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Vali Heist is a Certified Professional Organizer®, author and self-proclaimed CRAP expert. She is the Owner of The Clutter Crew in Mohnton, Pennsylvania since 2006 and the author of “Organize This! Practical Tips, Green Ideas, and Ruminations about your CRAP”. CRAP stands for Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure.
Vali writes a monthly column for the Reading Eagle in Reading, PA. She has a Master’s in Education and an extensive background of 24 years in Higher Education including training, administration, project management, writing, and editorial production.
Vali inspires homeowners and small businesses to organize their best life at home and in the workplace. Her goal is to create and share short and long-term organizing solutions with each client and each reader.
“Simultaneously witty and practical, ‘Organize This!’ is the intelligent person’s guide to a simpler, more organized life.”
Donna Smallin, author of Organizing Plain & Simple
and several other books on organization
“Stuff, or as Vali calls it, CRAP, can and will easily find its way into your life. The challenge is to limit the inflow and purge the unnecessary items that somehow remain stuck in your environment. Vali's insightful book will help you accomplish those two life-changing goals.”
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting
and author of several books on improving productivity
“Vali writes with an environmentally responsible attitude towards ridding the world of CRAP. She understands the causes of disorganization, leaves judgment at the doorstep, and jumps right in to tackle the problems. Her resources are valuable – this is a book you’ll want to recycle and reuse again and again.”
Debbie Lillard, author of Absolutely Organize Your Family and
Absolutely Organized: A Mom’s Guide
“Stop organizing my stuff!” Vali’s best childhood friend at age 13
- Detailed Summary of the Book:
Vali began organizing at the age of five while cleaning up her room with her sister. She started her professional organizing business after years of being asked to organize the homes of her family and friends. Her book is a collection of the organizing columns she currently writes for a local newspaper. CRAP means Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure. Her book includes numerous tips on how to organize, green ways to recycle unwanted CRAP, success stories from clients (names have been changed to protect the organizationally-challenged), and further ruminations about CRAP. She explores why we have so much CRAP in our homes, why we don’t throw it out, and why we don’t want to deal with it. Vali’s goal is to create and share simple organizing ideas with her clients and readers and help them organize their best life.
Her book explains that organizing isn’t just about having a ‘home’ for everything: it’s about a state of mind and a way of life. It’s not about making a home perfect because there’s no such thing as perfect (she doesn’t even use this word). Vali also found out that because Americans value CRAP and can’t stop buying CRAP, we are putting our planet at risk. Organizing is about recycling, reusing, remixing, and repurposing as a way of life for everyone, not just for a few. By buying so much CRAP, we also are putting our monetary well-being at risk because we don’t have money for important things like education and retirement.
The goal of organizing is different for everyone, but the bottom line is to provide order to embrace the space you have, be able to handle the ups and downs of life with ease, and to aspire to organize the best life possible!
Q1. What motivated you to write this book?
A1. I’ve always wanted to write a book and a good friend once told me to write my own truth as I know it – and it’s a bonus if someone else wants to read it. I was concerned there were so many organizing books already out there but another friend told me to put my own spin on the subject. So, I gathered the ‘Organize This!’ columns that I’d been writing for the local newspaper and I added my own truth and my own spin on organizing! It was a labor of love to share my client’s success stories and use those columns to motivate people to organize their best life.
Q2. How did you get into professional organizing?
A2. After 24 years in administration in Higher Education, I was going to work uninspired and looking for a new challenge. I read a Redbook magazine article about a woman who started a professional organizing business and I thought “I can do that!” I started my organizing business part-time and when I got too busy, I quite my full-time job and I started my professional organizing business named The Clutter Crew. What I realized after I became a Professional Organizer is that I have always been organized so I could make time to spend time with friends and family, go forward in my career, have time to read a good book, be spontaneous, sleep late, travel, stay up late, and handle the tough times with grace. What I didn’t realize when I started my business is how humbled I would be when my clients contacted me. They are usually going through some kind of life transition. For some it takes a lot of courage for them to call me; sometimes after years of thinking about it. I help my clients achieve their goals, whatever they may be.
Q3. What inspired the title of the book?
A3. I had an Internet radio program for 1½ years called “Organize This! Practical Tips and Ruminations about your CRAP”. CRAP is an acronym I created that stands for Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure. I used CRAP to describe the mountains of stuff retailers had for sale at Christmas, Halloween, and at any other holiday. When I started my business I realized there’s a whole lot more CRAP out there then I previously imagined and it’s not just in the stores! The ‘Green Ideas’ part of the title is who I am as a person and as an organizer: I go green whenever I can with donating, recycling and upcycling and I help my clients do the same.
Q4. Are you working on any other books or projects currently?
A4. Working with clients is more than a full-time job and it doesn’t leave much time for writing except for my monthly column, but I am excited to begin another book as soon as I can. I’d also like to begin writing for magazines and on-line websites about everything organizing!
Q5. Why the comics?
A5. I love humor. I just couldn’t imagine writing a book without some humor so I asked my web designer, Bob Rios to create unique cartoons for the book. I gave him punch lines about the dilemmas many people face as they organize and unclutter their lives and Bob illustrated his comics! Bob is a graphic designer, website developer and of course a talented illustrator, who lives with his wife and five children. You’ll find his self-portrait on page 99 of the book!
Free your space – Free your mind
“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”
George Carlin, comedian
Close your eyes and picture yourself walking into a neat and organized room. How does it make you feel? I ask this question when I give workshops on organizing. I ask the participants to go on a mental journey and talk about clutter, how it affects their physical space, and how it affects their daily lives. Too much physical clutter can suck the life out of our homes and doesn’t allow us to breathe or to move forward with our lives. If we fill our lives with stuff, there’s no way anything else can come into that space. Peter Walsh, the bestselling author of It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff (2007), says, “If your primary relationship is with your stuff, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration, because stuff is the worst partner you can have.”
We buy stuff because it promises to bring something into our life, but a lot of stuff just ends up taking up space. I call stuff that just takes up space CRAP – Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure. If you aren’t using something, it doesn’t make you happy, or doesn’t make you smile, it’s CRAP. However, CRAP is owner-specific – my CRAP isn’t necessarily CRAP to someone else. If I give my CRAP to someone else and it becomes useful or makes someone else smile, it’s not CRAP: it’s just stuff.
The word clutter comes from the old word ‘clotter’ meaning to clot or get stuck. When people have too much clutter, homes aren’t the relaxing, comfortable places they could be. Too often, stuff is taking over and we are ‘stuck’ taking care of our stuff. Think about it – each purchase you bring through your front door has strings attached to it and demands attention. It takes time to maintain it, clean it, wash it, dust it, assemble it, repair it, refill it, buy batteries for it, remember you have it, find it, find a home for it, keep track of it, polish it, paint it, freeze it, store it, fold it, file it, find a use for it, use it, iron it, wear it, dry clean it – you get the idea.
The Quaker word ‘cumber’ is the spiritual weight of having too many material things. The physical clutter that exists in our outer world is a reflection of our inner mental world, which is often an intensely private state of being. Our homes and our private spaces both reflect and affect our emotional well-being. The goal of removing tangible clutter from our homes and our lives is to get rid of what is no longer useful, reopen the flow, stop taking care of or trying to organize CRAP, and make space for living freely and abundantly in the present.
If you are ready to let go of your physical clutter, close your eyes and imagine walking into a neat and organized room. Feel the peace when you are surrounded only by the things you love and are able to find them!
Let’s break it down:
- Walk through your home and write down how you feel. What emotions are generated when you enter your home and walk into each room? Are these emotions positive or negative?
- Have a dialogue with your clutter (whisper so the neighbors can’t hear) and find out why it’s still there and what you want to do about it.
- Set a timer for 30 minutes or use the clock app on your smartphone. When you are ready to tackle a room go through a small section of the room at a time and unclutter with reckless abandon. When time is up, set the timer for 30 more minutes if you want to keep going.
- Take small steps each week to slowly unearth what’s really important to you and contributes to your current life, the life of your home, and the life you want to live.
- Reward yourself along the way by reading a chapter in a book, watching a favorite movie, or taking a long walk with the dog (no retail therapy: that adds to the clutter).
When you free your spaces of CRAP, you can live more in the present. Your uncluttered home becomes a place to make room for a better life – not just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. What would you like to have more room for in your life?
Vali G. Heist, Owner
Certified Professional Organizer
The Clutter Crew
Fully insured and bonded
Mohnton, PA 19540