As a team, we get asked so many questions by our clients, friends, family and people we meet while running errands that see our logo or how organized our shopping carts are. Today we’re going to share some commonly asked questions about how to organize certain spaces, choosing the best products, various organizing systems for different people and some funny ones too!

Should I go out and buy organizing bins, boxes and containers?

We strongly suggest NOT buying products before you start an organizing project. We use the acronym SPACE when working with our clients. Sort, Purge, Assign, Containerize, Equalize. We always start by Sorting through the area we’re focusing on – creating different piles of categories to differentiate what belongs in this space and what needs to find a new home. Then we start the Purging phase – asking our clients to decide what’s trash, recycling, and what can be donated. Next is Assigning items a home – basically deciding what goes where. Then comes Containerize – this is when you can search for and find the bin, box, container, or storage solution for your space. Equalize is the last (but not least) step in this process – finding balance in the space and making sure you’re using the space and containers to their full potential.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve come across while organizing?

We’ve seen a lot of funny and strange things as we’ve dug through piles of paper, clothing and everything else you could imagine. One of the biggest surprises we’ve ever had was a snake in a bathroom, thank goodness it was in a tank. And even though we try to remind our clients to hide anything that they don’t want us to see, we still seem to find many adult novelty products, even full bags of them!

How long does it take to organize _________?

The answer is really simple – it depends on YOU! A lot of our work really depends on how fast our clients can make decisions. When sorting through paperwork and making decisions on what’s important to keep versus what can be recycled or shredded, some clients can go through a banker’s box full of paper in 15 minutes, while others might take 3 hours. Everyone has their own pace and their own process for making decisions. That’s why we often can’t answer the question “how long will this take” until we start working with you. Once we know how quickly you make decisions we can give an educated guess on how long a specific project will take. We have found that a good starting point for estimating how long it will take is at least 8 hours per room but this is based on a moderately disorganized space.

Paper – This can often be one of the hardest items to get through with clients. Most people will want to read the entire document and then take time to think about keeping it or not. Often, when working with paper organizing, we try and start by helping people get through large piles quickly by skimming the documents and categorizing them into piles (taxes, receipts, medical, bills, memorabilia). Once they are categorized it’s easier to look through and make decisions when you’re focusing on one category at a time.

Clothing – Most clients will want or need to try on clothing before making decisions on what to keep. This is totally understandable, but we have to factor this into our timeframe. Again, just like the paper, some clients can make decisions about the pile of 100 blouses in 10 minutes, while others will take 10 minutes on each shirt. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, in this situation. Our answer to “how long will this take” will depend on how fast you make decisions about your clothing. We are not fashion experts, but a lot of our clients do trust our opinions and ask us what we think as they try on clothing. I really enjoy helping my clients make decisions about what clothing looks good on their bodies and what to donate. Helping people create a sense of style and fill their wardrobe with only things they are going to wear confidently brings me great joy.

Kitchen – We’ve been in many kitchens where the food pantry is emptied out very quickly because the expiration dates dictate what to keep and what to toss. Usually the time is spent on the details – coming up with systems to help our clients stay organized in the kitchen. We are professional organizers, not nutritionists or dietitians, but we often work with clients to help them get rid of their junk food and build healthier habits.

How often do you need to check in with clients after a session?

Most of our clients book packages with us, which gives them several sessions to work on a project. Depending on the nature of the project we might work with someone once a day for 3-5 days in a row, once a week for 5-10 weeks in a row, or once a month throughout the year. When a project is “done” we check in with our clients afterwards to see if they need any follow up or additional services. Often we start working with a client to help them organize a specific space in their home or office and then by the second or third session we’ve decided together to branch out into other areas of the home. There’s always more that can be done!

What do you do to take care of yourself?

We have to take care of ourselves so we can help our clients. Often we spend 4-8 hours a day bending, squatting, lifting and moving things around our clients spaces. We tend to leave sessions with our cars full of items to be donated to various organizations around Boston, which means the work isn’t over when we leave a home or office. We all have different ways of taking care of our bodies and minds so we can show up for this type of work.

I’m constantly being asked by clients if my back is ok, if I’m tired, or where I get the energy. I share my practices with my clients so they not only know I am ok, but also so they can hear ways they can take care of themselves during the organizing process. I go to yoga 3-4 times a week and I try to stretch every day before and after work.

I bet your house is super organized!?

Sometimes! Yes – most professional organizers probably live in a pretty organized space, but it’s not always that way. We are not perfect, we promise!

“I have a filing system in place for my paperwork, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a bin of unsorted papers in my room; I’m a work in progress as well.” ~ Mia

“It is! We have a rule in our house that we spend 15 minutes tidying up every night before bed, we set out our clothes, make our lunches and make sure that everything is in it’s place to start the next day off right. I couldn’t function efficiently if I didn’t do this every day.” ~Stasia 

How did you learn to organize? Are you naturally organized?

We are all members of NAPO and NAPO-New England. As you read about in our last blogNAPO is the National Association of Professional Organizers and NAPO-NE is our local chapter. We all participate in regular online training programs, giving us the opportunity to learn more about the organizing industry, along with organizing philosophies and skills. Once a month we attend NAPO-NE chapter meetings in Boston and network with other organizers in the area. Every month a guest speaker attends and shares their experience and expertise on a specific topic, such as working with OCD, ADHD and hoarding disorders. Our team of organizers have always had a knack for organizing but most of us learned to be this way based out of necessity- we either grew up in a disorganized home or struggle with ADHD ourselves and had to find ways to cope.

What’s your favorite organizing product?

Some of our favorite products can be found on our online shopWe love searching through The Container Store both online and in person for the best products for each of our clients. The truth is that all organizing products and systems can be useful, but every person and every space needs a specific fit. It’s important to look for products that are easy to use, maintain and will make your life more simple.

One of my personal favorites are the Real Simple boot shapers, Mia loves InterDesign Binz and Stasia loves the Real Simple slimline hangers– you can find all of these at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Make sure you visit our FAQ page to find out more answers to questions about getting organized with The Little Details.

Written by Stasia Steele

Stasia Steele

Owner of The Little Details and Expert Professional Organizer