Get It Together ― Part 4: Just Because You've Purged, Doesn't Mean You're Organized
“Here’s the dirty little secret,” one professional organizer said. (Doesn’t that expression just make you lean in?) “Professional organizers hire professional organizers.”
That’s all I needed to hear. All month, as I had been interviewing organizing professionals and their clients for this series, I kept thinking: I want an organizer to come to my house! But wait, aren’t I supposed to be an expert?
On the other hand, doctors need doctors, right? Lawyers need lawyers. Therapists need therapists. So why wouldn’t a home design columnist and downsizing expert not hire a professional organizer? We all have blind spots.
I found certified professional organizer Kim Krogh, of Orlando, on the National Association of Productivity & Organizing website. (http://www.napo.net) A NAPO member, Krogh has worked as a professional organizer since 2008.
When I asked her how she got into this business, she told me that, as a military wife who had moved 27 times in 30 years, she had become a little too good at purging, packing, moving and setting up house. “I was driving my family nuts,” she said. “One day my husband asked whether I might be able to apply these skills elsewhere.”
I decide not to share this anecdote with my husband, who many days would surely like to outsource me, too.
After a talking with her on the phone, I hired Krogh, who charges $70 an hour with a three-hour minimum.
Confirming that I’m not a total fraud, she did say shortly after she arrived, “In 13 years of doing this, I may have been in one other home where I wondered, ‘Why am I here?’” she said.
“I’ll show you why you’re here,” I said, and led her to the pantry, the laundry room, and the problem areas of my kitchen.
Though she did call me a minimalist (thank you), we still found plenty to work on, which proves, even if you don’t have too much stuff, you can still have it in the wrong place.
The next three hours ― and here comes the confession ― were the best three hours I’ve had so far this year. Better than fireworks on New Year’s eve. Together, Krogh and I cleaned, purged, consolidated, made sense out of nonsense, batched, binned, labeled, and found joy in efficiency. We had a blast. At least I did.
Maybe it’s a genetic disorder, but seeing my home get more organized before my eyes ranks at the tip of my satisfaction scale right alongside holding a new puppy, and paying my kids’ last tuition payment.
So here’s the takeaway: Wherever you are on the cluttered-home spectrum, whether you’re a horrific hoarder or a monk minimalist, a trained organizer can make your space work better. They have tricks and solutions for problems you can’t even see. Here are six ways I learned firsthand how a professional organizer can help.
They help you get rid of what you secretly want to get rid of. Professional organizers don’t force you to give up anything, but they do give you a soft push in the direction you’re already heading. I showed Krogh a cupboard full of frilly holiday-type dishes, and pointed to a trio of ivory Lenox candy dishes with gold rims. “They were my Mom’s, but I never use them.” “Why not?” she asked. “They seem so fussy. These silver star dishes were really cheap, but I like them,” I added. “So, you don’t like these dishes, and don’t use them, and you have dishes you like better and do use…” Off the fussy dishes went.
They follow the four commandments of organizing. Sort, purge, organize, containerize. In the pantry, Krogh took everything out, and made groups: crackers, nuts, canned goods, sauces, and so on. As I tossed expired items, she labeled acrylic bins, which she had instinctively brought with her. She filled the bins and placed them on the deep shelves, where you could pull them out like drawers, creating better visibility and access. With condiments in one bin, you can see that you have three bottles of French’s mustard, and you won’t knock over the soy sauce to get to the maple syrup.
They see what you’ve stopped seeing. Krogh opened a kitchen desk drawer filled with old prescription glasses. Uhh, why? And wouldn’t the candles and votives, which I had spread across two cabinets, and mingled with bug spray, flashlights, and a set of French-lesson CDs, be better unified into one dedicated candle cabinet? Done.
They find solutions you would not have thought of. Getting a rolling laundry basket to contain and control the unwieldy central vacuum hose in my pantry, where I previously had to wrestle with it like some undersea monster, was life changing.
They assign homework. To make the most of her time and my money, Krogh made suggestions for moves I could make later on my own. She recommended I organize my bags of gift wrap supplies into one plastic bin, and consolidate my gardening supplies onto one garage shelf. Also done.
They don’t judge. Properly trained organizers are agnostic about your stuff and your living habits. They know clients are nervous about exposing the dark underbellies of their homes, but if these pros have an opinion about your politically extreme reading material or the empty whiskey bottles in your desk drawer, they do not express it. Although Krogh would have been within her right to comment on the half-eaten, chocolate Santa buried in my pantry, she just tucked Santa in a baggie and put it in the bin labeled “Sweets,” as if she were a house saint, which she just might be.
Photo caption: Bin Power. Labeled bins helped organize this pantry, shown before and after an organizing session. Because bins pull out like drawers, they help make better use of deep shelf space, where goods in back can get lost. Labels make finding and retrieving items faster. Photo courtesy Marni Jameson.