By Eric Magana
Some people place perfection above happiness. Sometimes an unrealistic need for perfection can even block hopes and dreams instead creating a sense of fear. Helping others realize their dreams is how Shelly McGee’s business, The Cheerful Sort Professional Organizing, sorts out homes – and throws out fears – to reenergize the spirit.
McGee’s business motto is: “Get Organized. Stay That Way. Pay What You Can.” Along with organizing someone’s closet, shed, or entire home, McGee also manages to increase the sense of structure in her client’s life. McGee’s philosophy is that by removing clutter she allows a person to clear their mind and focus on what they want to accomplish.
The idea for the business began in October, says McGee, when she pitched the idea to friends. It began with organizing pantries, an offer her friends were delighted to accept. Another friend had a white house with a porch that McGee found so inviting she says she just had to ask if she could organize the porch. “It just looked so loving,” McGee recalls.
From these experiences, McGee learned that working with and bonding with clients are major keys to a project’s success. It was also how McGee says she learned how powerful her profession could be: “I am finding that the whole home organization process is the most effective way to bring order and happiness to a home.”
McGee has worked with many different types of clients, from teachers and chefs to bakers and business owners. She approaches a project with two thoughts in mind. “How does my client want this space to function?” McGee asks herself, and, “Does it support their work ambitions?” Generally, McGee will offer to clean a space, such as the pantry or the laundry room, to show her clients how it works. “But I will encourage a client to let me walk with them through the whole house,” she says. This is how she bonds with her clients and guides them through the organizing.
The business name, The Cheerful Sort Professional Organizing, also reminds her clients that this process is not meant to be painful – or shameful. As she organizes and removes items, she says her clients begin to feel better. “As stuff is removed they feel like they can’t be bothered anymore,” says McGee, describing it like a weight being lifted off clients’ shoulders.
McGee’s “Pay What You Can” model is inspired by Jon Bon Jovi’s restaurant idea. “I read in an article about Bon Jovi’s restaurant,” McGee says. “It’s a pay-what-you-can model for those in need.
“I have an Italian friend who loves cooking,” McGee says, “but she felt like she couldn’t cook comfortably in her kitchen, so I helped her work on it.” When the job was finished, her friend paid for the services with tea. Since then, thanks to the kitchen organization work, the friend’s bread business has been doing very well. The pay-what-you-can model has allowed McGee to accept trades with clients for her services. For clients who would rather not negotiate, small jobs average around $25 an hour and larger jobs $15 an hour.
Dale Rice, director of journalism studies at Texas A&M University, worked with McGee to reclaim his tool shed. Rice says he no longer went into the shed out of fear that something in there might hurt him. “It was a disaster zone,” says Rice. He called McGee, and she came ready to work.
Rice and McGee have known each other for a long time and live close to one another. Rice describes how McGee slowly began weaving her way through the shed until before he knew it, Rice had a shed that was both safe and manageable. Rice says he is delighted with how the project turned out.
“It was absolute, utter amazement,” recalls Rice. The organization makeover has given him the encouragement he needs to put things in their proper place. Rice says he enjoyed how McGee approached her job. “Shelly is a person who is very concerned about how she interacts with people,” Rice says. “It gives her a sense of who the person is and how they are.”
Often, as part of the process, things just have to go. McGee says she reassures clients that the memories will remain. “People will see something at home that they feel has value, and they’ll keep it,” says McGee. “They have to learn to let that go. There is somebody out there in the world that could get happiness from that little item.
At the end of the project, McGee says her clients can see how much comfort matters. Feeling comfortable and good can replace a sense of fear and make shame go away.
“When fear goes away, anything seems possible,” she says. “We’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for happiness.”
Anyone interested in The Cheerful Sort services will need to send McGee a picture of the space to be organized for her to estimate the time required. All requests are confidential; McGee does not share client names. Find The Cheerful Sort Professional Organizing on Facebook.