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Conversations with the Inspiring Shayla Brubaker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shayla Brubaker.

Shayla, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m a former elementary educator and mom of two young girls. When I was a teacher, I noticed that the students who were more organized tended to have a successful transition to the upper grades. I made it my mission to teach my students the organizational skills and processes they required to be successful in school and life. As a mom, I follow the same mantra. With two small children, it’s nearly impossible to keep things tidy all the time. But, with a successful organizational system, it’s easy for even the youngest child to learn to tidy. I felt such a passion for helping families develop systems of organization that I decided to pursue professional organizing as a career. Three years ago, I took courses through a professional organization (NAPO) and began working with families in the south suburban area. I quickly realized that clutter and chaos are so often part of our family lives, with the majority of the responsibility for addressing clutter falling on overtired moms. I believe anyone can achieve a home that feels like an oasis, regardless of their family dynamic. However, I absolutely know that perfection is unreasonable, especially when there are young children in the mix. My goal is to help my clients create an organizational system that is sustainable. I absolutely love seeing the look of relief on a client’s face when our project is complete. And, I love visiting my former clients and seeing that the systems we put in place are working for their families months later.

Has it been a smooth road?
Decluttering, teaching organizational skills, and working with families all came naturally to me. However, I was not skilled in running my own small business. As a solo entrepreneur, I have to do it all- from finance to marketing, to research. For that reason, I would absolutely recommend affiliating with a professional organization. I was able to get so much helpful advice from NAPO (The National Association of Productivity and Organizing), like how to come up with a client contract, and ethical behavior for some of those sticky situations. I would also recommend reaching out to friends and family who may have business-based expertise. For example, I had a marketing friend to help me design a logo, and I took her out to a nice dinner in exchange. Another lawyer friend looked over my client contract, and I gave her an hour of free decluttering. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others who have more knowledge.

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Before working with a client, we meet in their space for a free estimate. I’ll ask, “What is the purpose of this space?” And, “How can I help you fulfill that purpose?” Together, we come up with a plan and the steps necessary to achieve it. Then, we meet for an organizing session. The client is an active part of the session. This is their stuff, and generally, only they can determine what items will continue to live on in their environment. During this phase, I’m here to offer encouragement and to keep our session on track. Most cluttered spaces simply have too much stuff. By eliminating things my clients don’t use or love, they can focus on accessing those things they do. We continue the session by creating a system that looks inviting and is sustainable. As we work, I’ll offer tips on how to stay organized, tailored toward my client’s particular situation and personality. My background in elementary education has provided me with the experience to effectively work with a variety of families. I understand that no two families are the same, but that most children have age-appropriate tendencies that can be capitalized on when setting up organizational systems. Being affiliated with a professional association has also given me access to strategies that I can pass on to my clients, that not all professional organizers choose to familiarize themselves with. Most importantly, I provide free haul away to donate any quality items to a charitable organization at the end of each session. Watching their unwanted items being carried away effortlessly after our session is such an added bonus for my clients.

Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
When I first started, I reached out to other professional organizers in my area and asked if they’d be willing to meet me for a one-on-one meeting. Sometimes, professional organizers encounter large jobs and need to collaborate in order to achieve the client’s vision within a certain time frame. Not all of the organizers I contacted were receptive to meeting me or working together. However, those that were have become great mentors to me.

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