A new solution to clutter

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Alyssa Trosclair will not organize your house for you. She will not pick up the kids’ toys and sort that stack of papers on the catch-all desk and put beautiful labels on all the jars and pins in your pantry.

What she will do is give you the tools to do it yourself, and keep doing it, as she’s done for the past 14 years.

Trosclair is the owner of Emend, a Baton Rouge-based professional organizing company. She is the first and only certified professional organizer in the state. That certification focuses on two things: adhering to a code of ethics and working with clients on the transference of skills.

“It’s not about organizing for the client, or making something look pretty; it’s really understanding what skills your clients are struggling with, which ones need sharpening, and during the process, teaching them those skills,” Trosclair says.

Alyssa Trosclair

She says it’s important to teach these skills in order for clients to maintain the space and the system they set up. That’s also how she sets herself apart from typical home organizers.

“Clutter is a symptom of something bigger going on,” Troslcair says.

That something bigger is an executive functioning skill—one of those gears in your brains that all churn together to keep it functioning. Each gear, or executive skill, is different. That ranges from a client’s ability to focus and keeping on task, time awareness, and self-activation.

Clutter is really just a delayed decision, a delayed action, she says. Pair that will a dulled executive functioning skill like self-activation, or the ability to get started on a task and make yourself do something that you don’t really want to do, and you’ll have a huge pile of clutter or work before you know it. 

“Regardless of what the organization challenge is (paper, photos, clothes, etc.), it all goes back to learning the right skills to help you keep the space maintained,” Trosclair says. “Developing the right system with the skills and discipline to keep it maintained is key.”

Trosclair holds two degrees from LSU: a bachelor’s in information systems and decision sciences and an MBA in organizational development, cementing her strong structural, data-driven background.

She started her career doing consulting work for SSA Consultants for a few years, then in 2006, launched Emend based on a business plan she developed in grad school. Last week, Trosclair celebrated the 14th anniversary of the day she launched Emend.

Emend is also an acronym for Trosclair’s process for organizing everything, both stuff and tasks: explore, merge, edit, nesting, and develop.

When approaching new clients, it’s about exploring their situation, finding their struggles, what isn’t working for them, and their vision. Trosclair then takes that data and merges like items together.

Picture a dining room table full of papers, she says. Sort those into categories: junk mail, bills, papers to file away, etc. That breaks up the big task into manageable chunks. When you’ve got those related piles, it’s time to edit out. Junk mail, naturally, goes in the trash.

Most kitchens are exploding with dishes, cups, various trays long forgotten. When you take it all out and group those items together, it’s likely you won’t need 50 coffee mugs, she says. That’s editing.

Nesting and developing then fall down to finding a home for those items (mugs) or tasks (how to sort that table full of papers) and developing and practicing those skills. By the time she gets to the develop stage, Trosclair says she really knows her client’s strengths and struggles.

For a lot of her working mom clients, those struggles come from trying to do it all alone.

“I’m always hearing from them that they are overwhelmed,” Trosclair says. “Women have an expectation to be organized. But in reality, men have just as much a skill as women do. Women are not any more born any more able to do this.”

Going back to her Emend method, women need to have the ability to edit out tasks they can get rid of, or delegate to others.

“Be realistic and be intentional. Be realistic about where you are in life right now.  Are you working full time with three small children at home? You are going to need a simpler, easier to maintain system than a single, retired woman in her 60s,” Trosclair says. “Stop trying to compare your situation to what you see on Facebook or Pinterest and embrace the stage of life you are in currently.”

Like any other skill, people are not born with executive functioning skills. They’re developed over time, she says. A lot of disorganized clients never learned those skills as a child, Trosclair says, either because their parents never taught them because they didn’t practice those skills themselves, or because they never let their children participate.

If a client has kids at home, she works them into the process, Trosclair says. If they have a say in the process, they’ll have more ownership, participation and learn those skills too. Then it’ll be the family unit working together to get those organizational tasks done.

“It is about learning the skills, it’s not anything that’s easy. It took a lifetime to get where you are, it’s going to take a little bit of time, the skills are just different,” she says. “I try to get them to see that we’re not shooting for perfection, we’re shooting for getting better,” Trosclair sys.

As the state, and country, continues to remain largely confined to our homes, Trosclair says if you’re hoping to tackle some of those home organization projects, make sure to set boundaries.

“You’re home more, yet you’re trying to juggle work and homeschooling. You’re also sitting there saying ‘I can get some stuff done around the house,'” she says. “But what happens is they don’t set boundaries for those things.”

Setting boundaries and schedules, with time devoted to your work, school and home projects is the best way to keep moving things forward—and be less stressed out, she says.

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