Marie Kondo’s television show has unleashed an organizing fervor. Across the country, people are diving into their closets and drawers in a quest to purge anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” Stray LEGOs and 30-year-old newspapers, your days are numbered.
But decluttering your surroundings is easier said than done. Stepping into a room overflowing with excess clothing, papers and family heirlooms can have you sounding retreat before the battle starts.
Sometimes achieving a simpler, tidy life requires an expert.
Here are five situations where it makes sense to hire a master of organization.
- YOU CAN’T BE OBJECTIVE
We love our stuff – that’s why we haven’t parted with it, of course. But a professional organizer isn’t attached to your decades-old Jerry Garcia T-shirt. They don’t know that you overpaid for those ill-fitting black pants, making it too painful to part ways. “As a neutral third party, professional organizers cut through emotional attachments to pare down an overwhelming collection quickly,” says Christina Hidek, professional organizer and owner of Streamlined Living in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dorothy Breininger, known as “Dorothy The Organizer,” helps her clients rate items from 1 (you’re out!) to 5 (a non-negotiable keeper). “Once we’ve picked the ‘5,’ you compare everything else to that superior and important item,” she says. So, say the 5 is a super-soft, designer T-shirt that fits perfectly; she’ll quickly work to evaluate everything else that’s a 4 or less by comparison, keeping 4s or 3s as space allows.
- YOU’LL REVERT TO YOUR OLD WAYS
“Your best friend might be willing to help you organize a closet, but will she be there to maintain it?” asks Katherine Trezise, founder of Absolutely Organized in Atlanta, who recommends that clients maintain a plan for regular check-ins.
She says the ongoing services of an organizer are especially helpful to busy professionals who are prone to abandoning their systems, or senior citizens who are set in their ways and easily fall back into old habits.
- YOU ARE OVERWHELMED
“People don't know how to start because they aren't clear on the end goal and what the space will look like, but a professional organizer can help shape that vision,” says Hidek. “When you begin a project with the end in mind and work backwards, it is easier to be successful.”
If you are detail oriented, a professional organizer will pull you out of the weeds and help you see the big picture, notes Breininger. For example, it’s common for someone who’s tackling the home office to get waylaid by a drawer full of rubber bands, business cards, cords, coins, clips and random phone numbers on sticky notes. Spending so much time in a single desk drawer might distract you from the bigger problem: piles of paperwork stacked to the ceiling, for example.
“Organizing and making decisions can be exhausting work, and you run the risk of giving up when you try to tackle it alone,” says Trezise.
- YOU HAVE A DEADLINE
Many homeowners don’t get on the organizing train until they've put their house on the market. After all, houses look more inviting and roomier with tidy kitchen cupboards and linen closets. Unfortunately, by that time most home sellers already have a long to-do list — from curb-appeal landscaping to negotiating with movers. One thing they’re lacking: time.
A professional organizer will assess your situation and develop a timeline to keep your organization project on track. They'll break the project down into achievable steps, so you’re not tempted to throw in the towel (or all 40 of the towels you own) because the job is too big, Hidek says.
- PEACE OF MIND AND SAVING TIME IS WORTH THE COST
Working with a professional organizer is like taking a shortcut says Hidek. “What could otherwise take you an entire day, weekend or even month can be done in just a few hours because they know the tricks of the trade and how to use your space better to get to the end goal faster and easier.” Better yet, they may do the work for you.
As with anything, the cost of organizing services varies by location, specialization and the level of education and experience of the organizer. Most professionals charge by the hour, and it can range widely from $25 to $225 an hour. The key is to find someone who understands your goals and creates positive, rather than punitive, atmosphere.