Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill
The more time I dwell at home dodging a global pandemic and responding to emails from my kitchen table, the more I face a brutal realization: I’m not organized. The dysfunctional junk drawer in my entryway — with its myriad of prized items including hand sanitizer, a signed copy of Taylor Swift’s Red album, and the spare key to my car — says it all. But, despite being crafty, I can’t seem to create a stylish and functional oasis on my own.
When influencer couple Aspyn Ovard and Parker Ferris posted a vlog of their kitchen getting professionally organized on YouTube, it was clear I don’t have to create that oasis on my own. My townhouse can feel as magical as the abodes on Pinterest, and my lifestyle can follow suit. I just need the expertise of a magical fairy with an influencer-like eye for products from The Container Store. With their passion for thoughtfully approaching the clutter in our homes, my closet will be streamlined and my self-loving thoughts will flow better, too.
That’s because, as clinical psychologist Chloe Carmichael, PhD. notes, “Our space, in many ways, is an extension of our body language. When we look at our space, it can almost inform us about who we are and affect our self-esteem and sense of identity.” In other words, the unfolded pile of clothes you religiously create next to your bed, talks. It quietly says to your subconscious, “You’re a messy person,” which may leave you feeling embarrassed, sad, or feeling incapable of organization in any form.
The truth of the matter is, your internal monologue lies. You just have messy habits, and habits can be changed. Hiring a professional organizer is an effective way to love yourself, and create that change if you’ve been putting it off.
Here’s what you need to know if you’ve considered reaping the benefits of this service, inside and out.
How much does it cost to get your home professionally organized?
The word “professional” typically comes with a price tag, and this service isn’t too different. Most organizers charge an hourly rate based on the amount of time it takes to organize a space. The average is around $100 per hour, with a more high-end, high-touch service costing around $300 per hour, according to Shira Gill, organizing expert and author of Minimalista, coming out in 2021.
It’s key to think about the spaces you want organized before you opt in. To save moola, you may only want well-loved sections of your house organized, like your kitchen, closet, or entry where backpacks and winter coats run amuck. Doing so is pretty standard, and will focus your energy (and budget) properly.
Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill
How does the process start?
Although every organizer’s style is different, most start with a consultation. “I think one of the biggest organizing mistakes I see is people trying to take their whole house by storm, and not really having a plan or a priority,” says Gill. The consultation, which is typically done at your home, lets you figure out “what’s going to pack the biggest punch” and define your vision.
During this time, the organizer will tour your space, look for storage, ask about your lifestyle, and take some pictures and measurements. You don’t have to prepare anything beforehand, or make things neat. Hatcher says they’ve seen it all, and prefer to see your space at its worst. (Think about how epic the “before” and “after” shots could be!) However, knowing where you want the project to go, even if you just show your organizer a Pinterest board, is beneficial. “The more you know and can articulate what success looks like to you, the better chances you have of getting the results you want,” says Gill.
After defining your “after,” it’s then time to take everything (yes, everything) out of the space you’re organizing, so you can start making clear decisions toward your goal. “It always gets worse before it gets better, but this is one of the most important steps in the process,” says Ashley Jones Hatcher, the Northeast Regional Director for NEAT Method, a luxury home organizing company, and owner of NEAT Method in Washington, D.C.. For one, editing and sorting instills boundaries, which are essential in 2020 when nearly 46% of the U.S. labor force is working from home, according to recent research from Stanford University, and the line between your professional and personal life is frequently blurred. Deciding what a space is for — the purpose it serves — is, in Dr. Carmichael’s words, “doing yourself a favor,” and will leave you feeling supported by your home.
Let’s talk about organizing and styling your closet.
This is particularly crucial when it comes to your closet, and your organizer will hold you accountable to your decisions and keep you close to your “why.” When you see a blouse you’ve literally never worn, or come across your tenth white T-shirt, they’ll recall your vision and inspire action. “People can really rationalize keeping anything,” says Gill. “So you have to bring them back to the vision of what they’re trying to create instead of, ‘Could this coat be useful?’”
Of course it can be, it’s a coat. But, Gill believes the “closet is the place where there’s a lot of aspirational items that don’t get touched.” She sets up bins for categories like: trash, recycling, compost, donate, sell or consign, give to a friend or your mom, returns, and repairs, so her clients can even discard in an organized fashion.
As they clean together, Gill encourages her clients to get real about their current life, climate, career, and identity. More often than not, the “what if” thinking is a scarcity mindset at work. This is where you assume there’s not enough — that you’ll be left out to dry, and so you must hoard what you have. The opposite is an abundance mindset, where you firmly believe there’s enough resources, like food, water, or trendy clothes, to go around.
By tossing away T-shirts one through five, you’re ridding yourself of clutter and supporting the idea that you’ll be able to get what you need, when you need it. The abundance mindset leaves many of Gill’s clients with between 30 to 50 percent less than what was in their closet originally. They say their wardrobe feels new, despite not buying a single thing. How sustainable, right?
RELATED: 8 Easy Yet Brilliant Ways to Organize Your Closet
There’s also room now to style your a closet. Gill takes a cue from boutiques by using matching, streamlined hangers and adopting a minimal wardrobe. “I’m a big fan of the capsule wardrobe and the constraint of having less, even though I’m a person that loves style and fashion and clothes,” she says. “I really find the less I own, the better I dress, and the more creative I am.”
Of course, you can create a simple system with what you own as well. Hatcher advises to group similar items together and then create subcategories within those groups. For clothes, these subcategories can be based on occasion, sleeve length, and color. Hatcher places whites and pinks before red, and neutrals at the end. For shoes, you should apply the same method, and then pack away or push back anything seasonal.
Don’t skip on good products, placement, and labeling.
Ultimately, you want to get dressed in the morning with ease, so putting your most-worn items front and center, aka in “prime real estate,” is key. This trick works well with your skincare and makeup products, if you’re headed to your bathroom next, and will give your brain a break from decision-making. Dr. Carmichael calls this “conserving your cognitive resources,” because you’re not tying up your working memory with urgent thoughts like, “Where is this?”
Good products and labeling will also help you reap the rewards. Products like drawer dividers, woven baskets, ceramic dishes, storage bins, hooks, and airtight glass jars are Gill and Hatcher’s favorites. Implementing the organization principles is “where everything comes to life and your beautiful space emerges,” says Hatcher.
How do you find the right organizer for you?
Now, most of us can’t drop the big bucks on an organizer who will hold our hand as we contemplate sunglasses and face masks from ages (er, months) ago. But luckily, there’s an organizer, or an organizer’s program, for everyone. In order to help a larger audience, Gill sells The Get Organized Master Class on her website for $197, which includes her entire process and everything she’s ever learned in the field. If you enroll, you’ll learn how to take actionable steps, prioritize your projects, edit your closets, style your shelves, shop for products, and maintain your freshly organized space on your own.
Hatcher also has a mini inventory booklet you can purchase for $15 that’ll keep you accountable when cleaning, and NEAT Method has a virtual service you can participate in that doesn’t require inviting strangers into your home. When in doubt or debt, free resources like blog articles, NEAT Method’s online journal, and e-books exist to make your organizational dreams a reality, too.
Once your space is organized, it’s up to you to maintain and celebrate it.
The challenging part is over when your space is organized, right? Kind of. You’ll want to do daily pick-ups and seasonal edits, per Gill’s suggestion, in order to maintain your hard work. “I think there is a myth that you can organize once and that’s it,” she says. “The unfortunate truth is that life isn’t static, so as long as there’s things going in and coming out of your home, you will need to do maintenance.”
If you have kids, she suggests scheduling edits before holidays and birthday parties. To avoid a major house-cleaning project, do laundry once a week; sort your mail twice a week; “reset your space” before going to bed; and edit your wardrobe with every season. The systems you created should never have to be tweaked, according to Gill, but the volume of items in your home likely will.
In between maintaining your home, celebrate it. It’s where you live, work, love, eat, and listen, and you dished out a lot of resources to make it the oasis it is. Dr. Carmichael notes high-functioning people or perfectionists, in particular, may quickly see their organized space and say, “Well, I should’ve had it like this all along.” Don’t demotivate yourself like that.
Give yourself the victory of tackling your junk drawer and eliminating the almost-inevitable pile of clothes. Heck, share your space on Pinterest, or throw a virtual housewarming party. I bet picking out an outfit will be a breeze.