What It’s Like To Be A Professional Organizer With Shawnee Nizami

Imagine being able to call someone up to totally organize your life – clean closets, simplified spaces, edited and re-merchandised wardrobe, effortless healthy living. It probably sounds too good to be true (sign us up please!), but Shawnee Nizami, founder of S.O.S, does that for clients daily. A “go-to lifestyle specialist” who says streamlining of all sorts is in her DNA, Shawnee created S.O.S., an acronym for Simplify. Organize. Smile., because she was providing services to her friends anyway. This job was one Shawnee hardly had to think about!

What she has had to think about, however, is how to build a dream business while holding down a more traditional career. “Many serial entrepreneurs we read about today advise that you won’t be successful if you only have one foot in your passion business,” says Shawnee. “I disagree.” And while we are guessing she uses more than a little of her own professional simplification abilities to make it work, Shawnee chalks her ability to juggle careers (for now) on finding a day job she loves and a business that’s 100% her passion.

Tell us more about S.O.S. What need does your service fulfill, and how do you fill it?

S.O.S. is an extension of me. I provide lifestyle services in areas like organization and healthy living. Usually I help people deal with simplifying their spaces, which is really just me helping them re-focus and streamline themselves. I live pretty simply myself, and I’ve found that it’s a much calmer, healthier way to live.

What inspired you to launch your own business? Once you were in, how did you begin to build a client base?

I knew I had a calling. I have always had friends who asked me to help them with their lives because they knew my attitude toward life was all about simplicity. It got to the point where I needed to formalize this as a business. My more corporate friends have helped me with things like a website, Facebook page and garner PR, but building the business itself hasn’t been hard because it’s all word-of-mouth based. My clients are trusting me with more than just clearing out a closet – often it’s emotional support, too. When a client feels better about themselves after we work together, they happily tell their friends about my services. Also, many cities have services like Thumbtack, and when I first launched, I signed up a few clients that way.

Being an organization pro, how do you organize your day?

I have found a couple of tricks help me.

1. I never take on too much in one day. I am not a surgeon saving lives, so I be sure to leave myself the right amount of time to tackle projects, and I always try to leave myself time in case something unpredicted happens.

2. I am a morning person. In Los Angeles, if you can get up and going early, you will beat a lot of traffic, so you can accomplish a lot more in less time. It’s also less stressful.

What work challenges take priority in your mind space?

As with any small business, especially a professional services business, I have to price my time and skills accordingly. This is something I think about often – especially as some people want to negotiate my fees. I appreciate and respect that, and I do that with hard goods (I rarely pay full price!), but my time and expertise is my livelihood.

What does ‘work/life balance’ mean to you?

For me it’s about priorities and trying to stick to them. My health and happiness are my top priorities, so I make sure to carve out time for myself every day and on weekends. This time could include a workout or walk with a friend in the evenings and buying the best vegetables at the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Sundays.

What is an accomplishment or project at work that you’re most proud of?

I have a friend/client who is a terrific artist, and she needed more storage space for her tools in her garage. Like so many of us, her garage had become a dumping ground for everything – and for her to feel more “free” we needed to take charge of the garage. So we spent a day sorting, organizing, tossing and donating, and now she is ready to focus. She feels great, and that makes me happy.

What tips do you have for our readers on organizing their desks or office? Are there common productivity culprits you’ve seen?

So many people make huge piles – of paperwork, of emails to respond to, etc. I try to work with people to understand how to break apart and better organize those piles. This helps make their workspace (and brains) less cluttered. The same goes for closets and garages!

What does success look like for you?

Success to me is having a business that is 100% referral based, where my clients are so pleased that they go and tell several of their friends about my services.

What are three pieces of career advice you’re willing to share with our readers?

I’ve been fortunate to have a day job I love and to be able to start SOS as a side business. Many serial entrepreneurs we read about today advise that you won’t be successful if you only have one foot in your passion business. I disagree. Like so many Californians, our cost of living is expensive, and I couldn’t risk not having a steady income. So if you’re like me, just keep chipping away at your passion business. It won’t feel like work if you really love it.

What advice do you have for our readers who want your job?

You, too, can do it! If you have a knack for blending organizational skills with people skills and psychology, then you can do this as well!

After Hours graphic

I’d Love To Grab A Drink With:

My besties

I Can’t Live Without:


My Go-To Outfit Is:

A pair of jeans and a great blouse

My Favorite Place To Grab Dinner Is:

Sushi at Katsuya

My Favorite Song To Sing In The Car Is:

“Girls Just Want Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

My Favorite Way To Unwind Is:

By cooking a few great dishes and inviting my friends over to eat them with me!

I Feel My Best When:

I have done something physical outdoors – like a hike or walk

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