by Michelle Drewes
Surely by now someone has told you how wonderful and
how truly life-changing “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is.
The self-help book by Marie Kondo tapped into a shared feeling that
we are overwhelmed by clutter, and it sold more than 1.5 million
copies in the U.S. and more than 5 million copies worldwide,
according to her publisher.
“It’s a quirky little book,” says East Sider Jennifer Grasse, owner of
Perfect Wave Organizing. “It resonated with me, and I like her take:
‘Does it spark joy?’ We all have too much stuff, and we’re looking for a
lens to sort all this stuff. Marie Kondo picked up on that. We’re ripe
for that; we’re post-consumer.
“It’s not about organizing what you have; it’s about having what you
want to organize,” Grasse explains. “We all want to spend more time on
things that make us happy and not managing our things.”
While you can declutter the do-it-yourself route, it can be quicker to
hire someone to work with you.
“We start with a comprehensive consultation, where we really get to know
you, your lifestyle, your space and your things,” says Liz Girsch, a
Milwaukee-based professional organizer with NEAT Method, whose
consultants work in more than 15 cities. “We talk through your everyday
life and habits.” Then she measures the space for shelving and other
possible storage solutions, and she provides a quote with an hourly
estimate for the project.
by Michelle Drewes
Grasse, who has been helping home owners get
organized for 20 years, describes her process with an acronym: RSCR,
pronounced “rescuer.” She removes the clutter; sorts like with like;
culls for keeping, donating, recycling or trashing; and “resets” —
with her clients’ surroundings in order, they feel lighter, she
Similarly, Girsch eases the burden on clients by diving in and sorting
their possessions for them. “With clothing, our team will sort by type
and then by color,” Girsch says. “Then we will ask the client to come in
and just look quickly through the dresses or blazers. (This) approach
often makes the decisions much easier.”
After all, people hold onto things for sentimental reasons or because
they worry they may need certain items in the future. That’s why
professional organizers also need to be well-versed in helping their
clients deal with emotions that arise throughout the process.
“I’m there to give them permission to let go of things,” Grasse says.
Sometimes replacing an unused item with a photo of it — a ceramic pot
made by a child, for example — can relieve any anxiety about removing it
from the home, she says.
“We can even suggest or help clients work with apps that help categorize
or document sentimental items like kids artwork, so you don’t feel the
need to save it all,” Girsch adds.
But the process isn’t all painful; it allows room for fun and humor,
Grasse says. “About a year and half ago, I worked with a professional
couple in a huge house (who) had a basement with many rooms stuffed with
different hobby-related items. The wife was ready to get rid of this
stuff,” she says. So the husband had a burning ceremony for his model
airplanes. “He looked really sad, and then he saw the humor in the
situation. Momentum, humor and energy are key in this job,” she says.
Both Grasse and Girsch say that their clients are able to maintain their
streamlined homes after a big reorgan-ization. That’s likely because the
process, much like Kondo’s book, causes homeowners to rethink how they
relate to their surroundings.
“I tell people their space will be beautiful and organized, but they
will also have more control over their space,” Girsch says, adding that
it’s about being more efficient.
“After they go through this process,” Grasse says, “people are much more
careful about what they bring into
What to Ask an
If you’re thinking of hiring professional help to get your home in
order, the National Association of Professional Organizers suggests
questions to ask before you shake hands or sign a contract. Below are a
few. For more, go to napo.net.
Who is your typical/usual client?
What services do you specialize in?
Do you have any training or hold any certifications in organizing or
related areas (chronic disorganization, coaching, feng shui, interior
How long have you been in the organizing business?
Can you provide references?
I have tried to get organized before. How will this be different?