True Love Means Dealing with their Garbage

Andrew Burkhardt from Alexandria, KY was one of the first people to be featured on this site. Now we come full circle with an in-depth look at the cleaning and organizing involved we he lets me get my hands on his storage room.

Originally, he wouldn’t let me in the room. The curiosity nearly killed me. After the two of us dating a while, he realized he wasn’t sparing me. He was locking a new cool toy away and telling me I wasn’t allowed to play with it. Where he saw a cause for embarrassment, I saw a cause for excitement. I like organizing people’s stuff, digging through and finding treasures.

It’s never fun when it’s your own stuff. It’s cool to see the looks on their faces when they uncover something they haven’t seen in ages or look at all the random things people have attached sentimental value to.

We found over 200 pounds of laundry, which took an entire day to wash at the laundry mat. An 80 pound load costs $7.75 just to run the washer, so you can imagine how much money we spent. That’s after throwing a good portion of it away due to mildew stains and mold. “I could never find any clothes to wear, so I just kept buying new ones,” said Andrew when confronted with all the laundry. Most of the laundry will be cleaned and donated.

Below is a video including a time-lapse of the cleanup process, which took 4 hours on the storage room alone.

Hoarding in the Media

Professional Organizers and their most extreme clients, hoarders, continue growing in recognition in popular media. The show “Hoarders” garnered success in 2009, commercializing the affliction that affects 2 percent to 5 percent of Americans. Since then shows like “Bones” have featured hoarding characters, and even The New York Times wrote an article about it in their science section last Tuesday.

The Times article, titled “It’s Time to Say Goodbye to All That Stuff, is presented in the personal health section and covers the experiences of the author Jane E. Brody in keeping her clutter under control. She talks about a book that helped her called “The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life” (coincidentally written by a star of the “Hoarders” TV show Robin Zasio).

In my controversial issues class at WKU, we are given copies of the New York Times. When the show “Hoarders” was mentioned, over half the class recognized the show and more than one directly praised it.

With media like The New York Times building awareness and adding credibility, this field can expect growing recognition. As Americans become more and more preoccupied with their material possessions the market for this culture-created job will only expand. I, among many, will be interested to see where this train leads in the next 20 years.


For more information and  full length episodes on the groundbreaking TV show “Hoarders” click here.

Becoming a Professional

The big tagline of this website is that I am an aspiring professional organizer. The truth is however that being a professional organizer isn’t defined by a licence to practice. There are no mandatory tests you have to pass to become one.

In my mind, one becomes a professional when you do it for a living (or at least for a substantial portion of your income). I’ve already done a few projects where I was paid. However, mostly I do volunteer work to gain experience and amass before and after photos. I’m not taking classes for this. I’m learning 100 percent off life experience and passion. I need to build a reputation that people can trust.

BCPO logo

There are people who choose to go through the rigorous certification process every year however because it does give you that credibility. The Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO) is in charge of screening and testing applicants. Below are the three qualifications as listed on their website:


“1.Qualified candidates must have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent.

2.As a part of the application process, candidates must agree to adhere to the Code of Ethics for Certified Professional Organizers.

3.Candidates must be prepared to document a total of 1,500 hours of paid work experience in the last three (3) years. This paid work experience may include but is not limited to on-site organizing, coaching, consulting, training, virtual organizing, interactive workshops and speaking engagements, which, through client collaboration, transfers, teaches or demonstrates organizing skills.”

There are a bunch of different accomplishments that can count towards those 1,500 hours. Each accomplishment has an assigned number of hours they count for (see BCPO’s page for details).

After you go through all this, pass the test and become officially certified, you have to continuously recertify every three years.

Did I mention there’s a $550 application fee?

IKEA Inventions

IKEA is an international store that sells products for the home. Their products are usually well-priced. However since a lot of what they sell is furniture, shopping there can damage your wallet. They have websites for 325 stores in 39 different countries, and that’s not including their catalogues, which sold over 208 million copies this year alone.

After opening their first store in Sweden in 1958, they spread across Europe and to Australia and Asia, opening their first U.S. store in Philedelphia in 1985.

Today they are known for being environmentally friendly. They have a page called “The Never-Ending List” which boasts 81 improvements they’ve made for people and the environment. Items range from taking a stand against child labor to being “the first major color publication in the world to be printed on Totally Chlorine Free paper”.

The best thing about their store though is they combine all their pieces together into mock rooms, so you see the products in action. Most all of their products serve one of two puposes: organizing the space or creating visual appeal. Normally they do both. This is a great place to go if you’re dealing with a tight or cramped living space (ex: dorm room or small downtown apartment). Check out the document below to look at some of IKEA’s more useful pieces and get ideas on how they might fit into your space.

For more information check out (click United States if you’re a U.S. visiter) and browse around or go straight to the interactive small storage concept gallery for more creative ideas.

Organize Your Desk Day

There is actually a day dedicated to organizing your desk. It’s the Thursday of Small Business Week. In the video below, Clare Kumar talks to host AJ Vickery about being organized in the workspace.

The name of the game when it comes to organizing the workspace is productivity. “In 2008 NAPO Survey of 400 consumers nationwide, 27 percent said they feel disorganized at work, and of those 91 percent said they would be more effective and efficient if their workspace was better organized.”

Their are many of tools such as the ones in the video that are useful in cleaning your desk into a more efficient environment. Try using in and out boxes, mini-shelves, or a mug for all your loose writing utensils.

When Knoll Workplace Research studied employee groups, “there were four characteristics that 70 percent or more employees said would have high impact on productivity.” Two of the top four factors were “storage space for work related items” and “the ability to organize and store technology.”

Schedule time to tidy up your desk once a week. The studies show that it will be well worth your time.

Closet Cleaning

You may not think there is a right or wrong way to clean a closet, but there is a worse or better way. Follow these steps below, and transform your closet into an organized space like Sara Colvin’s.

1: Take everything out – This may seem counter productive at first because the mess only looks bigger when it’s spread out all over your room rather than squeezed in a closet. This is okay. You need to be able to see everything you’ve got, and honestly if it’s all over your room then you’ll be less inclined to quit mid-job.

2: Sort – Split everything into groups based on similarities. (ex: all the shoes together, all the boxes full of clothes together, all papers together).

3: Assess your organizational tools – What kind of bins, storage units or shoe boxes do you have? Try to find some sort of container for everything. Loose items look like clutter which looks like a mess. This is a planning stage.  Don’t be afraid to buy other organizational tools. For example many people don’t have shoe racks. However, according to NAPO ‘s Online Database of Statistics, Facts and Quotations women who do have shoe racks are “seven times more likely to be on time for work than women without”. In a society where we are all running, all the time, can you really afford to waste any time? Also start thinking about where each bin or group might go in the closet.

4: Implement your step 3 strategy – It’s important to look at these as two separate steps. If you just start shoving stuff places, then you might start filling a box only to realize all the items aren’t quite going to fit. You might find a more logical place to put something, but if you’ve already put something neatly in another place, you usually won’t feel like undoing your work. There are a lot of different approaches that are purely preference, but one always rings true. Put the biggest or heaviest bins on the bottom and get lighter or smaller on the way up.

5: Keep the systems going – It does no good to spend an hour organizing your space and then turn around the next day and just throw your shoes anywhere. The hardest part of this five step process is upkeep, making sure you continue to reap the benefits of your efforts.


OCD or Just Like it Clean?

Carolyn Fusting, stay-at-home mom,  has moved seven times in her 22 years of marriage. She has experienced so much packing and unpacking that she’s starting to call herself a professional. Listen to the sound clip above to hear Mrs. Fusting talk about the difference between minimalism and neat freaks and how she implements an appreciation for the simple in her home environment.


Startup Stories Shared

Hester Locks shares her story of how she broke into the field of professional organizing in the video below.


My own story was very similar. Whenever I went to a friend’s house I would organize or clean their closet as we hung out and talked. When their parents wouldn’t let them have friends over because their room wasn’t clean, I was the exception to the rule. My friends parent’s knew that if I came over, that room would be cleaned.

This went on for a while. I’d never heard of professional organizing. I had no idea that I had a career lining up. I just liked looking at all the odds and ends people (for some reason) had grown attached to. I was curious, not OCD. My own messy room was the proof of this.

Then one day a lady in my neighborhood was getting new carpet, and her son recommended me to help. I barely knew her son, so it came as a surprise. I guess word had spread by then. It could have been a quick job. All I had to do was help her move the furniture into rooms that had hardwood, and then move it back afterwards. But when we went to put stuff back, I naturally started organizing as I went. She was impressed.

Next thing I knew I was organizing every room in her house (a process which took every weekend for months). It was play for me though, and I was having fun looking through their stuff. I was getting paid by the hour. Best of all, if they were going to toss something I wanted, I got to take it home.

After that I started realizing, I could get paid for this! From there I got other jobs. It was all word of mouth. Sometimes I got paid. Sometimes I did it as a favor. The net result is I found something I can honestly say I’d enjoy making a career out of. I found something I love.

What it is…

Professional Organizing is an up-and-coming field, and as such a lot of  people haven’t heard of it. Some people see the two-worded title and might wonder what that even encompasses. In this post I’ll clarify why a professional organizer is hired and what they do.

NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) gives a list of the top five reasons professional organizers are hired:

A customer has..

  1. Too much clutter
  2. General disorganization
  3. Difficulty determining what to keep and/or discard
  4. Difficulty finding things
  5. A home to sell or is moving

Of course there are many other individualized reasons. One of the appeals of this job for employees is the constant change and diversity it offers. Each employer may hope to accomplish different goals.

In the following video,  Hester Locks, a professional organizer with 16 years of experience, concisely describes what exactly professional organizers do.

Vanessa Dunkerson: Cats and Couponing Catastrophes

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Vanessa Dunkerson

Age: 24

Primary Occupation: Starbucks Barista

Mess: Spare Room

There’s only one problem with Vanessa Dunkerson’s new couponing hobby.

She doesn’t have the time for it.

Consequently, her spare room transformed into a dumping pile for coupon booklets and newspapers. “Most of them are expired by now,” said Vanessa, “but I just can’t seem to find the time to go through them.”

The coupons aren’t the only thing contributing to the disaster zone. Opening her closet reveals a cluttered pile of Christmas decor, tools, lamps, art supplies…etc. This is the bigger threat.

Meet Chloe, Vanessa’s more adventurous cat who loves playing in the closet piles and worrying her owner. When Vanessa opened the door for me to examine the task ahead, Chloe immediately jumped in and knocked over many things, including a box of candles that hit Vanessa square on the head.

This may seem comical to some, but it is important to note that accidents aren’t always laughing matters. What if that was a baby falling in-between the cracks instead of a cat? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) accidental injury is the leading cause of death from ages 1 to 44. It’s important to have a safe, relatively clean home environment. That’s why if your house is too dirty or dangerous Child Protection Services can take your children away.

Overall,Vanessa seemed very pleased with the results. “I’ve always wanted a Japanese themed room,” she said.

Vanessa says she still plans on keeping the closet door shut at all times. Just because things are organized, doesn’t mean they are cat-proof.

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