Solo Mom Meryl Starr gets organized—and changes lives
Life coach, radio talk-show host, and best-selling author of The Home Organizing Workbook and its sequel, The Personal Organizing Workbook (both published by Chronicle Books, 2012), Meryl Starr specializes in transforming people’s lives.
Known as one of the country’s top organizers, her clients also learn to use the power and freedom that come with being more organized. Based in Manhattan, she attributes her success to her keen intuition and ability to understand her clients’ needs, along with her experience and dedication to her work.
Starr shared her life and organizing insights in an interview with ESME’s Kathleen Laccinole.
Q: Will you marry me?
A: I have so many people ask me that!
Q: How many kids do you have?
A: I have two: Alyson (27) and Andrew (25). They’re crazy-great. Andrew is very organized. Alyson didn’t get that gene, but she’s very organized in her job.
Q: What exactly do you do?
A: I’m a motivational life coach and professional organizer. As an organizer, I help people get their life in order. I’ve been in this business for 23 years. I was always a life coach, but the title of “personal organizer” didn’t exist when I first started.
Q: What does that title entail?
A: Everything in life needs organization, whether it’s time management, cleaning up a space, decluttering a relationship, etc.
Q: As a Solo Mom, I feel just keeping my kids alive is challenging, so staying organized is way down on the list. My room is a mess.
A: I do a lot of motivational coaching and private sessions. It’s really “physical” therapy. People have physical clutter, but it’s the emotional clutter that needs to be addressed. Because you feel disappointed when you walk into your room, that’s an energy drop. It means there is negativity and clutter in that space. Even though you are busy with the kids, the clearer you can make your space, the less disappointed you will feel. It’s better for you and, in turn, better for your kids.
Q: When I first became a Solo Mom, people told me to let the house and the yard go because it was hard enough to care for my children and myself.
A: I would disagree with letting your house go and all that. Your outside is a reflection of your inside. When I work with clients, the first thing we do is get rid of the physical clutter, and then it gets easier to get rid of the emotional clutter.
I have many clients who have anger from a divorce, and it gets in the way. It destroys anything because it’s negativity and clutter. It’s toxic.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
A: I’ve always been really organized. I came up with the idea when I was at a girlfriend’s house for the weekend. Her cabinets were a mess. I couldn’t find anything. So we sent the kids and the husbands out; I got some large garbage bags and went through everything. I got rid of what was broken or stained and what she didn’t use anymore. I organized everything. I was in all my glory, and I loved it!
My friend loved it, and a lightbulb went on in my head: the next day I came out with a brochure and sent it to everyone in the world that I knew and that my mother knew.
It’s how my brain works. When I was a kid, my brother used to bring his friends into my room and show them my closet: “This is the museum.” Who would have known all these years later I’d have written two books, have two radio shows, and been in over 50 national publications. I turned my neurosis into a huge business.
I am so grateful because I love my work. It’s wonderful being in business, having huge clients, getting press—but mostly helping people shift and change the energy in their homes and lives is my greatest joy.
Q: When and how did you become a Solo Mom?
A: My kids were teenagers and still living at home. My marriage just wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes in life we have to realize if something doesn’t work it’s not a bad thing, it’s just not meant for that time. When we split, I told my husband, “We have an amazing family and fabulous kids, and I do not want that to get messed up and changed. The priority is we do this as best as we can.” We have such great respect for each other. I never spoke one bad word of him and vice versa. We have a great relationship.
Q: Did being a single mom impact your career?
A: I already had the business and only worked when the kids were in school. I was a stay-at-home mom, and my house was the house that all the kids came to. It was the greatest thing in my life. In high school, my kids came to me and said it was OK to not be there for snack time. I was always there for snack time, even when I was working—so shifting to Solo Mom didn’t really affect that.
But my first winter alone was pretty dark for me because I felt lonely. Even though I had the business and the kids, they were busy. I was living in upstate New York, and it was a really lonely time. I hit bottom.
Q: When your status shifted to being a Solo Mom, did you feel a shift in your community?
A: I had my core girlfriends, but it got quiet. Everyone was married. My single friends lived all over the place, so they weren’t there. It was tough, but I got past it. You need to go to that place, hit bottom, then pick yourself back up, take care of yourself, and live your life.
Q: What did you do to help yourself?
A: I got back into running. I got back into cooking. I kept myself busy. I started writing my book. And I wasn’t even on a computer—I wrote long hand. Then things just started to change.
Q: Do you date?
A: I have dated. I love being in a relationship and I want to, but I don’t want to settle and I’m happy with the way my life is right now. I’m in total trust that when the time is right, it will happen.
Q: What are you most proud of as a Solo Mom?
A: I’m so proud of the mother that I am to my children. They are my greatest joy because I was giving and loving, and I am so close with them now. I was totally available, and I still am.
Q: Can you recommend any resources for Solo Moms trying to declutter their lives?
A: If they don’t have the money to hire someone like me, I would do some research online or [at] the library. I’d join a group—for example, I do little groups that are less expensive than a one-on-one session. Also, my books are available to be downloaded. I find that if you put your priorities in order and work with somebody, even once a week for a month, there’s always something you are going to get out of the process. It’s not a luxury. Think about what a woman pays for a pair of shoes.
Q: What’s your favorite single-parenting tip?
A: 1) Feel good about yourself. When we feel good, our kids pick up on it. Be grateful you are a mom. It’s a gift. 2) Put your high heels on every day.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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