In the early days of 2020, Dallas native Jessie Carrillo set about reorganizing her 1938 Oak Cliff bungalow. She was pregnant with her first child, and her tiny two-bed, one-bath house needed work to welcome the new addition. “I started getting the house ready as a hobby,” then organizing became a passion, says Carrillo, who owns her own organization business, A Charming Home, and self-published a book earlier this year.
Her baby girl was born in March 2020, just a week before the pandemic lockdown. Carrillo was stuck in the house for months on end with her husband and new child. Those days, she says, put all that preparation to the test.
“We were in it all day, every day,” she says. “And so those systems that I had put in place—it really came to light whether they were successful or not.”
Keeping the small house decluttered with a family of three and later four—Carrillo welcomed a second daughter in February—was a constant organizational challenge. She learned she liked file-folding her babies’ burb cloths and using fewer bottles so they didn’t pile up in the sink. It took some trial and error, but having a neat, put-together home really helped her peace of mind, Carrillo says. “It was clear that, ‘wow, this can have a serious impact on people.’”
Looking to make a career shift after working in the art world for years, Carrillo saw organizing as an opportunity. In January 2021, she officially launched A Charming Home, offering decluttering, organization, styling, coaching, and moving services. It was a natural transition from art, she says. Her time working for institutions like the Dallas Museum of Art helped her to understand how people interacted with objects—and gave her an “eye for aesthetics.”
Her little bungalow was also a major influence on the business. Her favorite projects are the ones in homes similar to her own: “the old, historic, quirky, tight-on-storage kind of houses that Oak Cliff is really known for,” Carrillo says.
Living in such a small space, Carillo has to filter everything through a “fewer, better” philosophy. Condense what you have, she says, and ensure that what you keep is “the best possible version of what that item needs to be for us.” The goal is to have a meaningful relationship with the objects that you fill your home with.
Since she launched, Carrillo has had almost 50 clients. She’s choosy with which projects she takes on. Pantries and kitchens can be huge problem areas, but Carrillo also will redo kids’ playrooms, closets, and help new moms organize for their coming babies.
Every project starts with a free phone assessment and then an on-site consultation, where Carrillo will walk through the space, budget, goals, and vision with the client. She will “pepper them with a whole bunch of questions,” she says, to get better understanding of what they need. A few days after the consult, she’ll send the client with an action plan and price estimate. If the project involves styling, she’ll include a mood board with a shopping list, too.
After that, it’s time to work. Carrillo offers one-off sessions for simpler projects, like optimizing storage in a mudroom, and multiple session-based work for bigger assignments. If several rooms need decluttering, for example, that’s going to take some time, Carrillo says. She limits her sessions to four-hour stints. “Decluttering is difficult,” she says, “and it’s exhausting for the person who’s going through it.”
Establishing a rapport and being an active listener with her clients is huge, Carrillo says. Going through and throwing out items is emotional. That’s the benefit of hiring a third-party organizer, Carrillo says. “We don’t have strong feelings about your things.” It’s her role to be a motivator and a coach when clearing out the spaces, encouraging her clients to follow the “fewer, better” philosophy and to make lifestyle changes to keep the problems from piling up. Once everything’s sorted, Carrillo will help style and haul all the donations away. After that, she gives her clients two weeks. If the new system still isn’t working by then, then she’ll come back and make tweaks.
One of the biggest learning curves of the business, Carrillo says, is although her clients’ organizational challenges might be similar, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Plus, not everyone can afford full-service organizing. Carrillo’s consultations are $100, and one-off sessions are $75 an hour. So, she wanted to offer people a “DIY option.”
In February, a week after her second child was born, Carrillo self-published her book, A Charming Home: A Room-by-Room Guide for Creating a Stylish, Clutter-free Space. “It’s basically a guide for decluttering, organizing, and styling each space in your home,” she says. The $25 book has inspiration photos, tips, research on organizing and why people hold onto items, writing exercises, and Carrillo’s favorite products. There’s a chapter on each room in the house, with sections on decluttering, organizing, styling, and more.
The goal, she says, is to “help people work their way through those daily frustrations that clog up their life and make incremental progress through their house.”
Carrillo says the book took her about a year to write. Now that it’s out, she’s hoping to host local workshops. They’d be interactive experiences, where she’d hold demonstrations and help audience create goals for their own specific spaces so that “they leave with a little bit of a start.”
Whether they hire an organizer or do it themselves, Carrillo wants to help people eliminate the little, unnecessary stressors a messy home can have on your day—like not being able to find your favorite lipstick in the drawer or realizing your laptop never charged overnight. These can be small things, or big, but all are burdens, she says. And everyone deserves a peace of mind.
Why Do People Hold onto Their Stuff?
A big part of Carrillo’s job is teaching her clients “how to get rid of things and make tough decisions.” To help them get past it, she asks questions to get to the heart of why they can’t let go. There are five main reasons, she says, that people keep stuff for too long.
1. It Cost an Arm and a Leg
“A big one that always comes up is: ‘I spent a lot of money on this thing, and I don’t want to get rid of it,’” Carrillo says.
2. It Could Be Useful
Says Carrillo, if a client claims an item could be useful one day, “then my question would be, ‘okay, well, is it something that you could replace for less than $20?’”
3. It was a Gift
“This was a gift, and someone would be hurt if I got rid of it,” she says.
4. It’s Sentimental
People might hold onto an item “because it stirs up memories of another time,” Carrillo says.
5. They’ve Had It a Long Time
If someone’s hold onto an item for a long time, Carrillo will ask them if holding onto it is “worth the stress that you’re feeling by having a cluttered home?”