How to hire an organizer and be happy about it

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sweaters folded by an organizer

When I’m stumped for blog topics, or I just want to see what people are saying about organizing, I go online and surf around. Today I came across a post from someone who had a bad experience hiring an organizer.

If you’ve had this issue or have read about it and been scared off hiring someone, read on.

A couple with a self-proclaimed “huge problem with Stuff” hired someone to help them maximize their storage, but not pare down. That’s what they asked for.

Working with a couple is tricky. Usually, one member is more organized than the other. I’ve gotten calls from people who want me to come organize them, but really it’s the caller who wants me to organize the other person. This does not work.

Problem #1: the writer says it’s his wife who doesn’t want to get rid of things but he does.

 

Before I meet with a couple, I clarify what they both want and note that I’ll consult each of them on every decision. Sometimes one will defer to the other. Most of the time, compromise is necessary (that’s what it’s like living with someone, right?)

The organizer they hired turned out to be pretty intent on getting them to get rid of stuff. Although it was uncomfortable for the wife, they decluttered significantly. However, no systems were designed to prevent the problem from happening again.

Problem #2: the scope of services was not clarified upfront.

 

Is the organizer helping you declutter, use storage better, design new storage, develop clutter-free habits, or all of the above? They don’t necessarily all go together.

Only three out of eight rooms were organized and the process felt rushed. It seems that they called a halt to the project because they weren’t happy. I’m speculating here, but the organizer may have bid the project based on organizing two rooms per day.

Problem #3: An estimate that makes you rush pell mell through a project should be abandoned.

 

Clients are right to want estimates, but there is no sure way to know how long an organizing project will take. Why? First, decision making can be a snap or agonizing and slow. Second, if you don’t know what’s in that box, the organizer certainly doesn’t. It could be miscellaneous paper and take two hours to sort, or it could be some books and a broken blender that you instantly deem to be trash.

What an organizer can guarantee is that she will explain the process and concepts behind her actions, facilitate decision making, make suggestions for maintaining the organization based on your preferences and abilities, and check in with you to make sure the project is on track.

That last part includes noticing how much has been done in the past two hours, for example, and making sure the client understands why it’s taken that time. The pace should make the client feel confident in making decisions and inspired by the level of progress.

The writer warns that after the organizer leaves, “it’s up to you to keep it up,” meaning that stuff doesn’t stay organized by itself.

Problem #4: The organizer didn’t explain properly to the clients that maintenance is their job after she leaves.

 

For clients with huge stuff problems, learning how to overcome them and then putting that learning into practice takes time and commitment. If the organizer also acts as a coach, she can help the clients stay focused and on track.

Many organizers offer maintenance visits and/or telephone coaching for that reason. Otherwise, it’s like coming home from the fat farm and going right back to your old eating habits. Now, that’s a waste of money!

Good communication is key when working with an organizer. The above problems could have been avoided with more communicating and explaining. What do you think?

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