The Unexpected Benefits Of Hiring A Professional Organizer

One writer tackles the chaos in her apartment.

Originally Published: 
Teenage girl tidying up the wardrobe at home. Everything is folded neatly. Everything is in its plac...

Being organized can seem boring and tedious until you find yourself living in a state of chaos. And despite being a Type A to a fault, I recently found myself in such a predicament in my one-bedroom apartment in New York City. In the midst of juggling multiple writing projects, a new dog, and a busy social calendar, I found a long top shelf in my hall closet getting packed with everything from dog leashes to gifts to tote bags, my kitchen cabinets heaped with the pots and placemats, and my closet crammed with beautiful clothing I almost never wore. No matter what I did to try and impose order — bins, folding, stacking — nothing seemed to last. I felt physically and mentally exhausted from the lack of structure and organization, until one day I realized: What if I wasn’t meant to figure out a solution alone? What if I hired a professional organizer instead?

So I called on two such experts: the NEAT Method founder Louisa Roberts and Shelfie Home founder Sara Losonci. I intentionally enlisted two companies to see if they would have similar or differing advice and methods. Spoiler alert: Many of their suggestions overlapped, making me even more confident that these tips were universal principles that could be applied to many different people and spaces. And as it turned out, these two experts would make all the difference.

Read on for the lessons I learned from two all-star professional organizers as they took me and my space from frazzled to serene in three short days.

Systems Matter

The results you achieve with a professional organizer aren’t necessarily something you can always accomplish on your own. “Professional organizers have a fresh set of eyes,” Roberts told me. “Sometimes, it’s difficult for people to see the issues within their systems, or even that they lack systems, because they live in it every day.”

In my case, that lack of a system was felt most strongly in my hall closet. The top shelf had become a catch-all for items I didn’t use every day — umbrellas, sunglasses, candles, gifts — and some I did, like dog leashes and sunglasses. It felt impossible to bring any order or ease to using any of these items, and I hadn’t a clue how to group them for easy access or use.

When the NEAT Method came in to organize, they grouped items by use — dog, gift, rain — and designated a physical home for each. Those items that I would be most likely to use every day, like dog things and sunglasses, were assigned shelves on behind-the-door compartments ordered from the Container Store. Separate bins were then made for things I reached for less often, like gifts and backup candles — and those were labeled in clear boxes and stored based on how often I would need them: Christmas décor is furthest to the back of the long top shelf now, while the candles I reach for often are closer to the middle of the shelf for easy access.

The hall closet after the NEAT Method imposed order

Keep Clutter To Minimum

Losonci also stressed to me the importance of bringing in someone who doesn’t have emotional attachments to things that might be unnecessarily cluttering up your home. “We make it very easy for our clients to look through all their stuff in a way that isn’t overwhelming,” she told me. “And because we don’t have emotional attachments to their items, we provide a different perspective to help people purge that feels unthreatening and even motivating.”

Indeed. When Losonci came over to help me with my closet and drawers, she and her Shelfie Home team started by pulling every single belt, ballet flat, and cardigan out and grouping them by item across the floor. This made it easy for her to spot what a client has too much of — does anyone really need nine black t-shirts? — and then get rid of them. This is an essential first step to organizing — making sure that everything you’re organizing should actually be in your space in the first place.

Seeing The Puzzle Pieces

Another huge benefit of working with a professional organizer — particularly in a small space — is working with someone who can see where opportunities to maximize space are being missed, and how to rearrange things into the optimal configuration. “It’s a giant puzzle,” Losonci told me. “And you have think outside the box. For example, adjusting a shelf or moving dishes to a drawer instead of having them in a cabinet, and then relocating items in the drawer.”

In my case, this looked like re-homing the 14 sweaters I’d had crammed into three shallow drawers into a vertical shelving solution Losonci created in my closet. Taking free-standing shelves from the Container Store, she built a sweater rack in my closet where the sweaters now live. Without being crammed into drawers, they are retaining their shape, and I can see what I have at a glance. The end result? I end up wearing far more of my sweaters, and they look less rumpled.

The closet before Shelfie Home

Other major changes that Losonci and her team made to my closet were installing drawer dividers in my dresser, which made it far easier not just for me to keep things in designated spaces, but also for me to see what I actually own. Everything had been heaped in piles before, but now it was easier for me to spot individual shirts, for example, which has again led to me wearing far more of what I own. My closet is now organized by type of clothing and color, and bags each live with clear dividers holding them upright on my top shelf.

My closet after Shelfie Home

Maximize Small Spaces

Particularly living in a city like New York, space is often at a premium. This was especially true in my kitchen, where my recent attempts to learn to cook had led to a proliferation of equipment, ranging from a sublime Hestan chef’s pan to lemon zesters and oven mitts. Attempting to corral all of my new kitchenware into four small cupboards had resulted in everything being largely jumbled together, with the ironic end result of my not using much of the equipment at all.

The NEAT Method knew just how to impose order to the madness, maximizing every square inch of space in each drawer and cupboard to make my kitchen more functional and beautiful. Embarrassingly, they pointed out a drawer in the bottom of my oven that I hadn’t previously known existed, and stocked it with my baking dishes and pans. Turntables of various sizes corralled spices, oils, and even liquor bottles into their own zones, while also making them easily accessible for me to cook and bartend with. Clear boxes in the pantry divided like items with like, and drawer dividers, door hooks, and free-standing shelves created space and order where there had not been any before.

My pantry after the NEAT Method organized it with a few select products

Keep It Simple

I had anticipated needing to buy a huge host of organizational supplies to get my entire house in order. But as it turned out, this wasn’t the case. Both Losonci and Roberts did raid the Container Store on my behalf to achieve their chic and serene results, and the NEAT Method too had wonderful storage solutions like the cubes and turntables. But I gave them a limited budget to work with, and they were able to achieve transformative results with it.

The only other organizational solutions I incorporated into the space were two I had long needed to buy. The first was a tech charging station to replace the Apple brick charger I’d been plugging in various inconveniently-placed outlets around my apartment. Courant's Catch:2 charging station now gives me the ability to charge on a Belgian linen and Italian leather dock that looks like a design item itself. And the dirty clothes that had formally been crammed into a shallow basket now live in a stylish Senegalese Laundry Hamper with a lid which is another product that has made my life easier while making my apartment all the better-looking as well.

Maintenance Matters

The result of working with The NEAT Method and Shelfie Home is a home that is better organized than I ever could have made it on my own, and a true pleasure to live in. Because I can more clearly see what I have and access it without any drama, I end up using more of my things as well, from kitchenware to candles, which has had the effect of making my home feel more vibrant and alive.

Even with these systems in place, Roberts stressed the importance of maintaining a newly organized home. “Being organized isn’t one and done,” she told me. “Even great systems can unravel after a busy work week or the holidays. It’s important to remember that occasional touch-ups are always necessary to maintain the system.” She recommended scheduling 15 to 20 minutes every Sunday to making sure everything is in its place in advance of the week to come. And given the sense of calm and joy my professionally organized apartment now gives? That’s time I’m more than happy to spend maintaining it.

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