The president of NAPO-LA, John Trosko, called us up Tuesday and asked us if we'd like to interview Hal Sparks for Apartment Therapy. You see, Hal has used a professional organizer before and has found their services to be life changing. We of course said yes--and got a little nervous (but mostly excited). Hal definitely reinforced the positive effects an organizer brings to a disorganized life and gave us his tips for staying efficient.
What was going on in your space before you called in a professional organizer?
I'd be on the road for three weeks at a time and return to an avalanche of mail. There would also be important things that I'd need to find quickly and couldn't locate them. I also have a studio with tons of wire adaptors, CDs, and it was getting out of control.
What did you hope to accomplish by hiring a professional organizer?
I knew that I wanted a professional to come in and create a system to help me run my life and my business. A shoehorn for my creativity. The time and energy it took to organize everything that had piled up while I was on the road--it was draining and it would zap my creativity. Being able to start from a clean slate when I was ready to work (instead sorting through piles of paper) was definitely a goal.
What are some of the systems you've implemented that have helped you stay organized? Did you find that you needed to hire an assistant to keep track of it all, especially because you're on the road so much?
I actually don't like the idea of an assistant handling my mail--it always felt like I was disconnected from my own life. Since I prefer to process my own mail we had to come up with a system that worked for me where I could maintain the amount of paper coming in the door. One thing that has worked great is paying bills online. It's reduced the avalanche of mail when I return home after an extended trip and makes my life run much smoother. Another system we created was a place for all the paperwork to go once it's opened. When I open the mail that I do get, I take it into the office and file it in an active file (that's out where I can see it). If the paperwork is something that I don't need to refer back to, it gets archived.
Refining what's around me has made daily activities run much smoother. Keeping out only what you refer to all the time and storing what you rarely use has been key.
What was the hardest part about the organizing process?
For me, it was the amount of time spent deciding where things would live. You say, okay, we're going to put this item here and that's where it's going to live. But your natural tendency wants to fight this new change. But once you form new habits, each victory builds on the last and all the systems you incorporate start to work for you. Now, instead of returning to a day's worth of sorting through papers, it takes about 30 minutes to go through everything and straighten up.
How have your newly acquired organizing skills helped your career?
I'm a big fan of feng shui in my space and I believe that all aspects of my house and work need to flow in order to for me to be efficient. If there is clutter in my space, it's a huge distraction. Because I'm in the creative field and my work space is at home, there is no real beginning or end to my day. So if I'm working in the living room and something is off, then everything is off. Being able to keep both aspects of my life organized at home has made it easier to be creative.
We had a great time interviewing Hal for AT and can't wait to meet him in person on Friday night!--Thanks Hal!