Careers: Interviews
Recognized Expert in Field of Organization

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Valentina Sgro, professional organizer and founder of SGRO Consulting, Solutions for Getting Really Organized.

In 1985, Valentina Sgro left her 12-hour-a-day position at a major law firm for a 16-hour-a-day job of childrearing and household management. In 1989, realizing that things were out of control, Val began trying to find a system which would get her organized. In 1997, with order established in her own life, Val founded
SGRO Consulting, Solutions for Getting Really Organized. SGRO Consulting is dedicated to assisting individuals and businesses develop customized systems that fit their unique personalities, atmospheres, and situations, and which increase productivity and free time while reducing stress.

In 1977, Val received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, with a major in Accounting, from John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio and in 1980, her J.D. law degree from the University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is a Certified Chronic Disorganization Specialist and a member of NAPO's Golden Circle.

Val is the Treasurer of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, and is a past treasurer of NSGCD, the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization.

Val consults privately and lectures regularly on various organizing topics. She writes a monthly article for the SGRO Consulting website: www.ReallyOrganized.com.

Val’s recently released book “Organize Your Family’s Schedule in No Time”(Que), helps you to get control of the calendar.

Discussion: 

Q:  Valentina, thank you for doing this interview with us! 

A:  Thank you, Stephen.

Q:  In addition to being a Certified Chronic Disorganization Specialist, you have a BSc in Business Administration with a major in Accounting and a JD Law degree. What aspects of your experience and education do you find most useful in your very successful career? Describe the decisions you made to reach your current position.

A:  There's no question that my business and legal backgrounds gave me the tools I need to run my own business. Being a lawyer makes me more aware of potential risks which, in turn, causes me to make decisions in a more measured manner.

Q: Can you describe your work at SGRO Consulting, Solutions for Getting Really Organized. Please detail the services you provide.

A:  Over the past seven years I've helped countless people organize their homes. But now I focus my services on business organizing--teaching organizing principles to an entire staff and then working with individuals to adjust their workflow and workspace to their own organizing styles while still dovetailing with the company's systems.

Q:  Your presentations/workshops/seminars are tailored towards individuals, professionals, and businesses. In fact, one of your seminars (Law and the Practice of Order) has been approved by the Ohio Supreme Court commission on Continuing Legal Education.  What makes your presentations/seminars/workshops so successful?

A:  People take away more from a presentation if it's engaging.  I use lots of examples and humor to illustrate the principles I teach, so that my audience will remember them.

Q:  As a professional organizer, you would have been exposed to innumerable interesting events. Can you share your two most surprising experiences?

A:  A good professional organizer should never be surprised by anything.

One of the most unusual clients I've had actually felt trapped by his meticulous time management and hired me to show him how to loosen up his schedule.

Q:  Can you share with us a humorous story?

A:  For a time, I subcontracted to unpack and put away people's stuff after a corporate move.  As I was unpacking one box, the homeowner kept insisting the movers must have given her someone else's box.  I was about halfway through the box before she recognized one of her possessions.

Q:  Tell us more about the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD).

A:  NAPO is The Organizing Authority with a mission to develop, lead and promote professional organizers and the organizing industry. It was established in 1985 and has grown to 3000 members.

NSGCD is an educational association that explores, develops, and disseminates organizing methods, techniques, approaches, and solutions that benefit chronically disorganized people.

Q:  You are a successful organizational professional, educator, speaker, and writer? What are your top organizational techniques that you use in your own successful career?

A:  One of my most efficient tools is my idea box. I always have more ideas than I have time to implement, so, in order to stay focused, when I get a new idea I write it on a 3x5 card and toss it into a box.  Once a year, I take out all the cards, pitch the ones that don't sound good anymore, select a few I want to implement in the coming year, and throw the rest back into the box. This technique keeps me working toward attainable goals while insuring that I never lose a good idea.

Q:  What are three organizational tips for the business professional?

A:  1) Set aside two hours a day without interruptions.
2) Group similar tasks whenever possible.
3) Get enough sleep.

Q: Provide an overview of your recent book, “Organize Your Family’s Schedule in No Time.” What makes this book so interesting and valuable? What prompted you to write this book?

A: I was very enthusiastic when Que Publishing approached me with this title, because, as far as I know, it's the only book that specifically and exclusively addresses the topic of organizing family schedules. I believe I've been able to use my organizing expertise to show how a family can respect individual personalities, styles, and interests and still have a smooth-running, coordinated household and family. One of the special features of my book is that it provides self-assessment questionnaires to guide the reader to arrange the family schedule and select scheduling tools to complement the personalities and learning styles of the family members.

Q: Can you provide three useful tips from your book?

A: 1) Select scheduling tools that fit your family members' styles.
2) Don't over-schedule.
3) Involve all family members.

Q:  You have designed and implemented many different solutions. Share two case studies and the lessons you have learned from each.

A:  Let me give you an idea of the method I use to design and implement solutions. When I first meet with a client, I assess the clues that are available to me and use them to formulate a solution. If the person has a lot of pets, I know he would prefer life in his workspace, such as a plant or goldfish. If the person is wearing bright clothes, I know that she might appreciate a color-coded system. If the person is surrounded by sports trophies, then we need to make organizing and work into a game. It's all about tailoring the system to the personality of the individual or company.

Q:  In terms of time and organization, what are the most compelling issues facing individuals and business professionals today and in the future? How can they be resolved?

A:  I think the most compelling organizational issue is learning to deal with the proliferation of email and the sense of urgency that attends it. People used to jump up to answer the phone at dinner, but now they screen their calls and use answering machines. Similar coping mechanisms are certain to be developed for email.

Q: List your 5 best resources.

A: 1) NAPO and its members
2) NSGCD and its members
3) my clients
4) the public library
5) the Internet

Q:  What future books can we expect from you?

A:  I anticipate that my next book will be about dealing with all the paperwork that flows into our homes and offices.

Q:  In terms of education and skills, what would you recommend to someone wanting to get into this field of professional organizing? 

A:  The large majority of professional organizers hold a college degree. I would say some of the most useful ones are in business, sociology, psychology, and teaching.

Q:  What are the qualities that describe a successful Organizational specialist?

A: A professional organizer needs to be a good listener and a creative problem solver.

Q:  Where do you see yourself and your company in five years?

A: I have a lot of ideas in my box; but I prefer not to share my business plan.

Q:  What goals do you wish to accomplish? If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

A: I'd like to clear out a little more of my own paperwork; but I'm pretty happy with where I am and how I got here.

Q:  If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

A: Q1: What are your top organizing book recommendations by other authors?
A1:
The King's Stilts by Dr. Seuss
Sidetracked Home Executives by Pam Young and Peggy Jones
Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell
Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley

Q2: Why should a company or individual hire a professional organizer?
A2: If they feel they need help getting organized, a professional organizer has the expertise to produce results that will ultimately save the client time and money.

Q3: Is there one organizing thought you would like to leave us with?
A3: Yes: Neat is not the same as organized. While there is some correlation between the two, a person can be neat and still be disorganized, and a person can be organized without being neat.

Q: Valentina, thank you again for your time, and consideration in doing this interview.

A: It's been my pleasure, Stephen.  I hope your audience will learn more about my services and buy my book by visiting my website at http://www.ReallyOrganized.com.

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