November 23, 2022

How to find a professional organizer to clean up your clutter

Is your house desperately cluttered? Many of us have so much stuff that we can’t control it and let it pile up – or hide it away 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 Delaware Valley 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 big 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.

The National Association of Productivity and Organizational Professionals (NAPO.net) website is a great place to start your organizer search. You can search by distance and also by specialty, so if you have, for example, a kitchen project in mind, you can find an organizer who has a particular interest or additional experience in this category. And many organizers include their business websites in their NAPO profiles, so you can learn more from there.

  • 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 with downsizers, scanning photos and other memorabilia, or assistance to hoarders.

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

  • Will I work with you or will you assign me to an employee? It is best to communicate directly with the person who will come.

  • What do you charge? Some organizers charge by the hour, others by the project. Get the 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; for example, a closet cleaning for $250 or a garage triage for $350.

  • Can you provide me with a contract? They’re not too common in this business, 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 the costs, and an estimated price.

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

  • Sort your clutter into categories. Once the elements are separated in this way, it is easier to know what to do with them.

  • Prioritize moving frequently used items and ingredients in the most accessible places. For pantries, clear plastic storage bins in various sizes are ideal. Those with high sides are particularly practical. They make it easy to move things around while seeing what you have. Even small spaces can be organized into efficient storage areas.

  • Get rid of things that aren’t worth saving. If you haven’t used something in a long time, get rid of it. If an item is dirty, worn or otherwise soiled, throw it away. The extra shelf or storage space is worth it. If you don’t have time, don’t worry about selling items or giving them away in the most optimal way. You can choose only one resource. which offers easy removals.

  • Professional organizers are not miracle workers. Having an outside voice and another pair of hands to rummage through can make the job much easier, but you need to be willing to participate and make decisions.

the Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and checkbook.org is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help consumers get the best service and the lowest prices. It is consumer backed and does not take any money from the service providers it reviews. Through August 5, Checkbook is giving access to its full Organizer Report and all of its other ratings and advice (on everything from auto repair shops to vets) to Inquirer readers via Checkbook.org/Inquirer/Organizers.