Organizing & Decluttering Frequently Asked Questions

Are you going to make me throw away all my stuff?
No. Decluttering, as the name implies, is the removal of clutter, which is excess stuff with no discernible use or value. We will work with you to figure out what really deserves space in your home and life. We will never make you discard something you feel strongly that you need to keep. Never.

Why can’t I do this with a book or magazine article?
Ah, if only it were that easy. Unfortunately there are limitations to the “one-size-fits-all” systems. In real life, everyone is different both in the reasons for their clutter and disorganization and the ways in which they can manage it. We will work to find out what works for you so that you are left with a system you can maintain. We are not advocates of planned helplessness -- one of the most profound things that came out of a training session sponsored by the National Association of Professional Organizers was “It is not only useless but actually unethical for you to “organize” a client by putting in place systems that they cannot maintain without your constant assistance”. We don’t do that -- we believe the job is successfully completed when you can maintain it yourself. Otherwise it’s like giving someone a car but not the keys.

Can I get you to work with my husband /assistant/sister/father/son/daughter...?
Yes and no. Spotted Salamander does do gift certificates, so it is possible to give someone a gift of our services. However, experience has taught us that organization cannot be imposed on people who are not ready to take on the work. Your sister/husband/mother etc. may clearly need our help in your eyes, but if she/he doesn’t think so then the time will be wasted. We will work only with the person whose space and belongings are being organized or de-cluttered. It is inappropriate for us to rearrange and/or discard one person’s belongings at the request of another person. That said, the semi-exception to this rule is children. We have worked successfully with adolescents and teens in organizing their lives and spaces at the request of their parents, but again, it is always with the willing cooperation of the child in question.

I have / think I have ADD. Can you work with me?
Yes, absolutely. Many of our clients have either ADD-like issues or are actually diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

I don’t have time to be organized -- or it’s too much work. How can you help me?
Organized people get a bad rap here -- there’s that image of the person who spends hours folding their sheets with military precision and alphabetizing their spice rack. If you have concerns about the amount of time and effort it takes to be organized, here are two things to consider:

First off, when we say we don’t have time to be organized, we are assuming that it takes no time to be disorganized. Consider that assumption for a moment: How much time do you spend searching for keys, permission slips, the black shoes that go with the outfit you’ve already got on, and so on? How much time is wasted going back and forth to stores to get things you forgot because (a) you don’t have a list or (b) you can’t find it? How often do you have to retrace your steps to retrieve things you left behind, or get on the phone to try to locate or replace them? All of this is time you spend being disorganized. This doesn’t factor in the stress, frustration and chaos that come with the package. No question about it, it takes time to be organized... but being disorganized costs time too.

Second, think about the effort necessary to be organized -- that is, the need to change your behavior. If the systems we put in place are well-designed they will meet you more than halfway in attaining the goal of organization, but some change on your part will be necessary. A classic definition of insanity is to repeat the same action and expect a different result. The patterns of behavior you have now are creating the disorganization and the out-of-control feeling, so clearly staying in those patterns will not get you to a better place. A small change in behavior, coupled with well-thought-out support systems, will make your life run smoothly with a minimum amount of effort.

I know I need a good de-cluttering, but my place is such a mess. I’m too embarrassed to let anyone see it.
Judgement and shaming have no place in this process and we don’t use them. We work hard to help our clients weed out these negative feelings , because they sap your energy. We believe you should feel good that you are making progress in such a difficult area of your life. We will help you focus not on the “failures” that got you into this place, but the strength that made you decide to take action to get out of it. One of our colleagues always says, “You cannot build on your weaknesses -- you can only build on strengths.”

I can get organized, but I can’t stay organized. Why not?
Probably because you’re trying to impose a system onto your life that doesn’t fit the way you live or the way you think. It is important that we work out systems that are intuitively correct for you. One client may file their car insurance under the car -- “Ford” for example -- and another under “insurance”, and a third under “Liberty Mutual”. No one of these options is any more correct than any other -- the question is “Where would you look for it?”. If you would look under “Fred”, the name of your insurance agent, and the system tells you to file it under “insurance”, then it’s no wonder the system falls apart. A well-designed, personalized system will make it much easier to stay organized.

"I don’t want to just throw things away. Some of these things are still useful even if I don’t want them, and it’s irresponsible to just dump them in a landfill. Can you help with that?"
We have built up a long list of resources for dispersing and recycling useable things that my clients don’t want anymore. We will also “freecycle” things for clients if you don’t want to deal with that yourself.