Spokane Journal of Business

Creating harmony from clutter

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Creating harmony from clutter
-—Staff photo by Chey Scott
Becky Hare, of Simply Living, shows how she uses a basket to organize CDs in her home, something she also suggests for clients.

Becky Hare, of Spokane, has taken a piece of her own well-ordered lifestyle and created a business out of it, organizing other people's homes and lives through her personal organizing business here, called Simply Living. She says her philosophy is to teach clients simple organizational techniques so they can maintain the process on their own continually.

"It's very Zen-y, but if you do a good job that is what it brings to the environment you are organizing," Hare says.

Hare, who is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), started her business in the Seattle area in 2004 and moved to Spokane in 2006, she says.

She says she got into personal organizing after she lost her job as a receptionist at a dental office in the Seattle area and, in her free time, noticed several shows on the home and garden cable television network, HGTV, that were focused on the personal organizing business.

Through her business, Hare works in all areas of a client's home, including garages and home offices, but doesn't offer the service for businesses.

Hare says the national average per hour for a professional organizer, based on information from the NAPO, is more than $50 per hour, but she declines to disclose her rates, and says she has been forced to adjust her rates here lower than the national average, due to the current economic situation and the lower cost of living and average income level in the Spokane area.

When working with a client, Hare says she uses a three-step process. The first step is a one-hour free assessment, during which she asks every client the same 10 questions and conducts a walk-through evaluation of the condition of their home.

As part of the process, she takes time on her own to plan the steps she will take in each home, including what rooms to start with, how long to spend in each room, and what organizing supplies she will need to purchase or ask the client to buy. She says one of her favorite items to use for organization is baskets.

Finally comes what's called the "de-cluttering" or "purging" of spaces. Hare says the purging is done hands-on with the client, to ensure they are able to understand the process and know where and why things are being placed in certain areas.

Last, Hare works with each client on what she calls behavioral modification. She says the most important part of this step is identifying what kind of learner her client is, whether a they're critical, spatial, kinesthetic, or audio learner.

"If you teach this step wrong you will lose them," she says. "You have to understand why they do or don't put things away."

The key, Hare says, is to work on only one room at a time, to give clients a sense of order.

"It can be hard on clients or too overwhelming and emotional," she says. "If you are good at it, you can get one room done in about four hours, which makes a client feel good about it." she says.

Being a personal organizer requires Hare to be non-judgmental in her assessment and her opinion of the clients she works with, she says.

"You have to understand that a person is overwhelmed for different reasons, and the human condition is such that when you walk in, you uncover that. It's such a trust issue," she says.

Hare says her training through NAPO has given her the tools she needs to deal with many of the causes of disorganization, including attention deficit disorder, hoarding, and chronic disorganization. She says NAPO offers specific classes and certification to members who work with clients who have these conditions, but she is certified under the general category of professional organizer.

"You end up being a life coach," Hare says, "You also find that it's very common that clients are excited to get going, and then about two hours into the process you can see that they are fading."

She says it is important for her to maintain a strong sense of focus with clients to keep them committed to the task. One technique Hare says she uses with distracted and burned out clients is humor.

"It makes them relax. I try to make it fun, because it can be burdensome, especially during the hands-on part," she says.

One aspect of her business that Hare says she enjoys most is helping clients redecorate their home. She says she often will rearrange things to present them better, such as re-hanging pictures or setting up a bookcase in a tasteful arrangement.

"The interior design is part of what I love about it because you can be very creative," she says.

Hare says she would describe most of her clients as moderately disorganized, although she says a few have been extremely disorganized people.

She says a moderately disorganized person tends to have clutter in every room, and usually recognizes the issue, but is too overwhelmed to know what to do about it.

Hare says she also has worked with clients who have been extremely neglectful of their home's cleanliness, but adds that deep cleaning and detailing isn't part of her business.

The typical clients Hare works with the elderly or families in which both parents work outside the home. She says she usually works with two to three clients at any given time, and on average it takes a week or two to organize a home completely.

"People need to realize that an organizer can't come fix it up in two or three days. It took years for people to get to that point, so it won't take me two days to fix it up," she says.

Some of the biggest challenges Hare says she encounters are resistant or controlling clients.

"Clients can be really resistant even though they have hired you," she says. "Because of their behavior they are really controlling and it can be like pulling teeth to implement solutions."

Still, Hare says there are many rewarding aspects of her job.

"You feel like you have changed someone's life," she says. "One client said to me, 'Oh my God, my bedroom is so peaceful!'" she says.

Hare says seeing clients take pride in their homes and feel they can invite people into their homes again is another positive result.

"You taught them something," she says. "That is the reward within itself."

One of Hare's success stories involves a client she recently worked with who has been able to maintain organization in her home, she says.

"Maintaining the organization is one of the biggest issues because when you leave, they can go back to their old ways," Hare says.

In this case, she says, her client even was able to get her children to put away their things without being told.

"When you can get a whole family on board in organizing that is the perfect success story," she says.

Hare offers follow-up assessments for all her clients, to ensure her initial services have continued to be effective; the check-ups are free of charge for the first half-hour, she says.

As for her own home, Hare says she has always been organized. She says she and her sister, who share a home on the South Hill, completely reorganized their kitchen from top to bottom recently.

"If I am not personally organized, I feel out of control, so being organized on a personal level keeps me on track and focused," she says.

Hare is the sole employee of her business.

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