Confessions of an Organizer
Who We Talked To: Melanie Dennis of Neat Streak
"I have probably always been organized. I worked for 20 years as a medical technologist, so organization was a big part of that job. Then, for a few years I worked at an organization store and people were always asking me if I could come help them. I thought it would be a pretty good idea, so I started my own company and have been doing it ever since."
When do people usually realize they need professional help?
"I think people know when their space is out of control. Most people just don't know where to get started, and having someone that makes them accountable for their space really helps."
How does it does the process work?
"When the client calls, I ask them what's really driving them crazy. For a lot of people, it may be just one room or one area of the house. From there, I'll do an assessment of each room of the house that they want to focus on. Once we start organizing, it's really about picking a spot to start on and working through the entire space. People can usually only do three-hour sessions because all of that decision-making is physically exhausting, but I've had sessions as long as eight hours. Once the session is over, we'll schedule another if necessary. Then I'll haul away the trash or take discarded items to charities. It really cuts down on the temptation for the client to put those things back into the house."
Are people usually embarrassed by their disorganization?
"Yes, I think everyone feels that in some small sense. I assure them it's alright, and that it's manageable. It's an intimate thing going through someone's stuff, so you really have to build a calming, trusting relationship with the client. And some people might think they're really disorganized but actually have a decent handle on it - they just need some positive affirmation."
What's the most common form of clutter?
"Paper, paper, paper. People are reluctant to let go of it. If you want to keep your tax paperwork, that's fine, but mark it with the date you're going to throw it away. That way the decision when to let go of it is already made. I also say that if you can find the same information on the Internet or in a book, throw away the paper copy."
Do clients usually stick with their new organized lives or do they revert to their old ways?
"It's about transferring skills, so for some clients, it's a one-time thing. For others, they might maintain their systems throughout the house, but in another area, like paperwork, they might not feel so confident. I'll come back in and help every once in a while in just that area."
What's been your hardest organizing job so far?
"I've done everything from simply cleaning out just one closet to spending three whole days organizing a barn. I've worked through a client's entire house taking three hours just to clean up the kitchen counters. There have been office-supply junkies, shoppers who love to get a great deal but never open the package once they get home, candle lovers and magazine saverspeople who save magazines."
What's the weirdest thing you've found in a client's clutter?
"I always find money of some sort. Sometimes it's cash, sometimes a silver bar or gift certificates. Once I found a whole case of antique coins on a basement floor. Something like that should be in a safe."
All comments are the opinion of the service company and not Angie's List.