For those of you who have never worked with a professional organizer, I thought I would lay out the process I use in case it would be helpful to you in your own projects.
1. Assess. When I come into your home I will be getting my first glimpse of the project area and other areas of your home. When I set an appointment with you, I will ask you to leave your house as it would normally look and not do any "special" cleaning just because I am coming over. This is because I can get a good feel for your organizational style and whether or not the project area seems to be an exception to your normal organizing routine or if there is a pattern in your home. It is important for you to understand that I am NOT making judgments about you. Trust me, no matter how disorganized or cluttered you think your house is, I've seen worse. You can't shock me. I will also ask you if I can take some "before" photos of the area.
When we get to the project area I will begin asking questions that might seem completely unrelated to the project at hand. I am trying to determine your organizational style so I'll know what will work for you and what will not work for you. I am also trying to determine your eventual goal for the area. Believe it or not, sometimes what a person says they want is not what they actually want at all. There are sometimes so many emotional and psychological attachments to the objects in the room that they cannot begin to verbalize that they truly want. While these might not be apparent to either me or my client at the beginning of the process, most eventually reveal themselves and the goal of the space can change. That is okay.
2. Sort. This is the longest step in the process. We first mark out three areas for items to go into: trash (items that will be thrown away that day), keep (items that will need a home in the space or the house), and give away (items that are in good enough shape to be donated -- resources for that in a future post). Perhaps you don't want the hassle of giving items away. No problem. We simply eliminate that area.
Depending on the size of the space, we might sort the entire space or do it in a methodical area-by-area sweep. I will ask you to make decisions fairly quickly and to go with your gut instinct. I will not bully you, but I will encourage you to think about why you are keeping an item by asking you questions about the item. Does this item have sentimental value? If this item were lost or stolen, how would you feel about it being gone? Could this item go to help someone else and be more useful than it is to me?
All items that are going to be thrown away we put immediately into trash bags. When the trash bag is full we remove it from the house or business. By doing this we eliminate the ability to change your mind. Often your first decision is what you want before second thoughts come in to play. I'm not saying we would never dig back through the trash bags if you truly had second thoughts.
All items to be given away are also put in trash bags and removed to another area when they are full. When we are finished collecting these items, we will deal with getting them to their new owner ASAP as there is no point in simply moving the items around your house if you do not want or need them anymore.
All items that are going to be kept go into their designated area out in the open, and we will try to group like items together. In this way, you can see if you have multiples of an item and make a decision accordingly.
3. Make a home. Once we have decided what will be kept and what will be thrown or given away, we should have one group of items that will stay in this area or in your home. These items will need a place they will go and always return to when they are not being used. This is why I like to call this area their home. During this step I will ask more questions to make sure that the homes we are picking for your items is logical to YOU. It doesn't matter if it is logical to me because if it doesn't make sense to you, you will not put the item back in its home. This step can sometimes take a while and sometimes go rather quickly depending on the project.
4. Label/Group. During this step we will round up any loose ends. We will make binders or files for papers you need to keep. We will put small items in containers. We will make labels if you want them.
5. Wrap up. This is the shortest step of the process, but it is the most rewarding to me. During this time, you and I will step back and look at the finished project. I will ask you if you are satisfied with the result and we will discuss what you liked and what you didn't like so I can continue polishing the process for the next client. At this time I will ask you if I can take some "after" photos of the area. If you agree, I will also ask you if you would mind signing a photo release so I can use the photos during the course of my business. The release states that I will not use the photos in any way that someone might be able to identify you. I will ask if you are satisfied with my work. If the answer is yes, I will ask you to please write me a short letter of recommendation so new clients can see that you were pleased with my work. We will settle the bill and part ways.