May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Common Questions and Comments I Hear as an Organizer

1. “Do you do the same thing as that celebrity organizer, Marie Kondo?”

While Marie Kondo and I both have similar goals for our clients, we go about it with different methods. I truly appreciate the public’s fascination with Marie Kondo and how she introduced professional organizers to the American household. She is perky, adorable and classically stylish, and she makes the idea of organizing our homes inviting and attainable. Also, I totally agree with her that we should have gratitude for all that we have. When eliminating items from a home, Ms. Kondo has her clients thank each object before parting with it. Feeling gratitude is actually a very Jewish concept, a most favorable character trait or “midah.” There is a quote in the Gemora, Talmud Babakama, 92B: “Do not cast a stone into a well from which you would draw (water).” From this we learn we should have an appreciation for inanimate objects. We should cultivate this sense of appreciation to extend beyond people and items in our physical world and ultimately express our gratitude to God. In Judaism we can raise the physical to the spiritual if we attribute its greatness to God. So, for example, stop and feel appreciation towards an old, cracked serving platter used each Shabbat before throwing it into the trash.

2. “Is this room really bad? Have you seen rooms that are worse?”

Never be ashamed when a PO is coming for the first consultation. Instead, be proud of yourself for taking action and making positive changes in your life. Please do not clean up before the organizer arrives. Ironically, I do clean before the cleaning lady comes—but that is because a cleaning service’s way of straightening up is creating piles. I loathe piles. A professional organizer’s way of straightening up is to create systems designed to find the item’s ultimate destination.

If you do hire me or one of my respected counterparts, we really need to see where you actually put your “stuff” and what is and is not working for you. Therefore, do not clean up before we come.

3. “Ellen, is your home always really neat? I bet your home is so neat. “

Parts of my home are really neat and parts are not always neat. I try to live by what I teach my clients. That is, spend a few minutes each day (or evening) to maintain the busiest areas of our homes, like the entryway, the bathrooms, the clothes closets and the kitchen. After dinner your kitchen probably needs several minutes of attention to look clean and under control. I tell my clients it is worthwhile to spend time clearing the kitchen each evening in order to come down to a clear sink and cleanish counter tops in the morning. Having said that, do not stay up ’til all hours of the morning to clean your kitchen! If you do stay up and you can’t keep your eyes open the next day, do not tell your spouse and your co-workers that the very demanding PO Ellen Smith instructed you to stay up until your kitchen was organized. Do your best to carve out time in the evening but self-care is oh so important.

4. “Can people change from disorganized to organized?”

Yes. A person can change if that person is working on himself or herself. If you truly want to become more organized, then take little steps to bring organization to your surroundings and harmony to your life. You cannot change other people, but you can change yourself. For instance, when I was first married, I thought it was okay to leave the dishes in the sink after a big party or family get-together. I believed they could wait until morning. My husband grew up in a home where the kitchen was totally cleaned up and dishes done before going to bed. I tried both ways and I truly preferred my husband’s family’s version of party clean-up. So, I made the change. It is worth it to me for the quality of life I feel it brings. Everyone has to make their own decisions based on what works for them.

5. “Here’s my closet. Do you see what I mean that I have nothing to wear?”

I look in my client’s closet and I see a mixture of beautiful clothing as well as tired, damaged garments that the client doesn’t like anymore (maybe never liked) or doesn’t work for her anymore. When I help her eliminate her “closet mistakes,” we have a view of the clothing she loves and enjoys wearing. After this we are able to create many lovely outfits.

6. “I wish I could afford you.”

Many people get stuck and no matter how hard they try, they cannot go through hours of organizing their closets, kitchens, basements (you fill in the blank) on their own. Sometimes they can engage the services of a friend or relative but that usually is a one-off situation. After that, the person is on their own again. A professional organizer will work with a client for as long as the client needs them. We serve as an anchor to keep the person focused and on track. Think of us as your accountability buddy. Some of us even have a talent for keeping their clients entertained.

An organizer cannot promise, but while working with a client, missing money or checks that the client had forgotten about or given up on may turn up. For instance, I have found uncashed checks buried in piles. A few years ago, I was organizing a yard sale for a client. Before I relegated any of her many tote bags for the sale, I checked each one. Truly not a fun task but I make it a habit because by now I expect to find a pile of change. I found almost $300! Even though she previously saw me checking through the bags and she had said, “Don’t worry about going through each bag. Just put them in the pile for the yard sale,” I still inspected each pocket and zippered compartment. Any seasoned professional organizer would do the same.

Sometimes what seems above someone’s budget is actually affordable when you consider the benefits like using your space to its best potential; full-time attention; finding new homes for your unwanted items other than a landfill; learning time-saving, stress-reducing systems; and even, sometimes, finding mislaid funds.

7. Now that we have purged, before we toss and donate, “Do you think I have enough ‘stuff’ to make a successful yard sale?”

To be continued…

If my organizing or styling services can be of help to you, a family member or a friend, please contact me, Ellen Smith, at [email protected]. I take a gentle approach; I am nurturing and nonjudgmental. Be sure to check out my website:

By Ellen Smith


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