The Uplifters
The Uplifters
How you do one thing is how you do everything

How you do one thing is how you do everything

Clearing the Clutter with The Chaos Whisperer

Welcome to episode 11 of The Uplifters Podcast!


How you do one thing is how you do everything. Again and again, in my work with women who are in transitional phases, I have seen how changing any one thing in our lives can kick off a cascade that changes everything. When people want to get unstuck, we often start by creating structure and organization in their daily lives to ensure their precious energy is focused where it matters most. And so, today I am thrilled to welcome Sonya Weisshappel, who is known as The Chaos Whisperer, for her work helping people organize their homes, their lives, and their files, with her company, Seriatim. Thank you to Melanie Cohen for her lovely introduction.

Like so many Uplifter journeys, Sonya’s story begins at the moment she turned a difference into a strength. Sonya is a proud dyslexic. Her unique way of viewing information led her to a career helping thousands of people organize their lives, home, and data. In this episode you’ll discover:

  • The difference between project lists and task lists and which lists actually get done. 

  • How to get ourselves into Beast Mode by setting ourselves up for success with the right tools and the right processes. 

  • How we set ourselves up for Frustration Mode by holding onto the accumulated clutter of dreams and goals that didn’t have the right tools or processes to gain momentum. 

  • How bundling up the objects that anchor us to old habits can be a stepping stone to fully releasing them mentally, physically and emotionally. 

  • How our comfort zones can stop our growth, make us feel locked in the past, and turn our strengths into roadblocks. 

I hope you’ll find lots of juicy inspiration in this conversation to help you clear out any mental or physical clutter that might be causing you to stumble on the path to your goals. But, inspiration alone is just a starting point. We Uplifters are really here to turn our big ideas into big action! So, at the end of this episode, I’ll introduce a brand new segment to mark our 11th episode, and a new decade in our journey. I’ll invite you to take a few moments to reflect on what this conversation means for you and your dreams.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new format, so please reply to this email or comment below and let me know what you think. 

Let’s keep rising higher, together.


Get To Know Sonya

Sonya grew up in New York City where she started her organizing company, Seriatim, in 1999. Proudly dyslexic, Sonya founded her business in order to avoid writing a resume and now, almost two decades later, she and her Seriatim team have earned themselves a reputation as consummate Chaos Whisperers. In 2017, Sonya became the first organizer to be accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. She is currently President of the New York Council of Relocation Professionals (NYCORP). In her spare time, Sonya organizes her husband, three children, and rescue dog, Finn.

Find more from Sonya here and here.

Messy Transcript

Aransas Savas (00:04.168)

Welcome to the Uplifters podcast. 

when I asked you to tell me a little bit about you,

Aransas Savas (04:12.872)

The first thing you said is, I'm a proud dyslexic who started my company because I didn't want to fill out a resume.

Sonya (04:24.31)

I know some days that haunts me, but on the other hand, it is, it is a hundred percent truthful for, cause one used to use a typewriter with whiteout. And that meant that you needed to understand graphically where things were. And you needed to know how to spell. And you needed to know what it needed to look like to create it. So I avoided writing it because I didn't know what to say. Plus, you have to have confidence to know how to sell yourself. I didn't have the confidence at that point. So I thought, I'll just do what I know how to do, which is take life events and make them into something that I can help others with.. And since for the last 30 years, Sarriotta, my company, has cleaned out thousands of estates, I am...

Aransas Savas (06:23.605)


Sonya (06:43.918)

always reminded that you cannot take it with you. And so how someone left this world it affects them, but generationally it affects those left behind as well. And so,

Sonya (07:13.99)

If anything, the one thing that I believe the most in is to know what you own and to only keep in your world what you care about.Some people want to take up arts and craft, a hobby. They go out, they get everything, but they didn't make room for it in their home. Where are you going to plug in that sewing machine? Do you have a table to put the sewing machine on? Do you have scissors? Do you have the supplies you need? It dies on the vine. And part of the reason it dies on the vine is because it didn't come part of the structure within their calendar. It didn't become part of their standard operating procedures

Sonya (08:40.318)

Every day I wake up and I brush my teeth. I also check my LinkedIn and oh, by the way, I feed the fish. The fish will go belly up if you don't feed it. Your plants will die if you don't water it or give it its care. Everything you own requires care. So how much time do you have to devote to care? And on what interval?

Aransas Savas (09:04.272)

Yes, yes, yes.

Aransas Savas (09:08.352)

Yes, and then I think we carry so much guilt about the stuff that we got energized or excited about and made a little investment about and then forgot to maintain. The amount of shame people feel over their dead plants 

Aransas Savas (09:32.284)

Yeah, yeah. And it isn't, I think, the thing that I think is so exciting about you and your work is that it isn't a failure. It isn't a shortcoming on your part. It doesn't mean you're bad or lazy or not good or not passionate enough or talented enough. It just means you didn't have the right process set up. So let's get in there and figure out what it is you really care about.

Sonya (10:13.534)

If you spend 15 minutes, telling yourself you suck because you didn't take care of your plant, you could have gone to the store and gotten a new plant and said, okay, I'm gonna take five minutes a day and look at my plant and meditate looking at my plant and oh yeah, it needs waterHaving raised three kids.

Aransas Savas (12:15.62)

Guilt and shame are unproductive and exhausting.

Sonya (12:19.707)


Aransas Savas (12:20.856)

Learning, on the other hand, is empowering and energizing. And so that's really what we're talking about. I can sit there and say, oh, I'm the bad person. I should have taken care of my plant. And I can sit there and bemoan it and worry about it all day long. Or I could say, what can I learn from this experience?

Aransas Savas (12:42.536)

and translate that into something that energizes me so that I can move forward. How does that show up in your work as an organizer?

Sonya (12:52.51)

It shows up in our work 

Sonya (12:57.246)

in many ways. People come to us in utter chaos.

Sonya (13:04.514)

paperwork out of control, they need to file their taxes, or they want something like to adopt a child or to do something joyful, but they can't because they can't get their papers together. They don't know where to even begin. So clients come to us.

Sonya (13:32.958)

in those level of crises 

Aransas Savas (15:42.636)

Hmm. And hiding, I think, most of the time, right? Like we're not dealing with these things either because we didn't have processes in place for them. But I think ultimately even that is about hiding, right? Because I started to feel ashamed, like I said, that I didn't do the thing. And so then I started to hide from the shame and the guilt and I push it further and further and further into a corner and the corner starts to get closer and closer.

Sonya (16:42.086)

Oh, absolutely.  when we, as a team go into a full blown hoard job,, which is chaos beyond. and we're doing one

Sonya (17:40.382)

It's unclean. It's, you know, it's a real, it's a real problem. But does she focus on any of that? Does she see any of that? No. She focused on her microscope. She said, there's my microscope in the center of the floor. Now, mind you, she had a fall, ended up in the hospital and required home health aides. Home health aides arrived

Sonya (18:10.278)

And she said, let's do my exercises here. they get to the living room and they're like, not happening. And she's like, what's wrong? Because she doesn't even see it. But the microscope, which is in the center of the living room, she's fixated on that is my most special object of the million.

Aransas Savas (18:52.476)

Yeah, because that's what she understands and that's where she feels confident. And I think like...

Aransas Savas (19:00.988)

to use your own beginning of this company. There's such a beautiful parallel there that again, I think with hoarders, the research shows that that is associated most often with highly intelligent, highly productive, highly engaged people. This is a byproduct of a unique view of the world. And just as with your dyslexia,

Sonya (19:26.55)


Aransas Savas (19:29.884)

It set you up to be able to see patterns probably differently and to be able to have magic powers for your clients through your unique way of viewing the world. And for this woman that you're talking about, this is the thing she understands. This is the place she feels powerful and control and competent. And so of course she's gonna turn back there.

Sonya (19:34.892)


Aransas Savas (19:54.44)

And I think what you're doing, if I look at it from a behavioral space, is you and your team are coming in and saying, lean on us. We are gonna be your confidence and your courage when you don't have it. And together, we're gonna get through the muck and the must and the...

Aransas Savas (20:16.94)

collected accumulation of fear and hiding and loss together. And then we're gonna set you up to be able to turn back to that microscope with an even greater sense of passion and curiosity.

Sonya (23:02.838)

That's right. That's with your three dimensional objects and find the pattern within your space. What does that mean? Find the pattern within your space.

Sonya (23:17.774)

Put your vases with your vases, put your shoes with your shoes, put your socks with your socks, you know, just put your stuff that matches together so that then you can pull out the cream of that crop. But you, you, if you, no, maybe not, you know, but if you are cooking every day and you're doing a chocolate manufacturing or.

Aransas Savas (23:35.63)

Mm-hmm. You don't need 17 spatulas.

Sonya (23:47.466)

making cookies for the bake sale weekly and you're teaching others, maybe you do need 17 spatulas, but you need to establish that that's actually what you're gonna do and make time for versus 17 spatulas in your kitchen can only hold two. So.

Aransas Savas (23:53.088)


Aransas Savas (24:05.624)

And you're not actually doing those aspirational things that you're saving those for maybe in case someday. 

Sonya (24:14.654)

Yeah, so first it's looking at the, that's it, you know, it's like, how real is this project? How real is it that you are going to bake or you're going to dog sit or you're going to sew or you're going to read? Like really? How, how, or that you are size, you know,

Aransas Savas (24:24.377)


Aransas Savas (24:34.796)

Thank you.

Sonya (24:41.334)

15 and you're going down to size 4 and you've got a wardrobe of size 4 like are you working on dieting or Are you actually gonna? Just beat yourself up every time you open the closet and look at those clothes Which is it?

Right, so I think too there is this idea, whatever it is, of being in the moment you're in.

if you keep peeling back, it becomes, all about making lists So people's.

Sonya (26:20.43)

To do list is often a dump and run. They put it on a list, but they don't actually manage their list you'll never be able to do a year's worth of stuff in one day and

Aransas Savas (26:59.752)

Mm-hmm.Sonya (27:27.19)

I also think that there's a difference of putting a project on a to-do list and putting a task on a to-do list.

Aransas Savas (27:46.092)


Sonya (27:48.054)

So if you say, write my will.

Aransas Savas (27:54.676)


Sonya (27:57.258)

That's a project, if will is on your to-do list, there's the finding an attorney, thinking about who it is, paying the attorney, getting the draft, approving the draft, filing the thing. So you've got 10 tasks, lots of back and forth, calendar times.

Sonya (28:26.114)

things that need to go in there. So if it's just will on your to-do list, you're likely not gonna take that off your to-do list because it's not broken into something that you can accomplish. people don't like to not accomplish, they get overwhelmed because you didn't fully think about all the pieces. I do it in my running my company. I'll say, well,

Sonya (28:55.778)

We're going to switch technology platforms or payroll company or something. And yes, I know from my own experience, yeah, that's not a make a call and it's done. They need a lot of back and forth. And then there's a lot of other people who need to do things. And then you've got to manage all that. And this, oh, I can start it on Monday and I can end it on Friday. Yeah, it's not going to work. And it's really disappointing. And it's really, really, really annoying.

Aransas Savas (29:20.186)


Aransas Savas (29:25.685)


Sonya (29:26.79)

And it happens all the time, even to those of us who are veterans at managing logistics. Yeah. Uh-huh. Because you don't want to hear or you don't want to acknowledge, or you weren't in the mood to think about it thoroughly.

Aransas Savas (29:42.792)

Yeah, or we're just excited, right? And that's why one of the things I say all the time is like, it's okay to change your mind. You can say, I'm excited about this idea and then go and do the research, do that first task, which is to understand what the tasks are, and then change your mind. That's power. That's learning, that's strength, and the smartest and the most successful people are the ones who are best at changing their minds.

Sonya (30:11.822)


Aransas Savas (30:12.688)

Yep, there's no shame. What's not a great recipe for success or satisfaction is bearing down and forcing ourselves to think about doing things forever without actually doing them. Mm-hmm, it's the worst hangover there is.

Sonya (30:27.222)

Ooh, I hate that. It's actually, it goes back to, that is where we find clutter. That's the microscope, that's the sewing machine, that's the spatulas, that's the clothes that don't fit one way or the other. That's the not going to the gym. It's a concept. It's a wish. Infinite possibilities, expansive opportunity, and yet, it stays on the to do list like the will.

Aransas Savas (30:57.324)

Cool. It's a great place to start.

Aransas Savas (31:03.944)

Yes. Yes.

Aransas Savas (31:14.262)


Sonya (31:16.582)

And so your concept of just stepping into motion and saying, I like this, or I don't like this, oh, maybe, maybe this could work. Maybe this is working. Can, and that's the changing by adding on one more something. It just.

Aransas Savas (31:38.14)

Yeah, yeah, try it on. That's the phrase I use a lot in my work. I say, we try on ideas and behaviors, and then we give ourselves permission to take them off again. We don't have to wear everything.

Sonya (31:51.638)

No, you can only really wear one outfit at a time.

Aransas Savas (31:54.396)

Exactly. We can accessorize it. We get to learn from each of these experiences. We get to grow even from just a quick trial. We're smarter. We know more about what works for us and what doesn't. But we don't have to keep it all. And it actually feels really good to try it on and then take it off.

Sonya (31:57.44)

That's right.

Sonya (32:05.429)


Sonya (32:16.642)

So I actually think that that overwhelm is also trained. like, you have to be in struggle.

yes, it only counts if it's hard.

Sonya (32:46.67)

Well, I don't like that anymore. So.

Aransas Savas (32:51.63)

I don't either. The whole no pain no gain thing. I do believe like stick with it. Keep showing up. If it still matters. But if it's not serving you, it's okay to stop.

Sonya (32:55.25)

Yeah, it's not working for me.

What psychologically happens when a person inventories their belongings? 

Sonya (39:51.618)

There is a calmness that comes. There is a planning that comes. There is a awareness. The questions that you need to ask. 

Sonya (40:19.622)

I'm going to care about my sewing versus the microscope. I'm going to let go of the small clothes. I'm going to reward myself with the bigger clothes,, the clothes that I can fit and be happy and the clothes that I can let go of. Aransas Savas (40:58.336)

so much of my work is about time. So, we inventory time, how people spend their time, which time feels like time well spent, which time feels like time that is returning value, which time feels like time wasted.

Aransas Savas (41:20.628)

And that teaches us, frankly, everything we need to know about where people are living up to their potential and feeling a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction and where we're feeling dragged down and bored and stuck. And it goes the same way. Pay a bunch of attention to what is, then see what it says to you about where you want to go. And

Aransas Savas (41:49.036)

As you start to pay attention to what you want more of and less of, you get all the information you need about what clutter you need to clear, either in your schedule, in your time, or in your stuff, or your relationships for that matter. Mm-hmm.

Sonya (42:07.522)

that's your stuff too. Because every relationship, in fact, we moved in April and one of the things that you move is the photo collection. And within the photo collection, there was a past relationship of one of the children and it's in a box. And it's just marked with the name of the X on the box. And it's, I know no one's gonna open the box, but one's not ready to get rid of the box, but one...

Aransas Savas (42:30.734)


Sonya (42:37.214)

needed to box it and not view what was around. But it's the, when one's ready, that box can just go out to the curb, but one wasn't completely ready to let go.

Aransas Savas (42:39.793)


Aransas Savas (42:50.4)

that idea though is a stepping stone if we aren't quite ready to let go of a hobby or a relationship to just, as you said, find all the pieces and parts of it, put them together, put them in a box, put it on the shelf, and use that as a transition so that when you do feel ready...

Sonya (42:57.388)


Sonya (43:12.215)

That's right.

Aransas Savas (43:15.152)

It's not a big freaking deal to clear it all out and to go find the 4000 memories and mementos and connective tissue that bind you to it, but rather just pick up the box and put it on the curb.

Sonya (43:37.454)

Projects can be very much like weeds. they keep coming up, they're always there. So that is an ongoing piece, but then also you can step back and just know that it's always just gonna be there. You could go back to the store and pick up new knitting needles and yarn and decide you're gonna knit.

Aransas Savas (43:59.989)


Sonya (44:07.882)

You don't necessarily need two closets full of yarn. If you're not actually knitting and ever again 

Aransas Savas (44:16.712)

Yeah, or even if you're not actually knitting right now.

Sonya (44:22.186)

boxing it up and putting it on the shelf. I do think allows that connective tissue, like a roots to, to stay together and, and separate from you. Yes. Not be, not to be like a barnacle on you. It gives you freedom.

Aransas Savas (44:37.74)

Mm-hmm, but separate from you.

Aransas Savas (44:42.185)


Aransas Savas (44:46.782)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it can stay with itself but not be pulling at you.

Sonya (44:53.61)

but you get to choose when it comes on and off the shelf. And I really believe in those pieces of movement. Okay, X number of projects you're gonna do in a year. Okay, that's how my brain goes. Pick one, pick something, but people tend to pick 300 or 200 and you know you're not gonna fulfill it.

Aransas Savas (44:57.236)

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Aransas Savas (45:12.025)

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Aransas Savas (45:23.732)

We have a tendency to underestimate what it will take to accomplish a goal. And that recipe sets us up for, again, a lot of frustration and a lot of overwhelm. The thing that...

Aransas Savas (45:44.848)

I think it's really interesting in what you're saying here though about knitting as an example is I do a lot of work with women who are in periods of transition, And I find that so often the biggest block for people...

Sonya (45:53.389)


Aransas Savas (46:04.932)

is wanting to keep doing what they always did as they try to do what they wanna do. So I think my favorite story about this is the client I work with who had, she'd been working as an amazing, high-powered administrative support and office manager at big companies and she was really good at her job.

She was really successful. And she knew she could do more. And so she set her sights on leadership roles. And she started doing all these things and having all these conversations about what it would look like if she took on a leadership role. And she was fired up.

Aransas Savas (46:56.212)

And she kept getting frustrated because even though she was getting into the room, she wasn't feeling like she was making progress in these roles. And what was happening, it turned out, is that she was putting some energy into the next while holding on to the past.

Aransas Savas (47:18.972)

And so she was the one who was really good at setting up meetings for everybody, and she was really good at calendaring, she was really good at planning those events. So when it came time to do them, people would ask her, and she felt comfortable and confident and safe. So she said yes, yep. And when things got really hard where she wanted to go, she energetically and realistically dumped herself back into those safe places.

Sonya (47:19.646)


Sonya (47:33.663)

and she could do it.

Aransas Savas (47:47.888)

So she started getting up in the business of the people who were taking on those roles. And it pulls you back. And I think we do this with...eating, with money, with jobs, with relationships, with stuff. We go back wherever we are comfortable. And it's what we saw with Microscope Lady. She was going back to where she felt comfortable and confident. And so I think what you're saying is, let's get really clear about what we actually really want next. And then understand what's tethering us to the past. And make a symbolic...

Aransas Savas (48:27.9)

an active choice to cut those ties and to free ourselves to move forward.

Sonya (48:36.266)

And sometimes that is forced at you by a divorce, an illness, parents needing your help, child needing your help, something. And other times it's self-induced. 

 put yourself in a position to make a choice instead of being paralyzed by overwhelm and indecision.

Sonya (51:17.27)

Yes, absolutely.

Aransas Savas (51:18.936)

And ignorance, and I use ignorance in that very literal way, it's just not knowing. And there's no shame in that. But if we are stuck, the trick is to get information, to open our eyes. And I just did this with my finances. I was like, there's a bunch I don't actually know about my finances. And so I vaguely think I'd like them to be better, but what does that mean if I don't actually know what's there?

Sonya (51:28.054)

No, but it, but.

Sonya (51:35.359)


Sonya (51:45.854)

and you have, it's the same, it's the same, it's the same. Oh, we can continue another talk another time.

Aransas Savas (51:53.28)

How you do one thing is how you do everything. All right. So, so, Sonia, this is our 11th episode of the Uplifters podcast. Yay, something like 90% of podcasts never make it to episode 10, so I'm marking this occasion. 

Aransas Savas (52:18.312)

And for the last 10 episodes, we have done all the quick lightning round and asked people to share a way that they take care of themselves when they need an energy boost, a way that they take care of their community, and a way that they boost other women. We may come back to that. But for now, to mark this new decade in our podcast life, I want to introduce something new.

Aransas Savas (52:43.052)

which is a little moment of reflection. I talk a lot about the power of reflection. I've done a lot of research that shows that people who reflect regularly rate their life overall far happier. Every aspect of their life is more satisfying and more intentional, because they know themselves a little bit better. And one of the things... ..

Aransas Savas (53:04.324)

I think about a lot with this podcast is the podcast kind of to what we've been talking about are really great at triggering ideas and inspiration. I want to learn to knit. I want to sew. I want to figure out my finances. I want to go through those 5,000 pictures that my mother left me and know who she was. Awesome. Awesome. All all change starts with an idea with a bit of inspiration.

Sonya (53:27.126)

Do it!

Aransas Savas (53:34.768)

Not only is it meaningless without action, it's a big freaking hangover. So what we're gonna do every episode is I'm gonna ask you, guests, listeners, if you're not driving, maybe you're cleaning your house, maybe you're out for a run, just push pause on whatever else you're doing, whatever multitasking is happening. And I want to invite you for just these next 10 seconds to maybe close your eyes. And maybe to even put one hand on your heart and one hand on your gut. Maybe root your feet to the earth. And join Sonya and I.

Aransas Savas (54:22.152)

and just a few breaths and a few moments to just ask yourself.

Aransas Savas (54:30.756)

what this conversation means for you.

Aransas Savas (54:36.404)

What is it brought up in you that needs a bit of attention?

Aransas Savas (54:45.824)

What would be possible for you?

Aransas Savas (54:50.868)

if you were to take one tenuous, uncertain step into whatever it is that needs your attention next.

Aransas Savas (55:16.7)

You may not know the answers right away. That's cool. That's cool. Just like we started with inventory, just paying a little attention. So I'm gonna invite us every episode now to take just a couple of seconds quietly together to ask some questions, to ground this stuff so that we're not like every other podcast that's just bringing ideas and inspiration and not translating it into action and real attention.

Sonya (55:21.017)

It's totally fine. It will come.

Aransas Savas (55:44.232)

And so if this is something you need a little more time with, feel free, hit pause. We will still be here. We're not going anywhere. Go spend five minutes writing about this for yourself or talking to some other uplifter in your life about this because you've made an investment in yourself.

Aransas Savas (56:02.892)

just by listening to uplifters, listening to Sonia, hearing what she does. You've done this for you. And I think that to me is so important. And I'd be curious if we looked at the demographics of the folks who come to you and the uplifters, where we might see some intersections, because what I find in the women I work with is I work with the women who take care of everyone and everything.

Aransas Savas (56:29.66)

and the person that gets left behind and neglected is them.

Sonya (56:34.41)

Yeah. Guilty.

Aransas Savas (56:36.424)

And so this is it, yeah, right? Right, like as a business owner, as a mom of three, as a wife, oh my gosh, it's so hard. And so this is our time, Sonia. This is the moment where we take care of us a little bit too. Yeah. So, I'm gonna go ahead and turn this off. I'm gonna go ahead and turn this off.

Sonya (56:45.87)

Thank you. Yeah. Thank you.

Sonya (56:52.37)

A little bit. Yeah. And just, and it can't go from zero to everything. So it's like clawing back little pieces and letting go of others. Weeding so that you can, so you can make room for that plant. That's exactly. Thank you so much.

Aransas Savas (57:14.164)

Thank you. Here's to weeding our plants. Join us over at Share these stories with women you care about. But most of all, take them for you. Take a little moment to water your dreams. Let's keep rising higher together.

Sonya (57:37.608)


The Uplifters
The Uplifters
This podcast is dedicated to celebrating the Uplifters.
In every episode, we share the tools and strategies Uplifters use to take care of themselves.
You'll hear the deeply personal stories of inspiring women who have worked through challenges to create big, joyful lives; how blocks and barriers became tools for success; and powerful mindset techniques you can use to live up. 💫