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4 things home organizing TV shows don’t tell you

by respaced on May 6, 2009

On Monday, I wrote about the realities of being organized. Today, I want to bring up the realities of getting organized. Television shows like “Neat,” “Mission: Organization,” and “Clean Sweep” have opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the problems of disorganization in their homes. The shows have done a great job of educating the general public about the existence of professional organizers. But the programs do not show the realities of getting organized. Here is what the shows would have you believe, and here is the truth:

1. Myth: You can get your whole house organized in a day, or even three days.

Reality: The TV shows employ the use of teams of people working 10-12 hour days to organize an entire home. In real life, it is more likely to take you a few months, depending on how cluttered your house is, how often you work on organizing it, how quickly you work, and how many family members you have helping (or hindering) you. Even with a professional organizer at your side, expect to devote a few months to the project.

2. Myth: Hiring a professional organizer means hiring a drill sergeant or design snob, who will force you to throw away your things.

Reality: There may be some demanding, snobby organizers out there, but I’ve never met one. And if you do stumble across someone and are so unlucky as to hire him or her, you have every right to fire him or her. A good professional organizer is respectful of your decisions and non-judgmental of your possessions and why you choose to keep them. He or she will never force you to part with anything you don’t want to. You are the client, which means you have the final say in what stays and what goes. Always.

3. Myth: When you hire a professional organizer, you leave the premises and he or she does all the work. Then you come back for the big “reveal” and are pleasantly surprised.

Reality: How could that ever be true? You have to be present in the house most of the time to tell the organizer what your goals are for the space, why disorganization has occurred, and what items stay and go. Again, no professional organizer is going to get rid of your stuff without your approval. You will know what progress and changes are being made every step of the way. And more than likely, you will be working side-by-side with the organizer.

4. Myth: Once your whole house is organized, it will remain that way from now on.

Reality: Once you lose the weight, do you never exercise again? Once you balance your checkbook, do you never balance it again? Just like with personal fitness and financial stability, maintaining a state of organization takes a commitment, a certain amount of discipline and sometimes an attitude adjustment. Sound difficult? It can be the most challenging part of organizing — staying organized. But by doing a little bit of decluttering regularly and remembering why you are choosing this new lifestyle, you can continue to keep your home organized. Some people choose to have a professional organizer come to their house once a month on a permanent basis to help keep them on track. You’ll never see that on TV.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Bestry May 7, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Oh, bravo, Mary Jo! NAPO should post this on the web site! Those organizing-themed TV shows are such a double-edge sword, because although they promote our industry, they do it in such a fictionalized way that what we really do is almost unrecognizable in their portrayals. I know I’ve never sent all of a client’s possessions out onto the front lawn!

Seriously, this was an excellent introduction to the misconceptions about our industry. Good job!


Allison Carter May 7, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Right on! We love the exposure but hate that clients have unrealistic expectations occasionally. We all want the quick fix, but it just ain’t possible.


Liz Jenkins May 8, 2009 at 12:42 am

Thanks for this post – sometimes I wonder if people think I have a magic wand that I wave to make it all better!
I always have to preface my work and my talks that it isn’t like on tv – you’ve really summarized it well here. I do love the show “neat” but, you know, there’s only so much you can really do in a half hour but in TV land – that’s the whole house.


Anne & Paul May 9, 2009 at 1:30 am

Wha? You mean you won’t come over and make everything look pretty while I’m out getting a pedicure and massage, and then give me a guarantee that my house will never look that way again?!
And I loved those organizing shows… especially Real Simple, Real Life. Oh well, now I can devote an additional hour per week to greater causes. Thanks for educating us!


Suzanne & Duncan Forbes May 13, 2009 at 1:12 am

So very true. I find most of my clients are apologetic about their house and I always have to assure them that I appreciate that they didn’t try to hide stuff, but rather left it out for us to tackle.

Good stuff.


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