With tips from Amy Traugh, owner of Simplify Me
In the middle of a pandemic, Amy Traugh saw it as a good time to change her life.
Earlier this year, the former health care professional became a professional organizer and launched her own company: Simplify Me.
“It took the coronavirus epidemic to take a leap of faith and to reevaluate ‘What in life do I really enjoy doing? What am I passionate about?’ ” she said. “For years, I worked with family members and helped them get organized.”
Traugh said she researched the field and its standards, which are set by the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (napo.net).
“I thought now is as good a time as ever,” said Traugh, who worked in health care for 15 years.
“I found what I most enjoyed about health care is interacting with patients, meeting them and hearing their stories,” she said. “You meet so many interesting people. It’s changed, and it’s sad because it’s so driven now by productivity. But it really made me the person I am.”
How did the average American home get so cluttered?
“I think it goes back to ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’ ” Traugh said. “We have been in our society groomed to think things will give us happiness.”
Traugh said social media, which showcases “bright and shiny” objects, also has become a factor.
“It’s skewered our perspective over the years,” she said, pointing out that most people wear just 20% of the clothing in their closets.
Traugh said most of her business is focused on what she calls clients who are “situationally disorganized” as a result of life changes.
“You might become a first-time mom and you have a mountain of baby gear that you don’t know what to do with,” she said. “If you’re moving, Realtors want your house to be fairly de-personalized. It may be parents who are getting older. We are an aging population. A parent goes into assisted living, and the kids are tasked with dealing with the 70 years’ worth of stuff in a house. It’s a life event that created situational disorganization.”
Traugh stressed that being disorganized is different than hoarding, which has a psychological component.
Traugh said she hasn’t seen a significant difference in how men and women view decluttering.
“In order to organize, it’s important to declutter first,” she said. “You need to go through what you have and sort it out. Pare it down, and organize what’s left in a very functional manner, to maximize function in the home.”
Traugh said she does a one-hour assessment of each potential client to determine “What is your vision?”
“From there, we create an action plan to increase functionality,” she said. “If it’s a bigger project like a basement or an entire house, we can have a few sessions. It’s nice because I give clients options. It’s very individualized to fit the client’s needs.”
Traugh said the pre-pandemic celebrity of Marie Kondo, the organizing expert who gained an international following, got people interested in the idea of decluttering.
Kondo is the creator of the philosophy that material items should “spark joy” in order to be kept.
“I think that was for a lot of people what really got them intrigued by it,” Traugh said. “People see that and think, ‘I want my life to be changed.’ ”
Though she has years of hands-on practical experience, Traugh said she also is pursuing certification as a professional organizer.
“My job is to create function in people’s lives,” Traugh said.
“My mission statement is ‘Creating time and space for what matters most.’ ”
Amy Traugh, owner of Simplify Me, offers the following tips to help you to declutter:
Studies show that we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. At the beginning of the year, reverse all the hangers in your closet. As you wear an item, put your clothing back in the closet with the hanger the “correct” way. After a designated period of time, re-evaluate your closet. You may be surprised how many articles of clothing you don’t wear.
Overwhelmed by clutter? Start small and with the most visible areas. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and declutter as much as you can during this period of time.
It’s OK to keep sentimental items, but don’t just store them. They aren’t serving a purpose hidden away. Display them proudly or pass them onto a family member who will appreciate their value.
Instead of keeping every piece of artwork that your kids bring home from school, take pictures of their masterpieces. At the end of the school year, create a photo book with the pictures to preserve your memories minus all the paper.
Having trouble deciding if you should keep an item? Start by asking yourself: Do I use this? Do I need this? Would I buy this again?
To learn more, visit simplifymebyat.com.