In 2012, Paula Beyak found herself out of a job.
A neighbor invited Beyak, a self-described “organizing geek,” on a trip he thought might lift her spirits. She was enlisted to help his mother declutter. After taking three vans full of decorations and other items to consignment shops, Beyak felt invigorated and motivated to learn more.
A year later, she started taking courses and joined the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, launching her professional organizing business, Room Solutions by Paula, Home Organizing and More.
Every year, getting organized is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Beyak, a member of the Organizing Specialists of Sacramento, is part of a regional community of professionals who help people take ownership of their space, and with it, find peace of mind.
“As a previous social worker, I knew I could help people reclaim their lives, rid themselves of some physical and emotional clutter and fall in love with their homes again,” Beyak said.
Professional organizer Gwynnae Byrd, of Sacramento Home Transitions, has found that no matter the time of yea, the goal of getting organized is so daunting it often leaves folks feeling paralyzed.
“The word I hear most often is overwhelmed,” Byrd said, “and they don’t know where to start.”
Some people are chronically disorganized; for others, a major life event can trigger it, like a death in the family, Byrd said. Professionals can offer a trained, neutral perspective to guide people through the process, which is hands-on, focused on teaching people so they can hone their organizational skills and be empowered to manage their space.
Professional organizers aren’t housekeepers, and they aren’t fairy godmothers, either. They won’t magically appear and rearrange a space in a few hours. They work with their clients, teaching them how to make decisions that will help them sort, purge or donate and organize a desired space, which can be as small as cupboards and closets and as large as entire rooms or homes. Fees range from $60 to $100 per hour, depending on certifications and experience.
Clients need to know what getting organized means to them and create specific goals, Byrd said. For some people, being organized means being able to keep guest coats in the hall closet. For others, it means no longer running around every morning looking for their car keys.
How it works
During a session, organizers work with their client in the space they want to tackle. It is a matter of starting small, as simple as “pick a spot and go.” Byrd encourages her clients to peer into a toilet paper roll to narrow their vision and make that choice. Using a specific spot and timeframe can help people stay on task and keep them from feeling overwhelmed, she said. She makes sure they have a bag for trash, for recycling and for donations near them, to minimize distractions.
Throughout a session, organizers listen and ask questions to figure out what is challenging and frustrating the client, and brainstorm different strategies and behaviors based on their goals.
For example, many people have spaces in their homes that go underutilized and could be a suitable home for items that have been scattered about or have ended up in an inconvenient location.
Beyak recently helped a busy mother move her art supplies, many that haphazardly were taking up space in her toddler’s room, to previously empty laundry room cabinets. Another client, a 72-year-old woman, had been reaching underneath a bed in her home for gift wrap. They reorganized one of her closets to create a nice gift wrapping station, easily within reach.
Professional organizers don’t force people to throw things away. Rather, they empower people to make decisions that will ultimately create more efficiency and simplicity in their home, Beyak said. Her goal is that every client she works with eventually will be able to walk into a room or go to a cabinet and find what they need quickly.
In that same vein, professional organizers have to hold people accountable, Byrd said. She presses people when they are sorting and purging, asking them if the items they have kept hold a purpose for them. Do they currently use that item, and do they need it or enjoy it?
“I say, ‘I don’t judge, I nudge’ … you toward getting where you need to go,” Byrd said.
The organizers often remind people to be realistic and patient with themselves. A home will not change into a picturesque scene from Good Housekeeping or an HGTV special overnight, Beyak said.
“If your house has been the same way for six years, it can’t be that [new] way in six hours,” Beyak said.
It can be a long, challenging process, but it pays off, the organizers said, reducing stress and saving time as people go about everyday life.
Keeping clutter to a minimum allows for fewer places for dust and allergens to accumulate, and saves time when cleaning, according to the American Cleaning Institute.
“I’ve had people tell me they feel lighter,” Byrd said. “They’re reclaiming their space … they’re in control, their stuff doesn’t control them.”