Reader Mike sent us the following questions:
Lately I have been considering hiring an uncluttering company to come in and help simplify my life. Do you have any advice? How much should I pay? How do I know a good organizer from a bad before I hire them? Do people usually go back to their cluttered ways after they leave? How do I find one locally?
I’ll start my response by addressing the last question first because it’s the easiest to answer. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) has a search function on its website where you can search for organizers by location (non-US organizers are listed, too) and by specialty (residential vs. corporate, feng shui, estate, etc.). This search function is the best that I have found online. You also can turn to your local classified ads for listings. I’ve had success finding organizers in the following ad sections: home organizing, business organizing, time management, and life coaching.
Unfortunately, the answers to your other questions are much less straightforward.
How much you should expect to pay will vary based on where you live, the size of the project, and the billing system of the organizer. Some organizers charge hourly rates and others have per-project billing. Feel comfortable getting quotes from multiple organizers the same way you would get quotes from cleaning companies and mechanics.
It is wise to consult with a number of organizers, especially if you don’t have any personal recommendations, to see which one best fits with your expectations and personality. You do not need to be buddies with your organizer, but disliking or having little respect for your organizer will make the uncluttering process difficult. Find an organizer whom you trust and will successfully help you achieve your goals. All members of the National Association of Professional Organizers are supposed to be guided by a code of ethics, but you may find that not all organizers are created equal. Check your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the organizer, contact the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers to verify certification status, ask for references, and follow your instincts when hiring an organizer.
Finally, I’ll address your fears about reversion. You should remember that reverting to your cluttered ways is always a possibility after bringing in a professional organizer. A good organizer, however, will help you establish routines and systems to keep you on an uncluttered path. During a recent interview with Peter Walsh, I asked him about his former clients and how he keeps them from reverting to their old ways. Here is his insightful response:
As odd as it sounds, I don’t focus on the clutter when I help families declutter. The stuff is a distraction to potential success. The first step in addressing clutter in a home is to help the family define the vision they have for the life they want – what do they want their lives, their home, their rooms and living spaces to look like, to feel like and to function. This is the starting point in the process. If you work from this point, the chances of permanent change are significant and almost guaranteed. It’s not about the stuff; it’s about what you want from your life and how you will make that dream a reality. Long-lasting change is possible – I see it every day. That said, the single most important maintenance tip is to respect the limits that your physical space places on you and, once those limits are reached, you must remove an item from your home before you can add a similar item – one in, one out. It’s simple and it works.