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With a clutter-free life the natural result of growing up in a military family, Eva Counter draws on her skills and inclination as professional organizer. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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What do getting better organized and losing weight have in common? They are both New Year’s resolutions that it is easier to make than to keep. Eva Counter of Chester knows all about people’s quest for organization. She is a professional organizer.
“Acknowledging that you need some assistance is the first step,” she says of the impulse to call in an expert. “It is the accountability of making an appointment.”
But, she adds, setting up the appointment does not usually occur right after the resolution. Usually, a few months go by until people realize that are not going to make headway on their own.
Many of Eva’s clients are mothers, often mothers who recently had a second child. Coping with a single child, she says, does not necessarily mean chaos.
“With the second, all bets are off,” she says.
She has been asked to organize closets, pantries, playrooms and home offices. Lately, she adds she has also turned her expertise to basements.
Making that first call to a professional organizer can be a challenge.
“People feel vulnerable letting someone in their homes. It takes courage to admit you can’t do this alone,” she explains.
For her part, all consultations remain confidential.
Eva asks clients not to make extra efforts to put things away before she arrives at a home. She wants to know what a person’s routines are, where the sticking points, are and what is causing them organizational distress.
“I want to see the natural way things are happening; if people are always losing keys, I want to see where they leave them. We can put a hook right there for someone to leave the keys on,” she says.
More storage bins and units with space to stash things can actually make creating order more difficult, not easier. According to Eva, organizing often means getting rid of things, and deciding what is important to keep. Once she and a client decide what possessions need to go, she will take care of donating what is salvageable to charitable organizations and making dump runs with the rest.
Eva says she didn’t find organizing as a career; it found her.
“I always loved putting things in order,” she says.
When the first of her three daughters was born, she was at a tot’s playgroup in another mother’s house, when someone opened a chaotic plastic container cabinet. Eva sprang into action. She asked a friend to hold her baby and started organizing.
Soon other friends started asking her to organize for them. Then, someone suggested that she could charge for the service. She printed up cards and 15 years later she is still in the organizing business.
Eva says her own background as youngster in a military family, constantly moving, made her aware of organizing her own possessions. By high school and college, she was living in Texas and attended the University of Texas at Arlington. She met her husband Rob when both were working at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, loading planes for United Parcel. The job at the airport gave Eva the chance to be near something she loves, airplanes. She has taken private flying lessons, but the expense involved kept her from pursuing the program to get a license. Still, she has soloed in an airplane.
When Eva and Rob, who grew up in Old Saybrook, married, they decided to move back to this area and raise their family here.
Eva’s house, not surprisingly, is neat, very neat. There is nothing but a coffee machine on the spotless kitchen counter. She stores her toaster and blender, when not in use, in a drawer.
“A bare counter, that’s my aesthetic. I love clutter free,” she says.
But clutter free, she notes, might not be what a client is looking for.
“It is not about what I like; that’s not what I want to do for others,” she says. “I want to meet their goals.”
Even in Eva’s house, there is one room with a different aesthetic, where wisps of straw peek out helter-skelter from the bottom of a large cabinet. It is the room for the family’s two rabbits, Alice, a female dwarf lion head, and Eddie, a male miniature lop ear. Male and female though they are, they will not breed like rabbits. They have been fixed.
The cabinet, which once held a television, is not the usual hutch. The back has been removed so the rabbits can get in and out of the large plastic bins where they were comfortably nestled when a visitor saw them. There is also a cardboard maze-like set up on the floor that looked like rabbit recreation apparatus.
The rabbits began with a request from one of Eva’s daughters and the family has had rabbits now for eight years, sometimes as many as four. They live in their special room, doorways blocked off.
“They are indoor rabbits,” Eva explains.
Eva walks several times a week for exercise and has run both marathons and half-marathons. With the marathons, she needs to stop and rest; the half-marathons she can run straight through. Her explanation for why she started running is very simple: a friend asked her.
As she considers the secrets of good organizing, Eva has one last bit of well-considered advice for anyone striving to bring order from chaos?
“The biggest failing,” she says, “is trying to do too much at once.”