What It's Like to Hire a Professional Home Organizer

Plus, an expert's top 5 tips for decluttering success.

With Marie Kondo practically a household name, and more home organization philosophies, like Swedish Death Cleaning, catching on, it's clear decluttering is having a moment. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) now boasts 32 chapters with 4,000 members across 22 countries, up from 16 members in 1985. And that number is likely much higher, as you don't have to be certified to become a professional organizer.

After months of throwing just one more thing into your closet, then swiftly closing the door, it may occur to you that you need help organizing. If you don't have a full weekend to dedicate to organizing your closets, but desperately want them to be neat, it may be time to hire a local storage and organizing guru.

Finding the Right Home Organizer

Maybe you find the KonMari method a little far-fetched. Yes, certain belongings are sacred and bring you joy, but what if you don't actually have a hard time donating or letting go of stuff? Instead you may need someone who can help you simply organize, and on a tight schedule. If you live in Boston, Jeana Buckley of Realistic Organizing might be the woman for the gig.

We found Buckley listed in Boston Business Women, a local female networking group. Of all the capable professional organizers we considered for advice, we were attracted by her realistic approach.

Buckley launched her business after realizing that what she'd been doing for years was in fact her passion. As a mom, Buckley knows firsthand just how stuff can get out of control. She believes thinking critically about what we keep in our homes is an element of the wellness movement, a way for people to live happier, healthier lives.

"Organizing, I think, has always been a bit underrated and something that seemed insignificant in the big scheme of things," she says. "It was something that was always bottom of the list for folks …The reality is that your time doesn't become freed up, nothing gets done, and you don't really have spare time until things are organized."

Buckley's company focuses on creating practical, effective, and livable solutions for individuals and families. She believes folding your shirts in a certain way might keep your drawers tidy, but if you don't like the way that looks, or you know you'll never actually maintain the system, it becomes a waste of time. At the core of Buckley's approach is implementing systems that adapt to everyday life.

So how does she take your closets from unsightly to streamlined? It starts well before she sets foot in your home.

Identifying the Problem

To begin the process, Buckley first schedules an in-home consultation with each client. This allows her to see the space she'll be working with, and more importantly, to understand her client's visions. She asks questions about routines, pain points, frustrations, and ultimately works with her client to identify core goals.

If you can't first meet with your organizer, you may instead communicate by phone and email, sending a selection of photos of your space.

Your worst storage woe may not be the expected front entrance closet filled with winter goods, cleaning products, and other daily items, but the hallway closet full, say, of bedding, suitcases, and beauty products, or your bedroom closet, home of clothes, shoes, bags, and laundry.

Although it seems like a hopeless mess, a professional organizer can come up with a solution in a snap. "If you don't have specific designated areas for things, they end up all over and looking aesthetically displeasing," Buckley says. "This also leads to spaces being minimized rather than maximized when things are just tossed about."

Could organizing your closets really be as easy as creating zones?

Conquering Closet Clutter

Buckley asks about your style preferences. This includes what colors you like, what material matches the overall mood of your home, and how much you want to spend on the project. She often finds mega sales on bins, boxes, stacking shelves, and more organizing essentials from HomeGoods and other retailers. As a result, she may arrive in an SUV packed to the brim with options, so you don't need to search yourself.

After a brief run-through, Buckley gets to work. She tackles the first closet to see what she'll need to find more room to accommodate. She's able to maximize a space so that everything fits nicely and has a little room to grow, such as baskets left half-full to make room for new items. And things like gloves and scarves that take up room in a bedroom can be stored more appropriately elsewhere. The same technique works for all the closets. "Adding a little storage to your master makes things less cramped and leaves it feeling fresh," she says.

Like many things in life, home organizing is messy before it's clean. Buckley pulls every last thing out of your closets so she can create a game plan. Then she organizes stage by stage, finishing the most cluttered area first, then moving to another spot. "I have found tackling things by location or by some other means of realistic accomplishment to be a very successful method," she explains.

Once your spaces are given Buckley's seal of approval, you'll be in awe of how much room you already had, but didn't realize. Without all the mess, there's a spot for everything. Perhaps most surprising is how functional shelves and bins can be for organizing miscellaneous goods. It's a whole world beyond racks and shelves. And the best part is, you'll find yourself easily maintaining the organization once everything has its place. And that's Buckley's ultimate goal: for her clients no longer to need her.

The true benefit of a home organizer, for anyone, is to remove the initial stress of decluttering, and to give you the tools to maintain a tidy home that creates peace of mind. And that's definitely worth the cost.

Buckley’s Top 5 Tips for Organizing Success

01 of 05

Start Small

"Choose a kitchen drawer, a medicine cabinet in your bathroom, an under-the-sink bin, a desk drawer that has been organizationally frustrating, and go from there," Buckley says. "Very often, tackling a space, no matter how small, will only encourage one to continue [to organize."

02 of 05

Take a Moment to Acknowledge the Work

The act of completing something brings a sense of relief and accomplishment, which in turn brings happiness and satisfaction. "Pause, acknowledge this, and keep going," she says. "Reaping the benefits of that accomplishment is incredibly motivational."

03 of 05

Quit "Deal with it Later" Piles

"Try your best not to delay giving everything a place when you're organizing," Buckley believes. "Finding a home for it all is part of the job, and admiring a closet that you cleaned out … isn't that great when you turn around and have piles of to-dos behind you."

04 of 05

Donate the Same Week

"If you choose to donate during your decluttering, bring items to your donation center within that week," she says. "Put it in your car and set a reminder. Do not let it sit in a corner of a room; this is not finishing the job."

05 of 05

Don't Just Do Something You Saw On TV

"Don't go out and buy 40 of those clear organizing bins that you saw in someone's Pinterest pantry.," Buckley warns."Think about your daily routines and how you use your spaces. Sure, it's great to gain inspiration, but if you implement a system that just doesn't align with the way you live, it's only going to end up as time and money wasted."

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