Are there professional organizers?
August 3, 2009 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as a professional organizer? What about for the common man?

By which I mean someone who can come to your (average) home, assess your living space and the crap stacked up in it, and the people and animals living in it, and give affordable suggestions that will make your (average) home more functional and less stressful? I am talking logistics, shelving, wiring, storage, throwing things out, even feng-freaking-shui. Even knocking down walls, whatever, my mind is open. I used to think I had a handle on it but there's too much on my mind.

The stuff now owns us. To me, it can be stifling (word chosen carefully). It can ruin a weekend; I feel pulled in umpteen directions but often don't getting much of anything done, maintenance-wise or recreational.

Preferably there's someone far more persuasive than I am when it comes to suggesting we get rid of things or place them more usably. Or make that conceptual garage sale become a reality. I give away as much as I can, when I can. There are breaks when, for a short season, things stay neater and cleaner, and therefore at least a little more productive and enjoyable; but no enduring solutions. And I think the underlying problem is greater than the amount of stuff or the lay of the's not just about "stuff" and I'm open to practical and theoretical suggestions. Unfortunately the SO functions consistently in any situation, no difference, and therefore does not or cannot sympathize.

There has got to be people who do this for a living and are good at it. Aren't there?
posted by rahnefan to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Yep, there certainly are. We had a woman come to our house last week and help us rearrange things. My office is much more tidy and feels about twice as large. She's local to Atlanta, but if you Google for "organizing interiors" and things like that, you'll probably find someone.
posted by mickmel at 8:05 PM on August 3, 2009

Look for a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. This past Christmas, my mother gifted me with a Professional Organizer. I really enjoyed working with her and learned quite a bit from the experience.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:08 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's even a National Association of Professional Organizers, with tips on hiring someone. You can also go the Craigslist route; organizers sometimes list their services under housecleaning.
posted by scody at 8:09 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Where are you? I can vouch for virgoman.
posted by shothotbot at 8:40 PM on August 3, 2009

Well, you can see folks like this on Oprah about once a month or so, as I vaguely recall. Lots of tips gained from just watching. There are magazines like Real Simple that run with the concept. And there are organization websites like Life Organizers or Organized Homeup the wazoo. Flylady is a classic (if cutesy) resource. conquer+clutter is a good top-level search. If you grok the 12-step approach there's Clutterers Anonymous.

The basic thing you have to master is the getting rid of stuff part. Traditionally, you tackle a room (or a smaller area if that's too daunting) and go through everything. Stack it for keeping, discarding, or rummaging/charity. If you're scared of this step you can add a "store for one year then decide" stack. Then really decide. What's left, you find everything a place.

And I think the underlying problem is greater than the amount of stuff or the lay of the's not just about "stuff" and I'm open to practical and theoretical suggestions.

Well, coming from a family of clutterers, who only got worse as my dad's dementia set in, I can say confidently that in many ways it is about "stuff". Too much of it. Too much need of it. Inability to let go of it. Rationalization of keeping it as a net good (e.g. disguised as yankee thrift).

My parents have literally filled up one modest house, one tiny house, and one rather expansive apartment with stuff. There was always the rummage sale to end all rummage sales, but it never came. Baby clothes that have been in boxes for 15 years. Three separate bunk bed sets. Heirloom Duncan Phyfe sofas alongside composite-board entertainment units. Computer printers from the stone age. It is all too easy to get used to it. It closes in, it blocks windows, it blocks paths. You shimmy around piles instead of dealing with them. You learn to lift your foot here and duck your head there. You become the slave to your stuff.

The psychological component is your relationship to your stuff, in a Suze Orman sense. How were you raised? Did you have enough? Did you have parents who gave you things instead of attention? Do you have a dysfunctional view of heirlooms? Once it was important to leave a grand armoire to your kids, so that they would have a grand place for their own clothes. Now it's just a conversation piece. Maybe you don't need it the way you think you do. Etc.
posted by dhartung at 8:48 PM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I, too, feel overwhelmed by stuff. But, I don't have the money to hire someone to organize it. I'd love to have a professional organizer/interior designer!

Do you know anyone that has a lovely and organized home? Ask them for ideas. Ask them to come to your house and help you. Perhaps you can pay them a fee for their services.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:59 PM on August 3, 2009

If you're in the SF Bay Area, I can absolutely vouch for Clutterboy. Tom is completely and totally awesome.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:05 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love to organize! I once seriously considered becoming a professional organizer - people always told me I had a talent for it. When I was a teenager, neighborhood families used to offer me pocket money to organize their home offices, garages, etc. They recommended me to others, who also hired me informally; I probably could have started my own organizing business for the "common folk" if I had been so inclined. You might want to put the word out and ask around - maybe there's someone like that in your circle of acquaintances who'd be willing to tackle your project. Might be worth a try, at least.

And yes, there definitely are people who do this for a living and are good at it, as others have already pointed out. The National Association of Professional Organizers is a good place to start if you decide to hire a professional.
posted by velvet winter at 9:55 PM on August 3, 2009

seconding the "ask around" suggestion. i could have written velvet winter's reply - i've thought about starting my own organizing business. i get a kick out of organizing rooms, and love to recycle/donate stuff that is piling up.

it might be a long shot, but if you're in/around Southern Ontario, i'd be more than happy to help out!
posted by gursky at 10:10 PM on August 3, 2009

Response by poster: I'm in the Atlanta area. I will check out NAPO. Thanks everyone!
posted by rahnefan at 5:00 AM on August 4, 2009

Just wanted to chime in that my mom and I have had great experiences with professional organizers. She used to hire someone to help tackle her office, and she'd send them downstairs to help me with my teenage-packrat room. It was so helpful! Good for you for recognizing that you have a problem that you need help with and asking for outside help.
posted by radioamy at 10:14 AM on August 4, 2009

This is just the type of thing my (very) pregnant wife could use right now. And I would never have thought of it on my own. Thanks, MetaFilter.
posted by ColdChef at 11:56 AM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: Good for you for recognizing that you have a problem

Oh, she's hard to miss but thanks.
posted by rahnefan at 3:38 PM on August 4, 2009

An old friend's in this biz, she's pretty smart:
posted by dpcoffin at 11:47 PM on August 4, 2009

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