Meet the Professional Organizer: Ramona Creel

Author's note: In my continuing effort to help families learn more about organizing, I'll be posting interviews with professional organizers as well as reviews of organizing sites.

TheHOMEWriter: Ramona, tell us a little about yourself – what’s your background?

Ramona: I have a BSW in social work and a Master's in planning. I was going to spend my life in social services until I realized I just couldn't work for the government. I've always been drawn to the "helping" professions, and I've always been naturally obsessive compulsive, so professional organizing was the perfect fit – between my "social work" people skills and my logical, left-brained side.

I'm heavily into the Voluntary Simplicity Movement1 right now. I would be happy if I could spend all my days hiking across the world carrying everything I own in a backpack - well, at least for a couple of months. I take a very holistic view of organizing. It's more than just having a tidy desk or a neat closet. Getting organized is about getting your priorities straight, making the hard decisions, learning to say no, regaining control over your finances, and releasing yourself from this constant compulsive need we have in this country to continually acquire more things.

TheHOMEWriter: How long have you been a professional organizer and what are your business goals?

Ramona: I started out doing one-on-one consulting work as a professional organizer in 1998. I love that kind of hands-on work. Along the way I began to realize how hard it is for people to locate the resources they need to get organized - especially on the Internet. You could search for days and never find an organizer in your area, or the book you were looking for, or the right kind of system for your closet. So I began to kick around the idea of creating a web-based "one-stop shop" for all things [related to] organizing. In November of 2000, I launched an organizing website - offering "everything you need to get your life in order" - and had a wonderful response from both organizers and the general public.

I would like people to automatically think of me whenever they think of "organizing," either as a potential career or as a service they need. I love being a resource for people. That's the reason behind the original site, and behind my new web site (RamonaCreel.com) and that's what I hope to do with my writing.

TheHOMEWriter: Do you have an area of specialty?

Ramona: I'm an organizing generalist. One day I'm in jeans and a t-shirt organizing a garage, and the next I'm wearing a suit and helping a CEO set up a filing system. Variety is the spice of life!

TheHOMEWriter: Tell us about the obstacles you face in your business.

Ramona: Most folks who come to me seem to be ready to make the changes required for them to get better organized. Only a few have been really resistant, and I've had to tell them that I didn't think this would work right now. The biggest obstacle is time constraints. I insist that my clients participate in the organizing process, otherwise how will they ever learn the systems we set up and be able to maintain them? Most disorganized people aren't very good at carving time out of their schedules for themselves. They can cram in 53 different committee meetings during a week and take their kid to a dozen extracurricular activities, but many haven't taken a day off (much less a vacation) in years! So asking them to set aside a three-hour block to improve their own lives can be a challenge. However, after that first appointment, they always see the value and we usually don't have a problem scheduling again.

TheHOMEWriter: What has been your toughest job so far?

Ramona: My toughest job was a single mom with ADD who had two young sons with ADD. We could set up every fabulous, easy-to-manage, system in the world and she simply had too many things on her plate to be able to maintain them. She illustrated the fact that sometimes you need more than organizing. Some people need ongoing help (like coaching, or an administrative assistant) to stay organized. That's just a fact of life, but it's not the norm.

TheHOMEWriter: What's your average client base? Do you have time for new clients?

Ramona: I can actively work with as many as 10 clients at one time depending on how often we get together. I see my average client once every week or once every two weeks - don't want to leave too much time for backsliding in there! If I don't have time to take on a new client, I'm happy to refer the person to a qualified organizer in my referral network.

TheHOMEWriter: How do you decide what's right for each client?

Ramona: Part of the evaluation process is paying attention to clues the client leaves behind (physical, verbal, and non-verbal), and part is experience (having seen that situation before and knowing what works and what doesn't). That's the value of bringing in a professional - they don't have to play the "trial and error" game to find the right system for you.

TheHOMEWriter: Could you share some basic tips with our readers?

Ramona: There are several steps that I go through with nearly every client:

  • Purging - getting rid of any unnecessary paper/stuff and appointments/responsibilities.
  • Separating "to-do's" (items that require action) from "filing" (items you are simply storing for reference purposes).
  • Combining the client's 93 different calendars and schedules down into one.
  • Getting into the habit of storing (paper/stuff/whatever) closest to the area where you plan to use it.
  • Asking lots of questions about everything. When did you last use it? When will you need it again? What purpose does it serve in your life? Is it replaceable? What's the worst thing that would happen if you got rid of it?

TheHOMEWriter: How can someone contact you, to hire you?

Ramona: I can easily be found on the Internet at RamonaCreel.com.

TheHOMEWriter: Ramona, thank you so much for sharing your organizing skills with all of us!

Do You Have an Organizing Question?

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