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Professional Organizing Cost

May 16, 2022

I've been researching SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to help drive traffic to my site. One of the topics that seems to not have great content is how much professional organizing costs. I think people probably watch The Home Edit or Marie Kondo and think, "Oh man, it would be awesome to make my house that clean and ordered and beautiful. I wonder if I can afford it? How expensive could it be?" Well, the answer isn't 100% black and white. The truth is, it depends.

I wish I could tell you simply, it's $XXX, but that exact number doesn't just exist. Every job is different. It's not like hiring a plumber to replace a toilet where the material cost is easy to find by narrowing your choices on Lowe's or Home Depot's website and then getting a standard project cost of say $120, for labor. 

I can help you understand the factors that will affect the total cost of your specific project. There are 6 categories that may affect what you ultimately spend; Initial Quote, Consultations, Hourly Rate, Materials Cost, Disposal Fees, & Your Time.  I am also going to help you learn where you can save some money.

1. Initial Quote: In my opinion, a quote should always be free (although I have seen fees between $50 deposit credited off your project if you book and $200 outright just for an opinion). For me, is a good faith investment on behalf of the organizer to get to know you and your project goals in advance. This should be a time where you get to know the organizer and determine if they are a good fit for your needs. Do you feel like you can trust them? They are about to be rooting through your personal belongings. They may even be discarding items on your behalf (depending on the parameters you agree to with them). Does the organizer understand what your greatest pain points are in your home? Can they explain their process? In most cases, a quote should take about 1 hour. If your organizer is local and you are needing multiple rooms organized, they may ask to do the quote in person. Smaller projects or long-distance commutes may quote via photos and a phone call or video chat. Either way, it should be no cost to the client and should take no longer than an hour. Request a Free Quote HERE!

2. Consultations: Projects where you intend to have the organizer do the majority of the project really do not warrant a consultation. Consultations are more useful for customers who can do it themselves but need some guidance on HOW to do it. If you are handy and enjoy the satisfaction of doing thing for yourself, a consult it probably the best use of your time and money. Most likely you will want to book a block of time (either in-person or video chat) to walk through the space you plan to organized. Your organizer should lead you through each section or category like a coach or teacher and point out specific objectives, provide a list of suggested materials, and explain why they think certain items belong in certain areas. They are training you to think like an organizer so that when you go to execute, you will be successful. They are telling you how they would do it, if you had hired them to complete the project themselves. It's reasonable to expect to pay a higher hourly rate for a consultation than the hourly rate for having the organizer complete the job. The overall cost should be considerably lower because relative to having the project done for you, a consultation only takes a fraction of the time with the organizer. 

For example, to have a large kitchen & pantry organized you might have 16 billable hours at a rate of $50/hr ($800 in labor costs). Alternatively, if you do the organizing yourself and consult with an organizer for an hour before beginning and an hour somewhere in the middle, you may pay a higher rate of $75/hr but overall, only spend $150 for the organizers time. This option makes a lot of sense if you are taking on a large project with a limited budget but have the time and ability to do a lot of work yourself. If you are only doing a small project like a bathroom closet, it may only take 4 billable hours @ $50/hr, costing you $200 in time. Even if you don't need a full hour for the beginning and middle consult, you will probably have to pay in 1-hour increments, so $150 for a consultation is probably not worth it when you can kick back and relax while someone else does it for $50 more. 

*Consultations are different than quotes. Quotes are a "Get to know the organizer" time. Whereas, consultations are "tell me what you would do" time. 

3. Hourly Rates: We've covered that there may be a variance between one organizers hourly and consultation rates, but there's more to consider here. The complexity of the work may also affect your rate. A standard base rate of $50/hr may turn into $90/hr if your organizer advises you allow them to complete the work with an associate because of the size of the job. The upside is, the work will get completed more quickly. Similarly, if the organizing project is not just organizing but also a cleanup of a hoarding situation, the hourly rate may increase. It takes more skill to navigate a hoard then to just streamline a regularly disordered home. Are you asking for the work to be done outside of normal business hours? Your organizer may have to incentivize the work for 3rd shift with a pay bump. These may all be perfectly reasonable causes for a price increase, but is there any way to get of a price decrease?

Actually, Yes! Are you willing to pay cash? You'll probably be able to get 5-10% off. Have you worked with the organizer before and provided them with a referral that gave them more business? Most organizers will credit you a predetermined dollar amount for each referral they gain business from. Does your organizer offer discounts for specific groups like those who served or are serving in the military? Personally, I offer 10% of military and police to mirror what an "on base" tax break would be. Are you willing to sign a contract for service? You may be able to get a lower price by pricing the job as a complete project instead of paying hourly.

What is a normal hourly rate for an organizer?

Based on where you live, it can range quite a bit: $25/hr to $300+/hr!

Here in the mid-west, you may be able to find a house cleaner that will also perform some basic sorting/organizing for as little as $25/hr but you may end up with a temporarily clean space that doesn't stay organized because there isn't a system in place. So, you'll have to pay for it all over again later.

Want an actual The Home Edit experience? Get ready to pony up $595 for just a consultation experience. Now, that does include a layout and materials list, as well as, a 30-minute virtual session with the country's most recognizable name in Home Organizing. I'm certain the project proposal will be flawless. But if you are going to be doing all the physical work yourself and only have remote access to the organizer.

Ok, now that I've demonstrated the extremes, let's get real. The true range is probably between $50/hr & $100/hr, at least here in the Louisville Area. If you live in the big city like LA or NYC, the average is higher due to cost of living most start around $60/hr. If you live in Akron, OH, I've seen prices as low as $30/hr. As with most things, where you live, market saturation, and experience are all going to contribute to the price you are going to pay.

4. Materials Costs: The single most controllable cost is definitely all those VERY ENTICING organizing supplies. People seem to be addicted to buying home organizing products. Note that I said "buying" not "using." Something in the gratification realm of people's brains goes nutty when they buy organizing supplies. It's akin to when you tell people you work out or PLANNING a vacation. You get the mental payoff & satisfaction as if you had actually organized without having actually done anything. Now, having worked in retail, I appreciate the GENIUS of this sales model. Hence, the shameless direct link to my products page. However, as an organizer it makes me shake my head. Why? 

Because for the most part, it is counter intuitive. Sure, I can MAKE just about anything work as an organizer if you have purchased it already and want it used, but that does not mean it is the right product to keep you organized. I usually purchase commonly used items in advance of a job to have in case I need them but I ALWAYS have leftovers to return because as I'm in the process, things don't work exactly as anticipated. Sometimes, I have way more or less of an item in a category than I anticipated, so I need a different system to keep it organized than I originally had planned. What I'm suggesting here is to resist the urge to buy a bunch of stuff in advance of speaking with your organizer. Or at least until you actually get through the portion of the process where you sort all your things.

Now, how much should you expect to spend on organizing products for your project? Again, it depends on a number of factors. Function, aesthetic, total budget, how much of your things to decide to throw away and/or donate all contribute to what you will ultimately spend. Want to spend $0? Donate everything and become a monk or nun. But really, $0 is not feasible, but the premise of the more you get rid of, the less you need to spend on products to keep your things organized still holds. So, while you may not be able to get rid of everything you own and therefore have no need for organizing products, You can probably stand to donate some percentage of your items. Want to save even more? Do this BEFORE you call the organizer. The less time an organizer has to spend sorting through items you aren't going to keep anyway, the less total billable hours they will have to charge for and the less containers they'll need in order to store all your things.

Cheap, Average, & Premium Products: When you get inspired to get organized, you are probably looking at the chaos and clutter in your home and comparing it to some beautifully curated organizing product collection on Pinterest or TikTok or watching mainstream professionals use The Container Store on Netflix. This most likely means you are looking at buying cheap Dollar Tree bins and wall hooks or premium acrylic containers at some primary retailer. The truth is, rather than running out to buy the cheap hack or the expensive rack that the Kardashian's have, you need to be thinking about the overall aesthetic you want and your total budget. Cardboard is not pretty and will degrade but is very cost effective, solid color plastics tend to be mid-grade in cost and can provide a uniform look, glass, clear acrylic, hyacinth and rattan are expensive but totally worthy of a Better Homes & Gardens cover.

The least I've ever spent was $50 to $100 on a garage project. How? The customer did a spectacular job in advance of donating and purging at a yard sale. It left quite a few old bins and boxes unused and ready to be repurposed. Ultimately, we opted to buy a few new plastic bins to store what was left in a more durable long-term way than using the leftover cardboard boxes. This is far from typical. The good news is, your organizer should be able to give you a reliable estimate in advance for what to expect to spend on materials based on your preferences and the organizers needs to put a system in place for your project. Make sure it is one of the questions you ask during the quote phase.

5. Disposal Fees: It comes down to how much you have to get rid of and who will do it. If you don't have much to get rid of, your organizer will probably just use your trash can for any garbage they uncover and they can often pack your car with any donations you identify. Don't want to be troubled with taking your donations? Some organizers will take them off your hands for a trip charge or the time it takes to drive them to Goodwill. If you are in a hoarding situation, on the low end you may have need for a Bagster trash pickup which will run you about $250, if the disposal amount is truly significant, a roll off dumpster or junk removal service may be subcontracted which can range from a few hundred to a couple thousand depending on scope of work.

6. Your Time: I feel like this is the most overlooked expense when considering to hire a professional organizer is your own time! 

How much time are you spending stressing about the clutter in your home? What's the dollar value you would associate with that stress if you could? A psychiatrist is usually a couple hundred per session, not to mention the medication costs for anxiety or depression.

How much time do you waste everyday looking for things you've misplaced? At YOUR hourly rate, how much is that annually? Let's say you are willing to admit to spending 8-10 minutes trying to put together what to wear each day because you have to sort through piles of laundry and flip through your hanging shirt 4 times to find the top you want to wear that day. Ok, so that makes about an hour a week, 52 hours a year equals basically one and a quarter of your weekly pay before tax. Once you add a very conservative 25% income tax on your earnings. You have officially lost 8 days of pay annually just to get dressed for work. To put a dollar on it, if you make $15/hr you have cost yourself $1,000 this year just by having a chaotic closet. Now, if you earn more than that hourly, imagine what it's costing you. Suddenly, spending $800 for a professional organizer to organize your midsize closet and dressers sounds like a way to save $200 of your time.

Function vs. Fashion

June 20, 2022

So I came across a TikTok where an organizer was discussing the two types of organizing: the functional and the fashionable. Really, I think it is more a spectrum, than a specific black and white choice. Ultimately, for organizing to be functional everything must have a place and where you store it must be reasonably accessible and intuitive. This can be restricted by space constraints (we’ll discuss that another day). Fashion can intersect beautifully with function, but has limitations like specificity and budget.

The more specifically you organize items, the more complex the system becomes. Lacking specificity is no good either because you end with chaos. If you are aiming for the aesthetic effect on Get Organized from Netflix, you may end up with more categories than you can keep up with. Many people do not have the time or commitment to transfer individual food items to air tight acrylic containers every time they get groceries. Sure, it looks unbelievably beautiful, but I think most people are ok with sacrificing that level of specification in leu of a bin that holds multiple bags of the grains secured with a tie or in a Ziplock bag. It’s just as functional to just go to one bin and grab the appropriate item but its MORE functional to put away. In my opinion, organizing should free up your time, not add to the difficulty of keeping an area in order.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore what The Home Edit does to a space. What I’m saying is, to achieve the look, often it requires multiple rattan or acrylic containers. These add up quickly for project cost. If you have the room in your budget to make that investment and the time to maintain it, by all means replace the shelving in the pantry with Elfa from the container store and get matching clear bins and airtight containers to store each food item so it all looks uniform. If, however, you are set on a restricted budget, maybe opt to leave most items in their packaging and instead group like categories, using inexpensive white plastic bins or even painted cardboard to contain items that are unruly like bags of uncooked beans. This method is not going to make your pantry go viral but it will save you time cooking and putting away groceries. Having a system that works for you is what is important.

Questions to consider when deciding on a budget for containers:

• How important is it that your products match and are visually consistent? Maybe getting items sorted is what you value most and repurposing cardboard boxes will be sufficient. Especially, if your items are getting stored in an interior closet. If you aren't looking at it all the time, you may not care if it is beautiful so long as you can find your collection of holiday stuffed animals when that time of year comes around. But if you have glass front cabinets in the kitchen you frequently entertain in, spending some extra money to keep the look uniform is a must.

• Do you have products you can use/reuse from around the house? I have a rattan bin with attached lid from like 10 years ago that I have repurposed at least 3 times. When I was first married living in a small apartment, it held all my husband's video games and console accessories. Fast forward to a couple years ago, it was repurposed for my newborn’s toys. He only had a few toys but I wanted to keep them all in the living room. Dad hasn't played with that console in a couple years, so we had sold it and the bin was sitting empty. Present day, I upgraded my kid to his own playroom, most of the baby toys have been stored away or donated, the living room has been reclaimed as a neutral family area. The bin again gets a new job, a place to stash spare throw blankets for movie nights.

• How long do you expect to keep your products? If its for a kid's room, the answer is probably 6 months - 2 years. Do you really want to spend top dollar to organize your 3 year-olds crayons when most of them will be broken or lost in the next few weeks? Alternatively, you may have a teen who is very into art and has been for some time, so beautifully displaying their pencils and charcoals in acrylic containers is well worth the investment. The will likely take these items and their premium containers with them as they move out to their own place or dorm.