From Mess to Blessed
Billings Organizational Guru finds herself in the national spotlight
Professional Organizer Sarah Kary is not a newcomer to serious disorganization. She’s made a living helping others clear out the clutter with her business, From Mess to Blessed. But recently, her talents made an appearance on A&E Network’s Emmy Award-winning show “Hoarders” when celebrity clutter buster Dorothy Breininger asked for her help.
How does a Billings organizer grab that kind of spotlight? In 2020, just a year after launching her business, Sarah came across a webinar from “Dorothy the Organizer.” Because Sarah felt she needed help with the business and marketing side of things, she took the course. Before long, she was a certified, “Boss Organizer.” In the process, she developed a friendship with Dorothy. When Dorothy asked her if she wanted to join her as a consultant on two episodes of “Hoarders,” Sarah leapt at the chance.
“It was amazing seeing Dorothy in her element and seeing how she interacts with the clients,” Sarah says. “She’s exactly who she is on the show. She’s down to earth and wants all of her boss organizers to be successful.”
Although Sarah has yet to encounter a true hoarding situation in her business, she has had some challenging projects working with clients who are overwhelmed with clutter. In every instance, she’s been able to help create sustainable solutions and give her clients freedom and peace of mind.
“An organized home just feels good,” Sarah says.
PROVIDING A CALMING PRESENCE
Joni Cozzens life has taken so many that she’s still spinning. She recently moved into a 1,200-square-foot home after living with her ailing mother. When her mother passed away, Joni inherited all her belongings. Of course, Joni had her own things. A storage unit was packed with things from her previous, more spacious home. Physically, Joni had some setbacks, too, and sometimes, just getting through the day was a struggle. She’s not a hoarder, but her house was beginning to look like she was one.
That’s when she called Sarah Kary looking for help.
“Until I met Sarah, I thought it was impossible,” Joni says. “She swooped in without judgment and gave me hope.”
Together, they set some realistic goals and sorted through Joni’s things. Some things went to the dump, some went to second-hand stores and other stuff was sold. Her home is still a work in progress, but it’s nowhere near as cluttered and disorganized as it was. She can now have family and friends over.
“At a certain point, your stuff owns you instead of you owning your stuff,” Joni says. “She changed all that for me.”
Sarah approaches her work with kindness, compassion and efficiency. She starts with a consultation and goal-setting session. In most cases she works alongside her clients and helps them come up with creative and sustainable solutions that fit their lifestyle.
Every client shares one thing in common: They have more stuff than their space can contain. This time of year, many people are looking to clear the clutter and get organized. Sarah has a few tips and tricks for making that happen.
THE CLOSET CURE
In most homes, closets are a catch-all, and they’re often the first place people start when they decide to de-clutter. Sarah advises taking everything out of the closet and pairing like items with like items. Sweaters go in a pile, tops in another, pants in another. Look for duplicates and decide which one you wear more often and put the other in a pile to donate. If it doesn’t fit or you no longer wear it, give it away.
“If someone else can use it, pass it along,” Sarah says. “If it is something you can’t use, there’s probably someone else who can.”
The same rule applies for linen closets and pantries. Pair like with like and try to keep items you use more often within reach. Those less-often-used items can be put up on the higher shelves.
“When in doubt, throw it out,” Sarah says.
In the pantry, Sarah suggests organizing this space according to the way you cook. She likes to keep all of her baking stuff together, and for one client, she organized bins. All the Mexican food and spices were in one bin, Italian foods and spices in the next and so forth.
“Put everything in a place where it is visible, so you know what you have,” Sarah says.
HOME OFFICE FIX
Another clutter hot spot is the home office. The first question Sarah asks when organizing this space is, “Is this stored somewhere else where you can access it later?” Almost all bills, statements, and important documents can be accessed online.
“Try to go as digital as possible, which I know is scary for some people,” Sarah says.
For documents that must be stored as a hard copy, create a file folder and (you’ve heard this before) pair like with like so that you’re not searching for, say, a medical document in your car maintenance records.
Sarah encourages her clients to consider cloud storage for important documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses or property records. Should a disaster happen, you can have these documents at your fingertips no matter where you are.
Shred the documents you don’t need to save and eliminate office supplies that you no longer need or use.
Drop zones are those spaces that tend to be a catch all for everyday items. Think kitchen counter with mail or entryways with coats or the kids’ backpacks.
If there’s space, Sarah advises her clients to use bins to keep things organized. A small bin on the counter for mail can instantly tidy up the space, and if each family member has their own bin or cubby for their belongings, that means less clutter in the entryway.
“Tailor it to your lifestyle and needs,” Sarah says.
Even with bins and the best intentions, drop zones happen and clutter accumulates. Sarah said she likes to deal with her drop zone — which happens to be her kitchen counter — on Sundays. She sorts the pile and puts everything back where it belongs.
Sarah acknowledges that sentimental belongings, even if they are never used, can be hard to part with. Sara’s advice: Pare it down to what you really love.
She knows collections can get out of hand. That’s why she works with her clients to help them pick out their favorites or perhaps the ones with the most sentimental value. Those pieces, she says, should be displayed where you can enjoy them and the memories they evoke.
People often have a difficult time deciding what to do with family heirlooms. Kristi Gilliland, one of Sarah’s clients, was in that place recently when her husband passed away and she downsized from a house with five bedrooms to one with two bedrooms. It seemed like everything she touched in the process of moving had sentimental value.
“There were so many memories in everything,” Kristi says.
Sarah gently asked questions about Kristi’s favorite memories and helped her trim down those precious items to a manageable number.
“I learned that it was OK to let things go,” Kristi says. “It was hard to say I needed help, but I knew I couldn’t take everything with me. In the end it was all very reassuring.”
MAKE IT A HABIT
“Organization isn’t an event,” Sarah says. “It’s a habit.”
Not every space that you organize will stay that way, and even the best thought-out plan may not work in the long run. When that happens, Sarah’s advice is to dive in and give the space another overhaul.
“What works for one person may not work for all,” Sarah says. “Keep experimenting.”
It’s also helpful to think of why areas of your home are becoming cluttered. Americans are bombarded with a “new is better” message. People often buy without thinking. They buy things because they are on sale, or replace things that don’t need replacing. It all leads to clutter.
“For whatever reason we put our value in who we are based on our stuff,” Sarah says.
In reality, relationships, experiences and just the simple joys of friends and family are what bring meaning to our lives.
“That cannot be replaced with stuff, Sarah says.
NEED A LITTLE SUPPORT IN YOUR ORGANIZING EFFORTS? Visit Sarah’s website at www.from-mess-to-blessed.com. She sends out a newsletter with tips and tricks and offers a free consultation for new clients.