practical function. Can you slide it in and out easily? Will it work on a daily basis? Most people think clutter is the result of failure, and it’s like “Oh no, that’s an awful drawer!”
Q) You are often asked how long it takes to get everything organized in a house.
A) It’s constant. You must continue to focus your attention on the current need. We just have to be good enough to meet our needs for this season. Perfection is not the goal. It is to better love our people.
Q) Does this job make you think about prioritizing what is good for your soul?
A) Absolutely – both in terms of my own faith and in terms of family ties, relationships and harmony. It’s important to me to love my husband and not blame me for socks on the floor. It’s a process of letting go of certain things and communicating what’s important to each other so that our relationship doesn’t get messed up. Same thing with my children: if I constantly harass them, it’s not the mother I want to be. It’s about protecting and fostering relationships, because our stuff has so much potential for arguments or resentment. We are often sucked into it.
One mother told me, “I think I do 90% of the screaming at our kids in the hallway. So we spent some time tweaking the entryway and taking the decorative thing off and putting in a functional piece. She said to me later, “Oh my God, I haven’t yelled at my kids in two weeks!”
Q) When I hear that all those storage units are full, I imagine what our great-grandparents would think. It’s a strange modern problem. Do you help some customers tackle unopened Amazon boxes?
A) Yes and things they intended to return and didn’t. The amount of physical and mental energy that can suck – you feel so guilty about what you wanted to do and what you didn’t do, and every time you look at this you think, “Oh my God, I feel so bad about the $80 I lost!”
Q) What do you like about being Catholic?
A) Opportunities for redemption – reconciliation, recognizing that there is an inherent lack of perfection in who we are. The fact that we have such a concrete way to receive forgiveness and move on is very powerful. It affirms what we need as human beings – grace and forgiveness, eliminating shame, reframing that.
Q) So you are a Catholic organizer!
A) I think so.
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