A day in the life of an Organiser


This post is from Geralin Thomas of Hoarders and Metro Organizing fame.  She’s been doing a lovely feature on organisers from around the world…. please feel free to comment here and/or at Geralin’s blog.

I continue this series with Lissane Oliver, owner and lead professional organizer of SORTED! in Australia.  With no further ado, let me present my featured Australian organizer.

GT: Lissanne, tell me all about your business and your life.

LO:  I’m the director of SORTED! organising & decluttering.  I started my business in February 2002 so I’m one of the very first organisers in Australia (I knew of only one other when I started up).

Right after I started SORTED!, I was lucky to land a gig as a TV Presenter on Your Life on the Lawn (similar show to Clean Sweep), write 7 books including the bestselling, SORTED! the ultimate guide to organising your life – once and for all, and have some wonderful teams work with me in Melbourne and Sydney.  I’ve also been blessed to have a strong presence as a speaker, travelling all over Australia to speak and consult, including some very remote parts of the country – the true-blue outback! For the past five years I’ve been running training programs for newer Professional Organisers, and I am so excited about teaching, it’s such a joy!  I do all my professional development in the USA, and I have loved getting to know my colleagues there both professionally and personally.

I’m freshly married, childless by choice, love travelling and think I’m pretty danmed lucky.

GT:  Alrighty  . . . tell us about your office or where you typically return client phone calls and work “on” your business.

LO: My office is the original master bedroom in our apartment.  It’s lovely because it’s north facing (bright and sunny) with a leafy view. We are less than 15 minutes to the city by train and right near the River Yarra and parklands.

I have a standing desk and a Murphy bed (that I can’t quite show you yet as it’s still being finished) so the space doubles as a guest room.  Actually, it triples as a music room – my husband is a punk rock musician so his guitars and amp live here too and he’s often practicing.  I am saving up for a bass!

Sorted_Office 1

GT:  Now I’m curious as to what a creative woman like you puts on your business card; show us?

SORTED logo

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 7.17.09 AM

GT: About one-third of my readers are brand new organizers, so, share something you wish you knew when starting your organizing business.

LO: So much of this question is covering in my POT!  I have made many mistakes, but the thing I wish I knew most is that ‘running a business’ is seriously overrated.  We are simply self-employed artisans with a strong sense of customer service.  It’s not a big deal!

GT: OK, so what does an artisan, with a strong sense of customer service do on a typical workday? 

LO: I don’t work more than 2 x 3 hour client sessions a day. Most clients like a morning appointment, so I often find myself at my desk in the afternoon. I usually wake around 6, read the paper online, have some smoochy time with Roxy, our cat, and then make my husband a moffee (Man Coffee, plain black espresso, super strong). Mornings are my powerhouse time, so I usually rip through admin, accounts etc.  Most days I also go to the gym.  I start client work at 0930, so by the time 7pm rolls around I’m ready for dinner and doing not much!

My clients live no more than 40kms from the GPO, so that’s about an hour’s travel each way at most. If I have a speaking gig or training, I usually like to keep at least 2 hours free prior for preparation.

Creative time (blogging, photos, marketing ideas) happens at any hour, so if that’s 11pm on a Saturday night or 9am on a Sunday morning, so be it!  That’s my favourite time of all.

Monday is admin day, only accounts, data entry, or if nothing is horribly pressing, and I’ve had a full on week, I’ll have a bit of a long weekend.

GT: How did you get started in the organizing business? When did you first learn about the organizing industry?

LO: Goodness.  It feels so long ago now.

I first heard of the industry via Carol Posener, Australia’s first Professional Organiser, our doyen.  She also introduced me to NAPO in 2002, which was amazing!  A group of us felt we could start our own Association, and we formed a steering committee for what is now AAPO. Before AAPO existed, I led a drive to have our National Yellow Pages give us a new heading by supplying proof our industry was a growing one.  Organisers – home and/or office was then the place to find us (and still is sometimes).

I had long been organising people and content in other jobs, but when I first started SORTED! I was was new to the role of PO.  I scored a government grant for the first 12 months, but it was very much working on the kitchen table from my 1BR apartment when I started. Actually, my kitchen was so small there wasn’t room for a table, the table was in the loungeroom!  I then had an incredible break 6 months in, when I was given an opportunity to present on TV within my role as PO!  Pretty mind blowing for a newbie.  I had to audition, couldn’t walk and talk at the same time in front of the camera. Some steep learning curves all round!

GT: Which blogs do you read related to organizing?

LO: Shamefully, none.  I flitter over several from time to time, but I am a crap reader on all fronts. Very bad.

GT: Name 3 things you’re terrible at:

LO:

  1. numbers
  2. staying tidy when travelling
  3. understanding numeric space – my spatial skills are so visual, but I’m practicing

GT: And, what do you see yourself doing in five years?

LO: I like this question.  More of the same, but of course with some new directions and interests along the way. Fingers crossed will have another kitty cat or two by then! Professionally, I’m very interested in working on more deceased estates (I know in the Americas they are called estates and we sound uncouth but we do always include “deceased”!) and also in education for schools – getting organising in there.  I think my set 6 organising comic books are very school friendly.

https://sorted.net.au/comics/

GT: Could you describe how you plan on growing your business?

LO: Oh dear. I hate the term growing my business, partly because I have no intention of growing it… As a concept, it’s overrated. I like compact, I like practiced, I like expertise. I loathe networking events (a little bit of sick is in my mouth) so I’m basically a complete fail on this question, sorry.

GT: OK, changing topics . . . what do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

LO: Food is fun, camping is fun, sitting around and watching bad television is fun, and working out at the gym I have recently found to be quite fun (no-one goes there so I can sing out loud and cheer myself on). Renovating, decorating, housemaking, cooking and noodling about the house is all awesome stuff. I also love a pub feed (meal at a bar).

GT: If we were taking a road trip, what type of music would you want to play in the car?

LO: I’m actually a fan of solitude, and my darling man in black (husband) is hard core guitar all the way, so we swing between Slayer, The Sex Pistols and silence.  But we’re leaving him behind, and it’s just you and me, Geralin, so  if I had first pick would be a little This American Life (I’ve never co-listened with anyone, but I love the stories and I often remember where I was when I hear a TAL story).  I love people’s stories, which is a big part of what I love about working as a PO.

GT: Describe your ideal client and how many hours a week you’d ideally work?

LO: My idea client, hmm let’s see. This is very timely, thank you!  She or he would:

  • do her homework
  • always be honest with me (particularly about her homework)
  • really get the benefits, organising is a no-brainer to her

She is also friendly, intelligent, resourceful, committed, loyal and would always pay her bill at the end of every session.

Is that too much?  This is mostly our clients, really!  But the more the merrier.

I probably work around 30-40 hpw (this includes client hours obviously) but it can be high too (65-70), but I tend to have a more laid back pace these days.

GT: Name one place you’d like to vacation.

LO: At the moment I am a little in love with Amsterdam and The Netherlands in general, even Iceland would be superb.  I’d also love to see the Philippines and I’m desperate to get up to Sydney for a prawn dish I am seriously craving! Hello Qantas?!

GT: Are you a morning person or night person?

LO: In terms of productivity, morning. Ninja o’clock’. If we’re talking watching music videos all night, yes, I’m a night person!

GT: Have you been to the USA?  Where did you visit?  If you have not been to the USA, if you came, where would you like to visit?

LO: I’ve visited the states many many times.  I first travelled to New York in 1997 and have been back maybe 7 or 8 times.  I was lucky enough to meet my husband in los Angeles at a public (pay) phone, thanks to attending the NAPO LA Organizing Awards back in 2010.  You bloody beauty.

GT: Calendar style: paper or electronic?

LO: Definitely, positively paper.

GT: Your very favorite smart phone app(s)?

LO: I’m not much of an app girl, but probably Shazam, with a close second being Our Groceries.

GT: If you kept a candy dish on your desk, what would it be filled with?

LO: I don’t do lollies.  Cheese and biscuits are another matter!

GT: Which search engine do you use most often:

LO: Been a proud Google user since 1998.

Hahah! I have some Google alerts set up for my bestselling book, so I don’t tend to manually do those searches. But it’s probably a bit out of date now, as I set it up primarily to catch reviews on my book when it first came out (2007).

Thanks for having me Geralin!

Image Professional Organizers Around the World_AustraliaLissanne Oliver founded SORTED! in 2002. An expert in helping people organise their work, life, home and time Lissanne has over 25,000 hours experience as a PO. Her methodology is creative, inspiring and practical. Author of 7 books including the bestseller SORTED! the ultimate guide to organising your life – once and for all she’s also a TV presenter ( ‘Your Life on the Lawn’ and ‘Better Homes & Gardens’ and offers Training for Professional Organisers.

You can learn more about her and her business at: www.sorted.net.au

9 responses to “A day in the life of an Organiser

  1. I’m intrigued by your desk & just how much you have stored there, and also the concept of a “standing desk”. I would love you to go into a bit more detail about that…or even a lot more detail!

    • Hey Elizabeth, I’d be happy to. I have had many desks and chairs (including those blow up balls) over the past decade and I finally decided to give a standing desk ago. I am petite (1.5 metres) and most chairs are definitely not suited for peeps my height.

      I use a rubber anti-fatigue mat which is essential for comfort. Almost always bare footed. You will see i have raised my computer to the correct ergonomic height using clear perspect storage containers, otherwise the entire desk would need to be much higher.

      The majority of the items stored are books and ornaments, I have only a small amount of work/paperwork there I also have built in cupboard where I store filed items in lever arch files.

      Under the desk on the right hand side there’s a slide out shelf storing two printers, the shredder and the cat litter tray. I use shredded paper instead of kitty litter, so it works beautifully sitting together.

      As I’m always looking for the optimum ‘set-up’ I’ve changed the layout of my workspace a lot. Also, from an aesthetic quite a few things since that picture was taken.

      By the way, this is my desk in it’s natural state, I didn’t want to tidy up for the photo 🙂 Sometimes it far messier!!

    • Oh, I forgot that my husbands amp sits under the right of my desk, with rubbish bins (regular and recycle), a small chest of memorabilia and a folder of media tearsheets I’ve featured in.

      The little green drawers on the right are the only drawers I have in there. They house pens, paper, letterhead, sticky things etc. Paperclips sit in little dishes on the lowest shelf, but you can’t quite see them in the picture.

      Thanks for your questions!

    • Hey Olivia – I agree the health benefits are wonderful. I have far less neck and back issues, it’s impossible to stoop or slouch with a standing desk. Thank you for the link to the Radio National story too.

      I purchased my anti-fatigue mat from Clark Rubber – a bargain for $50 http://www.clarkrubber.com.au/dome-mat.html

      It’s super comfy to stand on. I’d also recommend one in the kitchen for food prep or washing dishes. Makes a big difference to how tired your feet/legs feel, or rather how tired it STOPS them feeling!

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