Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why should you hire a professional organizer?

Americans are a can-do bunch. We’re independent, hard working and some of us embrace a Do It Yourself attitude about everything. I think it’s great if you want to make your own jam or end tables and change your car’s oil all by yourself. There’s a lot to be said for taking care of things yourself instead of hiring them out. Then again, there are times when hiring an expert is not only called for—it’s smarter than trying to do it yourself (e.g. complicated taxes, a brake job, surgery).

When it comes to getting organized, a lot of people think they can do it themselves. And a lot of them can. If you have a good attitude, some time and maybe a friend or family member to help you, you can make your space more livable by getting rid of stuff you don’t need and finding homes for everything that’s left. However, there are certain times when it’s important to call in an expert. Here are some examples. 

  • You’re dealing with an estate or a lot of inherited objects from a recently deceased relative. Going through someone you love’s possessions is trying under the best of circumstances. If you are also trying to prepare a house for sale or deal with a complicated will or a lot of other family members’ interests, getting a professional to organize the details and to help you decide what to keep and what to get rid of can be invaluable. 
  • You are ready to get organized but other people in your household are not. Sometimes having an impartial third party on the scene can make a difficult family situation easier to deal with. Since no two people approach organizing the exact same way, you can be in for a lot of negotiating when a lot of family members all want a say in how things are organized. A professional can help by offering options and a neutral point of view.
  • Sometimes you just don’t have anyone else that can help. Going back to the spirit of DIY, some people don’t want to impose on a friend or family member to help them get their lives in order, or don’t have anyone to impose on. Hiring someone gets the job done faster, with a minimum of fuss and there’s less tendency for you and your cousin to start reminiscing over every item that comes out of the attic.
  • You’re on a deadline. You’re moving in two weeks and haven’t started packing. Your lease on the storage unit is up and you don’t want to renew it for another year, so you have to find homes for everything inside fast. You’ve got a dozen people coming over for Thanksgiving dinner, but you still have newspapers from last November cluttering your dining room table. There are a lot of situations where it pays to hire a professional to get things done quickly.
  • You want it done right. Even disorganized people can be perfectionists. You might be someone who believes in doing something right or not at all, which is one of the reasons you are drowning in paper and objects. Even though there is no one “right” way to organize, hiring someone with professional know-how to bring experience and specialized techniques to your space will make feel confident about the changes you are making.

 There are hundreds of other logical reasons for hiring a professional organizer. One important one is that sometimes we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances. The simple of act of sharing our burdens and problems with someone else makes us feel a great deal better. By sharing an organizing or clutter problem with me you can get instant suggestions and a path to change. You’ll love the feeling of empowerment that taking control gives you. Bringing in an expert might be just the thing you need to empower yourself, rather than just doing it yourself!

If you are in Los Angeles or Ventura County and looking for a professional organizer visit my website at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rumination: Regional Organizing-LA

The more I learn about organizing techniques, practices and theories, the more I’ve come to realize that there are definitely region-specific organizing problems and solutions. For instance, here in Los Angeles homeowners are likely to have a garage stuffed to the gills with bikes, skis, one or more cars and about a million other kinds of outdoors sporting equipment, but few of us have basements to hide paint cans, outdated computers and old refrigerators. Those of us who work in the entertainment industry might have massive DVD collections and a need to store electronics from high tech cameras to hard drives. Our homes have no such a thing as a mudroom. Spring cleaning doesn’t come naturally, since the weather is nice year round and we don’t have the disappearing snow to remind us to air out the linen closet. Beach dwellers deal with sand, corrosion and tar on a regular basis. Maintaining our cars and gardens means finding room for endless bottles, bags and tools. Apartment dwellers might have plenty of space for their stuff inside and nowhere to park outside, or they often live so far from where they work they spend hours out of their day in a car, a home away from home that can get cluttered fast.

Angelinos face unique organizing challenges and we’d do well to remember that when we’re attempting a home makeover or just trying to straighten our desks. The realities of our city and environment affect our organizational needs as much as our jobs, living situation and personal style.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Great Label Maker Search of 2009

I'm a professional organizer. I don't have a label maker. Those two sentences may seem like an impossible contradiction, but it's true. I've never owned a label maker. The experience I have with them was from the year I worked at a bakery in West Hollywood and had to label the little plaques that advertised what those yummy looking treats were, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. (The treats, yes, the label making, no.) We used an old, clunky machine that tended to spit out tape whenever it felt like it and get jammed and in the end, it always took several tries before we got it right. Then came the task of putting the label on the plaque straight!

Anyway, I think it's time to bite bullet and get a label maker. Or at least think about getting one. I figure I'll start the process now, do some research, get some recommendations, and then find the one that works for me.

My hesitation up to this point on getting a label maker is partly the expense. I've heard that the label makers themselves aren't such a big investment, but you have to keep buying the tape and that adds up. Also, I think it's faster to handwrite labels, and sometimes it's reassuring to know that you can just change a label as fast as you can write one, rather than programming it in. Homemade labels can also turn into mini areas to express your creativity, with color and design choices, if you are into that sort of thing.

On the pro-label maker side, there is definitely the neatness factor. Many people's handwriting is barely legible to themselves, which is where the uniformity of label maker labels would be nice. Also, in an office environment machine-made labels look more professional. If you have to program the label in and wait for it to spit out, then you'll likely think harder about the label you really want, and your filing system will benefit from the extra thought.

So if you have any label maker opinions, recommendations or stories, please share them in the comments. I will keep you posted on any progress I make!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reviewed: Organizing for your Brain Type

I just finished reading Organizing for your Brain Type by Lanna Nakone, M.A. This book takes a somewhat scientific approach to organizing, positing that the world can be divided into roughly four types of people whose unique way of interacting with their environment means that they should approach organizing differently. 

I am all for the idea that there is no one right way to approach organizing, and that what works for one person won’t work for another. I took the quiz at the beginning of the book to see which of the four types I was classified as. At first I was skeptical that I would fall squarely into one of the categories, but after I completed the quiz I discovered I was overwhelmingly a “Maintaining Style” organizer. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, since I’m a professional organizer, and this style is defined as “adhering to traditional organizing methods.” But I also identified with portions of the other three styles: Harmonizing, Prioritizing and Innovating. 

Though Nakone does a good job of explaining where each of the types' strengths and weakness lie, where the book succeeds most is in communicating to the reader how others they may live or work with deal with stuff like clutter and time management differently. It's good to be reminded that we can all benefit from a hefty dose of patience, tolerance and flexibility.

Since one of the greatest challenges to getting organized can be dealing with the stuff—and attitudes—of the people we share our spaces with, it helps to have some of these differences identified and explained. If you are having trouble working with someone in your immediate environment, maybe you should both sit down, take the quiz and find out if you are operating from opposite sides of your cerebral cortexes.


Thanks to Brandie Kajino at The Home Office Organizer for turning me onto this book via her website.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Recommended: Vicky and Jen - What Really Matters Podcast

I found Vicky and Jen's podcast "What Really Matters" the way people tend to come across new media these days...I clicked on a  link in a tweet posted by Monica Ricci, a professional organizer I started to follow after finding her blog on John Trosko's blog roll, who I found via a Google search for Los Angeles professional organizers. 

Monica Ricci is a regular guest on Vicky and Jen's podcast, as part of their series called The Big O. The O, of course, refers to Organization (why, what were you thinking?), and it is fabulous. I subscribe to a lot of podcasts via iTunes, mostly short ones that I can listen to or watch in two or three spare minutes, such as the song of the day podcast from KCRW, or Current TV's Target Women segment. An hour or more at first seemed like a long time to devote to listening to other people talk, until I actually decided to use my iPod Touch for more than a portable photo album. I loaded up the iPod for the car, to take on my (almost) daily walk, and to listen to while doing the dishes. Lately, I've actually been excited to do the dishes because it means I can listen to Vicky and Jen. 

These ladies are funny, smart and they have great taste in guests. Though I have mostly listened to The Big O, which is chock full of fantastic bits of wisdom on everything from clutter free gifts to basement clear outs, they have a couple of years worth of really interesting topics, mostly pertaining to parenting and how to live better so you can appreciate "what really matters." It's a great goal, and they combine useful/interesting information with sensible opinions and a dose of realism and fun. Give them a listen!

For more information: 
Monica Ricci's blog and Twitter account
Vicky and Jen - What Really Matters website, Twitter account and blog