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VOL. 128 | NO. 6 | Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Conquering Clutter

Home organization businesses aim to eradicate closet chaos


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In late 2011, Lydia Bors-Koefoed of Cordova was preparing for her daughter’s wedding and realized she needed a little extra help.

Renata Baker, left, and Michelle Cardot of 86Clutter.com dismantle a Christmas tree in a client’s home. Baker and Cardot are professional home organizers.  

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

It wasn’t with the flowers, catering or reception plans, however. It was her closets.

“People were going to be coming in and out of our home,” Bors-Koefoed said. “We were going to have several houseguests. I needed the sheets to be organized so everything would be easily accessible.”

And then there were her Christmas decorations. Bors-Koefoed loves decorating for the holidays, but her decorations were all stored in cardboard boxes in her attic. She didn’t have time to root around in them that year.

So she reached out to a local team of professional organizers for help.

Michelle Cardot and Renata Baker opened their company, 86Clutter, in 2011. Introduced by a mutual friend, they discovered they had almost uncanny similarities: both were originally from Brazil, both had a passion for organizing things and both were seeking new careers.

In addition, Cardot, a former fashion designer, and Baker, a former lawyer, each previously had organized friends’ homes and businesses as a hobby. Once they learned of their shared joy in conquering clutter, they decided to join forces and start a business.

“Often, many people just need a push from someone outside their homes to start the organization process,” Baker said. “They would like to start getting organized, but they don’t have the energy or time, or they look around and they just feel overwhelmed. It’s good to have someone from the outside come in without judgment and make the process easier. We help them get organized, but we also share what we know with the clients.”

In Bors-Koefoed’s case, the team organized her decorations in clear, labeled containers. They neatly arranged her sheets in order of color and bed size. When they were finished, Bors-Koefoed asked them to tackle her pantry and cupboards.

“We got it all very organized to where it made it easier to know where everything was. It still gives me a peace of mind now,” said Bors-Koefoed, who still uses the team’s services today.

Cardot and Baker initially took on friends as their first clients. The only tools they used to grow the business were a website – 86clutter.com – and the occasional ad in neighborhood advertising circulars. They credit most of their business’ success to word-of-mouth and referrals. Now, they have a steady stream of new and repeat clients, but not so many as to overwhelm them.

“We still have space for new clients,” Baker said. “We don’t have our phone ringing two or three hours a day, but that’s actually one of the best things about the job. We normally work about five hours a day, which lets us spend time with our families and still make money doing what we love.”

The two charge $280 for five hours of work, but their rate is higher for garages and attics, which can be massive tasks.

According to the National Association for Professional Organizers (NAPO) – a group of about 4,200 professional organizers dedicated to helping individuals and businesses bring order and efficiency to their lives – the business is growing because Americans are facing more demands with less free time.

JoAnn Jones is vice president of the Memphis chapter of NAPO and has been working as a professional organizer for almost four years. She said NAPO not only provides her with ongoing educational opportunities but also the industry camaraderie and support that many self-employed people need.

“Because we are all independent contractors, it’s nice to have a group where we can share experiences and techniques that work for us,” she said. “It helps to have a group of people who can offer feedback. Some members have specialty areas that others don’t, and they’re very willing to share that experience.”

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