Wise Organizers: A Q&A With Organizing Pros, Part 2

We are doing a series of Q&As with members of Minnesota’s NAPO chapter. This article is the second in the series.

Maybe you’re going through an overflowing closet in your tiny apartment. Or your desk is acting as a place to pile your mail as you walk in the door from classes. Maybe, next semester is so loaded you don’t know how you’ll manage.

Disorganization is an easy cycle to fall into, but it doesn’t have to be. If a little motivation to fix the problem just isn’t gonna cut it, a little outside help isn’t too hard to find. Thanks to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, you can get an outside look on which items to get rid of, how to stay organized when you can’t seem to keep your head on straight and more. Minnesota’s chapter has been around for 25 years, leaving us with a whole directory of people to reach out to, each with their own specializations–whether it be time management, downsizing or virtual organizing.

After having kids of her own, Kate Buckmeier left her teaching job to start Kate: Declutter & Redesign, based in Northfield, MN. One of the topics she specializes in is eco-organizing.  We spoke with Kate to get a better sense of what that is, and how we can do it too.

What is your every day like?

Kate: “Well, every day is different. Often times I’m working for part of the day in-home with a client. Then part of the day I’m working on marketing or creating. I have a couple of events coming up, I might be creating the powerpoints and the material I need for that. But each day, I might be writing a blog post and working on some of that kind of stuff.  I might be sending out an Instagram or Facebook post on book fairs coming up, to remind people if they have books to donate. Sending the dates for events that are coming up, and trying to know the area and what resources will allow people to let go of things easily.

That’s part of the challenge when you have a whole bunch of stuff–you want to find another way [to get rid of things], or you know you don’t need it, or you’re downsizing or moving, where it feels overwhelming. Because you don’t know who will take what, and how they want it. I feel part of my job is being that resource of knowing all those avenues to get things out and passed on. And getting people set up so they’re comfortable doing that, or taking some of that burden off of them. I might do some of that drop off for them if needed. That’s part of my service too.

You specialize in eco-organizing. What does that mean in terms of an organizing project?

Kate: “For me, it means that I don’t come into a job and say, ‘Okay, we’re getting a dumpster.’ That’s not my first instinct. My first instinct would be, ‘Okay, what resources can we pull, or do we know of, that we can make sure these things get passed on? And how are they getting passed on?’ That’s not always easy, not always transparent, figuring out the places that really are putting things to use.

There’s so many toys that require batteries that have just things that you just have to throw it in the garbage, because there’s no way to fix it, or there’s no way to use it anymore if it breaks or something. But knowing some resources that want those kinds of things to tinker around with or for maybe kid-art or kid exploration, makers stations–for me, eco-organizing means having lots of resources to pass things on without it all going to the landfill.

The other thing is knowing that we don’t have to go to Target or the Container Store and use all new plastic bins. We can use shoeboxes, we can use jewelry boxes in drawers for dividers. Because creating boundaries and homes for things really will keep the space clear for longer, tidy for longer. When things have their home, it’s easier to put them back. I do believe in organizing, but it doesn’t have to be about buying all plastic bins and fresh things. That can be what some people want, and that’s certainly something that I can provide.

It’s not my first instinct and my first go-to. My first go-to is, ‘What do you have already in your home?’ Because often times, a lot of people want to be organized, so they already bought bins and lots of books on organizing. We can often pull right from their storage room. As we unload things we can use things in a new way. I also would also like to get into using bamboo and natural resources–things that are easier on our earth as we go forward.

It takes a lot of effort, and it does slow the process down, and it might mean extra work on my end or for the client. But often times they are committed to that. And that’s one of the reasons they’ve had trouble letting go–if they really want it [their things] to be passed on in a way that’s special. So they’ve been holding on because they don’t want to throw it in the trash. I can come in and give reassurance when I have a lot of knowledge and I’m still learning – I hear of new resources all the time, but still learning about all those places.

Do you have any tips for college students on how to eco-organize?

Kate: Well, my biggest tip is really saying that it’s so much easier to be more thoughtful on the front end, being a gatekeeper. Which means you’re the person in charge of what’s coming in… It just feels like there’s always things to take, so realizing that going to Target and seeing that dollar area, thinking about what you really need before purchasing is important. Because the less you have coming in, the less you have to deal with or manage, find homes for. When you’re ready to buy or take something, to just kind of pause and then decide if you can fit that. Think: will I be able to fit this in my space? Is it really something that I need and want, and can use? If not, we say no!

Also, think of thrift stores as great resources when purchasing appliances, decor & furniture to furnish their first places.  People are donating items that are in excellent condition, so instead of buying new, try the thrift or second-hand store first & keep the cycle of stuff moving in our communities.


Kate spoke about repair fairs and garage sales as something to keep in mind when purging your things. Here are some fairs to keep in mind when you’re going through everything you’ve accumulated as you move out of your apartment or house for the summer:

  • The Pack & Give Back Program: Accepts donations of household items (anything from furniture to kitchenware) from June 1 through August 24. The program has diverted over 300,000 pounds of household items from landfills. Also–if you’re looking to pick up some things for your new place while giving old items a new home, you can browse the “Free Store” at the end of August.
  • Fix-It Clinics: Thanks to Hennepin County, broken household items and clothing can be fixed for free on various weekends throughout the metro area. If you’re handy, you can volunteer to help reduce other people’s waste as well.