Erica and I met while working in entertainment Public Relations over 20 years ago. It was what is now referred to as a “toxic work environment.” We, and several others from that office, bonded over that work environment – once we were brave enough to start talking openly about it with each other.
We all meet regularly for brunch, lunch, happy hour or dinner. Our lives have certainly changed in those 20 years! Erica got married and is now mother to three kids ages 12, 10 and six.
We have always been close friends, but she was instrumental in my cancer journey. She willingly took me to chemotherapy appointments, showered me with gifts, went wig shopping with me, and met me for lunch to get me out of the house. All this when we live on completely opposite ends of town.
About a year and a half ago, she started her own organizing business, Calm Your Space. I thought this was a great time to introduce you to her because who doesn’t need help with organization?
She had just come from a tennis lesson when we met for lunch on the first really hot day of spring and sat outside. She had a margarita, I had a vodka strawberry lemonade. We both left with a sunburn.
I hope you enjoy our delightful conversation!
AS: As a busy mom, what do you do to take care of yourself?
EP: I go for walks, occasionally go get a facial, meet friends for lunch. I don’t work full-time though, I’m able to manage my own schedule. I realize not everyone can do that. I always try and schedule time to get caught up or take a break after a busy week, so I’m really lucky there.
AS: How did you start playing tennis?
EP: The tennis is something I just started in February. I’ve never played. I started because when I found the thing that I really wanted to do and just did it, it cleared my mind of that worry. I felt more open to trying something new, knowing I can control my schedule.
We discussed the stress of answering the question, “What do you do?” when meeting new people, knowing the answer was stay at home with the kids. She said once she answered, that’s usually where the conversation ended. Now she has an answer. And I’m guessing “professional organizer” is a good conversation starter!
Our conversation moved to the stigma attached to being a stay-at-home mom. Erica pointed out that people look at you different when you don’t have a job outside of taking care of the kids. On the flip side, both of us hold great esteem for women who work full-time outside the house, take care of the kids and the house, make dinner. They truly are super heroes.
We made a slight pivot and talked about the amount of worry that goes into parenting when your kids are young and how much brain space is taken up by the tiniest thing. Are they going to the “right” school? Are they reading yet? Doing long division in Kindergarten? Eating the “right” foods?
EP: We just need to calm down. Caaalm down. That’s why I named my business Calm Your Space, she said with a laugh.
When asked how she decided to become a professional organizer, she said she has been organizing things her whole life. Even as a kid, she took joy in pulling everything out of her closet, organizing it and putting everything back in its spot. Even getting rid of things she no longer wanted, much to her mother’s dismay, since she purchased half of those things.
EP: I didn’t know you could do that for other people. I had no idea. But when I started looking for a job a couple years ago, I was looking for all the stuff I had done. Every job was ugh, I hope they don’t call me. I just couldn’t imagine it. Then, I typed “Organizing” into Indeed and professional organizer popped up. I started shaking. It’s something I’m good at, I’m qualified for, I would love to do it; I was so excited. Of course, no one wanted to hire me because I’d never worked for an organizing company. The one person who did, wanted to pay $15/hour and it was something where you had to be available any time they needed you.
Her husband suggested she go out on her own, but she wasn’t thinking of that as a possibility. Finally, it clicked and she mentioned it to a realtor friend who said she knew three people who could use her services right then. The friend put Calm Your Space in her newsletter and did a giveaway for a free service.
Next, Erica put together a website. Relying on Google, she found a template, wrote some copy and even enjoyed doing that. “I never felt like I was working,” she said. From there, her business has grown, mainly through recommendations.
EP: The first couple jobs I thought “Can I do this?” I get overwhelmed and I feel actually what other people feel when they walk in the room, which is “Where do I even begin?” But I’ve learned, and certainly talking to other organizers now, that you just kind of know immediately what to do. You start sorting and the wheel’s start turning. You get it. In this profession, it isn’t something you have to have a degree for. Two things I loved most about all my jobs were working with people and organizing the desk. The desk was the best part. Now, when I have a job the next day, I’m excited. I can’t wait. Even if I know it’s going to be hard or labor intensive, because it is a very physical job. At the end of the day, my back hurts and I feel like I worked out all day, but it’s that feeling of accomplishment and joy that I’m doing something I love. And that in turn, sort of makes me a better mother.
AS: How did you come up with your business name?
EP: Because that overwhelmed feeling is what most people feel in their house when it’s not in order. There’s a calming feeling about walking into a room and you know everything is in its place and you can just sit down and relax and just be. That’s why we love model homes and hotels because we walk in and there’s nothing anywhere. We love the bathroom because there’s nothing on the countertop.
AS: Any advice for starting a business?
EP: As far as starting a business goes, I’m encouraging of people to find that thing they love. Put a website together. I’ll do it for you if you don’t want to do it, and just do that thing. Think about the things you are super good at and you love to do and start offering to do it for people to see if it’s something you might like. There are so many opportunities now to make money doing something you really love.
To wrap up our conversation, I wanted to know what Erica was reading or watching.
AS: What are you reading right now?
EP: Well, I just finished Spare by Prince Harry. I thought it was really good. He’s a great writer.
AS: He had a ghostwriter. It’s funny because when I saw the cover for Spare, I thought it was like Andre Agassi’s Open, and I love that book. It’s one of my favorite books of all-time. And I found out they were the same ghostwriter.
EP: I thought the stories were good. I can’t imagine having lived that kind of life, growing up in that. And not wanting that attention. And he didn’t have a choice. He tried. He said this is the part I really like; can I just do this part and not… He wanted to still contribute and they were like all or nothing. He loved giving his time to people in need and the charities. Why would you turn somebody down who wants to do that kind of work? That to me is selfish and childish. Well, according to him they don’t want anything to do with him and they’re super ridged.
AS: It’s very sad to me because I loved Princess Diana growing up. And watching these brothers. I wanted them to be the Fab Four, Meghan and Harry and William and Kate. He was so close to Kate and William. Or did he say they weren’t that close?
EP: No, he said they were close. But at a certain point – he loved Kate from the very beginning. He said his brother always pretended like he didn’t know him at school, and was very closed off in public around him. But he had these visions of them being super close. He said once Kate and William got married, he thought they were going to invite [him] over all the time and he would be Uncle Harry. Then he said for the first year they moved into their house they never invited him over.
She also told me about a story in the book regarding Meghan, Kate and a lip gloss. I’ll have to read it for myself!
Thank you, Erica for being a part of my series of conversations with women I admire. We talked so much, I’m going to do a Part 2 filled with Erica’s tips on staying organized.