Debra Baida: Founder, Liberated Spaces

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My Native Admission Statement: Debra Baida, founder of Liberated Spaces, is a life organizer and coach for people navigating their spaces, stuff, time, projects, goals, and life transitions. Liberated Spaces has been a San Francisco Green Business since 2008 and was the fifth business in California to attain certification as a Green Business Innovator. Deb was a featured guest on a KQED’s Forum and appeared in a PBS Newshour story about San Francisco’s zero waste goals. Her organizing tips have been published in numerous publications. In 2018, the editors of San Francisco Magazine named Liberated Spaces the best organizer in their annual “Best of San Francisco” issue. Prior to starting her business, she worked as a photo editor for two decades in New York and San Francisco. In many ways the transition from pictures to stuff made a lot of sense. Collaborating with photographers and art directors to edit images for the purpose of publishing impactful stories, translated quite naturally into collaborating with clients so they can edit, embrace, and reclaim their spaces and continue to pursue and create their life stories.

How did you get into the industry?

The gift of being laid off and desiring a different perspective on what could be my right livelihood gave me time to do some vital soul-searching. Corralling my passions – being of service to others, education, creativity, and environmental concerns – was a priority. After a long chat with a professional organizer friend of a family member, I knew this was the direction for me. With little planning, I jumped right in and have been enjoying the waters for 12 years and counting.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Early on in my practice, while typing a post-visit follow up to a couple I’d been working with, I asked how they were enjoying their newly liberated spaces. That was the first time those words – liberated spaces – appeared at the end of my fingertips. A visceral feeling inside gave me pause as my hands hovered above the keyboard and I turned to my husband and asked what he thought of that as a business name. Those words summed up all that this work and overall vision for my client collaborations. It’s about removing physical, mental, and/or emotional obstacles that hinder efforts to focus on the things in life that matter.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

When things got slow and the phone stopped ringing for a little while used to be the most difficult moments until I learned to embrace them. The quiet times are ideal for focusing on other aspects of the business, self-care, an afternoon swim, or visiting local spots that are too crowded on weekends.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Clients come to me when they are overwhelmed, and one of the things they appreciate most is the sense of calm I bring to their lives. They know I’m right there with them as we navigate both the smooth and bumpier aspects of their projects. I make the hard stuff a little easier.

How do you motivate others?

I ask people if we can reframe self-defined ‘problems’ as ‘challenges.’ Doing so enables them to become more empowered rather than oppressed by their undertakings. I also find it important to remind them to honor and celebrate the small and impactful steps they make. All those initiatives add up!

What makes me the best version of myself?

Staying true to my values while avoiding the temptation of sacrificing said values due to the expectations of others.

What are my aspirations?

On the personal side, it’s to have and make time for what’s most important to me. On the business side, it’s to continue helping others navigate their way to the same in their own lives.

My Biggest Success?

My inner photo editor had a long-time desire to find a way to get a family photo – my father’s amazing photograph of me and my mom watching the first moon walk on television – into the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. When the designers for their new permanent gallery exhibit reached out to inquire if the photo would be available, the answer was a resounding yes. Now we wait as patiently as possible for 2022 when the gallery is scheduled to re-open.

My Motto?

Daily mundane jubilation

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Things that have personal stories attached to them

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

The fact that San Francisco is a walkable city (yes, even with all the hills) with massive bonus points for having big swaths of beach for fog-drenched strolls.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Homemade French toast with seasonal fruit on the weekend. It tastes best when I’m still in my pjs.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – On a weekday, I’m usually waiting for the water to boil for my morning tea.

10:00 AM - Oftentimes working with a client.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

Anywhere that’s not in my car between client appointments.

7:00 PM - Winding down over dinner with my husband.

11:00 PM - Sleeping. You did read I’m awake at 6am, right?

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Tea, glorious tea, and lots of hot water.

What should everyone try at least once?

Something they say they don’t like

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Farmers markets and bookstores