Helping you find space for the important things in life.
How did you get started in the field of home organization?
I’ve always enjoyed organizing—creating calm out of chaos is very satisfying for me. I want my surroundings to inspire me, but I’m also easily overstimulated by cluttered spaces. I’ve learned to balance my tendency to collect things with a healthy dose of purging. That’s where my organizing comes in, I like to find a way to fill a space just right.
How has previous experience shaped your business?
When I started, I was organizing lots of closets and kitchens, helping busy New Yorkers maximize their tiny New York spaces and helping them move and settle into their new homes.
Over time, I realized that people going through emotional upheavals—relationship breakups, the loss of a loved one, a newly empty nest, or a job transition—need more than closet makeovers and decluttering. Be- cause of this, I created a system to address what is needed most during these seasons of transition and loss. Often, people call me thinking their stress is due to the clutter in their lives, and they begin to realize that the clutter is a symptom of stress, not the cause of it. We’re able to refocus on what’s really going on and make changes to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
What do you like the most about working and living in New York?
My years of playing Tetris as a kid prepared me for a career as a professional organizer! I’m a problem solver by nature. New York’s abundance of tiny living spaces gives me plenty of opportunity to really stretch my organizing muscles. To me, every project is a fun challenge to make the best use of our quirky New York housing options.
A small space can be either an obstacle or a blessing in disguise, depending on how you look at it. When we don’t have excess space, we’re forced to think hard about what we want to keep in our lives. We can’t squirrel stuff away in attics, basements and garages, the way non-city-dwellers can.
The result is that only items that earned their place can remain in our space. This is a wonderful opportunity to be intentional about our space and develop the clarity needed to curate a collection of items that we use and love.
What do you focus on with new clients?
My goal is to help my clients make the right decisions regarding what to keep and what to let go, until they feel comfortable making the decisions themselves. This is intentional living.
We accumulate so much in our spaces without realizing it. Then one day, we suddenly realize we are practically buried in stuff. Imagine, instead, living in a well-curated space, surrounded by things that have personal meaning to you—things that inspire you and reflect who you are.
Is there an element of therapy to professional organizing?
I find the process to be cathartic, soothing and at times therapeutic. Sorting things brings back memories or feelings, and it’s an opportunity to reflect and process it all. I’m not a therapist or mental health professional, so I keep focused on the job at hand, but within that, I’m mindful of the emotions that come up and what is going on with the client internally. I like to say,“You gotta let go to grow.”
I would imagine your breakup organizing service can be a tough process.
Breakup Organizing is an intense process. It’s designed to be immersive, transformative, and therefore takes a lot more out of both myself and my client than typical organizing. Powerful shifts occur sometimes and my intention is to always be present and supportive, but not invested, in the decisions of the client.
I’m very clear that this is their journey and I am honored to be a part of it. The transformation looks different for us all, I’m open to the various forms it takes—as long as I know I am doing my part to support the client.
How do you manage a client who is more reluctant to let you enter their living space (or headspace) and touch their possessions?
I’m very selective about the clients I work with. During the consultation, I’m very clear about what’s involved in the work I do, and I listen closely to determine whether the person in front of me is ready for this.
I have prospective clients fill out a Readiness Assessment so that we can have an open conversation about where they are and if they’re ready for the work they say they want to embark on. Therefore, when we dive in, there isn’t any reluctance. That’s not to say that resistance won’t come up, there’s always resistance to letting go of possessions—that’s normal and we deal with it.
Do you have a unique system?
I guide my clients through the SPACE system. This helps clients feel less overwhelmed. The acronym is not my invention, but I’ve adapted it to my methodology and clients respond to the structure and intuitive nature of it.
SPACE stands for: Sort, Purge, Arrange, Containerize, and Establish a maintenance system.
Are there people who wouldn’t benefit from your service?
I think we all could use a little more organization in our lives. There are those of us who desire our space to be organized and tranquil, and others are less concerned about that.
I’d say remove those on either end of the spectrum—the very organized or the very disinterested in organization—would not be ideal candidates to work with me.
Can you give any great “lost treasure” anecdotes?
A phrase I hear often—nearly on a daily basis—is, “Ohhh! That’s where that went! I can’t tell you how long I’ve been looking for this!”
Inevitably, during the organization process, my clients are reunited with treasures they had long given up on or had forgotten about. There have been family heirlooms rediscovered, important documentation retrieved and meaningful memorabilia unearthed. During one office-organizing project, going through years of paperwork and unopened mail, I found over $10,000 of uncashed checks I was able to have re-issued and cashed. Not bad for a day’s work, I’d say!
What’s on your checklist for your ‘on-site initial assessment’?
When I meet a new client, my intention is to listen for the WHY behind their desire to get organized.
The state of our home has such a huge impact on our lives—it impacts our productivity, our relationships, our peace of mind, and so much more. I listen to what they say they want, and even deeper, to the “why” behind that.
“This place is just such a mess” is a surface reason. The “why” behind that may be that they want to declutter so they can have friends over and start entertaining again. “I can never find what I’m looking for” may really mean they feel out of control and want to streamline so they’re not so overwhelmed.
Finding out the“why” behind the desire to organize is key, because it acts as an incentive to keep on going even when the going gets tough.
What would you say to someone who isn’t sold on the idea that an impartial, professional organizer might be the way to go?
Some people can absolutely do this alone. Just like many people can manage their own money, work out regularly on their own, cut their own hair and clean their own houses. I’m here as a resource not because people can’t get organized on their own, but because many people don’t know how to get organized on their own.
If organizing came easily to most people they would have done it already. In addition to my expertise and unique approach, I’m also there for support and accountability. Once I’m actually there, in person, they can’t procrastinate for another day. For many, this is enough to press the reset button and get them back on track with new skills and habits to maintain the newly organized space on their own. Others are more comfortable outsourcing this by having me come by periodically to maintain and update.
Do you stay in touch with your clients once finished with the process?
I keep in touch with many of my clients. I follow up and check in with them because my priority is to ensure that their relationship with their space is a positive one. I love hearing from clients how they’ve stayed organized and made tweaks and new discoveries for their personal organization system.
If you had to give one rule to a client to sustain them between check-ups, what would it be?
Be on the lookout for the word “should”. Catch yourself when you use that word and recognize it as a red flag. Anything you’re holding onto out of obligation needs to be re-examined. Don’t “should” on yourself!
Tell me about your 15-Week Scavenger Hunt De-cluttering Challenge
The 15-week scavenger hunt is designed to help reduce needless labor and stress stemming from a disorganized space. In each phase, I give a simple 10-minute task that, on its own, is just one piece of the puzzle—but when it’s all done, will lead to a grand accomplishment.
My suggestion to you is to set aside a 10-minute block of time each week to actually act on the prompts I give you. Go ahead—schedule these organizing sessions in your calendar! These tasks are based on the items I find most often in many homes.
How do you feel about minimalism?
I’m a big fan of minimalism. It’s about living an intentional life that is not weighed down with clutter.
The Minimalists—Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus—are a big inspiration for me, they really encapsulate the ideal of living a meaningful life with less stuff. Not everyone will appreciate this approach, but I think there is value in their message and their philosophy. They often say, “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.” Who wouldn’t agree with that?
Do you think you can truly be both a collector and a minimalist?
Absolutely. The word to use here is “curate”. I believe minimalists curate a space and a life that is meaningful. Collecting can be mindless or obligatory. Curating is intentional.
Sarah Grace is the creator of the revolutionary Breakup Organizing method that supports individuals in reclaiming their physical space after any type of significant life loss. Sarah is the founder of Embrace Your Space NYC, which specializes in residential organizing for individuals. Sarah brings a background as a teacher to every client interaction, transferring those skills that will help individuals take control of their living environment.
Sarah Grace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (347) 620-6798 or through her website www.EmbraceYourSpaceNYC.com