We met for coffee at Common Ground. Her first words? A joke that her shoes didn’t match.

They didn’t. On her left foot was a boot. Her right foot? A sandal.

“The doctor wants me to be wearing them on both feet,” she said.  “Who has time for that? I have a toddler, a business…. So I alternate.”

And I get it. Because I’m a mom.

Most of the moms I’ve interviewed for the Coffee With series have something in common: they started their businesses after their kids were born because returning to the work schedule they had before baby didn’t jive with the lifestyle they wanted to create for their family.

Mary Cate Claudias did exactly the opposite. 

“I’m so glad I did!” said Mary Cate, founder/CEO, Certified Professional Organizer & Productivity Consultant, Charm City Organizers. “I don’t know how others have started businesses with young kids. There is so much TIME needed. For the first years, Charm City Organizers was my baby.” 

How does one become a professional organizer after spending years as a lacrosse coach, teacher, and non-profit manager? It started with wanting to break out of a career plateau. She loved what she was doing but needed new ways to challenge herself.

“I literally sat there and googled things I was good at. I thought hey — I’m good at organizing my fridge. And I found out that organizing is an actual thing,” said Mary Cate. She’s now one of 10 certified professional organizers in the state of Maryland. 

“My husband and I were newly engaged,” she said. “So when I decided I wanted to start the business, I said — let’s go to the courthouse.” Her husband’s response? Well, that’s romantic.

“But I needed health insurance,” she laughed.

Sometimes practical trumps romance. {If you get that, you might be a mom…}

It wasn’t an easy start. She waited tables for a year while getting her business off the ground. Her husband, an IT professional, was also working long hours. “Dates” consisted of 2 am nightcaps. But there was an end goal: professional autonomy and limitless possibility.

That was five years ago. Now she has a team of organizational professionals working with her, each in a niche area. Some work exclusively with families. Some work exclusively with seniors who are downsizing. Mary Cate is spending most of her time with business clients right now, boosting their productivity by streamlining systems. She works out of her Hampden home and team members work from their homes as well, although they are in consistent communication.

Practicality is one of those skills a good organizer has to possess. But another must-have skill? Empathy.

{And a healthy distrust of shows like Hoarders, which — according to Mary Cate — really hurt her industry’s credibility.}
coffee with mary cate claudias, charm city organizers - (cool) progeny

People who seek organization help come in all varieties, but there are some that are struggling with mental illness and parting with their belongings is a real battle for them. It’s not just about coming in and clearing out — it’s about coming in, sorting, providing emotional support, connecting them with the right services. And it certainly doesn’t happen in a matter of days. It can take weeks or months.

Mary Cate and her team will handle up to Level 3 of hoarding. If a potential client’s situation is a 4 or a 5, she will refer them to a colleague who is equipped to deal with those cases. 

“It’s about coordinating the right services for their needs,” said Mary Cate, who even keeps the contact information of handy services, realtors, interior designers, gardeners and more in her lil’ black book so she can put together a holistic organizational plan for clients.

I had to ask her — because I’m sure you’re dying to know, too — what does your house look like?

She grinned. It’s the question everyone asks her, especially when she’s speaking to groups.

“It used to be immaculate, but I’m a realist. I have a kid! In some ways, being a parent made me more efficient. My desk is immaculate now,” she said, alluding to a mishap with some paperwork and her toddler daughter. {I laughed — my son once took a pair of scissors to a stack of monthly invoices. Hurdling toddler paperwork destruction is probably some sort of badge of honor for work-from-home parents.}

Then she leveled with me. Her house? It’s not as clean as it once was. And that’s ok.

Successful organizing is about putting the systems you need into place WHEN you need them, and those needs change as your family evolves, said Mary Cate.

Her fridge is still organized, though. 

{I think we need her to share some tips, no?}

 

Should we have coffee? Coffee with is a series on (cool) progeny that highlights moms in Baltimore doing (cool) things. Know a mom we should have coffee with? Email Heather at heather AT coolprogeny.com.