Thursday, December 18, 2008

The most wonderful time of year!?

So the song says… But I think for a lot of us, the last 3 weeks of December may be challenging. There are so many expectations on our valuable time. If we lead stressful lives 11 months out of the year, the month of December can really put a crunch on our ability to enjoy the people that we love, or the downtime we are supposed to enjoy. Aside from all the usual holiday stress, this is the time of year when mess and clutter can pile up faster than the blink of an eye. And so before the most wonderful time of year even begins – you may already be dreading the clean-up.

Erin – a professional organizer in the Midwest - has some great ideas on her website for dealing with the chaos of ornaments and decorations. Her tips include putting all of your decorations in one room to pre-sort what you’ve got so that you can make decisions about what to keep, donate, and toss, Erin’s list concludes with suggestions for storing your decorations for next year. Check her website for more idea:

As you shop for others over the next few days, consider shopping for yourself, too. Check out the cool stuff at Target carries Whitney products that store everything from stemware to ornaments. You can organize wrapping paper, ribbons and bows in one handy container and can get ideas from here:

Wrapping-up the end of the year by organizing all of your holiday decorations will save you a lot of time next year when you bring everything out to start all over again! And smart people know that saving time will definitely save you money. Think of it this way: when all of your decorations are neatly stored in one area, it is easy to take stock of all of your stuff. Next year, you will be able to tell as glance if you need to add to your pile of decorations. Chances are you will see that you have all you need to get you through the season. If your decorating needs are met, you will be less inclined to purchase those items that you already have. One reason why we accumulate “too much stuff” is because we don’t always know what we already have and often end up duplicating (or tripling!) our holdings!

Next time... Getting you organized for the new year!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ideas to Market By….

I have stopped telling people that I am unemployed. Whew. It’s a relief and a lot of pressure. Being self-employed means that I have to support myself, support my business, and support my ideas for my business.

I wrote earlier about how following every lead has brought me to this place of self-employment. Now it will be about marketing the business.Without a marketing background I have to rely upon my common sense, my understanding of people, and my very strong desire for success.
A friend gave me 200 “good” addresses for CPAs and attorneys. I designed and mailed a flyer describing my business, which has so far yielded 2 solid bookings. I understand that a 2% rate of return is a reasonable response. I am also following in the social networking scene. Matt Skallerud, founder of, describes his social networking strategies in a July ’08 article at his website:
Another technique is this Blog. And of course my website which has been upgraded with better photos, a link to A Clear Path blog, and a counter to see how many people are visiting my website.

I am now a vendor with UCLA ( because at the end of January, the campus will host a Resource Fair. The $250 fee to participate in the Fair provides me with a table to display my flyers, business cards, and small calendar magnets with my contact info. For my investment of approximately $500 I have the potential to reach 1500 fair-goers.

I also want to focus on the niche markets that I plan to target: CPAs and accountants, realtors and foreclosure experts, and baby-boomers. I have already begun to get calls from CPAs and I think word-of-mouth will help me to access this audience. I talked with a foreclosure expert who guided me in creating the text for a flyer to send to colleagues doing similar work.

Baby-boomers are an interesting group. Their elderly parents are making the transition to assisted living centers or they are reaching the end of their life. Adult children are dealing with the responsibility of clearing of the family home that is filled with history and clutter. Boomers themselves are also experiencing major life transitions. As they retire they downsize and move to warmer climes, or to active retirement communities.

There is no end to the need for a professional organizer. I believe that this is going to be a recession-proof business. Clutter, chaos, disorganization can often be unhealthful; order can lead to a longer life (who knew?)
Consequently, disorganized people may feel they have no choice but to call me! I truly believe this and I also believe that it’s simply a matter of time before A Clear Path takes off in a big and wonderful way!

Next time… How about some organizing ideas?!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Market the business or find a real job?

I have only known one kind of working life. However, the further I get from the 9-5 mode of gainful employment, the more I realize that this model never really worked for me. Even as I grew my career and had greater flexibility in how I structured my days, I still had a boss. And therein lays the primary reason why I do not fare well in the traditional structure of the workplace.

It turns out that I am not so much for authority. “Question Authority” stands among my favorite quotes listed on the syllabus for the history course I teach at a local community college. I’ve had this quote on my syllabus for as long as I have been teaching. This should have clued me in a long time ago about my relationship to the workplace. During my 3 years at my last job, I questioned authority on regular basis to the great annoyance of my supervisor.

My job layoff happened at an auspicious time in my life. Since June 2007 I have cleared a path away from a relationship that did not satisfy my heart, I moved for the first time in 15 years, my sweet dogs have all passed from old age, and I lost my job. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion, of change, of reflection. I feel very lucky for this opportunity.

My musings on authority are part of this reflection. I am coming to understand more about myself in relationship to the traditional workplace. Since August, when I deposited my final paycheck, I started my business and began looking for jobs in earnest. I was (and still am) willing to move to Dubai for the right opportunity. I applied for positions that made sense in light of previous jobs. Willing to a make a career change, I networked with professional fundraisers and development officers, and applied to those fields, too. I have been on the occasional interview; and there are no job offers in sight.

In between looking for and applying for traditional jobs, I build and market my business. And the more I build and market A Clear Path, the more I enjoy the process of building something from nothing, and the freedom that self-employment brings.

Pretty soon – heck I may even be there now – I believe that I will unsubscribe from the many employment list-serves that filter job notices to my in-box.

Doing that, will free me to continue to build and market my business. I can devote my energies to gainful self-employment, rather than going after a paycheck and health insurance. The beauty of self-employment is that I can tap into my own creative process and move A Clear Path into any direction that feels right and good.

I hesitate though. What if… the business doesn’t do well? What if… people think I’m a loser because I cannot seem to find a job in an academic environment?

What if…I became really successful as a sole business owner? It’s definitely a goal worth exploring!

Next time… ideas to market by.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Follow Every Lead

I don’t know who taught me this axiom – follow every lead – but I am all over it these days.

I have to be. I started a new business this summer. I do wonder, of course, about my potential for success. While I refuse to believe that current conditions will gage my success, news agencies and economic gurus report with urgency that the U.S. is heading toward another great depression, or worse.

Just a few months ago I was not thinking about engaging in an entrepreneurial undertaking. I had a job; I’ve always had a job. And although I did not like my last “regular” job - it zapped my spirit – I have always had the next thing to go to. So I was not prepared for the layoff and quite honestly I thought that I would be the one to give two weeks’ notice, well before the Dean handed me the letter that said my position would be eliminated.

I am a trained historian with a PhD in the history of immigration, gender studies, and Asian American history. In graduate school I adapted, utilized, and otherwise made up techniques to keep my dissertation organized. Unbeknownst to me at the time, these new-found skills prepared me in part for what I am beginning to think will be my new career as a professional organizer.

In the 1990s I was a doctoral student gathering data on the history and the lives of Japanese women who married American GIs in the post WW2 occupation of Japan. My research included interviewing dozens of people, and pouring over legal, congressional, and National Archive records, biographies, and histories of Japan and the United States. The data moved from books, to index cards, to boxes. As it turned out – there were lots of boxes, one for each chapter. I became the uber-organized doctoral student. Little did I know these survival skills would give me some of the bonafides I might need to prove that I can organize the office of a campus professor like nobody’s business.

In many ways, a career as a Professional Organizer isn't so far off. I have been organizing all of my life. It is inborn, innate. It is what I do. I see a mess, I clean it up. If a friend complains her chaotic a garage, I hope her next breath is to invite me to help her make it work for her! Reorganizing jam-packed kitchen drawers and cupboards is just great fun! My family and friends are uncluttered beneficiaries of my desire for order.

So I am now the proud owner of my new business. I call it A Clear Path: Professional Organizing for Home, Office, Life. And everyone thinks it is a good name. To build this business, I follow every lead. Get a DBA? Done. City business license? Done. Join a professional organization? Wait, a professional organization for people who clean clutter? Done. Website, business cards, marketing tchotchkies , social networking… done, done, done. And now a blog.

I believe that I can be as successful as I want. I really, really believe this.

Next time… Marketing the business, or finding a real job