WORDS BY NIKKI SORBELLO
Sitting down with Leanne Baker in her home you would be forgiven for thinking the South African native has got it all together.
Everything is in its place – ordered, styled and uncluttered. Yet the house is still welcoming and homely. The way it looks is not just for show, but for the feeling of peace it brings.
The maths teacher, wife and mother- of-two is Bundaberg’s answer to Marie Kondo or Mrs Hinch – a Queen of organisation, decluttering and living a life of purpose. But it was something she never sought out to be.
“I started in 2012 sharing hints and tips I had learnt, while trying to figure out how to live a less-cluttered life. There were a lot of people online who shared their perfect spaces, but I couldn’t find out how they got there – they never said how they achieved it,” Leanne said.
“We feel better and a lot calmer in the space when it is organised.”
It wasn’t until followers began to ask Leanne to run a course specifically about what she had learnt that Project 14 was born – a 14-day online course where Leanne shares all her spaces, tips, tricks and systems. Thinking it wouldn’t draw much interest, Leanne opened up the first project and was blown away when 50 people signed up. Project 14 has grown to two projects a year with hundreds of people tackling mindset and spaces.
It is something that could be considered a surprising business venture for a woman who confesses she is a naturally messy person.
“My Mum thinks this whole thing is very funny because as a child or teenager, you couldn’t get to the door from my bed, there was no path on the ground to walk,there was just stuff,” Leanne said.
Her desire for organisation came when she married Tim, and became responsible for an entire house.
“When I moved into his house, I felt what it was like to live somewhere that was really cluttered and had no organisation. So I tried to learn about decluttering because of the negative impact it had on me,” she said.
“Now, it is much easier to be a tidy person because of the difference I feel. I don’t tackle it anymore because it’s cluttered. I try and stay on top of it because I know it has a positive impact on myself and my family. We feel better and a lot calmer in the space when it is organised.”
TURNING THE PAGE
More recently, Leanne has become known for her range of daily or weekly planners, another tool to help people organise their lives.
“In the first round of Project 14, I shared how I’ve used planners for years and the difference they had made in our life,” she said.
“I happened to say I would love to make my own planner one day. A few nights later, I received an email from Amanda, who owned a printing company, offering to help and go into business with us. Eight weeks later, we let people know the planners were coming.”
Starting out with an initial order of 100, the response was overwhelming and has continued to grow every year, with thousands of women and men lining up to get their Leanne Baker Daily or LBD planners.
BALANCING HER PASSIONS
Her openness, humble nature and willingness to help people has driven her popularity, success and what some may call a cult-like following. So it seems only natural Leanne would move into the online space full time.
“For six years in front of my desk, I had my retirement date of December 13, 2019. Tim and I worked to get to the point where we could afford for me to step away from teaching, but when the time came, I just couldn’t do it.”
Leanne said the idea of leaving her teaching job had her in tears – a sign that it was something she needed to keep doing.
“It’s lovely for me now because I know I am doing it because I really want to do it, not out of necessity. I love teaching maths, and I love working with the kids, and I teach beginning teachers now, which is even more amazing,” she said.
“Teaching also keeps me grounded in the online world, because the kids couldn’t care less. They follow people with millions of followers. It is very humbling.”
A LIFELONG COMMITMENT
After years of explaining how she runs her home and organises her space, you would think it could get repetitive for Leanne. Yet she insists there is always something new to share or explain.
“It’s more than being organised, it’s the mindset around it – that it is a long-term thing and you have put small steps in all the time.
“Hearing from people who have realised that and changed their situation, discovering all it takes is 15 minutes a day, consistently doing whatever it is we have set out to do – it lights me up and makes this worthwhile. Because it changes families, it doesn’t just change a home and the way it looks. It changes the way the family operates, and that easily keeps me going,” she said.
Leanne leads the way in championing the 15-minute tidy up – her number 1 tip for decluttering and cleaning.
“I would say if you are starting out – start with one load of dishes and one load of laundry a day because those things can mount up very quickly,” she said.
“But our favourite is the 15-minute tidy up. If you consistently do 15-minute tidy ups, you will see a massive difference in your house. People underestimate what you can achieve in 15-minutes of uninterrupted cleaning.”
Calling Bundaberg Home
Born in South Africa and having moved to Bundaberg when she was 12, Leanne said she is often asked why her family hadn’t moved to pursue opportunities in bigger cities. Especially considering they travel to Brisbane up to 15 times a year for business.
“We love where Bundaberg is situated. We love that it’s close to the beach. We love that the town is not too quiet but not too busy. We love the stores around here, and I think in the last few years, in particular, we have had some incredible shops and restaurants open up. I love the people here and the sense of community that is here, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.”