Decluttering your mind

Sort and Sweet’s founder Mary Cornetta tells us how to get organized

By Jessica Militello

Since part of my niche is getting past doubts and unhealthy thought patterns in order to achieve peace within yourself and pursue what truly makes you happy, I knew I wanted to have a chat with Mary Cornetta, the founder of Sort and Sweet, a professional organizing and decluttering brand. While the brand is focused on home and office space, I had a feeling the process of decluttering your mind in order to start out on a dream or new habits would be similar. We talked about clearing out those unnecessary doubts, getting organized, and breaking down goals into smaller steps in order to achieve the life you truly want and deserve.

 JM: Tell me about your brand Sort and Sweet and the art of organizing.

MC: I started Sort and Sweet in 2017 after about a decade of wanting to be a professional organizer. I graduated college in 2007 and I went to a NAPO meeting, (National Association of Professional organizers.), so at 20-something years old, I decided I wanted to be an organizer. I thought that it was something I could make a career out of, and interestingly enough, I talked myself out of it. I had a lot of mental clutter; I decided I was too young, I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t have the startup funds to start my own business, I wouldn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t go to business school, all of that. So I waited, I worked a ton of other different types of jobs, and then in 2017, finally I decided, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to be an organizer. I had worked for other organizers, I dabbled in it, I did it for myself, for friends, and family, so I finally just ripped the band-aid off and decided I was good enough, I was smart enough, and I can absolutely do this on my own. About a year later, I met my now business partner Margaret, who I met working for another organizer years prior, we lost touch, and long story short, she became co-owner of Sort and Sweet and we’ve evolved since she officially came on board in January 2019. Primarily we work with the physical side of things, I know you and I are going to talk about the mental side a little bit here, but it’s all tied together.

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JM: I really like that you mentioned when you first thought of starting your own business, all those initial doubts came up. And for a lot of people, I think that’s kind of like the start and end sometimes, like they’ll get a really great idea and then all of a sudden, get hit with an avalanche of doubts. How can someone sort through that to get started?

MC: That’s a great question. So it obviously took me a decade to get to that point, and I think when it boiled down to it, the situation that I was in, which was-working for somebody else, not being happy, not being paid my worth, feeling like I was just not living my purpose. And my soul was kind of getting crushed a little bit more every day making the same exact commute every day, it really started to kill me. So my fear became smaller than my pain of being in the situation that I was in, and my frustration and all that. So maybe a better way to put it is my desire to get out of my situation and to work for myself and to live my passion overcame my fear of, “what if I’m not good enough, what if I fail?” That was the changing point for me, when I decided that life is too short and that I needed to go after what made me happy. I knew I had a gift to give to people and when you start thinking about the person that you can help with your gift, versus how scared you are, that also shifts the focus too. It helps you to start to get the confidence to move forward because it absolutely is overwhelming.

JM: And one thing I remember that you’ve told me which was really helpful was getting a part-time job in the beginning while you started your business-so how did you transition from corporate life to self-employed?

MC: I didn’t rush into things, I did leave my corporate 9 to 5 job, but instead of just leaving that with no other means of income, I was able to find, fortunately, a part time job that was very flexible, so I worked it around the business as it was growing. And then when the time came, where I had replaced my income with my business, that’s when I left the part time job, and I’ve been doing it full time ever since. I worked in pharmaceuticals, absolutely unrelated to what I was doing, but it didn’t matter because it paid my bills. And as long as I got my numbers in at the end of the week, my manager didn’t care what days or hours I worked. It was something that I manifested, and I have to point that out. I wrote it down, like everything else in my life. I wrote that I wanted a part time job that pays me X amount of money that is flexible. But you have to be organized to do that. Mentally, you have to be able to switch hats, especially if you’re in a completely different field, like pharmaceuticals and organizing. And because this is leading into the time aspect of things, you have less time. So the more organized you are, in order to physically tackle having less time, that’s super important.

JM: What was a useful first step in getting organized and approaching something like starting a business?

MC: When I decided to start the business, I did things very slow and very meticulous. I made a list of everything I needed. I sort of reverse engineered it, where I thought okay, what is my end result? How do I get one paying client? I need to have a bank account set up, so I have to get a DBA or an EIN number, something that I can give to the bank to open up the account. I need to have a website in order to market [the brand], so I just back pedaled and I wrote down every single thing that I needed to do to get this business up and running. I didn’t have any help, I essentially just googled everything and I asked around, I got referrals, so I did have help in that sense. I wrote down the steps so I could see them, which I think helps a lot of people whenever you have mental clutter, to see in black and white exactly what you need.

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JM: When we’re thinking of the whole picture, and we’re already six steps ahead of ourselves, writing it out is such a small and easy thing. And I like how before you were mentioning, like breaking it down into simple steps, like getting one paying client, that makes it so much less overwhelming.

MC: Physical organizing and mental organizing are different, in a sense, but it is the same process. So when I walk into a home that has a ton of clutter and I go into the garage and it’s a hot mess, I could very easily be like, hell no, I don’t even know where to start. Back in the day, I used to be like that, and I’ve trained myself and now my clients work on this too, where we start with one corner, and when that’s done, then we move on to the next one. It’s very similar with our brains, rather than looking at, okay, I have zero business to I want a successful booming business, there’s a ton of things that are super overwhelming in between, so let’s just break it down into one thing that we need to focus on. I write a lot down, I also just get rid of things when I’m done with them, like when I’m done with a notebook, unless there’s something in there that I absolutely need to refer back to, I will most likely either take a picture of it, or I will transcribe it into my Google Drive, and get rid of the notebooks. From a mental standpoint, it’s just acknowledging when we have mental clutter. I worked with a life coach before I started the business, because I realized how much mental clutter I had. I needed somebody to help me get rid of it and to put the positive thoughts in my head, because negative thoughts are mental clutter, so I had to acknowledge first that I had a lot of it, and I was lacking confidence to start this business. There are ways that you can do it yourself, by acknowledging that you have the mental clutter to begin with, catching yourself saying things. Once you start recognizing that pattern of negative thoughts and catching yourself, there’s a lot of different ways [to work on it], but once you acknowledge it, it becomes so much easier to get rid of, but you have to admit it first.  

JM: I think even with the act of having clutter in your room or office, that’s like a mental process in itself and that’s why I think it’s similar to the mental clutter and what you were saying about stopping it in its tracks so it doesn’t become a habit.

MC: Yeah- you want to stop it at its source. I’m going to say a couple of things now that hopefully will be big light bulbs. Number one, physical clutter is an external representation of internal clutter. So a lot of times when we have chaos internally, it shows- the sink is filled with dishes, the laundry is piled up, countertops get piled up, because we’ve got a lot going on. And another very important component of clutter; it’s not just physical, it’s not just mental-we clutter up our calendars by over scheduling ourselves. And I think, post-COVID it’s a little bit different. I definitely know for myself, I slowed down despite going back to work full time. Once quarantine was over, it just wasn’t the same as it was before, and that’s not a bad thing. But a lot of times we let clutter pile up because we’re just go-go-go all the time and we overstuff our calendar. The clutter is basically unnecessary shit; the physical is unnecessary stuff in your house that you don’t need, and the mental is unnecessary thoughts and emotions that are taking over your brain and body that you do not need.

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JM: Sometimes people will say they don’t have time or it’s too late, but do you think that is just like clutter and what advice could you give to those people?

MC: When it comes to not having enough time, or someone feeling like it’s too late for them to go ahead and to start living their dream life, I’m going to be blunt, it’s just an excuse. Everybody has the same exact 24 hours and it really only means that you don’t want it bad enough. But some people don’t necessarily realize how badly they want something because they’re so crowded with the clutter of their day to day lives and they don’t know their “why.” It’s hard for them to get out of their every day, clutter and stressful schedules to actually sit back and picture what their lives would be like on the other side. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t want something bad enough. But you have to stop saying you want something and not do anything about it because that means you don’t want it. So by writing down your “why” and really scheduling time out to picture what you want and why you want it, it’ll help you realize how badly you want it.

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