One day, you have total power over your possessions—you know where they are and enjoy accessing, using, or simply admiring them. Then, seemingly overnight, you can’t find what you need, and you’re distracted, frustrated, and stressed about the mess. Now, with so many folks sticking to a WFH modus operandi, keeping those belongings in check is more important than ever to your productivity, serenity, and sanity.
What Does a Professional Organizer Do?
A professional organizer may help you make sense of the muddle by introducing new storage systems or improving existing ones, encouraging you to minimize and neaten up any house room. Read on to learn how these de-cluttering specialists work, what they charge, and why hiring one might be the right move—plus tips for choosing the best person for the job.
They really are pros
Those with a career in de-cluttering may have started out in a related field, such as interior design, or simply be natural neatniks. The best among them may have some formal training and accreditation as a member of, for example, the American Society of Professional Organizers or the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).
They have a mission
NAPO defines a professional organizer as someone who will “support evaluation, decision-making, and action around objects, spaces, and data, helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding function, order, and clarity.” (This differs from productivity consultants, who help clients better manage their time, energy, and resources to achieve goals.)
A wide spectrum of items—from clothing, gadgets, tools, and collectibles to media, technology, and personal/office documents/files—are within the pro organizer’s purview. They’re often called upon when people are moving (both packing and unpacking), but even if you’re staying put, a professional organizer can give you a fresh start in relationship to your stuff.
Not a quick fix
Even if you only want assistance in a single area, such as the garage, kitchen, or walk-in closet, working with a professional organizer takes time. Typically, there’s an in-depth consultation about your goals, and measurements and photos will be taken of the space(s).
Next, you’ll receive a proposal, perhaps with a list of products, such as shelving and bins, to purchase. If you need support for eliminating—letting go is the hardest part for some people—the organizer will help you designate items to be collected for donation, gifting or trash. The next step is installing new systems and arranging everything in place. The process can take a few days, a few weeks, or more, depending on the size of the area, the amount of stuff, and your clinginess to the likes of that clarinet you haven’t played since high school.
It’s an investment
Everyone has unique needs, so there is no average price for professional organizing. Fees are often discussed in the initial conversation or during the consultation (which may or may not be free). Some pro organizers charge an hourly rate (anywhere between $50 and $150); others give an estimate for the entire project. The cost of any products is extra. When you agree to the terms, you’re expected to put down half the amount and pay in full once satisfied with the results.
Now that you have an idea of what to expect from a professional organizer, you can proceed with finding the best person or team for the job. NAPO has a directory to locate pros in your area, and the tips ahead can help ensure a positive experience.
Consider your scope, style, and quirks
Prior to contacting a pro, get a sense of what you think needs to be done and where. Also, get real about yourself and your household members: Is there a sentimentalist among you with a strong attachment to certain items? Is someone the type who must be able to see things rather than have them behind closed doors and in drawers?
Think about your budget and time frame as well: Do you have the wherewithal to do several areas in one fell swoop, or would it be more prudent to tackle the main area right now?
Interview a few
As with hiring any home services pro, consult with several people to find the right fit. Ask about credentials/certifications and client recommendations/references. Also, inquire about their experience with your particular type of clutter issues. If your family kitchen resembles a combat zone, you don’t want someone whose entire portfolio is devoted to luxury closets. Before-and-after photos are a plus!
Lay yourself bare
Resist the temptation to tidy up before a pro comes into your home—the organizer needs to see how you really live. Be open, honest, and unashamed during meetings. These pros are there to do a job, not judge, and no matter how much you think things have devolved, they’ve no doubt seen worse!
Trust your gut
Experience, price, and references are key but equally important is the vibe you get: You must feel comfortable talking to this person about your issues and then granting them access to your personal space. The NAPO website states: “Avoid choosing strictly by price. Instead, focus on finding someone with the personality and skill set that matches your needs.”
Learn your lesson
Don’t let an investment in de-cluttering and organizing go to waste. Ensure that the pro you work with establishes systems you can use IRL, whether that means transparent storage that lets you locate items easily or closed containers that double as furniture. Ask for tips on staying on top of your stuff to make your investment pay off over time.