Settle Down

Professional Organizer

How Professional Organizers Think:  7 Steps to Success


1)  Assess

What’s working?  What’s NOT working?

Does the room serve its intended purpose?  If not, what should it be doing?

What are the essential items needed for this space?

What’s causing the mess/issue?

What kind of organizing do you like?  i.e. jeans hung or folded, do you need to see it to know it’s there, are you a minimalist, etc.

2)  Plan

Key Question in this stage is “What Would Make You Happy?”  Talk about time and budget parameters.  Decide if you need to hire a professional or if you can do this yourself.  Maybe a better question than can you do it is will you do it yourself?

3)  Implement

Like with Like:  DO NOT make decisions on what to keep in this phase…just putting pants with pants, work clothes together, travel supplies, baking supplies, etc.  

Eliminate: get rid of broken, unused, ugly, unnecessary and old…have boxes labeled and ready to go for donations, trash, items that go elsewhere in the house, things that can be sold, and things you need to return to other people.

When is the last time you used this item? What is a scenario in which you might use it and how likely is that to happen? What does it cost (in both time and money) to replace this item?  And how hard would it be to find and purchase this item again? What is the worst case scenario if you did get rid of this item?

4)  Assign a Home

Is this where you truly belong?  Watch that flat surfaces don’t become dumping grounds.  STORE IT WHERE YOU USE IT!  Set up zones for different activities.

5)  Shop

Notice that this isn’t the FIRST step! (smile)

6)  Equalize

Maintaining your space on a daily basis.  If everything is functioning well, you should be able to clean a room in 5-10 minutes…

7)  Evaluate

Does it work?  Follow up and change as needed. Use the one in one out rule.

Posted 36 weeks ago

Get Your Ducks in a Row:  4 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Professional Organizer


I’m starting my eighth year as a professional organizer on November 1.  In that time, I’ve learned a lot and grown as an organizer as I listen better to what people need.  When I started Yikes Organizing, I chose the name because I thought it took some of the “scary” out of hiring an organizer and I liked the tagline, “Lose the Clutter…Not Your Mind.”

Like everyone who tries something for the first time, there were some false starts and I’m grateful for the people who were good sports (and kind enough to be pleased with my work) during that first year.  However, I can now say with confidence that the four most important things I provide are accountability, support, and saving my clients both time and money.

Often, my number one purpose is to provide accountability.

As a wife and mother of six, I’ve always been a “doer” so the jobs that are the hardest for me are when I literally sit next to a client and make sure that she writes that important email or pays her bills.  And yet that’s exactly what some clients need and want.

Obviously, not everyone wants that, but the one trait most of my clients’ share is insecurity. They think they really should be able to do this alone but are embarrassed that they don’t want to or can’t.  I get it!  When faced with a difficult task, I also choose avoidance, or honestly try, but get distracted when something easier presents itself.

I’m that way with cleaning my house, for example.  I’ll start with good intentions and set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes but 10 minutes in I will remember that I never brought the mail in yesterday and might even be expecting a check.  Then I’m folding laundry but get bored so turn on the t.v. and pretty soon the laundry is folded but I’m still watching the show!

My point is that it’s okay to not know where to start or to want help with something that doesn’t come naturally to you. For some clients, the best thing I can do is to get them in the mindset that for three hours, they’re going to work hard but we will see concrete results at the end of our time.  

The second thing an organizer provides is support.  

I will take something they dread (digging into the mess) and will try my hardest to make it fun, and if I don’t succeed in that, I will at least make it less painful than it will be on their own.  So most times, at the end of a session people will say that it wasn’t so bad once we got started.

An often overlooked plus to hiring an organizer is that oftentimes I can either save you money or find something that is important to you.   

One day, when working with another organizer, we were going through storage boxes, in a barn of all places, and found a long-lost wedding ring for a client. As you can imagine, this was quite fun as we got to show him a piece of his past he thought he would never see again. Other times, I’ve found large amounts of cash, sometimes still in the banking envelope but more often hidden in a “secret” spot that the client had stashed it in years ago.  Another fun thing is finding gift cards or uncashed checks that are able to be reissued.

A quick and easy way I save my clients money is by cancelling subscriptions to things they no longer use.  This runs the gamut from health clubs to any automatic renewal where they were getting something (like pet meds) every month and end up with enough to equip a small zoo!

In a related issue, in almost every home I’m in, I find multiples of something that the client keeps buying because she/he can’t find the ones on hand.  

For my clients with paper overload, I save money by getting their finances in order so they don’t waste money paying late fees.  I also get quotes from various service providers, so they get the best rate when having something installed or fixed.

Finally, and most importantly, I give clients the gift of time.  

I had one potential client call and tell me that it took her an hour that morning to find a hairbrush.  While that’s kind of extreme, time lost looking for things is money lost.

Okay, I lied.  After giving it a bit more thought, the most precious gift I give people isn’t time or money, but the peace of mind that comes when you have an orderly home. The one thing that absolutely every client has told me is that getting organized makes them happier, lighter, freer, less stressed, etc.  They all say it in a slightly different way but the bottom line is that an organizer gives you that elusive peace of mind that comes when you control your possessions, not the other way around.

Posted 36 weeks ago

Are You Ready to Hire a Professional Organizer?

1.      Can I show a total stranger my mess?

YES, YOU CAN!  Organizers are professionals and we won’t judge you.  We realize many times difficult situations can throw your life into a frenzy or things just pile up over time.  Most of us have been where you are at one point in our lives.  In other words—"What happens in Fort Wayne, stays in Fort Wayne!”  Seriously, I don’t tell others who my clients are, and your secrets are safe with me! I can even provide you with a confidentially agreement if you’d like…

2.      What if I get talked into getting rid of things that I really wanted to keep?

This will NOT happen.  Now if you have 100 empty Cool Whip containers and use five of them on a regular basis, I will probably ENCOURAGE you to recycle the rest.  But I work with you to determine how much space you have, the best use of that space and what to do with the rest.  Maybe a storage unit or the attic is the answer (at least temporarily) until you see what you use and what you really don’t need.  This isn’t housecleaning where there are fairly set parameters on the right way to do things.  Organizing is specific to each individual client.

3.      I don’t know where to start and/or I’m just overwhelmed.

There are two lines of thought here.  The first is to start with the area or room that is bothering you the most.  If you are really overwhelmed, however, we could start with a small area (like a desktop or kitchen counter) and clean it so you can see some visible progress right away.  No matter which method we use, I will work with you to help figure out a plan of attack so that you will see progress with each session.  It took you more than a day to get here and you must give yourself the grace to see that it will take more than a day to get out.

4.      Is this going to emotionally draining or difficult?

The short answer is it can be.  Most organizers make 3-4-hour appointments because that’s about the longest a client can stay focused.  I try to do most of the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively), but it can be an emotional process, especially if you are dealing with the belongings of a loved one who has died.  Again, I will work with you to make it as painless as possible, being flexible and encouraging in the process.  I definitely will move at your pace in all of this.

5.      Will this cost me a bunch of money?

Many people hire housekeepers and what they get accomplished is undone every week or two.  Organizers cost more per hour, but we are making a lasting change to your home. Also, most people don’t need an organizer every week for a year so, at least, there is an end to it!  

Finally, I will say that many times we save our clients real money in a variety of ways.  I’ve encouraged clients to cancel unused memberships, helped them put a new filing system in place so bills get paid on time, and many times I’ve just found something important to them.  Recently, it was a $100 Costco gift card discovered in a pile of tissue paper.  As Winnie the Pooh once stated, “One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries!”

6.      I feel like I should be able to do this by myself.  Is it bad that I want/need help?

While it’s true that in many cases one of my main functions is to provide accountability, another hat I continually wear is that of an encourager. Sometimes it’s just daunting to tackle that basement or attic alone and there is no reason to feel bad about wanting help and/or an outside perspective.  Also, because I deal with these situations every day, I’m better equipped to help you find real workable solutions.  

Many people hire personal trainers to help them get into shape. Could they do this by themselves? Yes, but it’s easier with a professional and it takes some of the pressure off them.  Well, think of professional organizers as personal trainers for your home instead of for your body!

Posted 36 weeks ago

5 Tips on How to Organize Like a Professional Organizer

What do having your house cleaned and getting it organized have in common?  

Both give you a natural high but, even better, and certainly more lasting, they give you more of what you really need…time.

I love organizing other people’s homes but HATE cleaning my own and when I’ve paid to get my home cleaned it’s the best present I could have given myself. I think I would pay them even if they did nothing but add the clean “smell!”

That said, here are some tried and true tips from a professional organizer who has pretty much seen it all as far as clutter is concerned.  (I say this as I have six grown children, have lived on three continents and have moved more than 25 times in my life.)

1)      Be realistic

Your house didn’t become cluttered in a day and it’s not going to become perfectly organized in a day…unless you hire the crew from Clean Sweep, and even with them and t.v. editing, it takes a weekend!  I work with some clients once a week for a year!

2)      Start with a small project you can finish

If you are new at organizing, you may not want to start with your garage.   Try decluttering a cabinet in your kitchen or clean out your dresser.  These are projects that won’t take all day and will give you some positive reinforcement.  Then work your way up to bigger projects.

3)      Realize things will get worse before they get better

When I start with a new client this is something we always discuss.  If we just clear off the top of your desk or your bed but don’t deal with the “unseen” clutter in your drawers and cabinets, we really haven’t done the job fully and you will be back to “messy” before you know it.  The only real rule in organizing is that EVERYTHING needs a home.  In order to find the best home, you need to dig down and get to the root of the problem.

4)      Sometimes more isn’t better; sometimes more is just more

I especially see this with kids’ clothing and toys.  Often more choices just make it harder for kids to choose anything.  I’ve even tested this on my 8-month-old granddaughter.  If you give her one or two toys, she is happy.  If you spread 25 toys out on the floor around her, she is overwhelmed. If you have a ton of toys and/or clothes, rotate them so you kids feel like they are getting something new periodically.  By the way, this same strategy works for adults and clothes as well.

5)      Don’t buy storage solutions until the end of the project

Nobody ever wants to hear this but you can’t know what kind of storage you will need until you know how much you are keeping and where it’s going to live. I tell my clients this is your reward for all the hard work we’ve done.  Plus, many times you have great storage solutions on hand and we can reuse something you have in a different way.

If this seems daunting, I understand.  Give me a call and I’ll give you a free 30-minute, in-home estimate to get your house in order and give you the awesome gift of time!

Posted 36 weeks ago

4 Mistakes People Make When Organizing Their New Home

Today we will explore four stumbling blocks that keep you from making your new home simply amazing. They are:

1)      Bringing too much stuff from the old home

2)      Buying furniture and storage items before knowing where they will be used or if you even need them

3)      Not putting things away in a thoughtful or realistic manner

4)      Unrealistic expectations

Mistake #1: Not realizing what will fit or work in the new home

Before a move you have such a great opportunity to go through the things in your home and purge. I find however, that time gets away from people and they end up telling themselves it’s okay to do the sorting on the other end.  

Let me just say this. It’s WAY harder to go through things after a move than before. You will be in just as much of a hurry to get unpacked as you were to get packed and there is never a convenient time to go through everything you own.   I worked with someone once (this was a friends’ client and I was just helping her out) who didn’t do any purging before the move and we ended up bringing a TON of expired food to the new house.  I was super frustrated and I’m sure my friend was too.

If you label your boxes well, that makes things easier.  If you aren’t ready to part with some things but don’t know if you will need them, mark that accordingly. You can put these boxes in your basement, attic or garage and get to them when you have more time and energy to make decisions.

Mistake #2: Buying Things Before You Know What You Need or Where You will Use Them

My advice in this area is to only buy or bring the things you love or know you will need and use. Measure the rooms in your new home and the furniture in your current home and plan accordingly.  Yes, it will take some time but if you map out the room beforehand, you know what will fit.  Of course, there are great apps for this like Room Planner so that’s an option too.

One of the first rules of organizing is that you don’t buy organizing products until you sort and purge and know how much is left.  It’s tempting to shop first (especially when storage options nowadays are so dang cute!) but you will end up with the wrong things and/or things that don’t fit the space well.

Mistake #3: Not Putting Things Near Where You Use Them

This is probably the biggest pitfall I find in organizing in general.  People don’t use their prime real estate effectively.  This is true in any room, but I saw it most often in kitchens. People would put their Christmas dishes in the cupboard above the dishwasher, while dishes they used every day were halfway across the kitchen.  

It just makes sense to have the things you use the most somewhere that’s easily accessible and near where you use it.  It’s also important to be realistic about how much you use something.  If you spend a lot of money on your Vitamix but never use it even though it’s on the kitchen counter, you may need to find another spot for it.  Some people use their toasters every day, and some people use them once a month. Take a moment and plan for the life you actually have, not the life you think you should have.  Also, don’t be afraid to go outside the lines.  The best organizing plan is the one that works for you.  If you want to put your seasonal clothes in another closet so that your master closet isn’t stuffed, go for it.  

Mistake #4: Unrealistic Expectations

While the other tips concentrate on the physical aspects of setting up your home, this one is more mental.  Living in an age where more is better and ads promise everything from a better sex life to a promotion by changing your toothpaste, it’s easy to be discontent with what you have.  Your home is not going to be perfect on the first day.  Be okay with trying different furniture arrangements and realizing that you will need to make minor adjustments over time. Again, your home should reflect your tastes and you want it to be comfortable…whatever style you choose. But be patient and give yourself time to get to know the house and your tendencies once you’ve settled in…or should I say down? :)

Posted 36 weeks ago

3 Reasons to Organize Your Garage this Weekend


Of all the jobs I do as an organizer, probably my least favorite areas to work in are a garage or attic.  I think it’s because these are the final resting places for things that have no home (and often no use) and it’s usually unbearably hot or cold when people decide they want help with these areas.

This leads me to today’s topic… why you need to organize your garage NOW!

1)      It’s not ridiculously hot or cold.

Fall and spring are the perfect times to organize your garage. The best, and, in my opinion, the only way to do this is to take absolutely everything out of the garage and sort it before it goes back in.  Just trust me here; you don’t want to be doing that when the temperature is in the 90’s…or the 30’s.

 In a related corollary, you want to be able to get your car into the garage before the first frost.  There is nothing more frustrating (well, maybe there are a few things, but for our example let’s pretend that there aren’t), than having a garage and scraping snow and ice off your car every morning.

2)      The longer you wait, the worse your garage will get.  

Let’s face it, once you have lost control of your garage then nobody cares and every day a few things get added to the chaos.  The only upside for me of organizing garages is that every time people find something that they had thought was lost forever.  Now, it’s not usually exciting as the wedding ring that another organizer and I found once for a client, but there are still good finds to be had.  And, in a way, garages are simple to organize because the categories are so easily identified.  Pretty much everyone has garden stuff, camping stuff, home improvement stuff (like paint) tools, car care items, bikes and toys.  

Posted 36 weeks ago

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