Organizational Guru Julie Morganstern

Who she is: Dubbed the “queen of putting people’s lives in order” by USA Today, Julie Morgenstern is an organizational and time management expert, business productivity consultant, and nationally renowned speaker.

What she does: This New York Times bestselling author has published five books that are reference guides featuring techniques and observations culled from her 20 years of experience as a consultant to individuals and companies.

Why she does it: Back in 1989, Julie was working in theater and on the brink of divorce with three-year-old daughter Jessi to support. “I had no money to speak of, but I knew that if I did nothing else I had to get organized,” she explains. “I was never one of those meticulous people, but I figured that if I could get myself organized — mind, body and apartment office — that I could do the same for others.”

THE QUEEN OF PUTTING PEOPLE’S LIVES IN ORDER

By Hope Katz Gibbs

It was 1989 when Julie Morgenstern founded Julie Morgenstern Enterprises. Her common-sense approach to getting, and staying, organized has attracted the attention of Oprah Winfrey. In fact, in the last decade she appeared as a guest on Oprah nine times.

She has also appeared on CNN, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America, and has been quoted in The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Julie was also a monthly contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine. Her new monthly column premiered in the March 2009 issue of Redbook.

The art of organization

Getting organized is a way of life for Julie and her team of trained organizational experts who work one-on-one with a wide range of clients to help them organize a home, office or schedule.

They “organize from the inside out,” which means her team needs to understand not just the goal of the project, but how the person in need of organizational therapy thinks and operates.

Once Julie’s team works their magic, an organization system is in place for the client that is easy to maintain because it is based on their unique goals, natural style and habits. For business groups, they design a system that is organic to the work culture, and easy for each individual to follow.

Satisfied clients include top managers at Time Warner, the CEO of Champion Health Associates, a professor at the Tuck School of Business, the owner of a Media Company in NYC, a documentary filmmaker, and countless freelancers, stay-at-home moms — and many entrepreneurs who know they need to be organized to be effective.

The bottom line, says Julie, is that in today’s “get it done yesterday” culture, being disorganized is a universal dilemma.

The Wall Street Journal published a story a few years ago with data indicating that the average U.S. executive wastes one hour per day searching for missing information in messy desks and files,” Julie explains. “The National Soap and Detergent Association assessed recently that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in the average home. And 47% of the employees polled at the Connecticut-based work / life balance company LifeCare said time management was the number one source of stress in their lives.”

But there is a solution. Julie says it all starts with a plan.

SHED your stuff

Of course, she realized early on that she didn’t have the time to personally organize every business and private home in the country — or even her home base of New York City. So she began writing self-help books to aid the chronically disorganized in their quest to have a place for everything.

Her first title was published the first year she was in business: Organizing From the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life. She released a pack of handy organizational cards based on the book in 2002. Later that year came a sequel for organizationally challenged teens that Julie wrote with her daughter: Organizing From the Inside Out for Teens.

In 2004 came Time Management from the Inside Out, followed by Never Check E-mail in the Morning in 2005. In 2009 she released, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life.

A business born of necessity

Back in 1989, Julie was working in theater and on the brink of divorce with three-year-old daughter Jessi to support.

“I had no money to speak of, but I knew that if I did nothing else I had to get organized,” she explains. “I was never one of those meticulous people, but I figured that if I could get myself organized — mind, body and apartment office — that I could do the same for others.”

She borrowed $100 from her neighbor Zoe, and took out a $26 ad in the publication that she knew would reach her target audience — New York’s favorite publication for parents, Big Apple Parent.

“Back in the late 1980s, everyone I knew kept it around for months,” Julie adds. “It was the go-to magazine for educated, dual-income families looking for parenting advice. I figured that was the place where I’d find my first clients.”

She was right. The ad, and the business cards and letterhead she bought with the rest of the $100 loan, turned into her first $500 job. She took $450 of it and bought a display ad in Big Apple Parent, and that led to dozens of other jobs, a staff, awards, speaking engagements, corporate training programs, the Organizing Institute — and her five books.

Her philosophy in SHED Your Stuff, in fact, is her guiding principle in fighting clutter, over-scheduling and breaking bad habits. SHED, she explains, is an acronym for Separate treasures, Heave the rest, Embrace identity from within, and Drive yourself forward.

The book not only offers logical advice — but also includes easy-to-use timelines, thoughts on how to live in the moment, and quizzes and work sheets to teach how to shake free of the old, and take small steps toward creating the new clutter-free you.

Yes, Julie admits, you may miss certain possessions or habits, “but the mental and physical space you gain from ridding your closet of decades old shoes and your drawers and filing cabinets of ancient memos and mementos will allow you to move forward. Honestly, who doesn’t want to do that?”

Five Tips from Julie Morgenstern

1. Follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice: “Do not be afraid of mistakes, providing you do not make the same one twice.”

Julie says: “I live by this adage — except when I was worried about money and made the same mistake twice of taking on a client who I knew would be incredibly difficult. I didn’t listen to that little voice in my head that told me not to take on a client sure to give me grief and refuse to pay the bill.”

“I took her on anyway, and boy did I pay the price,” she laments. “It didn’t happen again until years later when I had a large staff working for me, and again I was concerned about making payroll. “I didn’t listen to that voice, and paid the price. But I made a pact that whenever I heard it again I’d see a big red flag with the words printed on it, ‘This one won’t pay.’”

2. Think like a consumer, and you will know what to do.

Julie explains: “When I was first starting out, I made an appointment with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCOREwww.score.org), and asked how to price my services. My advisor told me to see what others in my industry were charging, and then charge $10 more.”

“I thought that was crazy, until he explained people have a ‘designer tag mentality.’ They believe the most expensive sweater or diamond or lawyer or doctor is the best, and who doesn’t want to own or work with the best?”

For her first job she charged the industry standard — $25-$50, at the time. But on the second job, with a little experience under her belt, she knew her service was valuable and charged $60. The customer didn’t blink. “Once I realized that she felt that way about pricing, I began putting myself in the shoes of my customers in every decision I made — and everything fell into place.”

Of course, in today’s teetering economy that philosophy is being tested. “But there is a sweet spot in pricing. Don’t go too high, but don’t go too low either. If you are clear about not underselling yourself, you’ll find the happy medium.”

3. Establish core values for your company, and stick to them.

Julie believes: “I want every project I touch to be valuable and useful for the consumer, so I never launch a new product, service or idea without first thoroughly testing it. I hate when I buy something that is half-baked, and never want to do that to my clients. It’s one of my core values, and I take pride in that.”

4. Business solutions should come from your bones.

Julie says: “I know some serial entrepreneurs who come up with businesses, or products, based on a thorough analysis of the market. They see a need, and fill it. It’s an intellectual pursuit for them, and plenty of people are successful using this approach. For me, I have to feel it in my bones.”

That’s how she knew how to begin her business, she says, write her books, establish her corporate training program, and create her Organizing Institute. “I’m one of those intuitive people who gets gut feelings about things. If I don’t feel it, I can’t do it. My advice to others who are instinctive is to follow that. It has never led me astray.”

5. Hire people who are as good in their fields as you are in yours.

Julie admits: “This is a tough one to master, because most entrepreneurs — especially those just starting out — want to do everything themselves. Or they think they don’t have the money to hire anyone to help them.”

This is a classic mistake, Julie says, for there are three core skills that every entrepreneur must have: the ability to develop useful products and services, financial management skills, and marketing savvy.

“It’s very rare for any one business person to have adequate doses of all three,” Julie believes. “It took me a long time to learn this, and my advice to other entrepreneurs is to take your time building your team — but do build one.”

“Not only do you need the emotional support, but having other professionals take on some of the important tasks frees you up to do what you love to do and what you do best.”

“After all, being able to do that one thing is why you went into business for yourself in the first place.”


The Women