An organizing pro can help you get your house together. Here’s how to choose the right one and gain your own clutter-clearing skills
Ready to dive in? Not so fast. You first need to find the organizer who’s a good fit for your needs and style. Consider these pointers:
• Be specific about your wish list. Do you simply have one or two problem zones — say, a cluttered home office or overstuffed pantry? Or is your house one big, overwhelming jumble? Do you want the pro simply to come up with a plan of action that you can implement on your own, or will she be doing the heavy lifting? Think through your needs so you can find the right person to tackle them.
• Budget accordingly. Fee structures vary widely, but expect to pay roughly $75 to $120 per hour. The average room can be completed in one to three full days, but variables such as size will dictate the amount of time needed.
• Decide how involved you want to be. Some professional organizers like to operate independently, taking full charge of the process; others prefer more client input along the way. Which style will be most comfortable for you?
• Search reputable sources. If you know someone who’s used a local organizer, ask detailed questions about the process, results and follow-up. The National Association of Professional Organizers has an excellent directory, including information about each member’s background and specialties.
Browse the websites of those in your area, if available, and then give the most promising candidates a phone call. You’re looking to check off several things: Are your personalities a good match? Will the organizer’s style mesh well with yours? Do her policies, professional manner and communication skills inspire confidence or raise red flags? Don’t be shy about asking if you can talk to a couple of her previous clients, too.
Now that you’ve chosen a pro (yay!), it’s time to get down to business. Follow these tips to keep the process smooth:
• Get over the mess. Before the hard work begins, the organizer likely will schedule a consultation in order to get an overview of the task. And just like the frantic urge to clean before the housekeeper arrives, it’s tempting to embark on a sorting spree as you imagine him recoiling at your tornado of a house. Resist. He needs to assess your clutter in its normal state in order to lay out the best plan of action. Trust us: He’s seen worse.
• Prepare to put in some effort after hours. Many organizers give clients “homework” — small jobs that allow you to road-test techniques and practice processes. This is also an excellent chance to pinpoint things that you think might not work well for you and ask for alternatives.
• Invest in the tools that your organizer suggests. If she provides a list of recommended products, such as bins, files or shelving, don’t skimp. Spending the money now will pay off down the road.
• Commit to personal change. A well-organized room isn’t going to stay that way on its own. Your pro will coach you on improving your skills, figuring out new approaches and devising ways to circumvent bad habits.
Congratulations: The toughest part is done, and it’s time to sit back and marvel at your newly flotsam-free space. But before you get too comfy, keep in mind these guidelines to ensure that it stays that way:
• Give yourself time to get used to the new process. It may not feel natural at first, and that’s okay. Just stick with it until it becomes routine. If weeks go by and you’re still struggling, call the organizer to troubleshoot.
• Don’t beat yourself up for slipping back into old habits. It’s inevitable: Sooner or later, your carefully orchestrated system is going to miss a few beats. Mail will pile up on the hall table. Hats and scarves will blanket the mudroom floor. It’s okay. Take a deep breath, then take stock. Does the problem simply lie in a lack of discipline, or has it been an unusually busy month? Or is the scheme not working as well for you as you’d hoped? If necessary, the pro can help you fine-tune the process. And some are even happy to schedule regular “checkup” calls or visits in order to keep your home at its well-organized peak.