Dru asked me to share a typical day in the life of Maggie McDonald, sole proprietor of Simplicity Itself Organizing Services and the protagonist of the Maggie McDonald Mystery series. But she’s a take-charge kind of gal, and insisted on telling her own story…
One of the things I like best about being a professional organizer is that there’s no such thing as a typical day. My schedule depends on my clients’ needs and on how I decide to juggle my career with the demands of my life as the mother of two teenaged boys, the servant of two demanding cats and the best pal of a golden retriever with separation anxiety. And then there’s my adorable and supportive husband Max.
At first glance, there’s not much fodder in my life for mysteries, but as an organizer I’m required to rummage in some of the most private areas of any person’s world: their sock and underwear drawers, the darkness under the bathroom sink, and the furthest recesses of their kitchens, basements, attics, and garage lofts. That cliché about skeletons in the closet? That’s nothing. In contrast with the secrets stashed in an underwear drawer, a closet is very nearly public.
To forestall awkwardness, I insist my clients delve into their storage spaces and remove evidence of any secrets. I don’t want to find illegal drugs, weapons, or items that would make me blush.
That strategy doesn’t always work. A young woman once hired me to wrangle her wardrobe. Deep in the recesses of her closest, I found a rusty can stuffed with shoe-cleaning rags. I set it in the discard pile to be reviewed by my client.
Weeks later, she phoned me in a panic. Did I put that can away? Transfer the contents to another container? Toss it? I reminded her she’d thrown it away herself. I make recommendations, but I never discard anything that doesn’t belong to me. For good reason. The young woman’s beau was a heroin addict and she’d deep-sixed a valuable quantity of his drug of choice. She dumped the boyfriend and added custom storage to his side of the closet.
On another occasion, a young lawyer hired me to help his elderly father evaluate his organizational needs. I phoned to make an appointment, but no one answered. After several tries, I stopped by to leave my business card. As I stepped up on the porch, I saw the curtain twitch and I could hear someone moving inside. I knocked, but there was no answer. The house was centrally located, so it was easy for me to drop by. I did, frequently, sometimes writing notes on the back of my card. Until one day, as I turned to go, the metal flap on the mail box stirred and a voice whispered, “Hello.”
I crouched on the doormat and peered inside. “I’m Maggie. Are you Walter?”
The flap quivered, but the voice didn’t respond.
“Your son hoped I could help you organize your things a bit.”
“Go away. I don’t need help.”
After a few more conversations through the mail flap, including the time I left a plate of chocolate-chip cookies on the mat, I was invited inside his immaculate home.
Walter poured tea and made cinnamon toast, cut in triangles. He told me that he’d initially thought I was a spy for his son, who urged him to move to senior living and sell his home and all of its furnishings. But Walter liked being alone, relished the company of two cats, and had friends in the neighborhood. Though his wife had died ten years earlier, he cherished the house filled with memories of the life they’d shared. He had no desire to move. Weary of arguments, he’d told his son he was welcome to visit only if he didn’t mention real estate or homes for the elderly.
“So what convinced you to open the door to me?”
“You’re stubborn. You remind me of my late wife. Feisty. Helena would have loved you.”
We created a plan to visit weekly over tea. Fighting off the cats, who stole pencils and ate paper, Walter paid his bills while I filed receipts. On every invoice I sent I told Walter’s son that his father had little need for my services. But the son insisted I continue. Walter and I became good friends, laughing over tea and shared stories.
Most of my clients are less colorful than Walter and the drug-addict’s girlfriend, but no two are alike. Individually tailoring my organizational systems and finding strategies that work in practice as well as they do in theory is what takes my days in unexpected directions.
Truth be told, discovering the occasional dead body can also throw my schedule for a loop. But that, as they say, is another story.
SCHEDULED TO DEATH is the second book in the Maggie McDonald mystery series published by Lyrical Underground, January 2017.
Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancée of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer.
Maggie McDonald is hoping to raise the profile of her new Orchard View organizing business via her first high-profile client. Professor Lincoln Sinclair may be up for a Nobel Prize, but he’s hopeless when it comes to organizing anything other than his thoughts. For an academic, he’s also amassed more than his share of enemies. When Sinclair’s fiancée is found dead on the floor of his home laboratory—electrocuted in a puddle of water—Maggie takes on the added task of finding the woman’s murderer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.
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Meet the author
Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Connect with Mary at www.maryfeliz.com
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Address to Die For and Scheduled to Death, either e-book (open to everyone) or print (U.S. residents only), winner’s choice. The giveaway ends January 19, 2017. Good luck everyone!