How Cutting Down On Clutter Can Increase Your Productivity

Armed with a label maker and a degree in psychology, Natalie Schrier creates calm out of chaos.

As anyone who has watched an episode of Hoarders knows, holding on to things (especially fossilized cat skeletons) is almost never about the actual thing. There is usually a strong emotional or psychological undercurrent to all that disorder. So it makes sense that when Natalie Schrier, president of New York City-based organization company Cut the Clutter, enters a space, she's doing way more than just finding a place for her clients' stuff.

"The emotional impact is different for each person, but it's definitely present in all of them. In fact, the number one adjective my clients use to describe their situations is 'overwhelming,'" Schrier says. "My job involves psychology on so many levels, including helping to gain clients' trust and soothing their souls when it's time to make tough decisions about letting go." It's a good thing she's well equipped; she earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Natalie Schrier has had the organizing bug since she was a child.

Schrier started Cut the Clutter in 2008--her first official gig was sorting through years of papers and creating a filing system for a client--but she's an organizing maven from way back. The Long Island native sorted and stored her Barbies' clothing by season. In fact, she credits her childhood with leading her to this industry. "Growing up in a disorganized home made me rebel against clutter and excess possessions. The experience shaped me into the minimalist I am today," says Schrier, who turned her youthful bedroom into an oasis where everything made sense to her logical mind.

Though it took her a while to realize that organizing others' homes was her true passion, Schrier used the skills she developed as a child in earlier jobs, too. Schrier previously worked as a human resources pro in the financial services industry--where she couldn't help but create new filing systems--and as an advertising designer, charged with filtering out all but the most important information to communicate her clients' messages. "My career helped me hone the organizing skills on which my business is based. And the interpersonal and relationship building skills I acquired have proven invaluable," says Schrier, who counts her label maker as her favorite tool.

But after a decade of hard work, neither of those branches on her career tree felt like they authentically tapped into her roots. "I wanted to be my own boss," she says. "So I started doing research to find out how I could use my natural organizing skills in the professional arena, and I discovered that there was a whole industry dedicated to organizing. I had to go for it."

So she did, joining the National Association of Professional Organizers and making actual paying clients out of the folks whose closets--and lives--she had been restoring order to for years. "What I love most is helping someone achieve a goal they wouldn't have been able to attain on their own. It is so rewarding to see the look of joy when they realize they've reclaimed control," Schrier says. "I also love the diversity of my clients and seeing the wide variety of dwellings in NYC. Every person, project and space is unique--no two days are ever the same."

Her biggest success to date is the hoarder whom she helped avoid eviction. It took 40 hours, but she helped him part with nearly half of the stuff he’d accumulated over the course of 10 years. "We worked tirelessly to get his apartment into shape. We did it before the tight deadline we’d been given, and he was permitted to stay in the building,” she says.

But Schrier says you don't need to experience hoarder levels of dysfunction to benefit from a visit from the organization fairy. "It's not a luxury, it's making an investment in yourself. Being organized means spending less time looking for or replacing lost items, eliminating costly storage units and increasing your productivity," she explains. "When we’re done, some people feel like a weight has been lifted off their chest, or find that they have increased energy. Overall, people are less stressed and happier after purging."

Who knew that a label maker could bring about inner peace?

[Image: Flickr user Johann Dréo]