Frequently Asked Questions

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I Just Don't Know Where to Start!

I'm Chronically Disorganized. HELP!

I'm So Embarrassed About the Clutter. How Can I Bring Someone in to Help?

I Guess I Should Clean My Place Up Before You Visit, Right?

I'll Bet Your Own House is Perfect, Right?

What's The Secret to Being Successful in My Organizing Projects?

How Do You Charge?

Can You Provide an Estimate of the Total Charges for My Organizing Project?

How Long Does It Take to Organize?

What's a Typical Session Like?

Do I Have to Sign a Contract?

Will You Act Ethically in Our Dealings?

Should I Purchase Containers Before You Come to My Home?

You Worked with My Neighbor. She Told Me About the Boneyard. What's "the Boneyard"?

What Areas Do You Serve?

I'm a Family Caregiver. How Can Organizer to the Rescue Help Me?

What Will We Do with All the Stuff I Want to Get Rid Of?

Can You Dispose of My Household Hazardous Waste Too?

Is This a Service Only for the Wealthy?

How Realistic Are Those Organizing TV Shows?

Help! I Need You to Come to Organize My (Mom, Dad, Husband, Wife, etc.)

Do You Work with Hoarders?

Do You Have Any "Before and After" Photos of Jobs You've Done?

Why Is This Website So Wordy?

I Just Don't Know Where to Start! Often, at the initial consultation, my new clients say this. They have a good idea of what needs to be done, but they just don't know where to start or how to move the process along. Sometimes the scope of the work is totally overwhelming. Working with a Professional Organizer can help in several ways. First, the Professional Organizer can help determine the best starting point based on your unique needs. The PO will help keep things moving along at a pace that feels right for you and your household. The PO can introduce you to products and services that will fit your needs perfectly. And finally, the PO can help coach you on techniques and strategies that will help prevent recurrence of the problems.

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I'm Chronically Disorganized! HELP!!! There really IS such a thing as "chronically disorganized." The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, ICD (formerly known as the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, NSGCD) helps educate the public and professionals on chronic disorganization. Check out their web site at www.ChallengingDisorganization.org . Click on the "Clutter and Hoarding Scale " sticky. This document will help you learn more about your own degree of disorganization and put it in perspective with different levels of chronic disorganization. Connie, of Organizer to the Rescue, is a past member of the NSGCD. She holds 9 Level I Certificates of Study in Chronic Disorganization from the NSGCD. She also has earned both Level II Certificates: CD Specialist Certificate and ADD Specialist Certificate.

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I'm So Embarrassed About the Clutter. How Can I Bring Someone in to Help? As a Professional Organizer, I've seen all kinds of clutter and disorder. I'm sure yours will be well within a typical range. My goal is to discover workable solutions for you and your environment. It's counterproductive to judge you or otherwise make you feel ashamed about the situation. The work we do together will be in partnership mode, with no place for criticism or judging from me. You are to be commended for taking the first step in getting organized!

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I Guess I Should Clean My Place Up Before You Visit, Right? No. Please don't! When I get to see your place as it has evolved, there is real information as to potential causes of the problems . If you clean up before our visit, I won't get the full benefit of viewing all the clues that can help in the assessment phase. For our visit(s) don't be embarrassed about leaving things just as they are on an everyday basis. Trust me.

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I'll Bet Your Own House Is Perfect, Right? No Way! Perfection is not a realistic goal and it takes WAY too much energy to try to achieve it and then maintain it. I'm just organized enough so that there's a good payback: I can find what I want in a reasonable amount of time, I'm pretty relaxed at home, and my bills are organized so that they get paid on time. I believe in the 80/20 rule: If something is working 80% of the time, that's pretty good in my book! Many people who are having difficulty getting organized have a perfectionist model in their head. If that's you and I can help you release on this vision, then we can then make significant and realistic progress. If you're looking for a perfect environment at the end of our organizing work, please try another organizer! As I work with my clients I have them practice my mantra: "Good enough"

That being said, I'm always looking for a better way of doing certain things. I do struggle with my home office, but each month it's getting better and more streamlined. Just because I CAN organize a lot of stuff doesn't necessarily mean it should all be KEPT. For example, I in my own home office I recently downsized from a beautifully organized, but overstuffed 4-drawer lateral file to a much smaller 2-drawer file. I shredded a bunch of papers I no longer needed and archived several boxes of papers I wanted to keep, but not in my office. I think that we do get used to what is around us every day and that we are often are blind to the stuff that clutters our lives. This is one of the primary reasons people need help getting organized.

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What's the Secret to Being Successful in My Organizing Projects? The single most important key to success is commitment. My clients who've experience the most positive changes were simply willing to commit the time and effort to the job. And..

They know that change doesn't happen overnight

They enlist the entire household in supporting the effort

They make regular appointments and honor the importance of each session

They limit distractions during the session

They are able to handle what I call the "loose ends" meaning: charity drop offs, trash pickups/hauling, returning items to non-resident family and friends, errand completion (arranging for repair/cleaning/restoration), etc.

They celebrate their progress, no matter if great or small

They are tuned in to their feelings about the organizing (positive and negative!)

They openly address procrastination and backsliding and are strong in combating these

They are not only realistic about the situation as it is today but they also have a realistic and achivable vision for how things should look and function in the future. AND they know that it's not enough to have the vision---they know that they will need to make changes or else be back in a similar disorganized situation down the road.
They have fun!

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How Do You Charge? I charge by the hour (in 15 minute increments), with a 3 hour minimum per session. We can work longer than 3 hours per session if you're up to it. There is no charge for mileage. There is no charge for travel time. Rate Changes: The specified billing rate will be honored for 90 days after signing the Services Agreement, even if my rates have gone up. Payment: Check or cash. Payment is due at the end of each session, including any materials I've purchased on your behalf. Free Phone Consultation: An initial phone consultation to assess your organizing needs is free. This usually takes about 20-30 minutes. Shopping: If you want me to shop for your organizing solutions, shopping is billed at the same rate as organizing. Occasionally, on my own, I pick up items that I think might help my clients with their organizing. There is no charge for this kind of shopping time since you didn't make the request. And you're under no obligation to buy these items. Research: Often my clients ask me to do research of one kind or other. This is billed at the same rate as organizing.

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Can You Provide an Estimate of the Total Charges for My Organizing Project? No, but I truly wish I could. A good percentage of the total organizing job is all about decisions: what to keep, what to toss, what to donate, etc. And the client is the one making those decisions, with me taking you through the pros and cons of each action when the decision is difficult. At the beginning of your project, when you would love to have an estimate, it is impossible for me to know how long your decision-making process will take. For many of my clients, some categories of items are easier to decide on than others, but not always. For example, it might be easy for many clients to decide on the kitchen items they want to keep, while very difficult to decide on sentimental items. On the other hand, it's not always apparent to me which items or categories you'll have trouble deciding about. For example, I once had a client take a very long time thinking about a small, banged up kitchen item. Although it looked like a common little pot to me and I felt like it could easily be discarded, she told me that it was what her late mother used when she made the children hot cocoa each morning. To her, it was not a pot at all: it represented the love, care and attention her mother showered on the family each and every day. My client eventually decided to keep the pot, even though she would never use it herself. These kinds of scenarios are typical of the organizing process and, since I bill by the hour, exemplify why I can't give estimates. I WILL promise that I will work as efficiently and as quickly as is appropriate for your comfort level--not too fast and not too slow. Many of my clients minimize the overall costs of their projects by accepting and completing optional homework between sessions. Also, refer back to the question What's the Secret to Being Successful in My Organizing Projects? listed above and How Long Does It Take to Organize? listed below for other suggestions that will help reduce the costs of your project and keep it moving along.

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How Long Does It Take to Organize? I wish I had a crystal ball to figure this out. How long did it take to get disorganized? Here are some of the factors that will affect the length of time required to get organized:

Your ability to focus and your ability to make decisions about what to keep and what to toss or donate

Your ability to describe to me how your household or office functions

Your ability to describe what you've tried in the past and why it didn't work

Our joint energy level

The quantity and quality of any interruptions we might have

The quantity of extremely physical work

The volume of paper involved in the organizing task

Sessions: I've found that it's best to work in sessions that run 3-4 hours in length. The quality of our work will be better and we'll be able to keep a positive attitude about the job if each session is neither too long or too short. 99.9% of my clients need multiple sessions to complete the whole organizing job. Internet Special: To encourage my clients to keep going with their project, I offer an incentive via an Internet Special. Click here to check out the details on the Internet Special . Homework: Often, when I work with clients who have lots of organizing to do, I give them "homework" to do between sessions. I believe this is a great way to become accountable in the organizing process and, at the same time, reduce the overall cost of the organizing effort. If you choose NOT to do homework, that's OK too. Client Expectations: It's important for the client to have a realistic picture about the organizing work. For example, clearing out a crammed and cluttered linen closet might take a very short time and the results will be rather dramatic. However, going through every paper in your filing system and deciding what to do with each paper might take a very long time and probably won't have the same visual impact.

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What's a Typical Organizing Hands-on Work Session Like? 98% of my clients want me to work alongside them in a hands-on work session. We have already discussed what your organizing goals are when we spoke on the phone but now that I'm onsite, I'll need to look around and ask lots of questions.Your answers will help me see how the disorganization happened. They will also help me get to know how you and your household work, help me see how you think, and help me develop the solutions that will work for YOU. Many clients are most anxious to jump right into the organizing, but this approach is usually a mistake. Unless the organizer knows how the disorganization happened and how you work and think, the organizer might apply solutions that don't meet your needs. I will challenge you to think about your stuff--why you're keeping it or why you might be having a tough time letting it go. I'll never force you to get rid of something, but I will press you to think about each item you're keeping. Organizing can invoke lots of emotions. Most people have way too much stuff and clutter is almost always a problem, but that doesn't mean that it's easy for us to get rid of our things. I'll help you work through these issues. What about a Typical Organizational Assessment Session? If you want, you can elect to have an organizational assessment instead of a organizing hands on work session. For the organizational assessment session, I'll come to your home and we'll move through each area of the household, including the garage and any storage areas. Along the way, I'll ask tons of questions about your household and your organizing issues: what the flow is of items in and out of the house; what's working or not, and what your goals are in getting organized. This usually takes about 2-3 hours. When we're done, I'll write up an Action Plan for you to follow and give you written feedback on my observations and recommendations. I'll also give you an opportunity to ask questions about my recommendations. Then it's up to you to either follow the Action Plan on your own or hire a professional organizer (like me!) to work with you to get the job done. I am certified to do organizational assessment through the "Eyes of a Stranger" program. developed by Kathy Waddill, well known professional organizer and trainer, past President of San Francisco's Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, and author of the book "The Organizing Sourcebook: Nine Strategies for Simplifying Your Life."

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Do I Have to Sign a Contract? There is a Services Agreement that we both sign. It includes my hourly rate, the payment terms, and my cancellation policy. As noted above, my billing rate will be honored for all work done within 90 days of signing the Agreement. If my rates rise, you will be given the lower rate until the 90 day period expires. The Services Agreement also describes my commitment to you in regards to protecting your privacy and keeping confidential anything I learn about you and your family during our session(s).

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Will You Act Ethically in Our Dealings? As a Professional in my field, I adhere to 2 Codes of Ethics:

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Should I Purchase Containers Before You Come to My Home? In almost all cases, the answer is "no." How do we know what containers we'll need until we've gone through all your stuff to see what to keep? There are a few exceptions. If we're working on your filing system, there are some standard supplies that you should have on hand. We will discuss these during the phone consultation. And, if we're sorting a lot of stuff, it's a good idea to have boxes or plastic trash bags to keep everything separate. I usually keep a limited number of these in my car, but it may not be enough if we have a lot to go through. Otherwise, in almost all cases, you'll be better off purchasing containers near the end of the organizing. Or, if your time is limited, I can purchase these for you on a client-requested (i.e. billable) shopping trip.

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You Worked with My Neighbor. She Mentioned the Boneyard. What's "the Boneyard"? It's a term I use as I'm working with a client to indicate all those items the client already owns that we might use near the project completion, such as bins, boxes, shelving, and other organizing gadgets. Wikipedia gives one definition of boneyard as "a term used by event planning staff to refer to an area where spare and left-over items are kept." You'd be surprised how many organizational gadgets a client might collect before calling in a Professional Organizer. The client often hopes that, by buying lots of organizational tools, their problems will be magically fixed. In most cases, these gadgets are probably not working well for the client. When my clients work alongside me, the most common objective of the organizing process is to go through the stuff to reduce the volume. As we do this, we put aside (into "the boneyard") any of those organizational products that are not working correctly for the client. Near the end of our process, we go through the boneyard to see which gadgets can be successfully used going forward. Not all items in the boneyard can be used, but usually many can. Using objects out of the boneyard helps reduce the overall cost of the organizing project and often helps to curb future client impulses to buy unnecessary organizing gadgets.

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What Areas Do You Serve? My office is in Dublin, so my primary area includes Alameda and Contra Costa counties. I do ask that if I travel more than 30 minutes to your home that we arrange a four hour session minimum.

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I'm a Family Caregiver. How Can Organizer to the Rescue Help Me? Click here to read an article related to caregivers that was published in "Bay Area Connections," the newsletter for San Francisco's Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. It was also published in "The Chronical," the newsletter for the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD).

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What Will We Do With All the Stuff I Want to Get Rid Of? Almost all professional organizers will strongly suggest that you get rid of the stuff you don't want as soon as possible. Why? You or members of your household might drag stuff out of the discard pile and circumvent the organizing that's already happened! Check out the Links page for more ideas and local resources for recycling your unwanted items.

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Can You Dispose of My Household Hazardous Waste Too? Sorry. The law is very clear on this. I am not authorized to transport and dispose of any HHW (paint, gardening batteries, or household chemicals, etc.) other than my own from my own household. It is up to each household to transport its own HHW or pay a licensed HHW transporter to do it. Go to the Links page for links to Household Hazardous Waste websites for Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

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Is This a Service Only for the Wealthy? Definitely not! Most of my clients are people of average means. A professional organizer will almost always save you money and time and allow you to be more productive. How? Here are some examples

  • While going through boxes of magazines my client had, we found some mail that had never been opened. Inside one envelope was a check for $1200. It was still good and she cashed it the next day!

  • Working alongside another client, we found an expensive pair of shoes she thought was lost. She was just about ready to spend lots of money on a replacement pair.

  • While working with another client, we located some misplaced bills that were due within a day or two. She was able to pay them in time to avoid late payment penalties and protect her good credit.

  • Another client was ready to give away some equipment she no longer needed. Since it was in excellent condition and I believed it would be easy to sell, I encouraged her to try to sell it and suggested ways she could determine an appropriate price. A neighbor of hers was very happy to buy it at a price that (coincidently) covered one hour of my time.
  • Another client had an upcoming medical appointment with a new doctor. While helping her declutter, we located her missing medical log which contained vital medical recordings and notations for the past year. Having her log available for her appointment the next day made the time with her new doctor much more productive.
  • Most of my clients are more than happy to donate their unused items to a favorite charity. Sometimes they get so excited about regaining some space that they just want to create a big pile of stuff then drive it to the charity. Instead, I always encourage them to list each item prior to the donation to maximize the IRS deduction that is allowed. It only takes a few moments to record this information but it will really be helpful at tax time. We can reference the "It's Deductible" workbook or the Salvation Army website to help estimate the value.
  • And remember, you don't have to donate your nicer items. I can recommend consignment shops that will sell your unwanted items for you. Your unwanted items can bring in cash, with little or no work on your part!

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How Realistic Are Those TV Organizing Shows? Sorry. There's no hunky carpenter or moving crew that arrives with me. There's no interior designer or pretty hostess. Here's what will happen. The real sorting work (that seems so effortless and fast on the TV shows) will be less glamorous and take longer. On the other hand, it'll all be about YOU instead of strangers! And there is no one-size-fits-all approach or solution. Part of my job is to understand what's right and comfortable for you. We'll work together to get the job done. We'll work as partners at a pace that suits you. I won't bully you into decisions, berate you for the state of things, nor blame you, your spouse or your kids for the clutter. I'll be fair and non-judgmental to all. The majority of my clients say they feel like a weight is being lifted as the work begins and the feelings of peace and accomplishment grow throughout the process. Many also say they wish they would have undertaken the organizing much sooner.

As we work, I can make suggestions for storage solutions. If you are open to it, I will also provide ideas about furniture placement or make suggestions about new furniture purchases. I can recommend stores, websites, or catalogs for many items. I also can recommend several trade professionals if you want to make home improvements in conjunction with the organizing work. As with any home improvement construction project, you should obtain multiple bids then check for licensing and insurance coverage before signing any contracts for work. Here's a link to the State of California Contractors License Board:

  • Painting contractor
  • Crown molding installer
  • Flooring contractor (hardwood, carpet, vinyl)
  • Cement/tile/brick contractor
  • Plumber
  • Electrician
  • Feng Shui expert
  • "One day redesign" specialist
  • Staging specialist for homes going on the market
  • Handyman

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Help! I Need You to Come to Organize My (Mom, Dad, Husband, Wife, etc.) I often receive pleas from family members. They describe their loved one's extreme state of disorganization and express wonder that anyone "could live like that." They describe how they have attempted to solve the problem in the past, to no avail. They describe a family member who "doesn't see a problem" and who is reluctant for assistance of any kind. While I sympathize with the caller's intentions, there is no way for me to help under these circumstances. The model for my business is this: the people who own the problem recognize it as a problem and realize that something needs to be done. They know it is up to them to make the change in their environment and that it will take hard work. So to the desperate family members calling me to help someone else, my response is this : "When the person who owns the items is ready for help from me, I will be more than happy to speak with them to see how I can assist the process."

On the other hand, I sometimes receive calls from family members who are basically just doing legwork (making calls or sending out E-Mails to local organizers) on behalf of someone who really wants to receive the help. Under these circumstances I am very happy to describe my services to the family member. I later will schedule the phone consultation with the real client to ensure that I totally understand his/her goals and to directly answer any questions the client may have.

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Do Your Work with Hoarders? I don't. This was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make about my business. I love helping people, but discovered after working with two hoarding clients that the work was not for me. As a result, I felt that, in the long run, it was a disservice to clients for me to take on this kind of work. If you are a hoarder and you are ready and willing to make a change by working with a trained specialist, go to the website for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (http://www.challengingdisorganization.org/ ). Here you'll find lots of good general information as well as a directory listing local professional organizers in your area. Or go directly to the directory at Find an ICD Organizer or Related Professional to do a search.

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Do You Have Any "Before and After" Photos of Jobs You've Done? I don't. Everyone loves to see before and after photos. But I put my clients' feelings first. Most new clients are a bit apprehensive about the whole process, even though they are eager to begin. To help build an atmosphere of trust, I don't feel that it's in the best interest of the client-organizer relationship for me to ask to take photos within the first few minutes of meeting the client.

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Why is This Website So Wordy ? Getting organized with the help of a Professional Organizer usually is a very personal process. You need to feel comfortable with me because I'll be working in your home, with your stuff, with your papers, and perhaps with your other family members. I've heard over the years that some of my new clients were motivated to call me because they felt they got to know me through my website before making the call. I know that one of the basic rules of standard web design is to keep words to a minimum, but I feel it's in your best interests to know a lot about me before you make the first call.

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© Organizer to the Rescue, 2003 All Rights Reserved Last Updated April 16, 2015