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Thursday, June 24, 2021
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Often a client or a friend will ask me to recommend a workman or a service.

When I was a newbie organizer, I often had to ask people for recommendations. A client needed something done and I did not yet have the knowledge or the experience to recommend someone. As a professional organizer, I sensed that it was important to develop a list of handymen, painters, exterminators, mold remediators, cleaning services and more. Yet it is not the kind of knowledge any organizer can cull instantaneously. Also, these businesses usually work within defined geographic areas. So, if I have a great handyman in mid-Jersey, (which I do), and I work with a client elsewhere, I cannot expect the handyman to travel, even if I do. It takes time to pull together a list of experts. It takes even more time to find those that are professional, service-oriented and excellent at what they do.

Many years ago, when I was just starting out, a client told me she had the best handyman. She even said I may want to use him for other clients and handed me his card. I was very excited to make a connection. Soon after, I arrived at this client’s home and she told me she was expecting her handyman. Some of what I needed to do could only be done after he made certain repairs, so I was a little impatient for his arrival.The man did not show up the entire time I was working! My client called the man only to find out he had forgotten about the appointment. I thought that was strange but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Within a month after that, the same client told me she needed me to do a job at her mother-in-law’s apartment. Her friend would be there to help me. In addition, the handyman would be there. While we were all working, the handyman said “I’m tired. Let’s all rest.” My client’s friend stopped what she was doing. There was nothing wrong with that. While she wasn’t charging for her services, I was. I turned my back and got busy. For the next fifteen minutes or so the handyman told stories. My client arrived during “story hour” and it was as if I could observe her blood pressure raising. When I arrived home, I disposed of the handyman’s business card. It was clear to me that if I am going to recommend someone, they have to be timely, stay on task and be serious about their work, besides being very skilled at their craft or service.

Not long after that, I was still looking for a good handyman. A longtime client told me she found “the best handyman.” I asked her to tell him that I would like to meet him and talk about the possibility of me recommending him to clients and vice versa. I feel strongly that I can’t recommend someone if I don’t see their work. So, I made a list of projects he could do for me. I felt uneasy when he rejected doing some of the projects on my list. As we talked, I found there was no rapport. We weren’t getting each other. Red flag! How could I recommend someone I didn’t feel comfortable with? As he left, he said, “you know you didn’t have to come up with projects for me to do in order to get me here to discuss recommending me to your clients.” Oh yes, I did! I disposed of that business card as well.

How did I actually find the handyman I trust, use myself and recommend to clients, friends and neighbors? It was a more organic situation. I walked into the home of a very close friend. She had just done some renovations in various rooms. She raved about George and I saw his great work. I met him and he was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. I even found out he had done large projects for a couple of other close friends. I was so confident in George’s abilities, I recommended him before I had a chance to use him.

Sometimes I may be under time constraints when I am looking to get a job done.

I am currently working on emptying out a seven-bedroom house filled with, among other treasures, dolls, Colorforms, paper dolls and records similar to what I owned or played with as a child. I got to take a brief, glorious step back to my childhood before putting the item in the “for sale” area or the garbage. (Sadly, these Colorforms didn’t pass the test of time.) I needed to hire a junk hauler for this client. I contacted the two hauling companies I use most in North Jersey and asked for their sister companies in Middlesex County. I was asking the hauler to schedule three different pick-ups: immediately, within a few days and after the contents-of-home sale would be over in about a month. One of the reps that came to the client’s house was pleasant, and gave the impression that he and his company could get the job done... if “immediately” meant in two days. I understood he couldn’t hold up everything on his docket so that my client could cut the line. He did nothing wrong, but he didn’t understand the urgency of the project and did not convey a true interest in the job. I compared that with the other hauler who thought a moment as he looked at his schedule and said “if you don’t mind the truck coming after 5:00 pm, I can send a truck today and then I can send the team back again tomorrow afternoon.” That company got the job! They did great work and we will be using them again after the contents-of-house sale. I appreciate a business that emphasizes customer service, as I try to deliver the best possible customer service to my clients.

In fact, when a possible new client contacts me and is considering booking a session, I offer names of my references, choosing people I have done similar jobs for, so we are comparing apples to apples. For instance, someone interested in a closet cleanse will be connected to a client who received a closet cleanse and not one who had their attic and basement decluttered.

The best proven method to choose a craftsperson or business is to identify a trusted friend, neighbor or relative who can give you a recommendation. If you cannot find one, you must do a bit of legwork.When my husband and I wanted to buy a mini Bernedoodle, we did not know where to begin. We first set eyes on the breed on a hiking trail in Pennsylvania. The dog owner said there are plenty of Bernedoodle breeders in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. That’s all we had to go on. We researched via Google and Facebook, found several possible breeders, then called to see which had or expected to have a litter to put up for sale in the coming weeks. Our search found breeders in other states as well. We then searched comments from past customers on Yelp and puppyspot. Reading these comments were sometimes entertaining. People get really creative—both to express how much they liked a breeder and how much they distrusted others. The internet was a useful tool for us, and in the end, we bought our Shepsi from a breeder in New Jersey. It was also, in the end, the final time this breeder offered mini Bernedoodles. She is now dealing with a different breed of dog. Once they brought Shepsi into the world, they had to break the mold.

Once you have compiled a list of contacts you will feel a sense of empowerment. Right at my fingertips I have services, stores and people whose work is impressive, who are honest, who have a can-do attitude, who listen to the customer’s needs and work with the customer. I am not one of those people who say I have “the best” worker but does not actually understand what it means to BE the best.


Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s kosher organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” Contact Ellen for a complimentary consultation at [email protected]

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