Many people pride themselves on being organized, but Emily Fitzgerald takes it to another level. It’s such an important part of her own life that she now makes a living by helping others get their own spaces in order.
“I’ve always loved organizing. I joke that my first client was one of my best friends in middle school and she would pay me with Babysitter Club books and hair ties,” Emily laughs. “When I was in college, my then-boyfriend, now husband, actually saw an article about a professional organizer. He cut it out and gave it to me and said, ‘You know, this is so you.’ Something aligned when I read that article, and I knew someday that’s what I would be doing.”
In early 2003, Emily founded OLS Organizing. She specializes in offices and living spaces and gets great satisfaction in working alongside people to not only get them organized, but to help them stay organized.
“I love working with not-for-profits. I love working with executive directors, specifically women. I love working with female entrepreneurs or working moms, because I know how challenging it is and what it’s like to be one. I can help both at work and at home. Sometimes people will hire me because they need help in their home and then ask if I do office spaces, too. Other times it’s the opposite; I’ll help somebody in their office and then they ask if I can help in their kitchen.”
Emily says these days, people are craving neat, tidy spaces and need systems in place that help them be more efficient and effective.
“I think that’s especially true now, at a time when there’s so much outside of our control,” she explains. “If your inner space, your home or office, can be a source of calm and peace, it gives you the ability to deal with the chaos outside.”
That chaos can come in different forms, as Emily discovered first hand three years ago. As a busy wife, mother and business owner, she often burned the candle at both ends. When she started to experience neck pain, arm pain and indigestion, she brushed it off and assumed she’d been overdoing it. Even when those symptoms persisted, she went about grocery shopping and cooking dinner. She says
the most beautiful detail of the next day is that her gas light came on when she left to drop her kids (ages 11 and 8 at the time) off at school. She had stopped to fill up her tank on the way home and was already parked when she blacked out. Emily’s still not sure how long she was out, but remembers calling her husband who took her to the hospital. Even then, she didn’t think it was anything serious.
“The ER doctor was going to send me home until the very last blood test came back. But he got that result, walked back into my room and said, ‘Scratch all of that. You are next in line for the heart cath lab,’” she recalls.
The diagnosis: Emily had a heart attack. “I did have a total blockage of my LAD [left anterior descending artery], which is known as a widow maker. I had a SCAD, or spontaneous coronary arterial dissection. I later learned that’s the leading cause of heart attack in a woman under age 50.”
At just 42 years old, it was a wakeup call. “I am such a huge advocate for helping women know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, because even though I don’t have heart disease, I did have a heart attack. I had nearly every single sign and symptom and thought I couldn’t possibly be having a heart attack because I’m young and healthy.”
Emily fully recovered and is back to helping others become more organized, but says the experience has had a lasting impact on the way she approaches her life.
“They don’t know what causes a SCAD, but extreme stress has proven to be a factor, so I try to manage my stress better than before. I try to be less busy. I try to be more present for my kids. And here’s the biggest change: I try to listen to my body. As a college athlete, you are trained to push through the pain, but that’s not really healthy. I just explained the symptoms away. I also try to extend grace to myself and to others,” she concludes.
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