Professional organizer Lisa O'Connell

Lisa O'Connell has been a professional organizer in Canada for more than a decade. Through her company, Positive Place Design, she helps her clients discover the core reasons that their homes, offices, and lives are cluttered, and works with them to clear the chaos and create systems to maintain an organized space. We chatted with Lisa about how she started a career in this relatively new field; the impact that getting organized has on her clients; and what a few of her go-to tips and products are. 


LAMPS PLUS: What sparked your interest in professional organizing?

LISA O'CONNELL: It was in the late 1990’s when I first had an interest in Feng Shui.  This was well before there was an ‘industry’ known as Professional Organizing in Canada – let alone an entire profession.  I was fascinated with the thought process that your outer world dramatically affects your inner world.  As I studied Feng Shui, I realized the number one problem people had was clutter and disorganization, hence the professional organizing focus began!


LP: What sort of education or training prepared you for a career in organizing?

LO: Back then, there was no education or certification in Canada. It was all hands-on training in the field, learning from other experienced organizers or reading books on the subject. Our industry board Professional Organizers In Canada had been established but they were still working on certification.  Now there are a lot of classes and different levels a Professional Organizer can achieve.  

 Organized kitchen

LP: What has been the most dramatic home transformation through organizing that you've been a part of? 

LO: It was a businessman who had kept every piece of paper from his work and career field for over 20 years.  It filled three rooms to the ceiling.  He was actually a perfectionist (a lot of disorganized clients are - they never find the time and it piles up  over the years.) Paperwork is the hardest and most tedious item to organize as the client must look at every single piece and determine if it’s a keep or a toss – an Organizer can only help facilitate and speed up the process.  I worked with him for over a year and half and got about 80% of the paperwork done.  He was incredibly liberated and grateful to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 


LP: How did getting organized impact the life of your client?

LO: He became more productive at work and enjoyed his personal time more, as he did not have the weight of this huge task over-shadowing him anymore.  The most important thing was that I put him on a system so he would not backslide back into that kind of condition again.  


LP: Can you tell us about your goals or any projects in the works that you are excited about?

LO: Positive Place Design evolved into a professional organizing business as so many people needed the help.  Now, as my business goes past it’s 10th year, my goal is to offer feel good decor products to help you create an inspired space.  Once the clutter is gone, then the real creative process starts to add positive energy decor, art, and lighting to create a happy haven that each client will truly love.  


LP: How important is lighting for an organized home?

LO: Proper lighting is essential in all areas, but especially the bathroom, kitchen and home office.  Lighting will create a mood – an ambiance- in  a room, but it also needs to function at its optimum for how you need to operate in that room.  Be sure you always have great lighting.

Organized desk 

LP: What is one trick of the trade that you implement when organizing a home?

LO: To pick one trick is really hard, so I’ll give two. One of the main reasons I see clients get to a disorganized state is that they keep ‘storage’ items within their active, living area that completely crowds and congests the space.  I’ll use a bathroom or even a kitchen as an example, you may have extra toiletries, containers, products, bulk items or supplies that are right in the key area/shelf that impedes and cramps the flow of that area. Really look at what you need often and store the rest away in a closet.

The second one would be that you can not and should not organize first.  You have to identify what you have first – get all like items together, then purge, purge, and purge some more, then you can see what you have left and start to organize it. It always gets messier before it gets organized, spread all your stuff out on the floor if you need to but really identify what you have first.


LP: What are your must-have products for controlling clutter?

LO: Every space and every client is different and have unique needs. But the top must have’s I would say are clear storage bins – always helpful so you can see what’s inside.  Divider trays to put in your kitchen or bathroom drawers to help organize and separate all the little items that can get out of hand in the junk drawer, cutlery drawer or with your toiletries.  Stackable storage boxes – never use baskets as they have the top open and you can’t stack them. But the number one item to have to control clutter is time – always be sure to plan 2-3 hours per week (at least!) that is dedicated to getting rid of clutter, getting organized and keeping on top of your stuff.  About 98% of people underestimate how much time it takes to get organized.  Once you get caught up and have a system in place, it takes less and less time.


LP: What's the most valuable lesson you're learned during your career in organizing?

LO: That it’s never, never about the stuff – really! – it’s about the person and their life.  There is a reason someone gets so overwhelmed and consumed with their stuff and generally it’s their time management, the lack of storage in the space, their need to consume, they are a perfectionist – the stuff is a by-product of a deeper issue that needs to be looked at. 

Lisa O'Connell will be back on Style Illuminated this Wednesday to share her 7 Steps of Getting Organized, along with insider tips and resources to help prepare and equip you to conquer your clutter. 

Image credits: Positive Place Design and Style at Home.