Professional organizers have one clear goal: helping you get it all under control.
Twenty years ago, when Cathi Du Puy first had the idea of turning her passion for organizing into a profession, her friends were surprised. They'd never heard of anyone paying for help clearing clutter. But Du Puy had seen the future, and it was tidy.
As a part-time home-stager in a real estate office, she knew the dollar value of clearing tabletops and emptying shelves. Martha Stewart Living and O, The Oprah Magazine were singing the gospel of clutter-free living. At the same time, people were filling their homes with more and more possessions. They needed help.
Fast-forward a decade or two, and Du Puy's business, Out of the Closet, is thriving. Organizing is an American passion. Amazon offers more than 10,000 books on the subject. Japanese author Marie Kondo's international sensation, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” along with a manga cartoon version and a sequel, “Spark Joy,” have sold more than 5 million copies.
Today, Du Puy is not alone in her profession. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals has 3,500 members, with 41 in the Ohio chapter, mostly in Central Ohio (there is also a Cleveland-area chapter). Clients hire members to help with everything from photo organizing to hoarding.
Purging is a special need that all organizers deal with, says chapter president Julie Riber, especially as baby boomers, whose Depression-era parents taught them to keep everything, contemplate transferring their possessions to a more minimalist millennial generation. “China, crystal, all those things that your grandparents' generation acquired, young people don't want it,” she says.
Du Puy sees some of our passion for organizing as rooted in online media. Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Houzz. “There's this picture of how everything is supposed to look all the time,” she says. “It's not a magazine that comes once a month. It's every minute.”
Some hire Du Puy to help tame their tangle of possessions during a move or a transition: divorce, death, the birth of a child. For others, she's simply part of the professional household team: the florist, the gardener, the organizer. “They trust me. I'm not going to walk out with the silver. I'm not going to blab about what I saw in their house.”
The field of organizing has grown so large that it's spawned differing philosophies. While many organizers focus on managing the mess, the Marie Kondo approach is more radical. Retired Bexley psychiatrist Marty Ross-Dolen, taken with the approach, traveled to New York to meet Kondo in her first American appearance. “It's about letting your stuff go,” Ross-Dolen says. “It's literally about what brings you joy, and if it doesn't, you've got to let it go.” The first time she KonMari-ed her clothing (the term Kondo uses for her method), she earned $1,000 at a consignment shop. She loves her empty dresser drawers.
“I cannot stand having stuff that doesn't spark joy anymore,” she says.