Why professional organizing could be the perfect career for Highly Sensitive People
Layne Brookshire is the professional organizer behind Ms. Placed Organizing in Austin, TX and Santa Fe, NM. After a successful career as a personal assistant, Layne started her own business, and the rest is history. You can find her listening to Beyoncé while she arranges her clients' spaces to perfection.
There are very few people in the world who can truly say they love what they do. If you’re one of them, you get it! Being a professional organizer has allowed me to turn a passion into a career by working with women to organize and beautify their homes! I’ve been organizing for 7 years now, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with all types of clients. There have been ups and downs, and it's taught me a little about a lot of stuff—and not just about organizing or about my clients. I’ve learned a lot about, well… me.
In my mid 20’s I started seeing a therapist—regularly! Self reflection is a beautiful thing, my friends. Therapy has become a happy place where I can process what I feel (which is everything, all the time). I can’t tell you how many “ah-ha!” moments I’ve had. By better understanding myself, I’m able to process and interact with the world around me at a more productive level, and that’s straight-up life changing. And it’s not a secret. I tell everyone! I’m not embarrassed. Screw the stigma. I highly encourage everyone to get curious about who they are. Therapy rocks!
Even before going to therapy, though, I’ve always thought of myself as more sensitive than the average person. In fact, I’ve always been told I was too sensitive. At therapy, someone finally validated what I was feeling, instead of telling me to “toughen up.” Because I actually DO feel an insane amount of things intensely, more so than the average person—and that is OKAY! Therapy has given me a safe place to be vulnerable and figure out that I’m a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person).
Basically, I processes sensory data on a deeper level than most people (think: emotion, awareness, and empathy). At times I’ve felt alone, or like I’m different, but Highly Sensitive People make up about 20% of the population. We tend to gravitate towards work and play that allows us to be creative. Because of the sensitive and creative nature of our work, I wouldn’t be surprised if HSPs are common among professional organizers. In that case, I’d lovingly refer to our tribe as HSPOs (Highly Sensitive Professional Organizers).
How I found my dream career as a Highly Sensitive Person
Many of the traits I gain from being a HSP are what make me great at what I do. The genuine desire I have to connect with my organizing clients is what helps them to open up their homes and hearts to me. I’m passionate about sharing my story of how organizing has positively affected my life, so that I can help other women in their own homes. And it’s this kind of openness that allows me to find and create the best solutions to my clients’ organizing needs.
Being an HSP, I am also highly aware of my surroundings. When I visit a client for the first time during a consult, I’m able to quickly and efficiently identify the chaos within a space that may not be as obvious to others. When looking for careers, Highly Sensitive People need to find ways to use their sensitivity to their advantage. I know that my sensitivity gives me the ability to understand how best to work with the client. Not only am I able to recognize when they may be feeling overwhelmed, but I can deeply sympathize with them during an emotional session. Relating to and sharing in your client's emotions builds a healthy working relationship and a lasting friendship.
From the outside, it might look like I have chosen a career path that’s not very conducive to my needs as an HSP. On a daily basis, I surround myself with overwhelming spaces that are overflowing with stimuli. Not to mention the heavy lifting of this labor intensive job or the fact that my clients tell me pretty much everything about their lives… happy things, sad things, abusive things, addictive things—you name it, I’ve heard it . The thing we need to remember is everyone has a story to tell, and a lot of our clients may not have someone to tell theirs to. So, as a professional organizer who gets intimate with so many areas of my clients’ lives, it’s natural that they want to tell me what’s on their hearts as well… throughout two 3-hour sessions a day, 5 days a week.
P.S. If you’re just starting out, make sure to watch this video on 10 things to ask yourself before starting a pro organizing business. The demands of this job are real, and it’s important to take a look at what goes into it!
Organizing is incredibly fulfilling and incredibly draining all at the same time. After working with a few clients, I quickly realized that I needed to find balance in my life in order to sustain my wellbeing and prevent burnout in my industry. Not only am I carrying my own emotions and those of my clients, but I must have something left at the end of the day to give to all the other amazing people in my life who support me.
By recognizing my sensitivities (all 1 million of them!) I’ve come to understand that I need more self-care than about 80% of the population just to feel good. When you have all the feels, you need all the things. If you’re an HSP, it’s imperative that you make time for yourself to prevent burnout and more importantly, meltdowns. If you hope to lead a happy and healthy life and grow your own business you have to remember to have “me” time. Professional organizing can be a great job for highly sensitive people, but it takes careful planning (which we’re naturally good at!).
12 rules for HSP professional organizers to live by
1. Choose your clients wisely
If you’re an HSP, and thus affected by everything around you, you should be trying on your clients just as they are trying you on. Ask yourself some preliminary questions before committing to the client:
Are they the right fit for you?
Will they appreciate, respond to, and benefit from what you have to offer?
Is their personality one you can handle adding to your workload?
Is their home too overwhelming or cluttered for you?
Pay specific attention to whether or not the job feels too big for you. If you say yes to jobs that are too big for you, you do your client and yourself a huge disservice.
2. Create strong boundaries before you meet your clients
One particular challenge HSPs struggle with is setting boundaries. I’m extremely generous and will go over and beyond to please a client. I’ve had to set really clear boundaries for myself and my clients in order to keep myself from giving away all of my free time (it’s often too easy to say yes to “one more thing” to avoid disappointing a client… only to wind up overwhelmed!). Having these boundaries decided ahead of time will make you more likely to succeed in every situation instead of having to make tough decisions on the spot.
3. Be realistic in turn around times
Allow time in your schedule to collect new supplies before the next session. Don’t miss your workout class and sit in 3 extra hours of traffic just to deliver on a promise you didn’t think through. I’ve been guilty of telling a client during a session that I’ll send them “____” tonight, and then I have to break my back (and use all of my free time) to meet the unrealistic deadline I set for myself. It’s so important to be realistic when working client requests into our schedules.
4. Give yourself time to decompress after the day
It’s SO easy for the line between my work and personal life to blur. My clients are my friends and I love helping them, pointing them to resources, and getting back to their texts quickly. But the reality is that I have to establish boundaries for my communication in order to avoid getting burned out.
There’s no reason for me to respond to texts that I’m getting at 10 PM. Organizing is never an emergency and that’s something I have to remind myself of often. I can just as professionally respond the next day during business hours. And with clear boundaries, I don’t have to feel the guilt of the world for not getting back to my client within moments. When I have the freedom to put my phone/email down, I’m able to recharge for the next day and the next client who deserves my full and complete attention.
5. Say yes on your own terms
If a client asks you to work a 6 hour session instead of your usual 3 hours, or a Saturday session when you usually only work weekdays, consider if making this allowance works for you before saying yes. If the answer is no, be direct with your client and don’t feel guilty. They know there’s a possibility that you’ll say no, and you have every right to exercise that choice (you started your pro organizing business to be your own boss, after all!).
If you let yourself be taken advantage of, the one who will suffer is always you.
6. Keep up with your home life
One of the major things that makes me feel good is having a home that feels like my own personal sanctuary. Things in my home that promote a sensation of peace in me are: LOTS of natural light, muted tones, no clutter, clean surfaces, plants that are easy to care for everywhere, essential oils, soft textures, and intentional placement. Being a professional organizer makes sense for me and my lifestyle and it’s important that I practice what I preach. I already know the wonderful benefits that being organized brings to my life, and that makes it easier for me to share solutions with my clients.
7. Make friends with other HSPs
It’s important that you have others in your life that can empathize with your needs. I don’t go around telling everyone I’m an HSP, but when it’s right for the conversation, I’m happy to bring it up. I find it gives others permission to open up about their sensitivities, too.
8. Make time to exercise
For me, it’s all about the yoga, and the stretchy pants. (Where are my yogis at?) Yoga gives me a place to release all my energy and emotions. The power of learning to focus on my breath has changed the way I am able to control and relax my body. I’ve learned techniques for calming myself on and off my mat that are priceless when it comes to dealing with my sensitive life. Plus savasana is like a mini adult nap time. What’s not to love?
9. Make your bed every morning
I fought my mom on this one my entire childhood. Turns out, it gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment for the day. When your space feels peaceful and put together, it sets the tone for your entire day to feel peaceful and put together. (Thanks, Mom!)
10. Make use of essential oils
I keep a bottle of lavender in my car and in my purse. If I know I have a particularly challenging work day ahead of me, I put it on my wrist before I go into my clients home (and I often offer it to my client as well). It’s also a great way to provide a break for you and your client during a session, to relax before bed, or keep calm when you’re in traffic. Really, lavender is great at any time. It’s an all around spirit lifter.
11. Get a therapist
Reference opening paragraphs. Thank me later. Seriously. It’s important that you have an outlet to openly discuss what’s going on with you. Your friends and family will thank you. Most importantly, you will thank yourself.
12. Learn how to leave it at the door
Give yourself permission to help your clients organize their home, not fix their life. Be open to listening and giving feedback where it’s appropriate, but don’t bite off more than you handle. You’re there to help them do what you’re great at. Taking on more than that will result in less energy for your own life and personal needs. This is an important thing for HSPs and empaths to remember in any job.
Remember: as a Highly Sensitive Professional Organizer, you have so many amazing talents to offer. Get to know yourself and embrace the strengths of being an HSP in this industry. If you can connect with clients in a deep and genuine way while helping them to clear the clutter and beautify their lives, get ready to make some money, honey! You are needed, and valued, and you will be well received. The cherry on top: people will pay you to do what you love. What’s better than that?