As the old saying goes, there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. A simple adage to the ease of the organized life, but let’s face it, who’s got the time?
Enter the professional organizer: a person who comes into a home, discusses the clutter and disarray with the homeowner and works hand-in-hand with the homeowner to put things in order to make life easier.
“This time of year, people don’t have the time to organize themselves,” said Florence Feldman, president of Clearly Organized, a business in Vienna. “People get overwhelmed this time of year, and the challenge is about managing all the expectations.”
Feldman listed three simple steps to getting organized.
“THE FIRST STEP is to get rid of clutter, things you no longer want or need,” she said. “The next step is to categorize things into groups of like items, and then you need to find a place for the items in your space. The test is, can you maintain it? If you can, the system works. If not, then you need to reevaluate it and try again.”
Clutter, she said, is not determined by how messy an area is, but is unnecessary stuff.
“If something works for you, you’re fine. But if you bring any three people into an area, a system that works for one person would stop working because the organization style is unique to one person,” Feldman said. “The more people using an area, the higher the level of order and organization is needed.”
Helen Long, of Long Solutions in Vienna, said she learned to organize when she was living overseas while her husband was with the Foreign Service.
“I would help people move or find new things when they were settling into an area,” she said. “I was thrilled to find out this was a profession when we came back to the States two years ago.”
Long specializes in working with Realtors to “set” homes for an open house when it comes time to sell a home.
“I can refer people to decorators and painters, help get the house ready to sell and can also help both the sellers of the home and the buyers settle into their new homes and packing up their old ones,” she said.
“My job is to make them comfortable, going through their things and getting rid of some items,” she said. “We discuss what their vision for their home is and what they expect from me and they usually get motivated from that. Some get things started on their own,” she said.
“I USED TO ORGANIZE for my friends. It’s just a natural ability I have,” said Gladys Kozlik, a professional organizer who started her business, Glad 2 Organize in Merrifield, as a way to support herself and her two children.
When a client calls Kozlik for help, the first step is an over the phone evaluation, she said.
“They’ll usually call with a concern, usually about a specific area of the home, like an office or an area with a lot of paperwork lying around,” she said. “I ask them why they call, what their concerns are and find out what’s been going on that made them become disorganized.”
Once the problem has been identified, Kozlik will go to the person’s house and “investigate the problem and discuss how they’d like it fixed,” she said.
“Things don’t have to be perfect, but things do tend to work better if they are in the right place,” she said. However, no predetermined “right place” will work for every client.
“I get input from the person and customize the system based on them and their life,” she said. “I do an assessment on how they organize things: visually, audio or kinesthetic,” she said. Kinesthetic organizers need to be able to touch the items they’re working with, while people who are organized visually just need to be able to see what it is they need.
“My goal is to help a person keep or make life simple,” she said.
ONCE A PARTICULAR room or task is completed, all three women said they keep in contact with their clients, making follow-up calls to ensure the system is working or keeping the person motivated to keep things in order.
“If I leave a client some homework, they know I’m coming back so it keeps them motivated,” Long said. “Like decorating, organizing is a never-ending process.”
However, some say that organizing isn’t about moving tactile things around to streamline a desk or clear off the catchall table next to the door where the mail always lands. It’s more about getting the person’s life in order, re-prioritizing and making time for things that matter more than ‘stuff.’
“I organize because I think families are vital,” Feldman said. “I like to see relationships and marriages last. I like to see kids feel loved.”
The world we live in isn’t one of magic, she said, but one full of challenges and obligations that need to be met.
“There are things in life that require great sacrifice and those are the things that matter most,” she said. “Everything else is just stuff.”
“There are so many mothers who get all caught up in their kids and their husbands and their work around the house that they don’t have any time to think of what they want for themselves,” Kozlik said.
“I encourage family meetings so that all members of the family know what’s going on. It also allows the kids to have a say in what’s going on in their family’s life,” she said.
One important facet of organization is time management. “If you’re not spending your time wisely, you’re wasting it,” Kozlik said.
Also, it’s vital during the busy holiday season to remember it’s OK to let others help with the seasonal chores.
“If what’s really important for you is to have a wonderful holiday season but you’re exhausted, you need to simplify,” Feldman said. “It’s OK to leave things out or to delegate tasks. Maybe you can talk with a neighbor and share some holiday goodies.”
The holidays are not meant to be about tactile things, she said. “The holidays are about kindness, generosity and sharing. In most cases, all those gifts are just more stuff.”