Updated: May 28, 2020
Organizing is a life-changing process and it’s worth doing whether you are flying solo or working with a professional. Here are some tips to help you decide which direction to go.
First, let’s clarify the nature of the work. Most organizing services fall into three basic categories: Decluttering, Organizing, and Relocating. These will clearly overlap, but it’s helpful to have a sense of definition in assessing the project.
Decluttering is any scenario that involves paring down what you own. This could be a few items in a drawer to stacks of clutter filling a room – or rooms.
Organizing involves assessing the needs of a space (or system) and coming up with solutions to solve problems and create an aesthetically pleasing well-functioning space.
Relocating is a combination of Decluttering and Organizing. You are going through all your stuff to decide if you need it or want it to be part of your new home, packing in a systematic way to make unpacking easier, and having an organizing plan for the new residence before you arrive so as things are unpacked you already know where they will go.
Decluttering can be intensive, both psychologically and physically. These are usually bigger jobs that get put off because people feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. The trigger is usually a life event like the death of a loved one, a health issue, being a care giver, job loss, or a financial issue. Or, sometimes it’s just that they never got unpacked from a move. Even a normally organized person can get out of balance in these situations. You don’t have the time, emotional energy, physical strength, or money to stay on top of things like you used to. Eventually things just get out of control. You look around and their home is cluttered. You are embarrassed to have guests. You are unwittingly buying duplicates of things. You can’t relax because everywhere you look is something you need to take care of. It’s not the life you want to live. You want a peaceful beautiful space that you love coming home to.
Decluttering DIY vs PRO
If you only have a small decluttering project like a dresser or cabinet or small closet AND you are in a head space that it’s easy to make decisions, you are probably fine on your own. There are a lot of good DIY decluttering tips on the internet that can guide you. Stay tuned for some of my own in future posts :).
If you have a lot of clutter and it feels overwhelming when you look at it and your momentum shuts down because you have no idea where or how to start you would benefit from a professional organizer. Here’s what a professional organizer brings to the table.
1. Decluttering can be emotional – especially deciding whether or not to keep things that have had meaning to you in the past. It is helpful to have an impartial, non-judgmental person there who can be gently objective in helping you make decisions. An organizer can keep the momentum moving forward when things seem overwhelming. Plus, it’s just more fun when you are working with someone. It lightens the load.
2. Another benefit to hiring a professional organizer is the physicality of the work. If you have a lot of clutter there is going to be a good deal of lifting, relocating items, loading boxes to take to donation sites or hazardous waste locations, even moving shelving and furniture around. If you have a health issue like a load lifting limit, or perhaps a disability that limits your physical participation, you can rely on the organizer for most of the physical work.
3. If you have a lot of items that will be leaving the house a professional organizer can help with the logistics of where and how to make that happen. They will have information on suggested charities, shredding, and recycling sites, and often take your discarded items to these places at no charge.
All good Organizing starts with decluttering, but the focus is more on problem solving and aesthetics. The organizing process involves assessing what’s not working with the space and designing a new layout which will most likely bring in organizing product and structural elements like shelving or drawers. (The product could be new or things you already own.) Basically, a makeover – closet, pantry, garage, playroom, craft room, home office, etc. People are usually motivated by daily frustration with the way something works.
Organizing DIY vs PRO
Some people revamping their spaces is a fun and intuitive process. They typically have good spacial skills and can see the possibilities of the future solution. It is a welcome creative outlet that brings a lot of satisfaction. If that is you then you can get a lot done on your own with the right information and inspiration. You will only be limited by your available time and resources.
If you would rather be doing anything else than sorting through your closet, shopping for the perfect organizational product, and making trips to the neighborhood donation site, then it may be time to call in an organizer. Here are some benefits.
1. An organizer brings fresh eyes to see the possibilities and creative solutions that may have eluded you. An experienced organizer has worked with lots of different people on a variety of projects. Use that knowledge base to your advantage.
2. An organizer can also help you evaluate systems – the daily routines – which will affect how spaces are laid out.
3. The pro’s knowledge of the organizing products on the market can save you hours of time in researching and shopping.
4. The bigger the project the more benefit you may receive. If you are doing a big custom closet makeover for example an experienced pro organizer will be able to guide you through the process of design, demo, install, and set up.
5. And, just like in the decluttering process, the professional organizer can help the project stay on course when there is potential to get sidetracked or fatigued.
Relocating is a potentially stressful event even in the best circumstances. It can be tricky to know how your stuff will fit into the new place. If things are happening quickly you may feel like you don’t have time to go through everything before you pack and are just deciding to figure it out once you get to the new place. Beyond the decision making on the front end, there is the actual packing/unpacking, moving, and then getting everything set up in the new home. It’s a lot.
Downsizing is a big percentage of relocating projects. A growing number of people just want less space and less stuff to take care of. It’s especially critical to know what you can take with you when going to a smaller place. An additional example of this is the senior couple who is moving and needs to sort through thirty years of belongings.
Relocating DIY vs PRO
Moving is a complex event with lots of moving parts. It helps if you are a good multitasker (and delegator) and have the time to devote to the extra duties. If you have done a purge of your possessions fairly recently then the process will be much easier. Also, if the new residence is configured somewhat the same it won’t be too difficult to organize your closets, cabinets, and drawers. And, people who move fairly often have a better handle on the process and know where to look for resources and help.
If you struggle with big multilayer events like moving and you want to offload some of the responsibilities – and stress, then you may want to hire a pro. You already have to deal with selling and buying a house - or rental hunting, setting up movers, and change of address contacts, etc. When you’re tired you probably won’t take the time to sort through all your belongings before you move. The problem is you end up spending extra money by moving things you don’t need and then living with the clutter in the new space.
1. An organizer will help you sort through your belongings and cull out what’s no longer needed or wanted.
2. Most will remove the unwanted items for either donation or recycling.
3. A pro organizer will help you evaluate what furniture and belongings you are able to take to the new residence.
4. They will create an organizational layout of the new home so there won’t be any surprises the day of the move.
5. Some professional organizers offer packing and unpacking services, others help you make decisions on the front end and get you set up after the unpacking.
6. A professional organizer will save you hours of work on move day by putting everything in its new place.
So basically, deciding whether to hire a professional organizer or do it yourself comes down to your skillset, time, and budget.
You enjoy the creative process of rearranging your space and belongings.
You are physically able to lift and do the labor required to relocate furniture and boxes, and/or have access to help with big items.
You look forward to shopping for just the right organizational products like shelving and containers.
You have the time and energy to see the project through to completion.
You have a limited budget so you want to save money for organizing product.
You know what you want the space to be like, but don’t know how to get there.
You have a physical limitation like a weight lift limit and/or you do not have access to help with big items.
You like things to look professionally done, but don't know where to find the organizing product you need and, feel overwhelmed with too many choices
You are a busy parent or working professional and like the idea of having someone include you in the decision-making, but then taking the ball and running with it.
You have enough in the budget to allow for both labor and product costs.
If you decide to hire a professional organizer there are several good resources.
Google search in your area
Word of Mouth - in person or Social Media
Contractor-matching services like HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, and Houzz
For more information about hiring and working with a Professional Organizer stay tuned for future posts.