Five Questions With: Sara Bereika 

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What role does a professional organizer play?
We're a helping hand. We're transferring skills to someone who may have lost them or may never have had them. … It's different from a coach because we're actually hands-on, but our objective is always to get our client to do it on their own. They're learning a skill and then applying it to their own life. We ask the right questions. We kind of reflect back to you what you don't see.

What do you think is the greatest challenge in getting organized?
Truly identifying the underlying cause. I always tell my clients that it's usually not the clutter. Once you begin to identify that the clutter is not the true problem, then you can identify what the real problems may be. … Sometimes my clients are people pleasers; they do for everybody else and they don't focus on themselves enough. Sometimes they suffer from depression and don't have the energy to do anything.

What are some unexpected benefits of being organized?
Being organized can transcend into all areas of your life. Frequently clients tell me that once they've gotten organized, they can actually have friends over; they're able to go to the gym and work out; they're able to keep up with paying their bills; they're able to spend more time with their family. It trickles down into everything else.

Once order has been achieved, how does one stay organized?
It's the most difficult part, there's no doubt about that. It's all about persistence. Organizing may not always be the highest priority, but with persistence it's easier to maintain. There's no doubt that you will slip, so just keep going. No one's judging you but you.

What's the idea behind "clutter-free gifts"?
Clutter-free gifts are gifts that don't sit on a shelf and collect dust. It's more about giving an experience or time. So instead of giving someone a sweater, you're giving them a sky-diving experience or a pedicure. … It takes a lot more time and effort, but there's a lot more value in it. HS

Since starting NEAT three years ago, Sara Bereika has spent her days teaching others how to remove chaos from their lives, whether it's in their office, kitchen or closet. A former graphic designer, Sara serves as the president of the Richmond chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Find more tips on getting and staying organized at her blog, www.neat-

organizing.com/blog, where you can also pick up Sara's first e-book, "80 Clutter-Free Gift Ideas."

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