Have you ever wanted to pick the brain of a professional organization expert? Now’s your chance! We’ve had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Clearissa Coward - blogger, mother, grandmother, and professional organizer. In Part I of our interview, Clearissa has shared with us some insider tips and tricks to start getting your home clutter-free and keeping it organized.
In your blog “Clearissa Coward’s Command Center,” you share your view on healthy lifestyle, DIY, decor, and organization with the “Divinely Organized” section. On top of it, you’re a successful professional woman, wife, mother, grandmother and community worker. What keeps you motivated and inspired in your day-to-day work to accomplish all of that?
My nine-to-five can be hectic. Luckily, I work with some amazing people. That makes the day-to-day struggles of working for someone else tolerable and sometimes even enjoyable.
What motivates me is simple. I’m motivated by the joy of loving what I do. Organizing, DIY-ing, and upcycling are not work for me. They are my passion. And if I can help someone else feel the satisfaction of a well-organized and attractive space...well, that makes for a really good day.
Being a grandmother, or MIMI as my love bugs call me, is the most gratifying role in the world. I often joke with my daughter that had I known being a grandmother would be so much fun, I would have started there. Of course, my daughter is my only child and it has always been a blessing to raise her and be her mother. Now that she has her own children, I think we’re friends as well as mother-and-daughter.
As for my husband, we’re still sort of new together. We’ve only been married three years, so some of the newness is still there and that makes it fun. Also, because he is so supportive of my busy lifestyle, we’ve become partners in crime. He’s beginning to enjoy DIY-ing and thrifting, though he’s not quite sold on organization yet. That’s why he has me!
Lastly and possibly most important, my community involvement is mainly through my affiliation with my church. I absolutely love my church and my church family. This connection is necessary for me to keep going every week. I get spiritually fed and I’m all hyped and ready to take on the world again.
Were you always interested in organization? How did it change your life?
Yes! I’ve always been interested in organization and room refreshes. I do not say decorating because I am not a formally trained interior designer, but I like to think I do have a natural knack for putting a space together in a natural manner. I have organized, upcycled, and refreshed most of my friends’ homes as well as my own, and organization has always simply been a part of my DNA.
I can remember changing my bedroom around almost weekly when I lived at home, and I always seemed to be organizing and reorganizing the shelves in the bathroom. One time I organized the kitchen and my mother forbade me to touch it afterwards because she couldn’t find anything. She did, however, compromise and give me free reign over the formal living room since it was rarely used.
During my first marriage, we traveled a lot. We were a military family, and if anyone out there has ever lived in military housing, then you know how having the knack for turning any space into a home is a necessary skill set, and I like to think I was good at it. Also, being a military wife, we lived on a strict budget so I was always learning new techniques to make our home Mercedes classy on a compact car’s budget.
What were your favorite DIY projects for home organizing?
This is a very difficult question because I absolutely breathe organization. My favorite part of the process is showing a client how to organize or refresh a space on a budget. Last year I turned an ordinary spare bedroom into my office. I added shelves to a wall, painted the walls a fun yellow, painted curbside bookshelves the same fun yellow, and I created a desk from a door and two 2-drawer file cabinets that I also painted. I am very pleased with the end result and even more pleased with the low cost.
I also refreshed a client’s powder room. The entire project - including new towels, candle holders that were a DIY project, wicker baskets, and a pretty floral arrangement only cost her a total of $50.00. She was extremely pleased with how the powder room looked and at the budget.
Turning the trunk drawer of my kitchen into a beautifully organized space is another favorite project of mine. I also find joy in most DIY projects. I’d have to say my favorite part of the entire process - after the purging, donating, trashing, cleaning, and DIY-ing - is putting it all back together.
Sometimes a lot of organizing is needed but there’s only a small budget. What do you suggest for low budget projects that make a big difference?
My first suggestion is to break the project down into small tasks. I also suggest that my clients maintain an organizational journal. In that journal each project is listed. Add pictures, if it helps, and include a list of steps it will take to complete the project. I love to check off each step of the project. It shows your progress every step of the way and provides a sense of accomplishment.
Tackle a drawer before you tackle an entire walk-in closet; a file cabinet before you tackle an entire office; a cabinet before you tackle an entire kitchen. Baby steps will finish the race without overwhelming you. Also, if you are taking bite size pieces of the project, you have time to think it through. It isn’t rushed and done incorrectly. You have a chance to make decisions to help you stick to the system once the job is complete.
Bottom line, small steps gets the job done.
What was your last DIY? Can you tell us the secrets behind the success of your projects that you learned after time?
My latest DIY project was an online vision board for 2016. I explained the process with the help of one of my blogging buddies on my site. I have created a vision board for the past 4 years. The difference this year is that I created my board digitally which gives me the option to print it, use it as my screensaver on multiple devices both at home and at my 9-5, and to make it available in multiple locations instead of in my room or office only. I love it.
The greatest secret behind my success is there is no secret to getting and staying organized. You have to find a system that works with your lifestyle and personality. If you can’t seem to find one on your own, get in touch with a professional. Find someone who understands your organizational personality and who will work with you to create a personalized system of maintenance. Then you’ll finally be able to conquer your clutter.
As for the secret of success for a DIY project, I stress pre-planning and having all of the necessary supplies on hand before you begin any project.
What are the inside secrets of an organization expert?
The greatest inside secret to organization is…there is no secret to being organized. That is what I want my readers to understand. Organization is not some secret society. Organization is simply deciding you no longer want to live with clutter and finding systems that work for you, your family, and your surroundings. These systems should make you feel at peace and happy in your space.
Helping you to find the system and techniques that works best for you is my job. I believe if you are trying to work a system that is not compatible with your personality type it will ultimately fail. No matter how great the system, it has to be comfortable and individualized.
Want more tips, secrets, and hacks to get your life organized? Check out Part II of our interview with organization expert Clearissa Coward next week. You’ll learn the best steps to take to get your home organized and what items every homemaker should have to keep their home clutter-free.