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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

Get It Together ― Part 2: Organizing Pro Helps Spa Owner Create Own Retreat

When Cara Solomon, of Philadelphia, was moving into a new apartment 14 years ago, she knew one thing: She didn’t want to live like she’d been living.

The move to a new two-bedroom, two-story apartment was her chance for change. “Maybe if I had an organizer,” she thought, “I could start out on the right foot, have my things in order, and turn my home into some place I wanted to be, not just a place to sleep.”

Ironically, Solomon, a massage therapist who owns and operates a successful day spa, excels at creating an atmosphere of calm and serenity for her clients. “I had gotten so busy building my business that I never took the time to make my apartment my home.”

She called Darla DeMorrow, a certified professional organizer, and owner of HeartWork Organizing, and knew “in just two sentences” that DeMorrow was up to the task. Once on scene, “Darla just floated around my apartment and put things where they should be,” said Solomon, who is 50 and single with no kids.

One of the biggest transformations happened in the closet, a crowded mess with heaps of clothes. DeMorrow dug in, asked a few questions, and learned the problem was not simply an unwillingness to hang clothes up. “As is often the case, the issue was deeper and had to do with how Cara felt about her clothes and herself,” she said.

“My weight fluctuates,” Solomon said. “I struggle with it. I had a lot of clothes that I didn’t like and that didn’t fit.” DeMorrow put her in touch with a local boutique clothing store that specialized in plus sizes, where she found clothes that flattered and fit.

“No amount of organizing was going to motivate her to hang up clothes she hated,” said DeMorrow, who encourages clients to live well where they are, “in the home they’re in, and in the body they’re in.”

Solomon purged the clothes she didn’t like, and started caring for the ones she did. Once she stopped fighting her wardrobe, her closet fell into place.

“People think we make cabinets look pretty, but really we are problem solvers,” DeMorrow said. “If we don’t solve the underlying problem, the clutter will come back.”

The women worked together for two days, finding homes for piles of belongings, organizing computer files, and donating items no longer needed, including old electronics. Darla drove all the donations away, and mailed Solomon receipts for deductions. “If left it to me, everything would stay here,” Solomon said.

When they were done, “the whole energy in my apartment changed. Even my head got clearer,” said Solomon, who recalls the initial effort cost around $700. “Now when I come home, I can relax and not be overwhelmed by things out of place. I can entertain, and host overnight guests.”

What began as a mass organizing project blossomed into a relationship that has lasted almost 15 years. DeMorrow, a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, comes back once or twice a year for touch ups.

“Friends say, ‘I can’t believe you spent all that money.’ But they don’t realize the expertise they are paying for,” Solomon said. “A good organizer makes sense out of your clutter. You can’t see your way out, but they can.”

  • When to call a pro? Most clients call a professional organizer when they’ve reached a tipping point, experts say. Often, the call is from an overwhelmed mom with young kids. She doesn’t know which room to tackle first. Others call when they can’t find things. They’re rebuying things they already have. Their daughter won’t bring the grandkids over. Sometimes it’s a change in living situations: a new house, a kid moves back, guests are coming to stay, an upcoming surgery will require a walker to get through the hallway.

  • What do they do? Depending on the client, some organizers do all the moving and reorganizing. They bring in materials, such as hooks, bins and shelves, to aid storage. Others do some hands-on work, then give clients homework. They can do one area ― the kitchen, office, garage, laundry room, or kids’ room ― or a whole house. If clients want a lot of work done quickly, or the job is large (you can’t park in your two-car garage), many can provide a team. Some offer services virtually.

  • Who’s qualified? Because no certification or licensing is necessary, anyone can call themself a professional organizer. However, NAPO members have training in psychology and ethics, and creating systems with tailored solutions. NAPO members who are also certified professional organizers (CPOs) have completed 1,500 paid client hours, passed a rigorous exam, must adhere to an enforceable code of ethics, and recertify every three years, which helps guarantee a level of expertise and professionalism.

  • How to find a pro? You can find a professional organizer near you online at Search for CPOs near your zip code. You can also filter your search to find professionals who specialize in such areas as business, residential, home staging, document and photo management, or productivity.

  • How much? Prices vary by location and experience, and range from $50 to $200 an hour. DeMorrow charges $350 for an initial visit, during which she provides organizing services for about three hours. “You’d be surprised how much we can get done,” she said. After an initial meeting and seeing the project, most organizers will provide an estimate.

Join me next week as one organizer makes sense of a hectic family home.

Photo caption: Finding peaceCara Solomon runs a successful day spa in Philadelphia, but needed an organizer’s help to create calm and serenity at home. Photo courtesy C. Solomon.

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