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May 11, 2021

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Working in Clark County: Melanie Summers, professional organizer and owner of I Speak Organized

By , Columbian Staff writer, news assistant
Published:
5 Photos
Melanie Summers, professional organizer and owner of I Speak Organized, is "booked solid" through May, she said, now that we've entered the spring season and people are looking to declutter their homes as pandemic restrictions ease. "We're in that phase when things are opening back up and people want to spend time together and entertain again," she said. "So, I'm getting a whole new crop of clients who are feeling a lot of the pressure of what they were going through the past year -- they're ready to open their homes again.
Melanie Summers, professional organizer and owner of I Speak Organized, is "booked solid" through May, she said, now that we've entered the spring season and people are looking to declutter their homes as pandemic restrictions ease. "We're in that phase when things are opening back up and people want to spend time together and entertain again," she said. "So, I'm getting a whole new crop of clients who are feeling a lot of the pressure of what they were going through the past year -- they're ready to open their homes again. People are ready to tackle things they weren't emotionally up for a year ago." (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

What does your closet look like right now? Is it a chaotic heap of everything, or is it meticulously organized with sleek containers and shelving?

If you have the latter, perhaps you’ve already tapped into the blossoming world of professional organizing. Or maybe it’s the former – and now that it’s springtime, you’re wondering how to fix it.

Local professional organizer Melanie Summers, 33, enjoys taking on “chaotic heaps” as a challenge for her new business, I Speak Organized, which she established in the middle of the pandemic last summer. Starting a business during the pandemic, while many were closing, might sound like an unrealistic feat, but it’s working for Summers.

“People were all of a sudden home, and they hadn’t really been home for a long time,” Summers said, placing emphasis on “home.” “They were able to use it as a place to drop their stuff and lay their head down and sleep, but then they were off to the races and traveling or whatever. They could kind of ignore the state of things. All the sudden they were put in the situation where they couldn’t go anywhere. It was very overwhelming for people.”

The trend of home organizing started before the pandemic. Professional organizers have proliferated on platforms like Instagram – just check out any of the hundreds of thousands of posts under tags like #declutteryourlife or #getorganized. They shine as they show their perfectly clean closets, drawers, cabinets and garages.

I Speak Organized

www.ispeakorganized.com

971-209-2770

Revenue: Summers, who works part time and opened the business in May last year, said revenue in 2020 was between $15,000-$20,000.

Number of employees: 1. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook: The bureau doesn’t track professional organizers specifically, but they fall under the umbrella of interior design, a field expected to see a decline of 5 percent through 2029, according to 2019 data. The average wage of an interior designer in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore. metro area was $28.68 per hour or $59,650 per year, according to May 2019 data.

The movement tends to go a bit deeper than home makeover shows, with famous professional organizers like Marie Kondo illustrating how something like an organized closet can literally bring peace to our psyche.

But who would let a stranger into their home during the pandemic to declutter their space? Apparently, quite a lot of people, said Summers, who created a COVID-19 release form to be sure everyone was following safety guidelines. She first works with customers virtually to get a sense of who they are and talk through safety issues.

For some folks who found themselves housebound for many months at a time, already fatigued from having to shut themselves off from the world, the idea of organizing their home was too daunting. That feeling meant more calls for Summers.

“I know that it’s an emotional response. There’s a positive emotional response when you get organized,” Summers said. “I don’t think people realize how it really affects you mentally and emotionally. If it’s constantly chaotic, it’s stressful and fatiguing.”

And Summers knows all too well what fatigue is like. A former professional ballet dancer, Summers quit that job when her body, which had sustained multiple injuries from dancing, could no longer sustain it. She and her husband also wanted to start a family.

WORKING IN CLARK COUNTY

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Lyndsey Hewitt: lyndsey.hewitt@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

Summers didn’t know that professional organizing was a “real job” until a friend needed help cleaning a home quickly in order to sell it. After some internet research, she realized she could turn it into a business.

“It was just something I was really good at, and I had no idea,” she said, adding that they asked her to come back for a few other projects. “It wasn’t just making things look nice, functional and pretty – that sort of Instagram world of professional organizing – It was something that was life changing for people and relieved a lot of stress.”

Since working as a ballet dancer wasn’t particularly lucrative, Summers was used to picking up side work, she said.

Now that it’s spring, business isn’t slowing down, especially since, pandemic or not, people love a good spring cleaning, Summers said. She’s booked solid through May, she said.

“We’re in that phase when things are opening back up, and people want to spend time together and entertain again,” she said. “So, I’m getting a whole new crop of clients who are feeling a lot of the pressure of what they were going through the past year – they’re ready to open their homes again. People are ready to tackle things they weren’t emotionally up for a year ago.”

She expects some of those clients to bring her ideas from shows like “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” which she will use for inspiration. However, these shows can have an impact on Summers’s business in unexpected ways.

“(Marie Kondo) just came out with a new product line at The Container Store,” Summers said. “I’d say I notice it being really popular on Instagram – this container aesthetic. For my part of it, that has been awesome but also annoying because every time I go to The Container Store, everything’s out of stock. I’m like, I need this for work.”

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