Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't Fear The Purge... Unless You're Talking About Lunch

Show of hands, how many of you have a junk drawer? How about a junk closet? Shall we go a bit bigger and say a junk room? Do you have an entire level of your house filled with junk? Or are you, God help you, paying to store your junk someplace else? I can help.

Close to 5 years ago, I got the idea that if I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and still make some money, I was going to have to start my own business. But what? What service could I provide that I could do on my schedule that would make enough money to make this process worthwhile? Then it hit me - Professional Organizer. It was a complete no-brainer, I mean, c'mon, I color code in my sleep. The name hit almost as fast - "Living Arrangements". I set out to copyright the name immediately (which I did, but then I let the license lapse. I'll explain why later.)

There are TV shows devoted to just this sort of service. Plenty of people could use an anal retentive, life-at-right-angles kinda gal like me. So I dipped my toes in to see how the water was. The first thing I did was practice on my family.

My sister-in-law was quick to utilize my services but since she's just a neat-freak with a shopping habit all I did was move a few things around and hand her back what she should return to the store. Give me a challenge. Oh, be careful what you wish for... I then offered my services to be auctioned off at my daughter's preschool. A three room consultation plus a one closet make-over. I estimated the whole job would take me less than 2 hours and I valued the job at $150 dollars. Boy was I way off. The winning bidder paid less than the valued price and once I showed up at their house, I proceeded to spend 7 hours in Hell!

To say the house was filthy would be an insult to grime and the chaos met me at the front porch. I started hyperventilating. It was a good 5 years ago and still it makes my skin crawl. These people didn't need an organizer, they needed a bulldozer (and I needed a hazmat suit). I won't go into detail, because frankly, it's better left swept under the rug (like the chicken bones the dogs they had, had hidden there - not a joke) and for my mental stability, I'd rather forget. I leave you with this one item so you can fully understand why I threw out the clothes I was wearing and showered in scalding water for 45 minutes once I got home - adult toys in the closet I was asked to organize. Seriously, a total stranger is organizing your closet for you and you leave a bin of goodies sitting on the floor next to the dirty laundry hamper. I am not a prude but I have my limitations; it's a biohazard people.

(Breathe in, breathe out).

Now, after that ordeal, I took a huge step back to reconsider what I was actually getting myself into. I continued to do odd jobs for friends and family. I again offered up my services for auction, this time at my daughter's elementary school, for the consultation only. And I've be fortunate enough to have a dear friend who barters with me - my organizing for her teaching my daughter piano lessons. I haven't made a dime (and therefore decided not to renew the copyright on the name) but the experiences and knowledge are priceless.

The skills I still have in surplus and I offer some quick tips to you now free of charge:
  • Divide & Conquer Don't look at a huge project and become disheartened; break the job down into manageable tasks. For example, a closet not a room or even a shelf not a closet. No more than 5 square feet at a time. You'll be amazed how quickly it goes and when you need a break, you have a clear stopping/starting point.
  • Purge Until It Hurts Let's face it, there is so little we actually need to survive. All the rest is just "stuff". Get rid of it. Don't let yourself be convinced that your junk is worth something; I guarantee you the warped 45s you have in a dusty (once under water) box in your basement is indeed garbage. If it was worth something, you would have treated it better. And don't let yourself believe that you "need" any item that you haven't seen or thought about in over five years. If you needed it, you'd be using it.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Reduce we've discussed - free yourself of your clutter, unless it can be reused. Is there a little girl down the street that could use your daughter's old clothes? Do you have a friend trying to get in shape and you have a treadmill you're not using? Do you have some wild, decade-specific fashions that haven't seen the light of day since "Frankie Went To Hollywood"; Halloween is just around the corner. Let these items have a second life... outside of your home. Recycling is the easiest of all; before it becomes trash, consider if it can be recycled. Remember that box from college with the empty bottles of all your first beers that you proudly displayed as art. Now the entire contents plus the box can be recycled - proudly.
And if you've got a project that needs organizing - not cleaning, not repairing, not demoing - let me know. I'm here to help... barters accepted but cash preferred.


  1. OMG! The first organizing job story is too funny! Did you organize the box of toys? LOL Do you wonder if after you left and they walked into that closet realized that box was out? Maybe they were as horrified as you...would have loved to see their faces when they realized what they did.

    Love the story and the free tips!!

  2. Actually, when I found the "toys", I asked the lady of the house if she would "mind removing your personal items". "OK" was all she said.
    These people were really disgusting; I doubt it even crossed her mind that it was a problem. C'mon, doesn't everyone have a goodie bin in their closet? ;-)