Two-fer! Reinventing Myself Again: Part Two + Week 16: Houses

As promised, there's more to the story of running, ruminating about, and refining HandyGal the Organizer. Here's the recap from Reinventing Myself Again: Part One: The Task: Prepare a four-minute presentation to inform a group of sympathetic professionals about my organizing business, so that they can use this information to refer potential clients to me.

The Challenge: Articulating my business goals coherently, when they have historically been overly broad, multi-faceted, ill-defined, and constantly mutating.

Exhibit A: In the three-and-a-half years that HandyGal has been around, I've changed my business card and logo more than five times.

(That's the upside and the downside of being a creative businessperson: I care a lot about how I present myself graphically, I now like doing it myself, and ... I keep getting new ideas.)

Exhibit B: My website ( lays out the organizing and the creative sides of my biz, but the art side dominates. It's so much more photogenic! I take dozens of photos each week of the murals I'm creating with kids and the things I'm making in my studio. I'm hesitant to photograph my organizing clients' messes, because there's self-consciousness and sometimes shame there.

Organizing someone's house just doesn't lend itself to a great set of photos...

Or does it?

I started a new mosaic project last weekend. (Here comes the Color-a-Week installment... Houses!)

You might recognize it. It's a tile version of the pencil drawing in the banner of my blog. I've been playing around with this logo design for several months, but it only occurred to me recently how unifying it can be for both sides of my biz. And appropriately ironic, I suppose, since this particular version is made up of many pieces, like the puzzle that is HandyGal.

While putting these tile pieces together in my studio, I took a mental inventory of my other artwork. And, Duh! Guess what features prominently in almost every painting or collage I've created in the past 10 years?


So prominently, that houses have become my totem, you could say. They are how I represent myself visually. In self-portraits, I am a house.

"My home is my castle" doesn't even begin to describe the relationship I have with my own living space. When I first moved into this house, I used to greet it when I walked in the door, out loud:

"Hello, sweet house!" I was so happy to be here, and got a little lift each time I entered.

I was telling someone about this shortly after I'd moved in, and she was incredulous. "Really?? Every time I walk into my house, I feel weighted down by all these bad memories..." She told me about the sour relationship she'd had with her mother, and how the furniture she was now surrounded by (her mother's) was a continual reminder... Wow. It doesn't have to be that way!

Back on Task

Now, back to BNI, the networking group to which I'll be giving the four-minute presentation. The idea is you get to know the other professionals in the group well enough to: a) hopefully like them, b) understand what they do, and c) feel confident referring business to them. We are encouraged to meet one-on-one with (eventually) each member of the group in order to develop this familiarity. I had two such meetings last week.

So, what does an organizer actually do, you ask?

In describing my work, I heard myself talking about how rewarding it is to help people—my organizing clients—out of their stuck-ness. The working relationship becomes extremely intimate. After all, I'm going piece by piece through their stuff with them.

I assess the scope and the priorities of the task at hand.

I listen for what's important.

I figure out where to begin.

I hear the stories.

I ask some guiding questions.

I keep things moving along.

I make suggestions.

I hear more stories.

I make more suggestion based on the stories.

I see their psychological burdens gradually, but almost visually, being lifted from their shoulders as their physical stuff gets dealt with. They start to get a little more bounce in their step.

All along the way...

  • I'm lifting and moving lots of stuff, including furniture, usually by myself. That's where my martial arts training comes in handy! I have a strong back, good balance, and I'm agile.
  • I'm looking for new ways to make use of their existing shelves, baskets, closets, rooms, and open spaces. That's where being a reuse artist comes in handy! I have a creative eye.
  • I'm listening for what bothers them the most, and what would provide the greatest relief. That's where being a mom comes in handy! And remember how I want to be all-things-to-all-people?
  • I'm dividing the Big Plan into small, manageable chunks in order to keep making progress. That's where being a kindergarten teacher comes in handy!
  • I'm empathizing with their predicament, but not judging. That's where being a divorcee comes in handy, because there are few things more humbling than admitting defeat in marriage.

I'm not afraid of the daunting assignments.

Remember from Part One how I don't gravitate toward the easy road? It's no surprise then, that my favorite organizing jobs have been the most "difficult" ones. I use quotation marks there because those jobs feel very difficult to the client and look daunting to any bystander, but to me they're just going to take a little longer, that's all.

Give me the living room that's stacked higher than your head with boxes and assorted furniture inherited from a recently deceased mother!

Send me to the home of your grandmother who's preparing to move out of the house in which she's accumulated a half-century's worth of stuff!

If there's family tension, angst, frustration, impending breakups, resentment, that's ok. I've been told I have a calming presence.

If you can't even fathom where to begin dealing with your enormous mess, then that's a good job for me. That's where I can be of the best use.

True, I can also tweak someone's already fairly-organized home office into better shape with a 2-hour tune-up, but I suspect any ole' organizer could do thatI thrive on the big, sticky challenges.

It might be apparent by now that for me,

Organizing is not about getting all tidy.

It's about connecting with—and hopefully loving—the home you live in. Creating a space where you feel comfortable. Making your home work for you and not against you. Clearing out the baggage. Setting up an inviting, wonderful, "homey" space that fosters creativity and harmony.

I've decided I'll bring some of my artwork to the meeting as visuals. If a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe an original painting is worth even more!

And... Coming Soon: A new tag-line, logo, and business card :)