Hi. You’re new here. Or maybe you’re not. It’s 2020 now and though I’ve never been big on “resolutions”, I do like to set goals for myself. I don’t do it every January 1st. Sometimes I do it on a casual Tuesday. Or a Freaky Friday. Any way you slice it, I’ve set a goal for myself. My goal is to do one blog post every week. This week is my (re)introduction.

My name is Shannon. I am the owner of Simplify and Spruce, professional organizing. Right now it’s just me. I love to organize and though I’ve been doing it professionally for nearly 4 years, I’ve been organizing nearly my whole life and I’m in my happy place surrounded by items that I need to sort and categorize!

Goofing around during a headshots photoshoot
I'm ready to be a full-time model now, thanks.

Let’s back up a bit, though, shall we? I was born and raised in Hastings, Minnesota. I have three brothers, two older and one younger. This may surprise you, but I was not a tidy child. Neither were my brothers. I tell clients all of the time, “Nothing really shocks me when I compare it to my brother’s bedrooms when they were teenagers!”

My brothers and I, holding my husband on our wedding day. L-R, Sean, Shannon, Ryan, Rory. Nate is being held.
Siblings lift up groom for wedding photo, never set him down.

My mom would, a few times a year, get fed up with the state of my bedroom and spend 2-3 hours cleaning it out. We’d pull everything from under the bed, the bottom of my wardrobe, and dresser drawers. I’d feel so great once we’d finished organizing and cleaning the whole room. I’d just sit on my bed and just look around in awe.

I don’t know if it ever occurred to her to set up some sort of system, one where it would only take a few minutes to tidy everything up...but that was likely because she was a mother to 4 kids, worked as a nurse, and ran literally everything in our house. She was a busy gal.

My mom died on Valentine’s Day, 2018. After her untimely death, my brother Rory and I went through the whole house and decluttered. My mom and I had started this project before she died, going through small areas and deciding what should be kept and what should be tossed.

My mom and I are intently watching a game of Kubb.
Mom contemplates putting on pants, decides against it.

While my mom was organized, she was also a keeper of things. So every cupboard was filled top to bottom, and front to back. She was the only one who really knew where everything was. We filled up 3 Bagsters that winter and spring, mostly with broken items...all kept in the hopes that they’d be useful “someday”.

I want to be clear in my writing that there’s nothing inherently wrong with saving things that could be useful later on. However, often times we get caught up in thinking “what if I need it?” or “I’m saving it for so-and-so”...and end up saving much more than is necessary.

I also want to be direct in saying that I’m never going to tell anyone explicitly what to keep and what to give away. I may gently guide you to deciding what is ultimately right for you, asking certain questions or possibly just setting things aside for later...but I will never tell you to give away something that very obviously means a lot to you.

Anyway, back to the focus of this post: me! I spent the majority of my young life in Hastings, then I went to school in Iowa at Wartburg College. I majored in Religion and Youth & Family Ministry. I moved back to Minnesota for a spell, and after not being able to find a job (this was spring of 2009), I found a job as a nanny in Westchester County, New York.

In New York, I worked close to 60 hours a week as a nanny and about 10 hours a week as a youth director at a nearby church. I lived and worked with the family I nannied for for a little over a year...and got super homesick. I moved back to Minnesota, nannied for another year (and volunteered at a local church doing youth ministry) and then spent the next 3.5 years working full time as a Youth Minister.

Sometime between moving back from New York and finding full time work in ministry, I met my husband and we got married. We lived in St. Paul on Grand Avenue, in a small apartment that we crammed FULL of our stuff. As we moved throughout the years, we’ve downsized our stuff considerably. We’re minimalists by definition, though not in the “bare walls, one bowl per person way” that is currently popular.

Nate and I on our wedding day in Stillwater, MN.
Come on, guys. Knock it off.

In early 2015, I found myself extremely burnt out from ministry. It can be very taxing to work in ministry, especially in our Western culture, which does not help foster good self-care practices. Oh! I was also pregnant by January of 2015!

Surrounded by a group of youth and a chaperone after a canoeing trip to the Boundary Waters
Local youth group emerges from the woods, seemingly unscathed.

My husband and I were very excited about the pregnancy, but I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be working at a church for much longer. For one thing, I knew a lot youth ministers who had kids...but they were all men. For another, I was still incredibly burnt out, (the average youth minister lasts just 1.5 years in their position), and the leadership at the church I worked for had definitely noticed. (AKA I was still working, but I was just doing a really crappy job). I left in March of 2015, after some not-so-gentle nudging from leadership.

Before I had children, I’d often take care of other people’s kids, so I started nannying for a local family. By the end of summer 2015, I was heavily pregnant and chasing after 3 kids all day! September 18th, 2015 became the day we welcomed our first kiddo, Oliver, into the world. He was an accidental home birth (that’s a story for another day).

Since Oliver has been born, he has moved 4 times. Actually, we’ve moved 6 times since 2013. We have owned 3 homes. Currently, we live in a small two-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis. We’ve been able to make it work quite beautifully because we’re more on the minimalist side of owning stuff.

When Oliver was 6 months old, I started this business. At first, I worked pro-bono for friends and family, organizing a room of their choosing, in exchange for referrals. From there, I slowly started working with more clients when I could, as I was still staying at home with Oliver.

By the time February of 2018 rolled around, I was 5 months pregnant with my second son (Ezra). We were temporarily living with my parents, in part because my mom was sick with cancer, and in part for financial reasons. I gave birth to Ezra on May 23rd, 2018 and took a breath as a new mother of 2 boys. I spent the summer of 2018 adjusting to our new normal as a family of 4 and swimming in my parent’s pool!

Ezra lays on top of Oliver, they are both snuggled up in their pajamas.
If only they were this well behaved normally.

In the fall of 2018, we moved up to Minneapolis and I continued to work with clients when I could. When I weaned Ezra from nursing in August of 2019, I was finally able to devote more and more of my time to growing my business. (Now that I didn’t have a small being dependent on my body for his growth, this was exponentially easier!)

These days I take clients Tuesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays & Sundays. If I’m able to, I will also do Mondays and Fridays. I’m still functioning as a part-time business owner and a part time stay-at-home-mom, but another one of my goals for 2020 is to scale my business up so that I’m a full-time professional organizer by the end of the year! I literally cannot wait to see what we can do together to improve the functionality of your life and space.

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