Stasia Steele stood in front of a wire shelf inside the kitchen pantry at Wistia, a video marketing company in Cambridge, arranging liquor bottles. She picked up an empty bottle, shook her head and laughed. “Someone’s been drinking in the pantry.”
Life gets crazy sometimes, Steele says. “This is normal. But if you’ve already organized and created homes for everything, it’s a heck of a lot easier to maintain.”
Steele is a professional organizer and founder of The Little Details, which helps people declutter and organize everything from kitchens, closets, office space and even email and cloud storage. She’s been doing it long before Marie Kondo became a household name and we gave gratitude to an old shirt because it no longer sparked joy. “We’re here to just help you figure out what you need to keep and what you don’t,” she says. It sounds simple enough.
So on a recent Friday morning, Steele chatted during her seventh session of a months-long project at Wistia’s office space about her work and what it takes to get the job done.
“A lot of people like to organize for family, friends and all of that. But that’s not what it takes to be an organizer.” Steele is currently managing 20 clients, including Wistia, with a four-month waitlist. When she’s not in a client session, she is managing the business, spending weekends in the studio helping customers, teaching workshops or developing her team with their own clients.
Steele grew up on a farm in Florida with a mother who she remembers often tearing up the house and putting it back together. Almost eight years ago, she turned her skills into a business working with mostly residential clients and later appearing on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive. The Little Details was awarded Boston’s Best New Addition after opening a North Cambridge studio last year, the only solely-owned of its kind in Massachusetts, according to Steele. The studio sells organizing products and offers biweekly workshops, like an upcoming March 27 session on clearing digital clutter.
One of the main objectives as an organizer is to understand how a client wants to use the space, says Steele. Clients come to her often because they don’t know exactly what they want. “They just know that they don’t like how it is. Once we start, it’s a process of elimination. It’s like putting a big puzzle together.” The studio has helped provide an opportunity for people to speak in person with Steele or one of her two professional organizers. But it’s still an uncomfortable feeling having a stranger organize your stuff. The fear of being judged or not being understood is what Steele says prevents people from seeking professional help. While she can envision how the puzzle pieces will come together after an initial walkthrough consultation, she has to make sure expectations are clear with the clients, who can start the process already feeling exhausted.
Before and After: Steele and The Little Details team organized Wistia’s kitchen pantry.
“There’s definitely a scary moment at the beginning,” Wistia’s office manager, Kelsey Miller says. “I knew it was going to be good for us, but I was also overwhelmed.” It was the progress Miller witnessed after the first four-hour session that convinced her to have Steele and her team keep coming back.
A client will likely want help with something small at first, like a pantry, according to Steele, and expand to more projects once they experience the results. “There’s a reason why that happens psychologically,” she says. “But we know it’s going to happen, so we’re just trying to prepare them for that.”
As a growing tech startup, Wistia’s leadership team wanted to reflect changes in company strategy with the physical space. And as Miller puts it, “We’re at a point where it isn’t sustainable. No one can find things.”
Miller admits there are weird aspects of the company that had to be explained to Steele. Miniature animal toys were scattered in random drawers. The business intelligence team has a fidget spinner library. There was a cockroach costume used for a one-time video and no one knew what to do with it.
During the course of nearly 30 hours, Steele helped Wistia purge things like the miniatures, create homes for loose camera lenses and rethink how to use its space overall. They are even discussing a potential build out of lockers for staff who have limited storage at their desks.
“When you’re [organizing] for someone, especially someone you don’t know, you have to create trust in that relationship and actually be able to have the skills to handle the situation and make them happy,” Steele says. Instead of encouraging Miller to trash the cockroach costume, Steele helped her realize that keeping it and building a costume closet might better suit Wistia’s creative pursuits. For all the items that were no longer needed, Steele and her team will take them directly to the trash, recycle or donate to a local thrift shop.
The work is both mentally and physically demanding with a wide-range of clients. “You could be working with a hoarder in the morning, in a $10 million house in the afternoon and then you could be [at Wistia] the next morning and be here all day for an install.”
She admits that there are days when it’s hard to even have a conversation. She has to remember to sit down and remind her team to do the same when unboxing new items. “Something will inevitably go wrong.” She recalls the time when an install session unexpectedly went until four o’clock in the morning. “If I don’t reserve as much energy as I can, I’m going to be dead in the water.”
Hiring more organizers is the next step for Steele and The Little Details team. But it’s a difficult task. The skills required of an organizer depends more on life experience than anything else Steele has learned. In the meantime, she’s also eyeing a digital expansion. Working with Wistia has her considering a web portal for online classes. It would allow Steele to provide guidance and expand her reach without having to be present all the time. “I can’t clone myself yet, so it’s having to figure out how to divide my time.”
Before Steele returns to complete the shelving installation of Wistia’s new video room, she notes that every new project comes with honing her skills and knowing more about how to better work with differing personalities. “It’s never perfect, but I just keep learning every time.” And for Wistia, Miller says it was simply time for the company to grow up a little and Steele has helped them do that.
“We’re not going to put childish things aside,” Miller says. “We’re just going to know where to find them.”