The Uncorked Conversation

Episode 27


Creating the Perfectly Productive Home Office

Does clutter greet you every time you sit down to work? Do you wish you had a more inviting home office but feel like you just don’t have the time to create it? Then this episode will surprise you.

Get ready to clear off that desk, tidy your drawers, and develop a plan to keep your work space functional. It’s easier than you think and won’t steal time from “more important things.” In this episode, I chat with professional organizer Jeni Aron who tells us how keeping an orderly work space will not only lead to more joy, but greater business success.

Jeni Aron has been running Clutter Cowgirl, a professional organization business in NYC, since 2003. She helps clients create peace and order in their homes and in their lives. In 2015 she launched Styled by Jeni to further help clients with their wardrobes and with the way that they see themselves. Jeni’s favorite part of her job is laughing with clients and helping them realize that they absolutely can overcome whatever challenge is currently making them feel stuck.

In today’s episode we explore:

  • Techniques for getting rid of stuff that you no longer need
  • How to create the perfectly productive home office, and
  • Resources that will provide you new inspiration for your space

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References & Resources:


The Uncorked Conversation Podcast with Allyson Scammell

Ep #27: Creating the Perfectly Productive Home Office

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Allyson Scammel: You are listening to The Uncorked Conversation podcast with Allyson Scammel, episode number 27.

Allyson Scammel: Hello, and welcome to The Uncorked Conversation, a podcast for soul guided, passion filled women entrepreneurs who want to uncork big magic in life and business without burning out. We’ll get to the truth of how to uncork our core gifts, the ones we keep hidden inside, and how to infuse those gifts into our personal and professional life in a way that feels like magic. We’ll also uncover how to truly experience the joy of the journey through smart time management and planning. I’m your host Allyson Scammel, let’s uncork.

Allyson Scammel: Shantipax nation, I am so excited about this episode, because whether you are an entrepreneur who works from home or not, we all have a creative space, and if you don’t have a creative space, I recommend you get one, and it is in our interest for that space to be clear, organized, focused, flowing, inspirational. It’s in our interest for that space to just feel good, and I’m so thrilled to be talking to my friend, the talented Jeni Aron about how to create a home office that feels inspiring, and productive, and amazing.

Allyson Scammel: Jeni Aron has been running Clutter Cowgirl, a professional organization business in New York city since 2003. She helps clients create peace and order in their homes and in their lives. In 2015, she launched Style By Jeni to further help clients with their wardrobes and with the way they see themselves. Jeni’s favorite part of her job is laughing with clients and helping them realize that they absolutely can overcome whatever challenge is currently making them feel stuck.

Allyson Scammel: This interview literally required no editing. Jeni offers so much valuable information, I hope you love it as much as I do.

Allyson Scammel: Hello Jeni, welcome.

Jeni Aron: Hello, my dear. Thank you, how are you?

Allyson Scammel: I am so good, and I’m so thrilled that you’re here and took the time to chat with us about creating a home office that feels awesome and is just a good productive space to be. So I wanted to ask you, a lot of people have been talking about Marie Kondo’s Netflix series Tidying Up, and you’ve been at this for much, much longer than this Netflix series. So can you tell us about your journey to becoming a professional organizer?

Jeni Aron: Sure. So I have been working as a home organizer professional for, in May it’ll be 16 years, which is mind boggling, and I started off helping family and friends. It was just something I liked to do, it was something I always did for myself. It was something that I noticed that other people had trouble doing, and that was mind boggling to me too. It was so bizarre to me that something so natural for me was hard for other people, but I quickly realized that it was a skill that not everyone had.

Jeni Aron: So I realized it was going to be a marketable skill. So I charged very little for family and friends, and I went ahead and created my brand very quickly with the help of a friend, Clutter Cowgirl was the name that we came up with together. He was a writer and we were just brainstorming one day, and because I told him I wanted something fun and catchy, and unassuming, and a little lighthearted, because for something that I realized was so difficult for people to delve into, I wanted them to know that there was some humor that was going to be at play here. My background was in standup comedy, so I wanted to have part of my personality involved in my brand.

Jeni Aron: So over the years I’ve built a website, and then I upgraded it, and then I did more branding, and it just grew naturally. So over the last 16 years I’ve changed my angle a little bit, but it’s always just been me as a one person sole proprietor operation, and I work one on one with clients, and it’s really just been a natural evolution for me over the years.

Allyson Scammel: I love it. And when you first launched Clutter Cowgirl I remember it. We’ve known each other for a long time.

Jeni Aron: A long time.

Allyson Scammel: Yeah, and I was like, “Wow, professional organizer.” Back then it was so new.

Jeni Aron: Very new. It was very foreign to people, like, “What is that? What does that mean? Oh, you’re an organizer, like a community organizer, or an activist?” I’m like, “No, it’s a little less serious than that.” So sometimes I try to call myself a home organizer, because there’s less questions. But yeah, I think since the beginning the culture has changed, and I think people are more familiar with what it means. You know, Marie Kondo became this sensation I think because she had a different angle on it, and she’s Japanese, so that’s kind of curious, and, “Oh, here’s this little sprite woman from Japan who’s coming over and helping slob Americans.” But her way of doing things is not much different than how it’s always been. I think she’s just created a really cool angle around it. But I think it’s just over time in the States, I think it’s become a more recognized thing that people can hire someone to come in and help them when they feel stuck, and I’m grateful for that for sure.

Allyson Scammel: Yeah, that’s so awesome. So this podcast is geared towards women entrepreneurs, many of whom work from home and spend a lot of time in their home office, and I can say, that is me.

Jeni Aron: Sure.

Allyson Scammel: Can you tell us why it’s important to have an organized home office? I mean, that may sound obvious, but for example, I want to be more organized but I always prioritize other things over getting my home office in order.

Jeni Aron: Sure. I mean, with a business comes a lot of responsibilities; deadlines, bill paying, getting back to clients. When you’re disorganized and when you have chaotic mess going on around you, those really crucial milestones and your day and in your week can get buried. So your business is going to suffer if you miss deadlines, if you miss bill payments to a vendor, or if you lost a check from a client because there’s so much chaos going on. I think the importance of being organized is being organized in your brain too. So if your space is a reflection of a well managed business, then you’re in sync with your space, and your space is working as almost an employee of yours. If your environment is not supporting you, then you’re not going to thrive.

Jeni Aron: So, it’s very easy to miss a few different important steps along the way of your day, if things aren’t in order and easily accessible, and there’s old projects on your desk, when you finished that project two months ago. So I think an organized space keeps you grounded, and present, and responsible.

Allyson Scammel: Yeah, I love that, and I love viewing your office as an employee.

Jeni Aron: Yeah, it’s working for you. Your space is either working for you, or it’s sucking energy from you. It can’t do both.

Allyson Scammel: Right. Yes, yes.

Jeni Aron: And unfortunately it’s not magic. You put in time, you put in a few minutes a day, it’s not hours, it’s simply a few minutes, once you have systems in place. To maintain a well run system, it only takes five, ten, fifteen minutes a day to keep it running. So that little piece of investment that you’re putting in every day will keep the engine of your home running.

Allyson Scammel: Yes. So, I’ve always been curious about people who claim they like a messy space to work in. Like, I get everybody’s got their tendencies, but I’ve always been skeptical of that. What is your take?

Jeni Aron: I’m a little skeptical too. I think a little bit of disarray is sexy and fun sometimes, like it’s very artistic, or it seems like, “Ooh, there’s so much activity going on, look how busy I am.” But I think there’s a very fine line between having a cozy mess on your desk, and being buried in paperwork. And I think if you’re truly working on what you’re supposed to be working on, I don’t think a messy desk is really beneficial. So something’s going to get forgotten, something’s going to get less attention than it deserves. I also think a lot of creative people lean that way, because they have so many ideas, they have so many dreams and goals, and fun things they want to work on, but the reality is we can only work on so many projects at a time.

Jeni Aron: So I think it’s like you almost have to admit that you have to grow up a little bit and let go of some lingering projects, maybe you’ll come back to them at another time, but you can’t surround yourself with every idea and every goal, and truly conquer the tasks at hand. I don’t believe that you can. But you know what? If you want to have a bulletin board and put all of your dreams and goals on little pieces of paper on your bulletin board and have a clear desk, go for it. If that’s the sacrifice you want to make.

Allyson Scammel: Yeah. I love that. I often coach people who call themselves multi passionate entrepreneurs, and they have too many things that are exciting them in this moment, that they’re spreading themselves too thin. So I always coach them to find the things that are calling them most in this moment, to focus on that one or two, maybe three things but not more, so they can actually get momentum on it. And I like what you’re saying about letting go of lingering projects. So, imagine when you go into a home that’s very cluttery and people are holding on to a lot of stuff, what are some of the techniques that you use to help people let go of stuff, so they can start getting rid of stuff?

Jeni Aron: Sure. I mean, possibly similar to how you work, I’m not sure, but we first focus on the goals for the space. So if coming home and feeling serene, and relaxed, and productive are your goals, and that’s really what is going to make you happy, then having nine knitting and quilting projects that have nothing to do with your life right now that you’ve been tinkering at for five years doesn’t line up with your goal and with your vision. So focusing on what people do want, I can hold that over them for the duration of the project as their carrot, and if anything comes up during the course of the project that doesn’t line up with that vision and that goal, then it has to be sacrificed.

Jeni Aron: So, by having a clear pathway and a clear finish line that the client wants, that we can visualize together, that makes the focal point so much clearer, so that everything else can just take a hike. And that sweetness of that goal is so palpable to them that they’re willing to let go of little fringe projects that don’t enter into that vision. So that’s how I help them do that, and we have a concrete goal that they have voiced to me that we swear by, and that keeps us going.

Allyson Scammel: Nice, nice. I love that.

Jeni Aron: Yeah.

Allyson Scammel: So cool. So I had a client, I meet with a lot of my clients via Zoom, and she was in her home office that she rents coworking space, but it’s her full-time office that she rents, and it was the coolest space ever. And I would say I run a relatively tight ship, but I feel like I’ve fallen off a little bit, and there’s little papers all over the place. Ugh, I’m looking down at my floor right now and I don’t like what I see, like papers, and things that I need to get rid of, and I was so envious of what she had going on, and I so agree with what you’re saying that it just takes a couple of minutes a day to stay organized, but first you’ve got to put the systems in place.

Jeni Aron: That’s right.

Allyson Scammel: So let’s talk about those systems, and especially for people with a home office. What are some of the systems in place you recommend?

Jeni Aron: So something very simple that has stood the test of time that every actual office, every corporate office employs is a working filing system. People get scared by it, but a filing system can be labeled however you want because it’s your office, it’s your home, it’s your business. So if you want to label something ‘teeth’ when it’s about dental work, or if you want to label something like ‘jerk’ for a client that you don’t like, you can. So a system is yours to design.

Jeni Aron: So, something as simple as a filing cabinet is a great starting point for a system. If you’re not that much of a filer, and you want to replicate a filing system but you don’t like the idea of opening and closing a drawer every day, which is okay. Princess, you don’t have to do that, but if you wanted to have a duplicate version of that on your desktop, there’s so many beautiful products out now. You could get a magazine holder, and each project that you’re working on could be a magazine holder with three or four different files in it, and those are your go-to pieces on your desk, but you would limit it to whatever projects are active right now. So you have to, also part of the process is admitting who you are in your space, and what you can keep up with. So I could easily tell someone, “Oh, we’re going to get a filing cabinet.” But if they’re not going to keep up with a filing cabinet, then it’s a moot point.

Jeni Aron: So figure out a system that’s going to work for you. Think back to when maybe you were working in an office, or when you were growing up, whatever, and figure out how did I best function, and what did I gravitate towards back then, and does that still apply now? So a system could also be a hanging wall caddy, that could be in a doctor’s office, but it’s a lot more beautiful because you’re getting it at an upscale design store, and it could be two pockets on your wall, and you put active folders in there, and that’s it for now, and then when the project’s over you put it in a file box and you label it, and you tuck it in a closet, and until you need it for tax time, that’s it.

Jeni Aron: So a system is really just whatever is going to help you process your work. That’s as simple as a system is.

Allyson Scammel: Yeah. And what is something in your home office that you wouldn’t live without that helps you stay organized?

Jeni Aron: I have exactly what I just mentioned, a wall caddy. Where I have several different folders, and the thing is with your own business, you’re overlapping personal use and business use all the time. So I have a folder that just says ‘car’, and that’s where all my car bills and my car paperwork goes in. I have a folder that says ‘taxes 2018’ and when I’m ready to file my taxes, I’ll just grab that file and go for it. Honestly, I have most of my client information on my laptop, so that’s the other thing, you set up your systems on your laptop, maybe you have a folder on your desktop for each client that you work with, and when you’re done working with that client you can put it on a thumb drive and call it a day.

Jeni Aron: So there’s all different ways that you can stay organized with systems that are going to work for you, and it also depends on the size of your business and what business you’re in. There’s no cookie cutter way to get organized. That’s why when I meet each new client we discuss their own personal goals, and then we design a system that works for them. But those are just a handful of examples of what can work. But yes, I 100% use my mail caddy every single day.

Allyson Scammel: That’s awesome. I love that. Are there any, if people are looking to get inspiration or ideas, do you have any Instagram followers or websites that you go, for people who just want to scroll and get ideas of different organizational systems that are out there?

Jeni Aron: I still love Apartment Therapy is a really great site. They started as a small homes, and now they’ve expanded to include all types of homes, they have a lot of info on home office, and they have great articles, I love them, and I’ve been mentioned on their blog many, many times. There’s often great articles on the New York Times that I love to read, I also am always going to Ikea’s website and they always have ingenious new designs that work in small spaces, that are really beautiful to look at, and whether you just get inspiration from them, or you are actually buying their products, you find really good ideas on how to save space and how to have a better flow at home. So I love all of those.

Allyson Scammel: Awesome. So, are there any other tips that you have? We’ve got our systems, we’ve got our desk is cleared, we have our systems in place.

Jeni Aron: Yeah.

Allyson Scammel: Any other tips that you have, just for people who want to set up a home office that just feels good and productive?

Jeni Aron: Sure. I mean, I am such a proponent of having beautiful fresh flowers on my kitchen table. I work at my kitchen table, I’m sitting here right now, this is where I have my laptop. I live in a small one bedroom Brooklyn apartment, and I just feel so alive and enriched when I see beautiful bright flowers that I can look at, and I’m in my kitchen, it just increases my mood tenfold. So fresh flowers, or if you’re not into flowers, live plants, anything that’s bringing oxygen into your life and freshness. Put up pieces of artwork that inspire you, that’s always a good thing to surround yourself. It doesn’t always have to feel like an office, it can feel like an extension of your home, and so décor is really important there. Make sure you have a good rug, make sure you have a comfortable chair. You don’t have to out some weird throw pillow under your seat, you can invest in a good chair. You’re sitting there for however many hours a day, please enjoy where you’re sitting.

Allyson Scammel: Yes, yes. Amen.

Jeni Aron: Yeah, and just make it a part of your home. It doesn’t have to look like an office. It could function like an office, but it could feel like your home.

Allyson Scammel: I love that. I interview so many people who are in my line of work or more peers, and I learn so much from them, but I just feel like I’m learning so much from you, because I need a little help with some home organization.

Jeni Aron: Yeah, well I’m always here. I’m always here if you want to do a little FaceTime, you can show me what the problem is.

Allyson Scammel: Oh, awesome.

Jeni Aron: But those steps of just knowing what your goal is, is really so important, because if you don’t know where you’re driving to, then you’re just going to get lost.

Allyson Scammel: Yeah, I love it.

Jeni Aron: So focus on the end point first, and then you’ll know how to get there.

Allyson Scammel: So my last question for you, and then I want to learn about how people can find you, is, so I kind of mentioned this earlier, but any advice, for example, I just have a hard time giving myself permission to take time out of my week to focus on my home office because I feel like other things are more important. You kind of answered this already, but I just want to go back to it, because I feel like a lot of people will get stuck on giving themselves permission to prioritize organizing and getting their space in order. Anything further to say on that?

Jeni Aron: Sure. I mean, as I said, when I meet with clients I meet in three hour blocks, but when you work by yourself one hour at a time is so much time that you can spend sifting through things, not answering your phone, not turning on the TV, not answering emails, focusing for exactly one hour, you will be amazed how long an hour actually lasts, because we’re so used to just jumping on Facebook or jumping on Instagram. I think turning off all your phone and all of that, and focusing for an hour is all you need to get started. You’ll see how much you get done, and you’ll be motivated to set up another appointment with yourself for the next day, or two days from now. Think about all the time we waste talking on the phone, or being on social media, or sitting around flipping through the TV, or just 15 extra minutes in bed in the morning, or before bed. Those minutes add up, and you do have the time, and it doesn’t have to be hours, and hours, and hours.

Allyson Scammel: Yes, yes. I love it, I’m motivated. I am going to book myself an hour this week. I challenge all listeners who want to have a more beautiful, more organized, more inspired work space, wherever it is you work, but certainly if you work from home or if you have a lot of control over your work space, to do the same, and I just feel very excited and motivated right now. So, Jeni, please tell us and tell the listeners how people can find you.

Jeni Aron: I am online at www.cluttercowgirl.com, that’s my website, and I’m on Instagram @ClutterCowgirl, and on Facebook @ClutterCowgirl. So C-L-U-T-T-E-R cowgirl is how you can find me, or you could just Google that and it’ll all pop up. Lots of articles to read with advice, and lots of fun before and after photos, and I’d love to hear from everybody, and I’m happy to email or find you online. So thank you.

Allyson Scammel: Perfect. And we will also leave a link to Jeni’s website in the show notes as well. So, dear Jeni, my friend I’ve known for so long, and I knew you back in your standup comedy days, you were literally the funniest. I’m not just saying this to stroke your ego.

Jeni Aron: You’re so cute.

Allyson Scammel: I really mean you were the funniest of that time of the standup comedians I was following, because we have a mutual friend who was also a standup comedian at the time.

Jeni Aron: Yeah, who’s very funny.

Allyson Scammel: You were by far the funniest of that group, love them all, but you just would have me in stitches.

Jeni Aron: Aw, that’s so sweet. Thank you honey.

Allyson Scammel: Do you still dabble in it at all?

Jeni Aron: I did it once a couple of months ago in a very non New York place, and it was so magical, and I hadn’t performed in two and a half years, and I left it there. And it was such a nice little bubble that I enjoyed, and if I could do it every two and a half years like that, I will.

Allyson Scammel: Ah, lovely. Well, let me know the next time. I’ll show up when the next two and a half years rolls around.

Jeni Aron: I will, next time I’ll [crosstalk 00:26:28]. Absolutely.

Allyson Scammel: Check out Jeni’s website. If you’ve ever thought about hiring a professional organizer, I can’t recommend her enough. Whether you live in New York or not, she can do sessions remotely. And, if you loved this interview as much as I did, then I kindly ask you to give this podcast a rating and review, tell a few friends, help us grow organically. I really truly appreciate anything you do to support this podcast, and as always, until next time, stay uncorked.

Allyson Scammel: So you want to create, earn, and delight in your business without feeling drained or disappointed? Then download my four step formula to help you up level your skills, sales, and satisfaction. Get your freebie at my website Shantipax.com, that’s S-H-A-N-T-I-P-A-X.com.