It has long been a fantasy or mine to hire a personal organizer. I know you might be thinking that this is paying someone for something that I can do myself. True, and yet here are the reasons I still dream about working with a professional.
Somehow, I wonder what the benefit would be to do it alone. Organization and decluttering seem to get pushed off my to-do list and I want to learn new ways of organizing and decluttering better that I can mainstream into my work and home life.
In a recent conversation with a friend, a digital marketer living in Israel, I mentioned this dream and she told me about a personal organizer and decluttering expert based in Haifa who focuses on zero waste and getting rid of physical and emotional clutter. I knew I had to talk to Rebekah Saltzman and that you, my readers, would enjoy hearing from her as well.
Let’s get to know Rebekah and learn from her.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Silver Spring MD, I moved to NYC when I was 18 to go to Parsons school of Design. In 2014, I made Aliyah.
I started in organization as a personal shopper when I was in high school. I would go to people’s houses and first organize their closets and fill in what I thought was missing to help them with their wardrobes.
While I was in college, I still did some personal organization and shopping on the side to help my friends, but I never thought I would make it my career.
What was your ah-ha moment about working with women to help them organize and declutter their homes, offices, kitchens and closets?
I got married, graduated with a degree in fashion design and found out that I hated working in fashion design. I switched to working as a freelance graphic designer and I had three kids in 2 years. When the younger ones turned three (they are twins), I decided to go back to work part time. I designed products that took a lot of resources to create and usually ended up in the landfill and I didn’t want to be part of that.
Meanwhile, I had taken a class called Jewish Positive thinking which gave me the courage to know I wanted to change, and I had also read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, which made me realize that I needed to change. But I didn’t know how. One day I saw an ad for someone looking to downsize to make Aliyah, and I jumped at the chance. After a few sessions with the couple, I realized, I want to do this full time, so I quit my job.
After a few sessions with my new clients I realized that we accumulate things because we can. So many things are so cheap, it makes it easy to purchase. We also accumulate things from other people, and we hold onto these things because we think that others would be disappointed with us if we don’t keep them.
All this accumulation does is holds us back from getting the things in life that we need and want. We simply don’t have the mental and physical space for the things we want and need.
How have trends in organization and the zero waste movement affected your work?
Everyone asks me if I have read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and I have! She encourages you to focus on whether things cause you joy, but I find that this metric is not necessarily the most helpful measurement for someone in a family. Mortgage papers don’t bring us joy, but we need them, and kids’ toys might not inspire joy in every mother, but our children need some of them.
The zero waste philosophy deeply affects my work: it allows me to teach people while we declutter and organize their home and life. It shifts how women think about future purchases, shows women how much trash their consumption habits create, and how much energy it takes for all of us to dispose of our trash.
Why have you chosen to focus on working with women?
Since women make most of the household purchases it makes sense to make them my main clients. However, there are several men in my Facebook group Organizing in Israel, so men also do purchasing or want to help their partners get out from under the clutter.
I find that mothers are also responsible for organizing objects that don’t belong to them. A big source of stress for mothers is their kids’ stuff. Often mothers want to help their kids learn how to be organized but they can’t figure out where to start.
I also think that women use shopping as a way to cope: “buying this will make me happier,” they say to themselves, but because it wasn’t a thought-through purchase, most of the time it sits in the closet with the tags on.
What do you respond to people who say that people should be able to organize and declutter their things by themselves?
A good comparison is weight loss. Hiring someone who can propose the best diet and exercise solutions for us and at the same time can hold us accountable makes all the difference.
I help people lose their clutter. I help people who are just starting to lose control in all their stuff and I help people who are in full blown apocalypse mode. I help people cut through the overwhelm and offer them organization best practices and on top of that, I am their buddy throughout the process. I keep them accountable so they can reach their goals.
When women organize and declutter their homes, what emotional and spiritual changes happen to them?
It is really amazing! Once a woman gets rid of all the things she does not want or need, her space is clear. Finally letting go allows for new blessings to come into her life naturally.
How does Judaism impact/inspire your work?
I love this question!
I believe that at Rosh Hashanah Hashem allots each of us a specific amount of blessings – some of them in the form of material wealth – for the upcoming year. When we have too many things already, we do not have the space to receive these blessings.
When I help people declutter and organize, I always find old or broken items like pillows, or shoes, or broken furniture. When asked why they keep all these things people respond they they might need it. It is true you may, but holding onto things that are no longer working for you take up physical and spiritual space in your life. It is difficult to receive new blessings when you don’t have the space for them.
In Judaism we stress that a person cannot take material wealth with them when they die. So what are we accumulating for? So our kids can sort through it? Living with what you need now helps you live better today, and this helps your children now and in the future.
What are your favorite areas of the home to organize and declutter, and why?
I love closets, because even though the fashion industry wasn’t for me, my first love is clothing! I love, love sorting through clothing and learning about each person’s style. Decluttering (i.e. reducing the amount of clothes) and organizing a closet is a fast job that has a large impact on a woman’s day to day life.
If a woman wants to start to organize and declutter, what are 2-3 simple ways she can just begin?
Get a buddy or an organizer so that you are accountable to someone! Start with a small area to get comfortable with the the idea of reducing, like under the bathroom sink. Remove everything and sort through it and responsibly discard the non-essentials. Only put back the essentials.
Can you give us three minimalist/zero waste strategies that we can try at home?
Get a good water bottle and tote it with you everywhere!
Share what you have. When we share, we all spend less money and use less resources. Sharing increases your blessings!
Ask yourself these questions when you are thinking about making a purchase:
- Do I need this?
- Is there an alternative that is less wasteful?
- What will happen when I am done using this product?
What inspires you to continue to do this work?
My work brings me closer to basic Jewish tenets about caring for the environment, animal welfare and appreciating what I have.
Since making Aliyah, I include environmental activism as part of my work in individual homes. Specifically, the “throw away” mentality in Israel is something I challenge in my clients and circle of friends.
I believe I need to be a steward of the earth and not of capitalism. I won’t say that I never get sucked in by marketing, but I am conscious and careful about how I use things and what I bring into my home. My work inspires me to lead by example to help bring change into the world.
Your turn: Rebekah is giving one lucky reader one 45 min organization + decluttering sessions (via skype or whatsapp). To enter: leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen at random on Sunday June 18th. Update: A winner has been chosen and notified. Thanks for participating.
If you are interested in offering a giveaway of your purposeful product, service or experience on Jewish Food Hero, start a conversation with me here.