Employee Corner: Sandra Magura, The Home, Business & Money Organizing Professional
Sandra Magura and Juania Owens
Discussion with Professional Organizer: Sandra Magura may very well be the next Marie Kondo and trademark her own organizing method: The Magura Method. Although she has been with Advanced Management Strategies Group (AMSG) for almost four years supporting corporate as the Quality Manager and Marketing/Business Development Assistant, her passion outside of work lies in organizing spaces, particularly homes and businesses.
It began while Magura was a stay-at-home mom. She wanted something flexible that she could do on the weekends and for the hours of time when her little one went to pre-school. Now, more than seven years later, what began as a side hustle complete with ads on Craigslist and Facebook, has morphed into full-fledged organizing business, Foundation Organization. What’s more, after completing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course to learn money-saving tips, Magura launched a second branch of her business called Budget Counseling. It’s through this branch that she helps clients eliminate debt, save money, and live on less.
“I think it all comes down to helping people. I love helping people,” she says. Read on to discover how she got her start as an organizer and budget’or, how she tackles decluttering and organizing spaces, and her tips for organizing and keeping your spaces tidy. Her story and her motivation for why she does what she does is truly fascinating and inspiring.
How did you start your organizing business?
I had been organizing as a side hustle while being a stay-at-home mom while my two kids (Charlotte, 12 and Matthew, 9) were small. I only made it a full-time job and turned it into my business when we began the building of our house in Fredericksburg. I started advertising on Craigslist and then Facebook. Word of mouth and recommendations are huge and that gets me most of my business.
What is your process for organizing?
When organizing I go into homes and businesses to help them de-clutter, categorize, and organize any space. I use a blend of different techniques along with humor and heart. I work fast and have wonderful references and all clients are pleased with my work and hire me back for more.
I work a little differently than other professional organizers. My consultation is done over the phone or email, which is free. I start right away when I come go to a home and/or office. Aside from having trash bags, copy paper, a Sharpie marker, packing tape for labeling, and empty boxes for donations, I don’t pressure clients into buying anything before I come. I also offer suggestions for how to keep spaces neat and organized and provide monthly maintenance (I have many return and monthly clients).
What is a typical day?
I start most jobs by 8 AM or 9 AM. When I arrive, I have the client take me around the house to show me the area (or areas) that they would like to tackle. I ask them how they would envision the room or what they want the room to be. This gives me a good idea of what needs to stay and what needs to find a new home. Sometimes the room the client thought they wanted to start with is not always the room we do.
Then we start by decluttering (that is if you haven’t done it already and/or you need my motivation). We have four piles (trash, donate, keep in room, keep somewhere else). After we declutter, the client just leaves me be and I work my magic. I begin by categorizing all like items and then organize them to the appropriately sized location. I try to use what they have to organize (most clients have LOTS to organize with, but it’s just being misused). If we feel we need bins or other types of organizing supplies the client will run out and get them while I am there, or we utilize boxes and they can do that at another time. I can organize virtually any space, including closets, kitchens, garages, sheds, basements, and bathrooms… There was one time where I organized a fireworks’ storage trailer.[JH1]
I love when a client lets me be creative. I enjoy color coding and sorting. Like the rainbow, books tend to be by color as well as clothes in a closet. I love labels and I hate cardboard boxes and bags. I prefer clear bins with labels and EVERYTHING together. I work fast, keep you motivated, and get the job done.
Can you give us some tips for organizing?
Here are some questions to ask yourself and also tips to live by:
What do you envision your space to be? What belongs in your space? What does not?
Before you buy it, ask yourself: DO I NEED IT?
A cluttered room is a cluttered mind.
Don’t look at the cluttered space/room as a whole. Look at it as parts. A box. A bin. Now set a timer for 15 minutes and go through something. If after 15 minutes you have had enough…leave. If not, stay and do it again OR set a goal of going through one box.
Trash is trash, but if it is in decent shape please donate it. There are many shelters and thrift stores in our areas that take EVERYTHING (Goodwill has limits).
When going through clothes ask yourself this question: Would I buy it right now? Then ask yourself: Does it have rips? Tears? Stains? Does it fit? DO I LOVE IT?
Why is organizing your passion?
I think it all comes down to helping people. I love helping people. I call my organizing talent my “crazy gift” that I was given to share with others. I love creating order out of chaos. I love creating systems. I love when I can see a busy mom breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the day. I love watching kids discover a new orderly space where they can play and create. I get numerous texts and emails after I leave jobs where clients attempt to do some on their own. They text me pictures of a suggestion I gave them that they ended up using and organizing on their own.
By far my favorite part of the day is the end. Not because I’m finished but because it’s time for the big reveal. That is the most rewarding to me. I love the element of surprise and the look on their faces of what their space became. Almost every client hugs me at the end of the day.
I find myself to be an excellent motivator. I go into jobs with no judgment. I listen to their struggles, I listen to their needs, and I listen to why and how things got to be the way they are. Part of my job is therapy-like. I encounter many clients with anxiety, depression, and trauma-induced hoarding (from light to extreme). I never knew all my psychology college classes would help out so much in this way. I am with clients in their home for six hours straight. It’s their safe space. We talk and/or I listen. It’s the part of my business I never planned for.
Does your background help with your organizing career?
I have a wide background of experience and I attribute almost all of it in helping me maintain my business today. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Business. After college I worked for a theatre as a Marketing and Development Assistant. Then for five years I worked for a live music venue doing everything from contracts, marketing, ticketing, public relations, booking national and local acts, and executive assisting the owner. At the same time, I was also working for the Wounded Warrior Project assisting with events and benefits, managing Soldier Ride, and planning national cross-country bicycle rides with injured soldiers.
From there, I met my husband and we moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where I maintained my own business for many years as a consultant before moving to Stafford, VA. It was in Stafford where I started experimenting with starting an organizing business as my kids were little and I needed something to be flexible. It was after we took the Dave Ramsey course that I took it to another level!
How did you become a budget counselor?
Before I started filing paperwork for my business, my husband and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course. I have to say, it was one of the best things I have ever done. We both learned so much and took budgeting to another level. I began using his EveryDollar App and have budgeted to the penny for the last six years. We have seen so much growth in our relationship and our finances that I wanted to share it with everyone I encountered. So, I began the branch of Foundation Organizing, which I call Budget Counseling.
The process is simple. I have my clients log into a program like MINT. They put in all their information (bank accounts, credit cards, and debt) and we take three months to get a good baseline of numbers. I help clients with the categorizing or they do the categorizing themselves. We then work from a spreadsheet to see the month-to-month growth. We also see areas that can be deleted or cut and other areas that can grow. I teach people about saving, investing, living on less, credit card hacking, and most importantly, learning what their savings rate is and how to increase it.
One of my biggest accomplishments with budget counseling was after a client had to short sale a house. But after, through sheer determination and motivation, she was able to purchase another house in less time than planned.
I believe, we all work so hard for our money…why not dictate where it goes.