Eye of the Clutter Beholder

The very start of my relationship with any new client begins with a phone consultation. This is the time where we talk about the client’s project, what area of the home is suffering the most, what the client’s goals are and what level of clutter is plaguing them. I lay out my methods and we agree on an appointment date and time and go from there. When I get to the part about their “level of clutter”, I always politely but directly asking them if they’re a hoarder. As discussed in a previous post, hoarding is not my area of specialty.


I recently had a new client referred to me by a friend. “You’ll love her, she’s so lovely and sweet, one of my favorite people.” When we had our phone consultation, the client proclaimed over and over again about how embarrassed and stuck she was feeling. I asked her if she was able to move about her home freely or if clutter was blocking any necessary entrances, windows or the use of furniture. She said that she was able to move around. We set a time and she told me how relieved she was to even just set up the appointment to finally tackle the mess.


Before arriving at her apartment, I didn’t know what to expect: she claimed she was messy and bogged down by clothing but she didn’t sound like a hoarder. She opened the door and I was greeted by a petite older woman, neatly dressed inviting me into a beautiful, expansive loft with high ceilings and, to my eye, not one ounce of clutter. After she offered me tea, I asked her to show me her bedroom (where her clothing “problem” lived). She opened her closet and, to my amazement, everything was arranged perfectly, not one piece of clothing was on the floor or stuffed onto a shelf, her five pairs of shoes were neatly lined up on the floor, the hangers were all lined in the same direction, there was room to move each item on the clothing rod.

I had to be completely honest. “I’m a bit baffled, where is your issue?” She told me she had too many pants and I suggested we start going through her items. We discussed each piece, she tried on the questionable ones and I encouraged her, gave my advice and “granted her permission” to donate the items she no longer liked. After two hours, we had filled a garbage bag with pants, sweaters, some costume jewelry and expired make-up from her vanity. The client could not stop thanking me and was so grateful to have that task completed. After she assured me that the session was of huge value to her, my normally 3-hour long appointment was cut down to 2.5 hours, we had a warm hug and I went out into the morning sunshine feeling productive and of service. This client taught me a valuable lesson: clutter does not have to be an obviously overwhelming mountain to someone else, it’s what the clutter represents to the individual. This lovely client was bogged down by having too many pairs of black pants and needed some help. It was not my job to diagnose if she needed my help or not because from her standpoint, she did need help. I felt grateful for the new perspective, which is what organizing is all about.