Hiring a Professional

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

…with help from Amy Brady, Owner, The Clutter Consultants

Sometimes you feel that you’ll never get finished if you just declutter one item a day, or you feel so desperate about your situation that you need a radical change, and you need it now. You might be overwhelmed and emotionally bogged down by your clutter, but a professional organizer is not. Getting an outsider to help you form a plan of action, motivate and lead you through the steps of the organizing process is an essential launching point for many people.

Back on day 206, Deb J wrote a post about her former business as a declutter. She was so thorough, and I’m sure that those she helped felt blessed by her assistance. I highly recommend that you check out her post in addition to reading this one. I too have used professional declutterers on several occasions, although none who work like Deb J.  I consider Amy Brady and Susan Stotesberry of The Clutter Consultants to be good friends and important helpers on my way to decluttering fame. These ladies have seen my dirty laundry, and I mean that literally!

Amy and Susan charge a flat rate for a minimum of three hours of work. One of the most common questions they get is “can you give me an estimate of the amount of time that this project will take?” This is difficult to do until they’ve seen the space and spent time working with the client, which is why most organizers charge by the hour. The size of space, time since it was last purged and organized, and how quickly a client makes decisions will all affect the time the project will take.

My experience says that if you go on past three hours, no matter how tempting that sounds at the beginning of the day, and you’ll be pooped. The way they generally work is that, side by side with their client and with great enthusiasm, they pull everything out, getting a “yeah” or “nay.”  The items to be kept are placed with their similar items, and the things to be discarded are sorted by trash, recycle, give away, and (possibly) sell. They keep their clients focused, and they forbid wandering around the house putting things away. Drifting = distraction. (For more on the pitfall of distractions, see this post).

An entire area is emptied and examined, and the drawers, shelves, or floor are wiped clean. This is when the need for containers or a storage system is discussed. Not every bit of decluttering requires a trip to the store! Drawers are measured, clutter is measured; there’s no point in buying the wrong things. They help you put your items neatly away, like with like at the point of usage. Amy and Susan also give homework to clients between appointments – small, manageable chunks of the overall project that the client can conquer in order to keep momentum going. Homework also helps keeps costs down. They’ll even drop your things off at the thrift store on their way home. I always found that a three hour session spurred me on for at least another three hours on my own. That’s nine hours of decluttering for the price of three!

Why would you pay good money for someone to help you do something you could do yourself? Well, first of all, you probably pay lots of people for services you could do yourself – fitness trainer, manicurist, house keeper, lawn care, pool cleaning, even grabbing fast food for dinner. Besides, if it was so easy to do, wouldn’t you have already done it yourself? Even though I consider myself an expert declutterer and organizer now, there were times when I wasn’t and there were times when the challenge seemed so insurmountable that I needed help. I did have girlfriends offer, but when the junk is too high and wide, it can feel too shameful or possibly annoying to have friends trying to help.

And just so we can all marvel at the pictures of my eight year old’s room before and after a three hour visit from Susan, follow this link. In this case, I feel sure a picture’s worth a thousand words.

If you live in the U.S., and you’re interested in hiring a professional organizer, visit the website for the National Association of Professional Organizers, where you can enter your zip code and pull up a list of professional organizers in your area.

Today’s Declutter Item

Two more books cleared from the bookcase. Polar opposites these books, futuristic on one hand and ancient on the other. Either way we don’t need them but someone else will love them I am sure.

More books

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made me laugh ~ My daughter being silly and playing in her food. You think she would be past that stage by now since she is 22 in a couple of months.
  • Something Awesome ~ Anthony Bourdain travel food show.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ A relaxing day to recover from the long weekend.
  • Something that made me happy ~ The good response to my questions today. I have been trying to get through as many as possible but with a house full of people and the cracking headache I have had all day I haven’t got far.
  • Something I found fascinating ~ Sorry nothing to write here tonight.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Hi Cindy! I think it would be nice to have someone very focused beside me to measure, organize and not let me put it off. The worse part of organizing are drawers and wardrobes. Sometimes you just stuf everything inside and kick the door close, so it won’t spill the contents. It is a fair description of what has been happening to me. My rooms don’t have the “heavy” clutter, but the small day to day clutter hangs on. 😀

    • Andreia, Sounds like you need some mini missions focused on small decluttering. Lots of smaller items take up just as much room as a huge kid’s plastic toy. I don’t know what you have in those cabinets, but maybe a Use It Up Challenge might be good for you. Decide what you have excess of (notepaper, trash bags, soap, perfume, 5 kinds of baby wipes) and systematically set about using them up. I’m doing this with the soaps and gels in our house, and I cannot believe how long it’s taking. Nonetheless, slowly and surely reducing our excess.

      • Yes, I agree with you. I must tackle the mini-missions with more purpose. Just yesterday got rid of five bottles/pots of creams and perfums and a body oil. And my husband decided to use up a big pot of body cream. So we are moving, but sometimes at a slower pace than I imagined :-).

  2. Hi Cindy and Amy,
    How lucky we are to even have folks who would WANT to come in to our houses and help us AND see our dirty laundry!!! I have always wondered about utilising such a great resource, so thank you for sharing this post today.

    I’m really loving the daily mini-missions from Colleen (crack that whip! hee hee – she keeps me ‘in-line’ through her ‘on-line’ blog!) This week I knew just the item which would be decluttered on each day as soon as I read the post. And lucky for me, each item has been/is/was something I’ve been struggling to part with, but I knew I didn’t want to keep. It’s like I needed to hear someone tell me, ‘it’s ok to part with that, you have my permission to let it go, you’ve learned your lesson’.

    “…and this just in from Annabelle…the weather today is a bit overcast, so she reports it is a good day to ‘take along an umbrella’ and also to get cracking at Wednesday’s mini-mission. The items, so far for this week, have been placed into the appropriate box/bag near the front door (thrift store, recycle/dumpster, give to friend). Ok, here is your on-the-spot reporter from Europe signing off. Now back to the rest of you in blog space.”

    • I’m glad that I answered some of your questions about using a decluttering professional. Susan and Amy have really helped me out of some jams. If I got in over my head again, I wouldn’t hesitate to call on them again.

  3. Cindy, you are so right – we think nothing of getting other professionals in to help us, yet feel with our own clutter somehow we have to tackle this by ourselves, evn if it is so overwhelming we just go round in circles.
    I had a professional declutterer in a year ago to tackle my attic and it as £200 very well spent (and 3/4 paid for by big stuff I sold on ebay)and has underpinned all the subsequent decluttering I have done this year.
    My attic had becom a dumping ground, (like they do) but there was no space to even move stuff temporarily to create more order. And it was also too physically demanding for me.
    She took control of everything we did (at my specific request) and provided the energy.
    She asked my what my goals were for the end of the session ( it was so I could come up and know where everything was, and to create suffcient space for my OH’s stuff.)

    She then started rearanging a few pieces of storage and putting like with like and challenging me (at a level I could cope with) with what was and wasn’t to be kept.
    In the 3-4 hrs the place was transformed. We didn’t sort any of the many boxes(no time or energy) but everything was placed like with like so I could sort individual boxes on my own (which I finally did this February). I was actually able to get rid of some storage up there as it was surplus to requirements at the end.

    A year on, the attic is still very functional and is not a dumping ground and there is plenty of space for OH’s stuff. I have been more ruthless with stuff up there these last few months since joining this blog.
    For anyone in the UK, I would be very happy to recommend the company that covers quite a bit of the country.

    • Great story Katharine. Amy helped me in the garage once, organizing tools. That was at least two years ago, and our chest is still organized and useful.

  4. I agree, professional help can be very useful. I’m still living in just one room, so I can easily oversee the clutter. But, if I ever get back to stage one, I will certainly hire a professional!

    • You’re starting good habits young Nurchamiel, so I hope you never need professional help. I have faith that you’ll be able to maintain. But even good habits slip from time to time, so it’s good to know that outside help is available.

  5. This post was very helpful because I have felt like a loser with my messy office…and me being self-employed! Why can’t I just keep it neat?! (When I’m feeling sane I know there are a lot of reasons.) If I could just get someone to help me, I believe I could keep it neat. Yes, friends have offered to help, and have even helped a little last year when my father was dying. It’s not the same as having someone come in and help me Take Care Of It All.

    So I got a boost from this post because I see that you, Cindy, have hired an organizer, and you’ve modeled that there is no shame in asking for help. Intellectually I know this, and I’m still learning to practice it.


    • Janet – There are probably a number of reason why you struggle with your desk area, but my guess is that the lack of an overall useful organizational system is a big part of the problem, plus a build up of too much stuff that isn’t put away because there isn’t a useful “away” for them. It might help you to think about what’s our of place and how you want to work within your space (where should the mail be opened? household bills v. business bills? tickler files? etc.) BEFORE you try to do a big clean up. Have you read Deb J’s post that I linked to in the blog? She spent a lot of time with her clients assessing how they really used their spaces. I think investing time to reflect on this might help you be more successful at decluttering and organizing your work area. Good luck.

  6. I would love to have a professional organizer come in and whip this place in to shape…the decluttering is nearly done (you can always find one more thing to get rid of)…

    Since professional help is not in the budget I’m taking the organizing steps a little at a time…one area at a time…

    • Well remember Kelley, they whip the place into shape with you by their side, but if the decluttering is nearly done, you’re well on your way. Good job!

  7. Thanks, Cindy, for making it so clear: We pay people for things we could do ourselves (but don’t have the time to, or don’t excell at, or … just don’t do) all the time. Just think coffee to go. 🙂
    If I think of all the storage solutions I have bought over the years … I bet I could as well have payed a decluttering and organizing session that money (and saved myself so much more money spent on clutter …).
    Probably a session with a professional organizer would also make a great gift for friends who decline help because they are ashamed of their mess.

    • Absolutely Ideealistin and well said, as usual. An investment of time and money can often save us both, and we certainly do hire people all the time to do things for us that we could do ourselves. Coffee to go included!

      The most frequent feedback I got from people when they learned I’d hired an organizer was envy and curiosity.

  8. Hi Cindy,
    great post. When you look at it on the basis of ~ you pay for takeout and coffee and other services to make your life easy why not pay for a little help with your decluttering as well. I can see the sense in that.
    I did cringe when I read this sentence though ~ The size of space, time since it was last purged and organized, and how quickly a client makes decisions will all affect the time the project will take. ~ Making quick decisions can have good and bad consequences. I suppose the best thing to do prior to the professionals coming is to take some time to scan the area so you have some idea of what needs culling so you aren’t having to make too many rash decisions.

    • Hi Colleen. I did not cringe at the fast decisions a client has to make because I was thinking of an especific place, with a very definite set of things. Like my wardrobe shelves. Or places I already heavily decluttered, but still have that messy feeling, like you don’t quite know what to do. I tried to find an organizer where I live, but all I could find where stores trying to sell more stuff (boxes, and other stuff to “organize” the space), so not anything like Cindy described. An organizer has to come in when everything you could declutter on your own is done and when you already know what is to declutter, otherwise you will pay the tubs to the professional, but it will be wasted money.

      • Hi Andréia,
        I understand what you are saying here. There are a lot of variables involved though. Visions of that Hoarder TV show came into my head and the poor woman who already had enough stressers in her life being railroaded into making decisions she wasn’t capable of. It would certainly make more sense to do the bulk of the decluttering first and save money on the fees if a person was up for the challenge.

        • Now, that tv show makes me cringe!!! I saw a similar one, but they didn’t do a “before” and “after”, they were more focused on the mental health issue of the people on the show. I mean, one woman had a house full, but in six weeks decluttered a table, wich they made us see it was HUGE for her. They have mental issues, I on the other hand, have indecision and the odd feeling attached to the stuff and some laziness 😀 😀 :-D. So for us “normal clutterers” :-D, taking a day to throw our rubbish out is a relief. For that woman you saw on the show, I think is a torture and they don’t realise that throwing her stuff away like that is like we losing everything in a disaster 🙁 ! So I would love to have a organizer in my home to help, NOW. But when I first began my decluttering project, I would hate, hate, hate the interference.

          • Hi Andréia,
            I stopped watching that show because I felt they were not spending enough time showing how they were dealing with the people psychological issues. It just seemed like a lot of spectacle and no real help. I may have to take a another look and see if they have improved. My thoughts were that if I were a hoarder and tuned into the show to see if there was something that could be done help me I would lose all hope. It is sad that their lives have come to that.

        • Colleen, I totally understand what you’re saying about decluttering too quickly. The sentence related to charges, and it certainly is true that the longer you think about each decision, the longer the whole process will take, and the more it will cost. I can’t say that I’ve ever regretted anything I decluttered with Amy or Susan, and the spaces have stayed in good order, although Audra’s room presents the challenges you would expect from an exuberent eight year old.

          • Hi Cindy,
            as you know I have a 21 year old and a 19 years old and you will notice that I don’t post photos of their rooms. 😐 😳

  9. Sorry to everyone for taking so long to get back with my comments. It’s been a very busy April at the Bogard household!


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