Cleaning Up Fibber McGee's Closet:
An Organizing Pro Comes
to the Aid of the Overwhelmed
When stacks of magazines and papers mushroom across your floor, or your basement or attic overflows with dusty boxes containing who-knows-what, or you get the uneasy feeling that you already own a wet-vac after running to the mall to pick one up—who you gonna call?
Why, Patti DiMiceli of Organizing Made Simple, of course.
DiMiceli, a professional organizer since 2000, has a knack for gently inspiring others to “Live simply, live well.” As she puts it, “We’re all on a “Life Path,” and when we have to keep stopping to move obstacles out of our way, it’s disrupting. I help my clients clear away the clutter that has a stranglehold on their lives so they can get moving again.”
Many of DiMiceli’s clients are feeling pretty desperate when they pick up the phone. “They’ve reached a point where they recognize the need for drastic change. I listen to them and never pass judgment. After all, we live in a consumer-oriented society that makes it all-too-easy to accumulate too much stuff,” DiMiceli notes.
When she visits a home for an initial consultation, DiMiceli’s first order of business is to ask how her clients keep track of their scheduling. If there’s no PDA, Pocket Planner, or Blackberry in their lives, there soon will be. DiMiceli believes that “If you can organize your time, you can organize your life. Get the to-do lists out of your mind and onto paper or in your computer’s memory. It’s much less overwhelming that way.”
She then asks to be shown the disorganized areas in the living space that bother the client the most, and next looks “off the beaten path” for storage—typically in the garage, attic and basement. She studies those areas, taking painstaking measurements and notes on how the client would ideally like to see a particular room used. What are the needs of the household? Is a spouse prickly about having his or her space disturbed? Is there adequate lighting in the room?
The client is then asked to identify a specific trouble spot—a jam-packed cabinet under a bathroom sink, for example. Before DiMiceli leaves, the client and she will have fully “conquered” that location and created order where chaos had reigned. “Toss,” “keep,” and “donate” piles would have been created (it really isn’t so hard to part with the baby vaporizer you last used 25 years ago) and labeled, clear containers commandeered to hold small items. Sometimes simply adding battery-powered lights inside the cabinet can make the far reaches of the space suddenly more accessible.
But the real work begins when DiMiceli goes to her office and translates what she’s gleaned during this initial interview into an “Action Plan.” “A big part of my job is knowing where the client can buy the best organizing products—shelving, containers, slat wall systems—for the least amount of money.” Costco is a favorite source, along with Sam’s, Home Depot, and Ikea. DiMiceli has also tracked down suppliers of top-quality store fixtures that can serve as home storage units and can be had for a relative song. She prepares a written report, providing hyperlinks to various web sites that enable clients not only to visualize their project, but to view a variety of potential storage solutions.
DiMiceli’s happy to pick up the materials herself (she charges only half of her usual hourly rate--$50 for homes, $60 for boats and $70 for businesses--and shops for several clients at a time) or customers can do their own purchasing. She also makes it as easy as possible to part with reusable items: “As a service to my clients I come armed with tax receipts. I load up my SUV with a client’s cast-offs and drop them off at the Lutheran Mission Society shop on West St. On occasion I have big dumpsters sent over, or have PODs parked outside; I also provide leads to appraisers and auction houses.”
Just how did this attractive Annapolitan discover she had a knack for organization? Her hands-on education began at age 26 when. as a divorced, single mom she was hired on as a laborer at a construction site. After a lot of razzing by the men, she gained their respect and mastered the use of power tools. (By the way, that’s a skill she’s happy to share with her clients when they work side-by-side.) In the years that followed, she worked on wooden boats and even lived aboard one for eight years with her family—“an experience that taught me how important every square inch can be!” DiMiceli notes. “I later owned an art studio,” she adds, “and all these experiences have contributed to my business success.”
Although three-quarters of Patti DiMiceli’s time is spent helping individuals and businesses get organized, the remaining quarter of her time is focused on promoting Emergency Preparedness. Not long after her business was launched, September 11, 2001 alerted her to the necessity of having organized supplies at home and thoughtful survival plans established on an individual and community-wide basis. She recognized that her special skills as an organizer could be put to good use by developing action plans before large-scale disasters strike.
As the Outreach Coordinator for the City of Annapolis Office of Emergency Preparedness, and as Community Disaster Education Co-Chair for the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross, DiMiceli has presented numerous workshops and PowerPoint presentations throughout the area. All of this work is done pro bono and arises from her conviction that “You can’t count on the government to rescue you. If you work up a basic action plan and have some critical supplies on hand you will be comfortable, not paralyzed with fear.”
To that end, DiMiceli has made it her mission to distribute widely a one-page Crisis Checklist (a printable online version is available at www.organizingmadesimple.com, or on the City of Annapolis website: www.annapolis.gov) that clearly lists those emergency items that belong in every car, home and workplace. Who knew that freeze-dried food in No. 10 cans can last as long as 25 years? Or that Sterno cans are safest way to heat food indoors?
Wherever you find yourself, and whatever circumstances you may confront, Patti DiMiceli’s convinced that, “When you organize things in your life, you create the momentum to accomplish the tasks that confront you with ease.” She reminds us that “Organizing is a process, not a goal. Just remember to take a little time each day to maintain the systems you set in place.”