When Celsie Sneden was a little girl growing up in Topeka, she was waiting for her dad while he worked one Saturday and decided to rearrange a secretary’s desk.
She politely left yellow sticky notes to show where she moved the pens and paperclips, along with a few “you’re a superstar” motivational boosts.
Little did Sneden realize her organizational foray — along with the fact that she carefully separated baby dolls from clothing from Barbie dolls from shoes even as a grade-schooler — was an early indicator of where she would find her passion in her 20s.
Now, Sneden spends her days bringing organization to homes in the Kansas City area and in a 100-mile radius around the city, including Topeka. She launched NEAT Method Kansas City in September, opening a branch of the rapidly expanding national business.
She shakes her head at the questionable decision to reorganize someone else’s desk, but the woman is still a family friend who laughs about the incident today.
“I was young enough that probably the system itself didn’t make sense,” Sneden said.
In Chicago, where Sneden lived the last few years, she was introduced to a system that did make sense to her, the NEAT Method, a national lifestyle service that focuses on organized homes. After doing improv in Chicago and then finding her way to being an organizer, it was like finding her professional home.
Previously, her natural organizing skills had not been “a piece of a job, not the whole job,” she said.
“It was like I’m good at this whole thing, and it may not be accounting and it may not be brain surgery and so it makes me feel very inadequate that I’m not good at either of those things,” Sneden said. “But yet, I have this skill set that finally, at 24, I realized people would pay me to come in and organize their things. And I was shocked. It was a job. I couldn’t believe it.”
Sneden learned about the NEAT Method by working with the Chicago branch of the business, but she wanted to be closer to home and family and made the leap to open her own branch. It’s challenging to market what’s considered a luxury lifestyle item in the Midwest, where often people prefer to tackle projects themselves.
“I was raised with Midwestern values,” she said. “If my Uncle Jim has a truck, he can just help me with it. We’ll just do it ourselves. So I struggle with that daily here.”
But Sneden is convinced that once people understand the value of having an organizer come in and lend a method to any chaos, be it pantry or closet or basement, she’ll be as busy as she was in Chicago.
“The purpose of NEAT Method is to maximize the function of each space that you hire us to do,” she said.
Susie Coleman, Topeka, is a friend of Sneden’s family and she decided to try out the organizational services. She’ll vouch for that maximized function concept.
“Once you’ve gone here, where she takes you, you can’t go back ever,” she said of having Sneden’s organizational skills put to work in the kitchen, pantry, bedroom and closet.
“I had no idea that I had three bottles of molasses. Why would anybody need that? You waste so much money because you’re too lazy to know what you have,” Coleman said. “I relish the act that she came. You don’t realize how stressful disorganization is, which sounds really ridiculous. But it is stressful. I don’t even really know why. It’s just so organized and it’s simple. You just really don’t realize how calming that is. I walk in my bedroom now and I don’t have clothes hanging on the bedpost or in the chair, and I don’t have 40 pairs of shoes under my bed.”
Most people have things tucked away that they’ve forgotten about, or they’ve bought multiples because they can’t find the first ones they bought, Sneden said. There’s definitely a psychology to making things neat.
“You live with it every day, so you don’t see it anymore,” she said. “So when you get it in front of you, or it’s uncomfortable or things are not fitting right or your space is really off and you’re thinking this is so frustrating — when it gets to that point, it’s like you’ve ignored some piece of something. When we come in and bring it forward, we’re not there to embarrass anybody. We’re not there to say, ‘Oh my God, look how much stuff they have.
“I don’t care how much stuff they have,” Sneden said. “The thing is, if you don’t have enough space, there’s only two things to do: tell me where the next space is that I’m putting this stuff or get rid of something. Because I don’t care if you keep it or not. It’s not my stuff. But the NEAT Method is to put it in a way that’s going to function for you.”
Sneden said her clients will receive an initial consult, then she’ll create a plan for their space they want organized. Then once a contract is agreed upon, she and another organizer will arrive to tackle the space.
“We take everything out,” she said. “We’re not scared of making a mess. It is a tornado, and we very much try to preface that with our clients, saying we’re going to make it look like your closet threw up. But don’t be scared of your own stuff because, amazingly, you’ve just been hiding from it. It’s been here the whole time, so let’s look at it.”
The end result is an organized space, where everything can be seen, is labeled and is put in order of “prime real estate.” In other words, the things used most often are the most easily accessible.
It brings Sneden pleasure to not only make things organized, but to help people live in a little less chaos.
“That is a really cool part of the job, to be able too be a piece in their life as we help them transition from living in a little bit more chaos to living in a systematic way to function at their highest ability,” she said.
People aren’t always gung-ho happy, Sneden added. It’s uncomfortable to see things you’ve lived with for years suddenly rearranged.
“Even though mentally they knew that was happening — it’s not a secret,” she said, laughing. “We don’t go in and surprise people”
She organized her parents’ closet at home as a gift to them and her father, Curtis Sneden, doesn’t love change, Sneden said.
“I did it and my dad walked in and went white,” she said. “He couldn’t handle it and essentially was like, I can’t talk to you.”
But later, Curtis Sneden, a magician, asked her to organize his office, where his magic items were kept. That, Sneden said, was the ultimate compliment.
Coleman said she’s caught the fever for getting organized, tackling her bathroom on her own.
“You just don’t realize how ridiculous you are when you don’t know what you have and where the hell it is,” she said. “It is great. Every time someone comes over, it’s like ‘Go look at my closet. You’re just not going to believe it.’”
Sneden can be reached at (785) 213-5781.