Over the years, I have met interior designers, business owners, architects, and other remarkable individuals, as clients and in daily life, whose work and lives completely inspire me. After getting to know these women and men, I have found that one of the keys to their success is organization. As a result, I decided to develop a question and answer series, The Organized Lifestyle, that showcases their work and dives deep into the daily organizational systems, products, and habits they use and incorporate into their lives. Organization contributes to their remarkable success, in life and in business, and I hope we can all learn a thing or two from them.
Q & A with Angela Phelps, the owner of Le Village Marche, a Parisian-inspired home decor and gift boutique with locations in Washington, DC and Shirlington, VA.
1. Tell us about your business! How would you describe it? What do you like most about your role?
9 years ago, I left my career to start my own business, a Parisian-inspired home decor & gift boutique. I loved the idea of having a neighborhood shop where I could not only provide a great service to the community, but get to know my customers & neighbors. I meet new people every day and over the years have seen customers’ children grow from the crib to middle school. The daily interaction with people is what I truly love most about my job.
2. Does your job require you to stay organized?
Absolutely! Everything from my desk to my inbox to my stockroom has to be organized so things run efficiently. As a small business owner, it’s important that I create & maintain an organized environment so my staff can locate items quickly & feel in control of where things are & how things work.
3. Are there any organizing products or tools you use everyday and “could not live without”? (Can include notebooks, pens, apps, etc.)
A daily planner & 4x6 lined sticky notes for to-do lists, so they can move from page to page & week to week.
4. Do you rely mostly on electronic organization systems or prefer the paper and pen type? Would you recommend a combination? How do you best manage both?
When I got my first Iphone, I switched over to using its calendar and to-do lists, thinking I would be much more in control with everything I needed at my fingertips. Ironically, I’ve never felt more disorganized. This year, I finally went back to using a daily planner and surprisingly I don’t feel that anxiety any longer. There’s something about writing down a task or appointment on paper (and then crossing it off) that keeps me feeling more on top of things. The key for me to managing the dual system (Iphone & planner) is to make sure the planner is small enough to fit in my purse (mine is a 5x7 MyAgenda Mini by MomAgenda) so I can take it anywhere. Also, I make sure appointments appear in both the Iphone calendar and in the planner in case I’m on the go sans planner and need to make an appointment.
5. Are there any organizing tips you’ve tried over the years that did not work for you? What were they? Why do you think they did not work?
There were many, (including the Iphone transition) but they all led me to what finally did work for me. I think it’s all trial and error until you find the one that works best for you.
6. Are there any habits you have formed and use everyday to get and stay organized?
Time management is the key for me. I loathe being rushed, so I build in extra time for everything, especially in the mornings. I’ve discovered that getting up early and allowing a lot of time for a leisurely coffee & bagel, the gym, & the commute sets the right tone for my day. I hate those days when I’m already stressed out before I even get to work.
7. What is your favorite organizational tool that you use, whether it be a product, app, or routine?
Because my staff is comprised of only part-time associates, and we’re crossing paths at times, I developed a simple system years ago to keep the staff up-to-date on everything happening at the store and in the shopping center. We use a simple Word doc called “Notes to Staff” in lieu of a bulletin board, sticky notes, or weekly staff meetings. The first thing I ask my staff to do each day is to read the Notes. I include things like: List of new merchandise, where back stock is located, upcoming events at the store, new policies or procedures, etc. It’s my goal to answer any questions they may have before they even come up.
8. Why do you think it’s important to stay organized in your role?
The tone for any organization is set from the top down. I don’t function well in chaos, and I don’t want my staff to have to either. When areas such the cash wrap or stockroom are organized & labeled clearly, it creates clarity and calm, and minimizes time wasted trying to locate items for customers.
9. What is one piece of advice you would give others to stay organized?
As the saying goes, “there is a place for everything, and everything in its place.” So take the time to create a designated space (shelf, drawer, closet) for something once, and then always place that item back in its proper place. It is just as easy to file that invoice in its file as it is to lay it on a pile of papers.