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Joani Hardy, Clutter Coach, speaks to a group in Rochester, N.Y.

Coaching Decluttering: Q+A with Joani Hardy

by Jenny

Joani Hardy earned her bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing from Florida Atlantic University — but as a Navy wife for almost 30 years, who moved 16 times in her lifetime, Hardy naturally got very good at getting organized and reducing clutter.

“In one week’s time, I had two individuals that knew me, but did not know each other, come to me and say, ‘You should be a professional organizer because that’s what you do,’” Hardy recalls.

Inspired, she discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers and started her training. Now based near Rochester, N.Y., Hardy has been a certified professional organizer and clutter coach for about seven years.

“My responsibility is to bring the best I can bring to every client I work with, particularly in terms of education and in terms of energy, support, motivation, and coaching,” Hardy says. “I always say, ‘I’m there to pass the tools from my toolbox to theirs.’”

Hardy works with people on all ends of the organization spectrum, but particularly enjoys working with clients that struggle with chronic disorganization. In a recent conversation, she  offers her advice for keeping your storage spaces clutter-free.

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage: Why is it so interesting and fulfilling for you to work with people who struggle with excess? 

Joani Hardy:  I really have a passion there…I don’t go in with a magic wand, and I’m not there to demand the changes, but boy, do I love coming in to coach them and say, “Let’s look for some strategies that are meaningful for you.”

And this is true for anybody — when you find strategies that make sense for that individual, that’s where you start seeing the greatest success, which is measured by sustainability. It’s one thing to sweep in and set up a fabulous system, but it’s only fabulous if it works for that individual.

Joani Hardy strategy

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage: What are some of those misunderstandings about chronic disorganization?

Joani Hardy: Many, many times there is a brilliant mind in there, and it is often misunderstood because the outward appearance of the environment would suggest lots of negative things. Yet when you recognize the capacity for creativity, the capacity to think of the countless ways an item could be used, that’s a pretty remarkable brain. When you look at an item and see endless possibilities, it makes it very difficult to discard that item…

It’s a situation, a result of something. Every single day we are all doing the best we can do. Some days it looks like this, other days it looks like that, and it’s just one day after another of just doing the best you can do. And when you are struggling, it’s important to be able to reach out for help, and accept the help.

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage: What is one way to cut down on some of that excess?

Joani Hardy: What I find beneficial is to facilitate the donation process by having the donation be a meaningful donation.

Say someone is an animal lover, and they’re holding onto old towels or sheets. They say, “I don’t need these for my family’s use, but they still have some good life to them, so I’m going to hold onto them.”

As you’re going through the organization process and sorting and making decisions — because that’s really what organization is all about, is making decisions — encourage the donation or recycling aspect of it by finding an organization that’s meaningful to that individual, like their local vet or SPCA. It makes the donation meaningful to them, which can make [getting rid of it] an easier decision to make. …

But it is often not straightforward or a simple one-two-three-step process. The key is to have the right support, a non-judgmental individual who is well qualified to be working with someone to make those decisions, and to understand the parameters of what we do as professional organizers and recognize that we are not mental healthcare professionals. We provide organizing strategies that can be implemented, in support of what an individual is working on.

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage: For people who are pretty organized or have systems in place, what are some things we can do every day to stay organized or reduce the clutter a little bit more?

Joani Hardy: First, keep it simple. We tend to think, “If it works, great — let’s make it more elaborate and it’ll work better,” and that’s often counterproductive.

I’m also an advocate for shopping in your own home first. So many times when we talk about getting organized, the first thought it to grab your purse and head off, with a fistful of coupons, to Bed Bath & Beyond. Shop in your own home first and repurpose items you already have in support of your organizing efforts.

And repurpose spaces, too. Although we have convention that says you have a living room, dining room, kitchen and a family room defined in space and expected use, that’s not set in stone. You have the privilege to repurpose spaces that best suit your lifestyle.

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage: Can you give us an example of that?

Joani Hardy: Sure — formal dining rooms are probably some of the least-used spaces in any home. They’re used maybe three times a year, through the holidays or on special occasions, but in terms of daily use, a formal dining room is almost abandoned space.

A formal dining room could easily be turned into an office or a library of sorts, which would still support setting out a table if you wanted to entertain in a dining capacity. But that library space could support an area for kids to do their homework, or you could carve out a space for your office without taking away from other shared family spaces.

Thanks again to Joani Hardy for the great advice! If you need someplace to put all of the results your decluttering, contact Uncle Bob’s Self Storage for affordable storage options. We even hook you up with a free moving truck with each storage rental. Check us out online.

• DIYer, Designer, Declutterer
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  • Debbie Korbak

    Love the way Joani suggested repurposing the dining room. It gave me an idea to get rid of our unused formal living room and convert into a much needed bedroom. Thanks for the idea.

  • Jerry Hill

    Very informative , gave me some ideas of space in my own home. Thank you

    • http://www.unclebobs.com Josh Kruk

      Great to hear Jerry, thanks for reading!