Editor’s Note: As part of our Business of Life feature highlighting individuals who create businesses making life easier or more enjoyable for the rest of us, Sara Campana created a unique situation — her client in this case was a member of our team and she was working in our offices. Personal and professional ethics prevent her from disclosing other clients, making her recent work with Insight Co-Publisher Brian Rasmussen the best way to tell her story.
It starts with a simple question: What do you really need?
Unfortunately, the answers are not always so simple, at least at first. For Sara Campana, helping clients reach them has transformed a passion into a profession and enabled her to build a new career helping others live a more organized, efficient life.
So what do you really need?
“What I really do is work with clients to reduce the clutter — at home, at work or both — to realize they don’t need many of the things they keep,” says Campana, a certified professional organizer. “It’s just too easy to get stuff.”
And all that stuff can get in the way. People have a tendency to attach meaning to an object and then hold onto it because they “might” need it again, Campana says. Unchecked, that leads to clutter, disorganization — and perhaps even growing lethargy and inaction.
Clutter is not always a sign of a creative mind.
“Many of my clients are creatives, but even they need some order to things,” Campana says. “There is not only a visual satisfaction when things are organized, but it saves time, money and reduces stress, freeing them to be creative.”
Now, Campana will admit she has always been a highly organized person, identifying as a bit of a “type A” personality. But until recently, it was a personal aspect of her life. Indeed, her degree is in occupational therapy and she was a practicing therapist for several years.
Having young children changed her approach to work, however. Campana wanted a career, but wanted one with the flexibility to be with her children. As she considered what she was passionate about, she discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers.
Suddenly, the path seemed clear and clutter-free.
Geographically, Campana typically works with clients in Northeast Wisconsin, though she is available across the state for an additional cost. She typically works with clients in three-hour blocks of time and works both in business environments and with people in their homes.
Working part-time, Campana earns between $10,000 and $15,000 a year, a salary that could increase in the future as her children age and if she decides to make more time available. Salaries in the industry vary widely based on rates and billable hours, she says.
She often draws upon her past experience as an occupational therapist when helping clients in home situations where they are preparing to downsize, simplify or are trying to adapt after a major life change such as a major illness or injury that detracted them from a normal routine.
“Usually, it’s an incident that caused their life to stop,” Campana says. “They realize they are ready to move forward, but they are not sure where or how to start.”
This can be a challenge as people move from one phase of life – raising kids – to another phase, say retirement, writes Jean Manteufel, founder of Long’s Senior Transitions, in her recently published book “Transitions.”
“At some point, our items go from being the fruits of a lifetime of collecting to becoming a hindrance,” she says. “The material things in our life are taking over what is really important.”
Things are not so different in a professional setting. While it may not have been a major life event that disrupted the normal routine, clutter and disorganization in a professional environment is often a sign of delayed decisions. The longer the decision is delayed, the more clutter that surrounds it.
In these cases, Campana often has to talk the client through the value of the associated clutter — sometimes, one document or item at a time — to get them to see the problem.
“It’s really about walking them through the process they use,” she says. “Once they make the decision, those things don’t have value anymore.”
Though she is an organizer, Campana is not a minimalist, though that is a growing trend. Best-selling books such as “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Japanese de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo are a testament to the desire of many to reduce the stuff in their lives.
Rather, she is about organization and efficiency to save time, money, reduce stress and create positive outcomes for her clients.
What Campana finds herself working with more is helping clients prevent digital clutter from slowing down their lives or creating inefficiencies in their work routine. Just because the office is paperless doesn’t necessarily make it more organized.
After all, do you really need those thousands of photos on your mobile device when you are only going to post one or two to social media?
Instead, why not preserve just the one or two images that have real meaning and delete the rest? She’s a big proponent of digital scrapbooking, no need to get paper involved.
“Digital clutter is a real thing right now,” Campana says. “Virtual organizing is going to be a big trend.”