Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom spotlight where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. But first we’d like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to our Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Law Firm. Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities!
This week’s Meet a Mom spotlight is the lovely mom of two wee ones and professional home and business organizer, Charlotte Berlin of Simplified by Charlotte! Charlotte’s innate organization skills served her well with her previous career in public relations and event planning. But like so many of us mamas, life took a few turns that forced her off her career path. The pandemic hit. And only weeks later Charlotte was diagnosed with breast cancer. Charlotte writes that this painful time “…allowed a time of reflection. Could I make a career out of my longtime passion for organizing?” Well, Yes! Welcome, Charlotte Berlin!
Hi Charlotte! Please introduce yourself.
HI! My name is Charlotte Berlin. I grew up in Glencoe. I spent 11 years on the east coast (Washington, DC and New York City) and came back to Chicago in 2012 to be closer to family and friends. I’m a mama to two girls, Sophie (four) and Emma (two).
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
Being a mom is truly fun! I love spending time with my girls – laughing, playing, and teaching them new things. The years go by too fast, so I try to maximize the daily adventures.
Life has been turned upside down for everyone, but it’s been especially difficult for you and your family. Can you tell us more about that?
My journey through quarantine was made even more challenging when, a year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as lockdown was beginning. I had to undergo surgery and radiation during the peak of the pandemic with countless tests and scares in between. Receiving this diagnosis is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy! Fortunately, I am now doing well and am monitored very closely by my expert team of doctors at Northwestern.
To this day, I still feel that the hardest part of my breast cancer journey – amidst the pandemic – was being a mom. While at times challenging, I tried to stay upbeat and keep things as “normal” as possible at home because COVID had already turned my girls’ world upside down. I knew I had to push through and be strong for them, and that’s what got me out of bed every morning.
During the worst of the pandemic, being with my family, for many reasons, was more important than ever. Quality time had a whole new meaning to me, and I tried to soak it up as much as possible.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I was born in London (and used to have a strong British accent!) and moved to Glencoe when I was in 4th grade.
Any local favorite takeout restaurants?
Fortunately, my job brings me to the North Shore several times a month. A trip isn’t complete without a stop at Foodstuffs (Courtney’s Tuna!) and Once Upon A Bagel.
We’re excited to get right into it – please introduce your organizing business, Simplified by Charlotte. How did you get into this line of work?
Absolutely. So, I mentioned before that I was on the east coast for 11 years. I went to college in Washington, DC and moved to New York City for my public relations and event planning career. I met my husband while living there and convinced him to move to Chicago, so that I could be closer to family and lifelong friends. When I moved back, I continued working in PR; I was the Director of Public Relations and Communications at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago for several years and, when I became a mom, I decided to leave the company and pursue freelance work to give me more flexibility.
My breast cancer diagnosis coincided with the pandemic and, consequently, the cancelation of the events and PR campaigns that I was producing. This allowed a time of reflection.
I have been exceptionally organized since I was young. Family and friends have always called on me to help organize the space in their home. This continuously brought me an immense sense of satisfaction. And, time and time again, people commented that I should be doing this professionally.
As 2020 proved, life is unpredictable; we should do whatever we can to feel fulfilled every day. I followed my heart and my innate organizing skill set and launched my business, smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. I am grateful to have been busy Simplifying homes and meeting new clients ever since.
I think all moms crave organization in their lives and it’s truly a skill! What do you love most about organizing?
The satisfaction of turning chaos into order!
And what is the hardest part about being an organizer?
At times, the hardest aspect of my job is helping clients understand that organizing cannot be achieved instantly, whether it’s a single cabinet or an entire room. It’s a puzzle that requires a multistep process (my Simplified System!) to successfully complete.
Funny question that we have to ask: Is there a right or wrong way to load a dishwasher?
Yes! Make sure everything is loaded by category and facing the same direction, including utensils. This makes the dreaded unloading process more efficient. Also, while tempting, don’t overload the dishwasher.
Thank you, I will tell my husband, LOL! Who are your influencers and/or mentors that inspire you from day-to-day?
I’ve always been inspired by female entrepreneurs – risk takers who went against the grain. There are so many amazing women in this community who I’ve followed closely for years, and whose paths I have the utmost respect. And, my mom has always been a business owner for as long as I can remember. She showed my siblings and me that, with some elbow grease and creativity, it’s possible to do it all!
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to start a new business in the current climate?
If you are passionate about something, the business will follow. Use the current climate as an opportunity – I did.
We want to know…. What are the 2 most common questions that people reach out to ask you with respect to organizing?
Q: How long will my project take?
A: This is a challenging question to answer prior to seeing a space, but I am always happy to provide an estimate based on my experience and similar projects.
Q: How much will it cost?
A: I charge hourly or determine a project fee for jobs that include multiple spaces. I discuss these options while reviewing the scope of work during the initial client communication.
Excellent! Meanwhile, can you share with our readers a few expert organizing tips?
1) An easy way to give your closet an instant upgrade and more organized, uniform look is to purchase matching hangers. My personal favorite are the Slim Suit Hangers from The Container Store.
2) Use the magical file fold whenever possible. Unlike piles, file folding allows you to see everything at a glance, saves space, and is easy to maintain. And, while you’re at it, make sure to color coordinate!
Favorite candy: Buncha Crunch
Strangest thing in your purse right now: The Container Store measuring tape
Last book you read: Beautifully Organized by Nikki Boyd
Your binge shows: Shark Tank and anything on HGTV
Your all-time favorite movie: Home Alone (and my girls are finally old enough to appreciate it!)
You mentioned organization is a multi-step process. What is that process from start to finish?
I organize everything from small closets to entire homes – whatever a client is seeking. Regardless of the space, I always use my five-step Simplified System – Strategize, Spill, Sort, Simplify, Sustain.
During the first step, I work to understand the client’s goals, concerns, and overall day-to-day life as it pertains to the specific space(s).
Next, the Spill, is when I take everything out of its existing home. This is when it becomes clear what organizational product is necessary. I source all product for my clients and am pleased to extend my Container Store discount.
Some clients choose to Sort (purge) beforehand, while others prefer that I assist with this process. Regardless, it’s an essential step in Simplifying your space!
The Simplify step is my favorite. It’s my time to organize, categorize, and rehome a client’s belongings.
When the job is complete, I provide tailored tips to help the client Sustain their newly Simplified Space.
Do you offer gift cards for Mother’s Day or special occasions in general?
Yes, I offer gift certificates for Mother’s Day and any special occasion. The gift of organization is the gift that keeps on giving!
How can we connect with you for more information? How do we book?
For more information or to schedule a Simplified service, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me on Instagram or Facebook (@SimplifiedbyCharlotte). You can also learn more about my company on my website!
What’s next for Simplified Charlotte?
I’m looking forward to growing my team and training new staff The Simplified System. Additionally, I will be adding Simplified Events to my portfolio – stay tuned!