About Me

Mary Dykstra-Novess

Speaker, Consultant, Certified Professional Organizer

                     I have helped corporate, residential and entrepreneurial clients get organized since 2000. Having earned my MBA and having worked as a marketing consultant/project manager and liaison for 12 years prior to starting Within Reach in 2000, I am particularly attuned to organizing and time management challenges. My passion is getting clients and the public feeling empowered for the long term. In terms of giving back to my industry, I served 11 consecutive years as a national volunteer between The National Association of Professional Organizers(NAPO) and BCPO(Board of Certified Professional Organizers). Titles and responsibilities included, Exam Item Writer, Director of Examination Development, BCPO Board Member, NAPO Board Director, NAPO President Elect and NAPO President.


I also represented the USA and NAPO at the JALO(Japan Association of Life Organizers) 2013 international conference with the program entitled “The Gift of Organizing”. I have taken over 275 continuing hours of education in organizing, working with special populations and
move management within the global umbrella of Professional Organizing. I have also taken multiple
courses in sales and marketing.



Within your business, Within Reach, you offer business, residential, home office, ADD & ADHD organizing services.  What is your favorite part of organizing?

For me, it’s never about the stuff. It’s about the people. The favorite part of my work is the moment when I see a client’s face and body change as they move from feeling overwhelmed to empowered and confident. The change in the space and within the person is striking and I love the fact that they trusted me and the process.

As an organizational consultant, what motivates us to change?

Books have been written on change and what drives it. For our purposes here I’m going to cover 2 main drivers: avoiding pain and seeking a better state of affairs (mentally, emotionally, physically, financially etc.).

One of the biggest influences on how we deal with change is how we are internally wired. If you have ever done an assessment (for example DISK), you become aware that people are wired differently; from a high comfort in embracing change through the spectrum of avoiding change. Some people seem to thrive on change while others only embrace change when presented with dire consequences if they don’t change – possible loss of job, home, relationship, or health. Change for many triggers fear. Fear that it won’t be enough to make a difference anyway or that it will be emotionally painful, or it will cost too much or that they will have to deal with loss.

For those who struggle with change (we all do at some time), the best way to become more open to change is to identify the end goals and put it in context of positive outcomes vs. the pain of possible loss. For example, if you are on a diet and concentrate on the loss of the chocolate cream pie instead of how great it will be to have more energy and fit into your favorite clothes again, it will be much harder to stay with the diet because you are focused on the pain instead of the joy of healthier and more trim you. Same principle goes with decluttering your environment and mind. I always suggest a person seek out support in the area they want change because it makes it so much easier and it keeps the focus on the right things especially on the hard days. 

Through helping your clients to organize their home offices you help them to increase their bottom line while improving their quality of life. What would be the first step to reaching this goal?

As Steven Covey wrote many years ago, “Start with the end in mind”. If you can’t define something, you can’t track it and you can’t attain it.

When I start a relationship with a new client the FIRST thing covered is setting up great decision making criteria in 4 key areas. Then, all decluttering, organizing, time management and decisions revolve around the client established criteria with the end goal(s) in mind.  

When organizing residential clients what is one common obstacle and a strategy for overcoming it?

The biggest obstacle I hear from my audiences and future clients is that they don’t know where to start. They do not always use the term ‘overwhelmed’ but that is the common emotional bugaboo that keeps us from decluttering and setting up great functioning systems. The easiest and fastest way to get beyond this is to bring in assistance. For some, that might be an understanding friend who can help with the focus and physically getting things sorted and moved. For others it is hiring a professional organizer who can come in with clarity, and help you create a plan so that either you or they or combination of both can get the work accomplished quickly and effectively.

For those that prefer DIY (Do It Yourself), you can get all kinds of tips and see pictures from YouTube, Pinterest, an organizing book, seminar, a professional organizer’s website/blog etc. Just use the search function in the app or website you prefer. Look at working on one area at a time. If you find this is overwhelming or that you don’t get it done, make that call to a professional organizer or friend. My first recommendation is always a professional organizer if you can afford it because it has the tendency to keep your friendships on a healthier, less stressed level (“What do you mean you want to get rid of this sweater? I remember when I gave it to you…).

As a speaker, blogger and trainer, you’ve been helping clients and families learn strategies to become better organized. You specialize in inspiring others to live an uncluttered life. What suggestions do you have for those that feel overwhelmed by clutter? Identify who would love, need or appreciate the things that no longer serve you well. Donate, recycle and return items today because every day that you feel overwhelmed or controlled by your stuff/environment, is a compromised day that can lead to a compromised life and compromised relationships. If you are a reader, there are 3 books I would suggest right off the bat to read: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh, Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. For a newer read, some are finding comfort in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you are not an engaged reader, save the money and do NOT buy the books. I have been in more homes where clients have dozens of unread organizing books. In my experience, intentions will only waste money and create more clutter and guilt.

What are some of the trends in organizing that have changed from when you started in this field to now? How long have you been involved in organizing?

I have been in the Organizing Industry for over 18 years and a lot has changed. The economy fallout in the USA in 2007/8 made a big impact with people losing jobs, selling homes and downsizing all aspects of their lives. Though the economy has come back for most, the new focus and trends are on wireless/paperless living and living unencumbered lives – especially for the Millennials. The smart phone is decreasing some of our physical clutter but keeping our minds over stimulated and our attention spans suffering. Other trends I see are people moving to reclaimed urban areas to enjoy walkable and social communities, having smaller dwellings (there is a strong interest for some to embrace Tiny House living) and many are forgoing house ownership preferring the freedom that comes with renting and not having money tied up in 1 large asset. The effect is that organizers today need to be much savvier about helping their clients manage electronic information and help clients maximize the utility of confined space.

Also, older adults who are downsizing and simplifying sometimes are unprepared to discover that their children and the marketplace do not value many of the things that they thought were very valuable.  When a client says to me that they are saving something for their adult children or grandchildren, I encourage them to directly ask if those items are indeed wanted by the children. If the answer is no, to let those items go with grace. If the client believes that items should be sold only for a very high price, I suggest getting an appraisal or checking a site like EBay to see if their value expectations are reasonable.

What has been your biggest personal challenge around organization?

I have my own “Would’a Could’a, Should’a” bugaboos. That’s why I have such high empathy for my clients and I don’t judge. My passion is aquatic stuff, gardens and reading for knowledge. That means for me that I have 5 aquariums, create an overabundance of vegetables in the summer and always have articles to read. To my credit, I was born with great leveling force in my gut that hates waste so I remain conscious of 1) what I spend in time and dollars, 2) what goes to waste and 3) make sure I have a way of sharing the excess so that little is wasted.  When I have an ailing client, I often do a drive by to deliver a meal and a smile. Good for them & good for me.

To keep my reading papers in check, I clip down to the article. Dad still gives me his Wall Street Journals, Financial Times, Time, building and home trade magazines and I pick up magazines that discuss organizing and simplifying. I am still old school and I love paper. I try to speed read and pick up trends, statics and tips. When I fall behind, I choose a cutoff date or relevancy date and do a quick mini purge so that things stay in balance as I am running a business, home and need quality time with my great husband on the weekends. Life is always a balancing act and there is an ebb and flow to all activities and mental bandwidth. As the old proverb goes, we teach what we most need to learn and I am a lifelong learner. It’s the gift I get from my clients and share with my clients. It is the circle of life.