Pia Thompson Declutters Her Life and Helps Others Do the Same
“It’s beautiful to watch clients embrace themselves and remember who they are through their stuff. It can be quite emotional to let go of old versions of yourself. But it is a beautiful process, and I am happy and grateful to take people through it.”
Images by smarchephoto
Hearing Pia Thompson’s story is a bit like reading a movie script: a successful Wall Street lawyer has an epiphany, quits her job, and creates a new, joy-filled life.
And, though we love to watch movies like this in our pyjamas with a glass of wine, living this story isn’t quite so charming.
In the ’60s, Thompson’s parents immigrated from the Caribbean to a Brooklyn neighbourhood with a large Caribbean community. Pia grew up as a 1st generation American immersed in West Indian culture. It was a wonderful community to grow up in, but there was also a lot of pressure to be successful and to achieve the “American Dream.”
Pia said, “I grew up to be a people pleaser and a perfectionist, which made my parents’ happiness a top priority. They didn’t come all this way to America for me to not succeed. That’s why I chose to go into law - it was a path to financial freedom and success. But I hated it from the beginning. I felt like a fish out of water, and there of course weren’t many black people at Duke Law School. But because I was a perfectionist, I decided to put my nose to the grindstone, thinking that if I applied myself I could do anything. But what I didn’t realise is that there is a fine line between working hard and forcing something that isn’t for you.”
Her perfectionism drove Thompson to excel in law and in life, by society’s definition. She was working on Wall Street as a lawyer, married with a beautiful daughter, and owned both a condo and a house. Pia had it all, but she had never given any thought to whether she was happy with all she had achieved.
Then, in 2014, within a five-month period, she had a miscarriage, her dad passed away, and her marriage fell apart.
“It was devastating. Yet, it was exactly what I needed to happen for me to finally see that I was living a life I didn’t love,” said Thompson.
After her separation, Pia moved from New Jersey back to Brooklyn in 2015. There, she reconnected with an old friend from high school who was a personal trainer, and Pia contacted him for training. Her friend was also interested in personal growth, and during her training sessions, he began to ask Pia questions about her life and work.
Images by smarchephoto
“He is such a sincere and honest human being, and he made me feel comfortable and willing to be vulnerable. He helped me identify what was really important to me and that I was capable of owning my life and my power. By working on myself and diving even more into personal growth after connecting with him, I realised that I was settling in my work and relationships because I didn’t love myself,” she said.
Pia stayed at her job until she was laid off in 2017. Fortunately, she received a generous severance package, and with a sizable nest egg, Pia didn’t have to find work immediately.
“I was in my 40s with no idea what I wanted to do with my life. But I knew with absolute certainty that I didn’t want to go back into law. And for the first time, I started to think about following my heart and not what society defines as success or what my parents would want me to do.”
A friend had recommended that she read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but it remained in her home unread. Then, she started watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and knew within 10 minutes that she wanted to be a home organiser.
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Thompson immediately googled Kondo and discovered she had a training programme for aspiring home organisers. Pia registered for the training in January 2019 but wasn’t able to get a slot until November.
In the training, Pia dreamed about her business. She learned to combine home organising with personal growth and take clients on a journey to discovering themselves.
“All of your belongings are there to support the lifestyle you want. Home organising is a process of focusing on who you are and curating your home to match that. It’s about being honest with yourself and creating a life and space that feels like you - a space that does not contain items that give you feelings of guilt, shame, or fear because of how others expect you to show up. It’s about practicing and choosing what brings you joy by reviewing every single item, over and over again.”
But, she had never owned her own business before, and she had no idea how to start or run a business. After completing Kondo’s training, Pia took a couple of small business courses and hired a consultant to help her define her branding. Then, she contacted residents in her building to tell them that she was launching her own company, and a neighbour hired her. Sweetdigs officially launched in March 2020 providing home-organising services using the KonMari method.
A critical component of the KonMari Method is the concept of sparking joy. Marie Kondo says, “your feelings are the standard for decision making – specifically, knowing what sparks joy. Through the process of selecting only those things that inspire joy, you can identify precisely what you love – and what you need.”
Pia said that many of her clients have a history of consistently neglecting themselves and putting everyone else first. The act of choosing themselves seems selfish. She reminds women that in order to be the best mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends, they have to take care of themselves so they don’t show up for others halfway or with resentment.
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“People who love you want you to love yourself. It isn’t selfish to choose self-nourishment. If we show compassion to ourselves, we can connect more easily with people. Self-sacrifice and martyrdom are BS. Everyone struggles with that, but in order to apply “spark joy” correctly, and gain the happiness you are really seeking so you don’t rebound, you have to think outside the box.”
Work-life balance is a lie. We can’t do all the things well – work, parenting, partnership, family, friends, self-care, and exercise. It is impossible! Something will always suffer, and if you try, you will get burned out. To begin to pull yourself out of that, you have to begin to choose yourself. Once you choose yourself, you can align your life choices with your joy.”
Pia recommends her clients start by defining their ideal lifestyle. “It’s almost like a vision board. You have to be honest with yourself and identify where you are now and where you want to be. And that’s with your entire life, not just your home. We are all responsible for our own lives, and we all get stuck sometimes. I never thought I would stop practicing law or get divorced. But, just like me, you too have the bravery and wherewithal to get yourself out, to move forward. I am no different from anyone out there. I was the one holding myself back and you are the only one holding you back. Going through your items, which tell the story of your life, will lead you there.”
Thompson likes to say that she takes her clients on a sweet adventure of truth and joy. Pia turns tidying the home into fun self-care, and working with each client is reminiscent of the process she went through only six years ago.
Images by smarchephoto“It’s beautiful to watch clients embrace themselves and remember who they are through their stuff. It can be quite emotional to let go of old versions of yourself. But it is a beautiful process, and I am happy and grateful to take people through it.”