September 28, 2022

Do you need a professional home organizer?

Many of us have so many things that we can’t control them and let them fall and pile up – or hide them in drawers and closets.

A professional organizer can help you solve these problems. These specialists can help you empty and clean garages, closets, dirty dens, even your email inbox and computer files.

Who are these neatniks for rent and how to choose one?

To examine how organizers work and who would (or might not) benefit from their services, the nonprofit Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook asked six staff and neighbors to try out professional organizers on projects. very different, ranging from an abandoned garage to a kitchen that needed a new space-saving system to a blind author who needed help sorting through piles of paperwork.

We’ve found that professional organizers offer a wide range of working styles. Some are hands-on, tossing and stacking stuff alongside their customers; others just examine the mess and suggest improvements. Surprisingly, although we expected organizers to recommend purchasing expensive furniture, bins, boxes, hooks and other materials to cram everything in, they were conservative in recommending these purchases.

We were shocked by the differences in fees charged by the organizers we contacted. A few wanted large assignments and would only accept projects if our subjects agreed to pay for a minimum of eight hours or more of consulting time.

Overall, we find that disorganized or messy people tend to get the most out of hiring a professional; more tidy people often agree that organizers provide ideas and help, but after learning tips on how to tackle their mess, they often doubt they’d shell out for those services again.

Start by assessing whether you really need to hire an organizer. As with most of life’s challenges, if you think you need help, you probably do.

If you’re relatively neat, you can probably save money and hassle by tackling the job yourself. But you could gain a lot from spending a few hours with a pro. Our test participants found it valuable to get an outsider’s unbiased opinion; friendly and knowledgeable advice; and another pair of hands. Seniors who are downsizing and those who suffer from hoarding disorders can definitely benefit from hiring an expert.

When you contact the organizers, ask:

What types of projects do you specialize in? While many organizers are generalists, able to sort and clean closets, kitchens, garages, etc., others focus on helping downsizers, scanning photos and other memorabilia, or assistance to hoarders.

Who is your typical customer? Some professionals specialize in kitchens or helping the elderly; others focus on closets and cleaning clothes.

Have you taken any training? Many organizers belong to the National Association of Productivity and Organization Professionals, which requires members to complete three training courses before joining. Many of its members become Certified Professional Organizers, which requires 1,500 hours of documented work experience or related training. Although NAPO’s certification program seems well-designed and well-run, be aware that many good organizers don’t bother to research credentials.

What is your approach to approaching projects? How are your typical work sessions?

Do you offer free initial consultations? Many do. In-person or video chat is preferable to a phone call.

Will I work with you, or are you going to assign me to an employee? It is best to communicate directly with the person who will be entering.

What do you charge? Some organizers charge by the hour, others by the project. Get fee details in writing and, if possible, an estimate for your work. Expect to pay between $75 and $125 per hour, although some organizers offer flat rates; say, a closet cleaning for $250 or a garage sorting for $350.

Can you provide me with a contract? They’re not too common in this industry, but it’s reasonable to ask for at least an email that outlines what the consultant will and won’t do, an estimate of how many hours to complete your project, how the company calculates charges and an estimated price.

can you provide references? Ask for contact information for clients who have had projects like yours or who live near you, and ask about other limiting factors that might prevent the company from giving you their usual list of preferred clients.

Jennifer Barger is the editor of Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org, a consumer-supported nonprofit. Until September 5, Checkbook is giving access to its full organizers report to Star Tribune readers via Checkbook.org/StarTribune/Organizers.