Friday, September 17, 2010

Remote organizing

It seems like I've been running into a lot of businesspeople who are branching out into online consulting. They have clients who live outside their normal work radius and they are able to service them by setting up an appointment and connecting via Skype or Google Chat, which has video capabilities. In this way, they can meet with more people who want to hire them, without traveling long distances, which saves both parties money and is also better for one's carbon footprint. At one networking event I attended this week, I spoke with an ayurvedic consultant as well as a pilates trainer who both work with clients in this way.

I'm fascinated by the concept, though I have always thought that "virtual" organizing is tricky. Sure, you can coach people verbally with organizing tips and strategies, but it's tremendously difficult to get an accurate picture of a disorganized situation without seeing it in person. The advent of video calling, made free and easy by fast Internet connections and new technology, makes that more of a possibility. If my client has a laptop equipped with a built in video camera, they can take me on a tour of their space, while I sit at my computer at home and give my expertise.

The drawback to this method is the lack of the hands-on organizing work, which is something that drew me to this field in the first place. I love working with the stuff, organizing it, tossing it out, taming it. It remains to be seen if remote organizing is as effective and satisfying as the traditional kind.

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by Justin Ruckman.
Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email


  1. Lelah:

    I am with you. I find it facinating that people are seeking us out. I am from Canada in a fairly large city (for Canadian standards) but we are surround by rural areas.

    I do get requests to give a phone consultation once people emailed me pictures. This has worked in a few cases and the people were happy to pay a nominal fee for the time that I spent with them (anywhere from 30 - 50 minutes).

    It is always hard to coach when you are not 'right there' but having them hear your voice and encouragement is always an asset.

    Continue on and please let me know how you make out!

    Margarita Ibbott
    Downshifting - Professional Organizing Solutions

  2. Hi Margarita,

    Thank you for your comments. I suppose that for people who don't have access to a nearby professional organizer, a remote consultation could be helpful. And, if you have a long term client who moves away, it might also be a way to continue the working relationship.

    Thanks for your input!

  3. Lelah, you raise great questions. I go back and forth on this issue frequently. On the one hand, yes, we have the ability to organize the tangible stuff so much more quickly than our clients. I can pick things up and move them, based on my skills and pattern recognition, ten times faster than I can say "Ok, see the blue box behind you to your left? No, your other left. Up, up. That's it. What's in there? OK, that should go with..."

    On the other hand, the appeal of the coaching aspect, especially for time management (or even paper management, to a lesser degree) is improved by the face-to-face communication (over pure phone coaching). I can see doing 30, 60 or 90 minute coaching sessions to foster the development of intellectual skills and provide motivation to clients. Would I ever do a 4-hour session online? No. But for rural clients, or even clients distant from us who like our take on their issues better than other professionals they've found, I think there's promise here. Great post. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for commenting, Julie. I agree that a short-form coaching session seems like the best use of the medium. A four-hour de-clutter session would probably not work as well. But, as you say, the idea holds promise for a certain segment of clients.

    It's exciting to be a part of this ever-evolving industry, isn't it?