Clear Home Solutions was founded by award-winning entrepreneur Marty Stevens-Heebner. She was inspired to launch Clear Home Solutions through her personal experiences involving her 90-year-old father and her 88-year-old aunt with dementia. She also leveraged her many years of organizing experience and inventorying the “stuff” in her own life and businesses to provide value to her clients. Marty was the first Certified Senior Move Manager (SMM-C) in the country, and is also a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, Marty is also a Public Policy Ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association and serves on the Board of OPICA, an adult day programming center catering to people with memory disorders and their families.
HomeZada: What is the first thing you notice when you walk into a home?
Marty Stevens-Heebner: Two things: the homeowner’s emotional state and, hate to say it, how the home smells. Is the client nervous? Most are, but sometimes it’s just nervous energy and they’re eager to get started. More often than not, though, they’re worried about or even embarrassed about what I’ll think.
The smell of a person’s home says so much. If it’s a light, clean smell, I can assume things can be fairly orderly. If the air is thick and a bit musty, even if most surfaces are clear, I can usually expect closets, cabinets and probably things hidden under the beds that haven’t been touched in years. If there’s a heavy animal smell, chances are there’ll be a lot of clutter and, chances, are a lot cutter and grime to go with packed closets, etc.
HZ: What is the first thing you would tell someone who is looking to become more organized?
Marty: Start getting organized by breaking the task down into small, manageable chunks. Set your timer for one hour – or even just half an hour – and focus on organizing one area. Once the timer goes off, schedule another hour the next day or the next weekend. You can also break it down into areas, focusing on finishing one drawer, for example, or one shelf. Bit by bit, it will all get done.
HZ: What do you think is the most challenging organizing project that people seek help for and why?
Marty: As one of the nation’s first Certified Senior Move Managers, I often work with older adults and their families. When they need to move, our older clients sometimes struggle tremendously with the idea of letting go of things.
Having strong systems for managing people’s items and belongings is the easy part of my business. The challenging part is helping our clients navigate their emotions during what is a very emotional and intimate process. People from my father’s generation are part of what I call the “Deprivation Generation” because they survived the Great Depression and then two wars. They had to scrimp and save, and were chastised fiercely if they wasted anything.
On top of all that, they’re terrified of moving. Who wouldn’t be? We enjoy listening to their stories, and then ask guiding questions so they can determine what items are truly their favorites and most useful things for them. There’s a wonderful quote from Hans Hofmann: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
HZ: What is the area of the home that could benefit from better organization?
Marty: It’s not so much an area as it is a category: paperwork. People of every age think the paperwork challenge is the biggest problem. All kinds of papers have spread to all kinds of places – bills, junk mail, homework, magazines – and it needs to be corralled. Once that’s done, a system needs to be created to handle it that best suits the needs of the client.
HZ: What is a result of being better organized in your home?
Marty: Clarity! Motivation! The air circulates better! And you’ll save time. Not only can you find things when you need them, you’ll know where to put them away once you’re done using it.
HZ: What is your one quick tip that any homeowner can do to get the process of being organized started?
Marty: By all means, compile a home inventory. With all the crazy weather out there, you never know when disaster can strike. We also have to deal with earthquakes here in Southern California, as well as, wildfires. And then there’s theft.
Also, if you have a home inventory, especially after you’ve organized your home, you have a record of where everything is so it saves time if you’re looking for something.
HZ: What are the reasons homeowners would consider getting a home inventory?
Marty: I live in Los Angeles, where we face any number of threats on an annual basis: earthquakes, fires, floods and theft. Disaster can strike at any time. Be prepared!
HZ: Who are the types of people that could use your services?
Marty: Our clients are usually older adults and they need one to protect themselves from caregivers and those I call “questionable” family members. Once a home inventory’s completed, there’s a record of everything and its location. Anyone coming into the home can be told that inventory’s been done, which deters people from developing sticky fingers.
We take note of items like jewelry, antiques and financial documents lying out in the open and recommend to our client (or whomever is in charge of the situation) that they tuck the valuables away in a safe deposit box. The financial documents should be under lock and key or managed by someone trustworthy outside the home.
HZ: What is a result of having a home inventory?
Marty: With a home inventory, you – and your things – are protected. Should disaster strike, all the fear and upset you’ll be feeling won’t be compounded by the frustration of having to try to document what you’ve lost. It’ll all be there in your inventory and you can get your insurance claim speeding along.
HZ: What’s one thing in your home you couldn’t live without and why?
Marty: My dogs! My life is usually terrific but on those days when things are challenging, there’s nothing like throwing my arms around a bundle of fur and getting some unconditional dog love.