Clutter-free is the way to be

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

But for Suzan Smith, a professional organizer and owner of Suzy's Helping Hands, it was no problem. "People are overwhelmed and think they can't do it, but I come in and offer them the confidence that they can," Smith said, as she categorized her clients' household items on metal shelves. "People accumulate things over the years and continue to accumulate, accumulate and accumulate until they say, I can't deal with this anymore, and that's where

I come in.

"Organizing isn't pretty until it's all done."

It seems more consumers feel that way. The demand for professional organizers has grown in recent years as time-strapped Americans juggle more obligations than ever and find themselves with less time to manage the stuff in their lives. The trend also has been helped along by a growing number of TV shows that show viewers how to clear out the clutter and organize what remains.

"Our lives have become much more complicated," said Standolyn Robertson, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "There used to be someone home doing these things. Now, you just don't have someone." The storage and organization industry has grown into a $6 billion-a-year enterprise.

Stores such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target have devoted aisles to closet shelving and storage bins. These items represented the fastest-growing housewares segment for the past five years, posting a 20.5 percent average increase per year, according to the International Housewares Association. The trend also has led to an increasing number of professional organizing businesses. Central Ohio has 52 such businesses whose owners are members of the national association, said Kimberly Graves, spokeswoman for the Ohio chapter of the association.

Graves, who owns A Place 4 Everything in Lancaster, said the group averages about five new organizers at its bimonthly meetings.

"People are realizing that organization in their homes and business creates a stress-free lifestyle, but they aren't sure how to do it themselves or simply don't have the time to do it," she said. "And there are a lot of people that fear the idea of decluttering and arranging." Rates for most organizers range from $35 to $150 an hour, Graves said. Organizers can work on individual rooms or entire homes, depending on the client's wishes. Organizers typically do all of the work, but in some cases, clients might choose to lend a hand.

"Having a professional come in and do it takes the burden off of individuals and makes people's lives easier," Graves said.

Fast facts

  • 80 percent of what we keep we never use.
  • 25 percent of people with two-car garages don't park any cars in there, and 32 percent park only one.
  • 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late because they lose them.
  • 20 percent of the clothes we own are worn 80 percent of the time.
  • 50 percent of homeowners rate the garage as the most disorganized place in the house.
Source: National Association of Professional Organizers

Get organized

You can save time and money if you:

  • Clean your desk.
  • Store similar items together.
  • Cut down on junk mail. Visit the Direct Marketing Association Web site at and ask to be removed from unwanted mailing lists.
  • Use a single calendar for appointments to eliminate scheduling conflicts.
  • Consolidate similar activities, such as by making phone calls at one time or doing errands in batches.
  • Clean out your files before you decide on buying more folders or filing cabinets.
  • Keep receipts together, perhaps in an envelope in your purse or wallet. When you return home, stow them in a designated spot such as an expanding file or box in your office.
  • Get the kids off to school quicker by deciding the night before on what to eat for breakfast, what to wear to school and what they need to take.
  • Toss or give away old reading material. Get rid of newspapers and magazines older than three months. Donate books you'll never read again.
Source: Maria Gracia, founder of Get Organized Now!