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What It’s Really Like to Work With a Professional Home Organizer

Friday, October 30, 2020   /   by Frank Hornstein

What It’s Really Like to Work With a Professional Home Organizer

What It’s Really Like to Work With a Professional Home Organizer

Professional home organizing is once again on home television and computer screens, thanks to the release of Get Organized With The Home Edit on Netflix. Have you watched the series?

In it, organizing duo Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin tackle projects at the homes of celebrities and regular folks. As Marie Kondo did in the popular Tidying Up With Marie Kondo series in 2019, the stars of Get Organized offer a look at how a home organizer might transform your home.

But just as many home renovation programs don’t accurately reflect the budget or timeframe involved in remodeling, viewers may wonder if the series reliably depicts what it’s like to work with a professional organizer. If you’re considering working with one, here are 10 questions to ask the organizer to learn about the process.

Organized Living

1. How Hands-On Are the Professional Organizer and the Homeowner in a Project?

The big difference between the Home Edit approach and Kondo’s working style — at least as shown on TV — is that Kondo works primarily as a coach and does very little hands-on work herself, while the Home Edit folks appear to do just about everything for their clients.

Kondo’s philosophy of letting go of belongings that don’t “spark joy” may have ignited the current home decluttering craze, but we find that our clients typically aren’t interested in an organizer who empties an entire closet of clothes onto a bed and then says goodbye until her next visit (as Kondo does in her Netflix series).

Instead, my business partner and I find that most of our busy San Francisco Bay Area clients prefer that we do the heavy lifting in a project. Therefore, our work with homeowners is more like what you see in Get Organized With The Home Edit — and among our professional network we find that this is typical.

For instance, clients decluttering their belongings typically want us to spend time at the start of a project helping them decide what to keep and what to let go, but they usually don’t want to pull clothes from their closet and sort them alone after we leave. Instead, once we’ve worked with the homeowner to establish some goals and principles, my business partner and I sort items into categories independently so the client can see exactly what they own.

Usually, a client pops in every few hours to review categories and make further editing decisions. For example, if the client can see that she owns eight pairs of black dress pants, she can more easily donate pairs that are ill-fitting, show signs of wear or are outdated.

Different organizers do offer different services though, so make sure you ask about their work style.

Andrea McLean Design Office

2. Who Decides What to Donate, Toss or Keep?

In the current Netflix series, Teplin and Shearer spend very little time editing belongings with the client, and in some episodes it appears that the team makes additional decisions after the client leaves. This is typically not how we work with our clients.

We do make recommendations to our clients about what to keep, donate or toss. As mentioned, this usually happens periodically throughout the day while we’re on-site. With clients who are comfortable being less involved, this may happen at the end of the day instead. But the client — not us — makes the final decision on each item’s fate.

3. What Happens to the Items After Homeowners Decide to Let Them Go?

We never leave a client without a path forward on how to get rid of things. At the end of the session, we drop off smaller items at local charities and arrange for the removal of larger things with local waste management or hauling companies.

Before COVID-19, we also coordinated with various charities to pick up furniture and other donations. However, many organizations are unfortunately no longer providing this service.

Work with a professional home organizer

The Container Store Custom Closets

4. Does the Professional Organizer Always Use Plastic Containers?

Clear plastic containers have certain advantages for storing kitchen supplies, food, makeup, craft supplies, cleaning products and bathroom essentials — namely, that they’re easy to clean and transparent. However, plastic isn’t eco-friendly, and for some this may appear to be a drawback of working with an organizer.

The truth is that many professional organizers recommend and source sustainable alternatives to plastic, including containers made of canvas, willow, rattan, bamboo or glass. Also, we often reuse bins the client owns to prevent adding items to the landfill.

5 Storage Container Materials to Consider for Sustainability

Organized Living

5. Is It Possible to Organize a Home Without Buying New Storage Products?

Like most home organizers, I work with clients who want the curated, orderly look of matching baskets and bins. And incorporating attractive, matching containers works well for clients with a large budget for organizing.

But noncelebrity clients may be shocked at how quickly matching containers add up at certain big-box stores. We often find less expensive options from other sources. And, as mentioned, we frequently reuse bins and baskets that clients already own. We feel this is important to do because it makes working with a home organizer affordable to a wider audience.

Hudson Interior Design

6. Do Home Organizers Always Sort by Color?

In the Netflix series, the stars of the show sort books, toys, games, clothes, purses and other household goods by color. Although this creates a tidy, uncluttered look, it may not be the most practical or appropriate choice for everyone.

In our experience, clients generally prefer a different approach. For example, most clients prefer books to be displayed by author or genre. Toys and games are generally arranged by age range and type. Kitchen products are sorted by category. Typically, organizers don’t automatically arrange belongings by color unless they’re organizing a closet full of clothing.

Shop for storage furniture on Houzz

Organization & Relocation

7. What Is a Typical Organizing Project Scope?

The scope of the organizers’ work on Get Organized With The Home Edit appears to be very comprehensive. They select and purchase new storage containers; categorize and contain belongings; hang shelving, closet rods and hooks; replace existing items with new furniture and decor; reupholster headboards; paint walls; hang curtains; move heavy objects; and, in one home, even add a new kitchen backsplash.

Not all professional organizers provide all of these services. My company does, but not exactly as the show depicts.

Many home organizers recommend and shop for containers and other supplies. Most do not source new furniture and decor. My business partner and I are Certified Interior Decorators and we do source furniture and decor, though we make decisions in collaboration with our clients, not on our own.

Some professional organizers, myself included, work as project managers who coordinate everything for their clients. Others focus primarily on decluttering and organizing. Most organizers offer a phone consultation before you hire them, and I recommend asking questions about the kind of work they do.

In the Netflix series, the professionals appear to have movers, painters, handymen and contractors on their team and at the ready. This is not typical. My business partner and I have working relationships with tradespeople and may coordinate them to come on-site as needed, but typically not on the days we’re doing our organizing work.

The Container Store Custom Closets

8. How Many Organizers Are On-Site for Each Project?

It’s common to see as many as five or even six organizers working concurrently in a kitchen or playroom on the current series. Additionally, personnel deliver containers and run errands. We do not find that this is typical.

Too many people in one space can feel crowded and chaotic, and it’s not the most efficient use of time and staff. In my experience, two organizers are sufficient for a one-room project.

Plus, using five or six organizers on a project plus travel would be extremely costly and likely out of range for the average person’s budget. The Home Edit charges $250 per hour for two organizers in most major cities, according to the company website, with additional charges for travel from Nashville, Tennessee.

Bill Fry Construction - Wm. H. Fry Const. Co.

9. Are Organizing Services Adapted for the Pandemic?

Many organizers have implemented safety measures in response to COVID-19. Some are offering videoconferencing services for remote consultations. For clients who need in-home services, organizers often work independently after receiving an overview of the project. Wearing face masks and social distancing keeps organizers safe from other team members. If in doubt, discuss safety measures before you hire someone to work in your home.

Cummings Architecture + Interiors

10. How Long Does an Organizing Project Take?

Most organizing projects take more than one or two days, despite what you may see on TV. This is because there are many tasks involved in completing a project.

For instance, consider storage containers. Generally, we don’t arrive at a project site with bags of generic containers, hoping they’ll fit the client’s space, design preferences and budget. Instead, professionals spend time measuring drawers and closets before suggesting appropriate options. The organizer will also discuss style, color and material preferences with the client, then spend time shopping for the right containers online or in stores.

As another example, if decisions on paint colors, furniture style and decor options are involved, time is needed for the client to provide input. Plus, even when the client gives the organizer free rein to make decisions, there still must be a conversation about budget. And any work by a painter or handyman is scheduled for another day, as these professionals are not on call.

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Iron Valley Real Estate | Frank Hornstein Group
Frank Hornstein
17527 Nassau Commons Boulevard
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
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Office: 302-541-8787

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