I’ve had an incredibly productive summer, so it’s been a while since I have been able to send out a newsletter. This topic is especially meaningful to me since I have visited Alaska five times in the past few years. Organizing in the “Last Frontier” has some notable distinctions from the process in the lower 48 states.
Most people I have conversations with about my travels and work in Alaska have a natural curiosity about the region. To me, that area of the US is a mysterious and spiritual place, full of diversity and gorgeous habitat. The people are generally very friendly, perhaps partially due to the influence of the Native Alaskans and their communal-based culture. Organizing with Alaskans has been such a wonderful and unforgettable experience for me.
It is difficult to lay out all of the characteristics that define what professional organizing encompasses in Alaska. To further complicate this, there are only 2 NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) members in the whole state. Compare this to the chapter I belong to (Greater Philadelphia) that has 80 members and affiliates. One NAPO organizer in Alaska only handles corporate clients, and the other one travels to the southwestern US during colder months.
Despite the proportionately small representation of professionals who work in the professional organizing field there, I can attest that there is a great demand for organizing (de-cluttering, downsizing, and seasonal preparations especially) in Alaska. Here are some of the unique features of organizing in that wonderful state:
- Most homes have many natural elements in their furniture choices, especially wood. They look like pieces from Restoration Hardware, but they are often handmade by a local artisan or imported antiques. Artwork and décor also reflects nature (native ivory carvings, fossilized whale bone sculptures, hand-made “artifacts” or very old tools created by Native Alaskans, and other handcrafted works).
- Basic furniture is much more expensive there than the cost in the Lower 48. Yard sales are a popular way to acquire furniture, especially from Alaskans who are moving out of state. People of all economic backgrounds acquire furniture this way, and normal wear and tear isn’t as much of a deterrent for them to buy or keep furniture.
- Many homes have large crawl spaces for storage. There are sometimes attics to store things as well. Indoor storage areas are often limited in storage space, but there are outdoor sheds and sizable garages to compensate for this.
- There is no Container Store or IKEA in Alaska. I don’t know how they function without Container Store, and shipping IKEA furniture can cost more than the items themselves! Anchoragites can shop at Target and Fred Meyer for organizing products, and there is one Bed Bath & Beyond as well.
- An important factor to consider while organizing in Alaska is the seasonal transitions. Things need to be stored away and accessed based on when it will be utilized. There are two main seasons there: winter and summer. Most Alaskans say it’s “summer” as soon as there’s warm weather (up to the 70s) around May. Spring is pretty much non-existent, and fall is a period of a few weeks. The rest of the year is winter, and it may or may not involve heavy snowfall in the Anchorage area in a given year.
- Weather patterns and seasonal affects can be more drastic there (heavy snow, much shorter or longer daylight hours, etc). Many Anchoragites use tarps to cover things stored outside their homes during cold months.
- Most homes have an “arctic entry,” what east coasters call a “mudroom.” These areas can get cluttered with winter gear like coats, boots, and snow-removing tools, so de-cluttering is always useful in arctic entryways.
- Having blackout curtains is essential to block out the sun at “night” during summer months. People often go rollerblading, picnicking, or taking a walk around the block past 10 pm, when it’s still daylight! So far my clients there haven’t asked to work with me into late hours of the evening though.
- Clients (who are also friends by now) often give me gifts like homemade canned preserves. Often the preserves are made from berries they pick themselves in mountainous areas during warm months.
- The final feature is the best one. While I’m organizing with clients, we see moose and other wild animals out the window! Where else does this occur in a city? I’m sure you would agree with me that this experience is really a breathtaking one.