As I mentioned yesterday, I had the pleasure of chatting with Amanda LeBlanc from The Style Network's The Amandas. Tonight is the season finale of her show, and guess what... it was filmed right here in New Orleans. In fact, if you want to meet Amanda and her organizing team, you can head over to the Velvet Cactus tonight from 5-7!! One lucky guest will win a consultation with Amanda!!
From our conversation, I can honestly say that Amanda is an extraordinary woman. It does not surprise me one bit that The Style Network found in her someone America would want to get to know. I'm sharing with you the questions I asked Amanda and my recap of her responses. I have no doubt you will find Amanda as genuine, charming, intelligent, talented, and driven as I do.
It truly is my honor to give you a glimpse into the life of America's favorite organization specialist, Amanda LeBlanc...
About the show
Did you ever think when you were studying English at LSU that you’d be here in your adopted hometown promoting the season finale of your own television show?
NO! My mom and those closest to me knew I would never settle for mediocrity. They knew I would "go big or go home!" When I was in college I wanted to be successful, and my definition of success was measured by money, so I started out in the business school. My dad saw that it wasn't making me happy and encouraged me to change my major. He encouraged me to find something that made me happy and to get the best experience possible out of college.
After college, I got a job in sales and was very successful. With more success came more money and stability but not necessarily happiness. But in 2003, I had my first child, and it was earth changing. I realized I wanted to leave a legacy for her. I wanted her to follow her dreams and find what makes her happy. So with that as inspiration, and with my friend and neighbor by my side, I decided to start a business centered around helping people organize their homes. I wanted to make my family and friends proud and do what I love in the process.
The show is based on your very successful personal organization business. Can you describe what the journey was like from small business owner to reality tv star?
Ask Dustin, "How many people work for us?" He'll say, "100. In the body of 10!" I have always been frugal. I went from a sales job where I was given a car to owning my own business. When I was starting out, I had to walk to clients' homes! While we started with no money, we had passion and ambition. Failure was not an option. I had faith in God. I work for Him, and because of that, I knew I had nothing to fear. As a small business owner, you have to be willing to sacrifice, fail, and take a risk. And if the path you have taken is too hard and things don't seem to fit, change directions.
As for the show, it fell into our laps. It was a two year process from the original concept to the airing of the first episode. It has been such a great opportunity to reach out to people!
What was the most rewarding project you completed on the show?
The show has allowed us to meet people with such depth. In Episode 4, we worked with a single mom and her son who had just recently moved in with the boy's grandparents. In his new living arrangements, the young boy didn't have a playroom of his own. He was coping with living away from his father and moving into a new environment, but he was well adjusted and smart. He stole my heart!
What was the most challenging aspect of living your life in front of the cameras?
Such a small portion, maybe 10%, of your life is shown in any given episode. You're working 20 hours a day with unrealistic timeframes in which to complete projects, and the projects have to impress a nation. No one cares about your business as much as you do. You have to balance all of that for the camera.
I know you can’t give too much away, but you shot the season finale of The Amandas here in New Orleans. Can you give us a sneak peak into what we might see tonight?
In this episode, we tackle three projects instead of two. I have been considering opening a retail store here in New Orleans, but I needed to know if my team can handle things on their own. So I give them that chance in this episode. You have to watch to see how it goes! Also, you might see some drama unfold when one employee enjoys the New Orleans nightlife a little too much...
About the Business
As a professional organizer, when you walk into a client’s home or office, how do you determine where to start in getting them organized?
This business is all about reading people. Before I start a project for a client, I will have them give me a tour of their home. I want to see how they live and how they function. As they show me around, they begin to relax and make comments about the different spaces in their home. It's in getting to know them that I discover where to start. Often, after the tour, we find that the area that they considered to be the most problematic isn't at all.
As a new mom and busy professional, I want to maximize my family and friend time. Do you have any de-cluttering quick tips that can produce big results in no time?
People are often asking for "quick tips." The truth is that getting organized is a process. It's more tortoise than it is hare. Make small accomplishments day by day. If you don't have time to tackle the whole kitchen start with one aspect of the space. Purging will always make the biggest impact, so you can start there. Then tackle the pantry and move on to the drawers the next day. Think of it as 365 days of organization.
A reader and mother of two children would like advice on kid clutter. Without a playroom for storage, do you have some creative ideas on how to stow away toys and schoolwork?
I consider them two different storage challenges.
For schoolwork and artwork, I have three suggestions:
- Use an objective third party to help sort through artwork to see what should stay and what should go. Try to decide what pieces your children will treasure when they are older (the first time they wrote their name, handprints, etc.).
- Lay out all of their artwork accomplishments when they come home and assign each piece to a different family member. Have your children help put the pieces into envelopes and mail them to loved ones. It helps you eliminate clutter, and it gives your child an opportunity to receive praise all over again when Grandma gets her mail!
- Have an "under the bed" storage bin. The things you decide to keep should go in there for safekeeping.
For toys, my best advice is not to give them too many. Too many toys hampers their creativity. Don't buy them a tent, help them build a fort with sheets! But, if you already have lots of toys, and you don't have a lot of room, consider vertical storage (shelving, bins, and baskets placed on the wall).
If you had to choose the top three organizational products that everyone should employ in their home, what would they be?
It is an amazing closet on a rail system. It keeps you organized, and if you ever move, it can go with you. It truly is an investment. (And it can help with that pesky toy organization problem too!)
As parents, it's important that we set an example for our kids that we value ourselves and our things. It's important to keep your bedroom, bathroom, and closet tidy. You'll start your day off on the right foot. Wooden hangers make every closet look more beautiful. And when a space looks beautiful, we are more likely to keep it that way.
Put everything in your pantry on display! First of all, it looks great. Second, you always know what you need more of. Never again will you go to make a bowl of cereal only to find there are two Cheerios in the box.
Fill in the blank… the single most important aspect of organizing one’s life is…
Prioritizing your life by what is most important to you.
I always love getting to know other Nola Girls. I have said on my blog many times that New Orleans is not where I am from, it is who I am. How has growing up in New Orleans influenced you and your work?
New Orleans is part of your soul. It is part of everything you do. It impacts how you communicate. In New Orleans, life is about living. I have definitely taken that aspect of New Orleans with me to Birmingham!
Like me, you were living in Lakeview and lost everything during Katrina. How has that experience affected your work?
Wherever I go, people ask me what I would do differently when it comes to Katrina. I always respond that I wouldn't pack anything different or leave any sooner. We've all been given a gift. Mine is organizing. Katrina taught me how to empathize with people when they have to purge to organize. I understand what it's like to lose things that are important to you. Katrina made me a better wife, mother, and friend. It taught me in both a good and bad way that the impossible is possible.
You got to work with Nene Leakes. Is she as funny and charismatic in real life as she is on RHOA?
She is! For anybody who loves shoes, her closet is like being in a candy shop! It was an amazing experience to be able to implement the "over the top" closet design.
You can organize the closet of anyone in the world. Whose would you choose and why?
Coco Chanel. If I'm going to do a closet, I'd go with someone in fashion. And why not choose someone who was brilliant!
It has been so wonderful to chat with you today. I can say from one New Orleans girl to another that the Who Dat nation is so proud of everything you have accomplished. Can you tell us where you hope to see your career go from here? What’s next for you?
My mom has always said that she named her children to accomplish different things. She named me to be an author. So I think that writing will be a definite next step for me. I have also been collecting ideas about certain products that I wish were readily available. You might see a few new things from me on the shelves sometime in the future!
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Amanda as much as I have. I'm hoping that her future also includes Season 2 of The Amandas!
Readers, if you could organize the closet of anyone in the world, who would it be?
Readers, if you could organize the closet of anyone in the world, who would it be?