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Life and Work with Erin Gaskins

Meet Erin Gaskins, “Redefiner-in-Chief”.

Erin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am so proud today to be a professional organizer, business owner, entrepreneur, mother, advocate, and educator. As Marilyn Monroe once said, “Sometimes, good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” About three years ago, I was living the “fall apart” first hand with no idea what those better things might be. Now I can reflect on the amazing ride this experience has turned out to be!

With both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and 25 years’ experience that included local, international, urban and rural teaching, I was sure that public education was not only my passion but my profession for life. However, you may have heard how a frog will jump right out if put in a pot of boiling water but will stay put, unable to perceive danger if you gradually turn up the heat. It will cook to death, not realizing that the situation is slowly becoming life-threatening. It turns out, I was that frog in the pot of today’s public-school madness. I slowly realized I was having to fight too hard to do the job I was hired to do, fighting the very people that hired me to do it. My emotional and physical health began to suffer. Combine that situation with some drastic changes on the home front, and let’s just say that a career that started as a very good thing came to an abrupt end. In January of 2017, I resigned my leadership position in Denver Public Schools. I had no plan for what was next but knew I was ready for change.

As I mulled my next steps, a good friend called me with what initially seemed to be a benign proposal but ended up leading to an exciting new endeavor. While I was trying to figure out what to do with this next phase of my life, would I be interested in helping her organize her house? Um… sure. I can do that. Sounds fun. Sounds… therapeutic- for both you and me. I do that all the time. When do you want to start? And just like that, I “fell into” Room Redefined.

At the time, I didn’t really know what a thing professional organizing was. I didn’t know there was such a science behind my drive to put things in order. I just thought my need to organize was a quirk of my personality. I always had a passion for making my environment function well. Everything in my home has to have a “place”. That is just the way I work. I knew I loved to make sure my physical space was a good representation of my unique personality. I knew it made me feel better to clean and sort when then rest of my life seemed out of order. But to do this for other people? To do this and make money? Who knew? My friend suggested that I treat her as a client and create invoices. We started considering business names as “what if.” And then, she started telling people about what I was doing for her. My phone rang. I printed business cards and started taking business classes.

Here I am today, two years strong, with clients throughout the Denver/Boulder metro area. I have officially moved beyond the “falling together” stage to intentionally growing. I have worked with homes and small businesses, families, singles, empty-nesters and schools. I meet with other entrepreneurs and learn from and share with them every chance I get. I learn from my clients every day! And most revolutionary for me- I am working without the stress, emotional abuse, and manipulation that can be heaped upon educators in today’s systems. I am not just “putting things in their place” for people, but helping people make their lives function better, and in the process, growing personally in ways I never thought possible.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Struggles have been essential in facilitating my transition to an entrepreneur from an educator, to grow in my self-awareness and to refine my business philosophy and approach. I would summarize my insights into these four pieces of advice…

1. Set your business goals to align with your financial priorities and realities. I had not been planning to quit my existing career, much less start a new business. I am fortunate that there is not a lot of overhead in an organization business, however, I still had to be strategic in how I built my business from a financial perspective. I have been determined to not run the business from a deficit, not to take out loans, but to take the income from the business and reinvest it. Therefore, the business grows at the pace this allows. With this intention, my family and I have had to make some pretty focused decisions about our priorities and way of life. I couldn’t have successfully navigated this change without support from my husband and son and their willingness to commit to the process.

I’ve also had to work part-time for other employers at various stages of this business growth. This has required taking the mindset that working part-time for someone else is not a failure but actually one more step towards business success. Taking away the financial stress on my family allows me to more authentically focus on my business the way I want it to be run. This is a positive that I firmly believe will lead to a stronger business foundation in the long-run.

2. Learn every chance you get. Then, make it your own. I knew how to organize spaces when I started this venture. What I didn’t know was how to start a business. What I have found is that we live in an amazing time to be an entrepreneur- specifically a woman entrepreneur- because there are so many individuals and groups who want you to find success. The key is to be open about what you need, seek help and soak it in! Most helpful for me have been Mi Casa Women’s Resource Center, a non-profit in the Denver area that supports entrepreneurs in all stages of business growth, and the Sheer Impact Community, specifically designed to support women entrepreneurs in leveling up their skills.

3. Be real with yourself. Get to know yourself in this new and exciting role. If you are changing career paths, take the time you need to recognize and honor what you bring from your former role. It took me a while to see how my work in education is lending to my success as a professional organizer. I had to live the newrole awhile in order to own it. Give yourself the grace to make those changes, adjust your mindset and develop the confidence to own your new role!

4. Love that you are doing this for you! Yes, this means you have a lot of soul searching to do to define your business in a way that aligns with your true self. This is big! This can seem overwhelming. The best advice I have is to just pick a task and begin to chip away at it. Don’t worry about being perfect. You won’t be. Worry about being authentic. One of the greatest gifts in the world of entrepreneurship is the fact that your business is yours. YOU own it. YOU create it. YOU get to define it in a way that aligns with your heart and soul. Communicate that authenticity. People can feel it and WILL respond! It is contagious!

Please tell us about Room Redefined.
Room Redefined is a decluttering, organizing and space styling service. I work with homeowners and small businesses to remove items that are no longer serving them, create systems of organization so spaces function in ways that best support each client’s needs, and help to make the space visually represent the best aspects of each client’s personality. By having a space that best supports who you are as an individual, you are most free to share your specific gifts with the world.

I am proud that I have created a brand that is highly responsive to individual client needs. There are some wonderful professional organizers out there that have done a lot to bring awareness and validation to the field of professional organization. What I am finding, however, is that those high-profile methods don’t always work for individual homeowners. Our lives are much more “real” than the plethora of TV shows and magazine articles that make home organization and design look like a breeze. I repeatedly run into individuals who want that “beautiful picture” but find the rules, procedures, and costs are unfriendly to their actual lives. They become overwhelmed, don’t know where to start, they get busy with things they feel more successful at conquering, and give up.. Then they call me.

The advantage of working with Room Redefined is that I am not beholden to one published approach to transforming your space. I am beholden to you. Each job begins with a free consultation which allows me to see a client interact with their space, learn personally about their pain points and design solutions to meet their individual needs. And the feedback I am getting from my clients is that it is working!

Some of the greatest compliments I have received from clients include:
• … that their spaces feel like “them” when we are done. It is not a matter of imposing my style or organization on them but in bringing out theirs. I guess that is where the inspiration for my slogan came from, “your space… but better!”
• … that nothing overwhelms or scares me. That is true. I have faced large classes in elementary and middle school students for years. A room full of inanimate objects doesn’t scare me in the least!
• … that I am compassionate and patient. Change is not always fast when it is going to be lasting. Sometimes spaces have to get worse to get better. I love working through the process with my clients to bring about change that will be impactful long-term!

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
I think WE tend to be some of our biggest barriers. It is easy to blame the “system”, the male-dominated industries, the way we were raised… so many outside factors we see controlling our mindset as a woman taking on leadership roles. In the process, it is easier to define our achievements by other’s definitions of success, strength, and value. We become caught up in what others tell us we should be in order to be successful, rather than the truth that resides in our heart. Now, perhaps our truths will lead us to a high level, strategic positions in a specific industry, but that is not the only destination that gives us power as women. I believe our true power in any position comes from being able to value our own strengths, being confident in our personal goals, and loving how we can contribute to the greater world authentically. Once we are able to clearly recognize and value what “real success” means to us personally, we don’t have to step on others to get there. We don’t have to compromise our values or our personality to make it happen. We bring those things more fully alive through our confidence in our own gifts and the place we have found in the world in which to share them.

Pricing:

  • I offer free consultations for the opportunity to discuss clients needs in their space and determine the best steps for moving forward.
  • Basic rate: $60/hour. Setting pricing at an hourly rate allows for flexibility in approaching all types of projects. Estimates can be provided following the consultation. This structure allows me to work within a large range of budgets and needs.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Amy K. Wright

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