EXPECTATIONS–The Consultation
Here are the topics for this Q & A Sub-section on Expectations – The Consultation.

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Preparing “How do I prepare for your consult visit?”
Process “What happens when you arrive?”
Info/Tips “What kinds of information and tips do you share?”
Criticism “Will you criticize me for having too much stuff?”
Shame “Am I the worst?”
Despair “Is this hopeless?”
Finishing “How long will this take?”
Budget “What if I don’t have enough money for your services?"
$Priorities “What if I have $ but see organizing as a frivolous expense?”
$ Disappears “Why do I have a good income, but have nothing left for organizing?”

Before calling for help, some clients feel depression, anxiety and fatigue about facing the overwhelming situation and are understandably resistant to exposing themselves to someone from the outside.

This is why groups like Clutterers’ Anonymous, Messies Anonymous and the Fly Lady exist. Links to these and other support groups and also for therapy types or mindfulness meditation exist in the Resources section of this website.

Preparing: "How do I prepare for your consult visit?

Very little prep is needed. If the center of the floor is full of toys, here’s a tip for a quick clean up. Just take a plastic snow shovel (cleaned) and quickly “snowplow” pathways to closets and drawers. That is all that is necessary so we can walk to the storage areas and look at them.

It’s best to leave the piles that gather on furniture and floors in corners where they are so Jill can see the blockages and help you prevent them in the future. If there is anything particularly personal to you, you could remove it and put it in your “off-limits zone.”

Process: "What happens when you arrive?"

So, what happens with Jill’s Consultation? First of all – “Whew!! – what a relief!” – no hands-on work will be done during this consult.

Jill believes that you probably want to feel comfortable with any professional organizer’s personality, space planning skills and ideas for storage solutions first, before agreeing to any hands-on sorting or organizing.

Without feeling a good rapport, it may be uncomfortable to show a stranger through your home and inside drawers and closets much less have them start sorting your stuff.

Some organizers may start working with you hands-on during the first visit and in many situations this turns out fine. But if you are concerned about that possibly feeling invasive, you will feel comfortable that Jill won’t start organizing your belongings during her first visit. You make the choice whether you want to hire her to come back for a session or not.

This is why Jill has a separation between the Consult and the Work Session:

Consultation – Walking, Talking, Brainstorming, Organizing Tips, Planning

Work Session – Hands-on Sorting, Rightsizing, Storing, Habit Change

Sometimes the consultation begins with a few minutes of sitting with coffee or tea to share the back stories of you and your situation. Jill listens to you as you describe your vision for a home or office that brings you joy.

Other times, the client just starts going around room-by-room opening closets and drawers and showing “hot spots” for clutter. Jill asks a lot of questions about furniture and people in the home and how rooms would be used in the future. You get tips on how to organize your rooms and declutter your life.

The Services section has nitty gritty info like Geographic Areas served and Rates.

Info/Tips “What kinds of information and tips do you share?”
  1. Space Planning*
  2. Home Maintenance
  3. Ergonomics
  4. Green Eco-organizing
  5. Downsizing
  6. Future Growth
  7. Skill Sharing
  8. Resources
  9. Handouts
Criticism: "Will you criticize me for having too much stuff?"

No. Jill is not a “Spartan” organizer. She likes and lives with clothes and paper and books just like you.

Together, you and Jill will discuss your goals and the current amount of storage in your home and compare the two. If your goal is to downsize 20% and the remaining 80% is unlikely to fit your current storage, Jill will discuss ways to rearrange furniture in order clear the floor against open wall space. Then tall storage furniture like an armoire or a shelf can be added to hold the “Keepers.”

When you consider the cost of buying new storage furniture or built-in cabinets or shelves – you may conclude that you would like to downsize more. You may even tackle that storage unit that is soaking up monthly charges. These are your choices to make for your future habitat – less stuff or more and better storage – or both!!

Jill will help you match your vision for your space to the amount of belongings you keep. Adjustments can be made to your vision for your end result if you are not ready to part with more. Sometimes people come back a year or two later and are ready to part with another 20%.

Shame: "Am I the worst?"

This is a common question, but the answer is most likely “No!” As the first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization in Washington, DC, Jill Lawrence, CPO-CD® has seen and worked in many severely cluttered environments since she started her business in 1996.

If there are pathways in your home that can be walked directly on the floor and the stacks of boxes and bags are not all higher than 6' tall in every direction, then you probably don’t have the most severe conditions she’s ever worked in.

Some households have one “Room of Doom” and the rest is open. Others have open space throughout the main public areas and have stacked spaces in the private upstairs. Still other folks are Spreaders (not Tuckers) who have piles sprinkled in every room. Jill’s experience inventing remedies for all these situations is available to you.

Some clients say they initially felt too embarrassed and ashamed about their “mess” to show it to anyone and waited for years to call an organizer. But Jill believes that being disorganized is not a moral issue and it’s not a crime. No laws have been broken. ‘Thou shalt not clutter’ is not one of the Ten Commandments!

It’s the lack of the organizing knack – that’s all. There are just some skills that some people have and some people don’t have. If you don’t have the ability to fix your computer or build a deck or sew a quilt, do you feel shame? If you are bored or overwhelmed by gardening or doing your taxes, you hire help, right?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and everyone can use some help in some areas of life. An intelligent response is to recognize the need and get support to accomplish your goals.

For a personal story told by a client of Jill's that covers these topics, read the Photo Diary in About Jill.

Despair: "Is this hopeless?"

Although many people feel trapped and burdened by clutter when they start, most achieve release and relief when they work with Jill-of-all-Trades. Each home and situation is different – but so far none has been hopeless!!

For many, the problem is, “where do I start?” Each person, family and space offers up it’s own starting place.

  • Sometimes, it is the front area near the entrance because it will feel encouraging.

  • Sometimes it is the kitchen because the person has an injury and needs everything rearranged to avoid bending or climbing on a step stool.

The storage areas such as the basement or mud room are frequently first because they need to be cleared out and set up in “departments” – travel, pets, sports, etc. (and downsized) before all the homeless goodies that are spread out in the living areas can find spots to call home within the new system.

“Junk” rooms usually look the worst, but they get cleared the fastest because a lot of what is in there is delayed decisions. These are things that are broken or incomplete or replaced but not released. So it’s a matter of accepting reality and moving the stuff out.

Finishing: "How long will this take?"

Wow, if only there were a crystal ball to predict the time it would take to accomplish a process with so many variables. Alas – organizing is not done using magic wands and fairy dust.

A great deal of stuff is hidden – in corners or under the bed or in a bag behind a door.

Other layers that are hard to predict include the level of detail, the obviousness of the condition, and the emotional responses to the items as they appear.

Variability in process time also occurs in your ability to stay focused and motivated and to not be distracted by interruptions. These may change from one day to the next. A looming deadline makes a client process faster, a postponed deadline slows things down.

Defining “Done”
Most importantly, how do you define “Done?”

One client may feel done if the floor and dining table are clear.

A second client wants basic boxes and bins with post-it labels on shelves and in drawers.

A third wants beautiful Container Store designer bins with everything elegantly displayed and labeled with peel and stick labels with all the framed art on the wall and the decorative items placed artistically.
When considering how long it will take to organize your space, ask yourself:
“Can I work quickly and make decisions quickly?”
“Can I stay consistently focused during the sessions?”
If you can, it will get completed much more quickly.

Also, think about the following:

“How many years did I spend getting disorganized?”
“How many more years do I hope to live?”
“How do I want to live those future years?”
Your efforts today will pay you long-term dividends into your more peaceful future life.

If you add up 5, 10, 15 or even 20 sessions of organizing and pro-rate the benefits over the next few decades of organized living, the time and money invested is small. Think of the hours each week you’ll save by not stressing out frantically searching for lost items or buying duplicate items?

$ Budget: "What if I don't have enough money for your services?"

Can you afford to NOT get organized?

Start with your current cost analysis. What are you paying each month in–

  • mortgage
  • insurance
  • taxes
  • heat and air conditioning
  • equipment and maintenance
for the rooms and closets in your home that are mostly inaccessible and unusable?

The amount of space in homes that is not being used for its intended purpose varies. In one row house without a basement or garage – it may be one “junk room” and 4 closets – 200 square feet out of a 2000 square foot home. Do your math to see the real costs of procrastinating.

$ Priorities: "What if I have $ but see organizing as a frivolous expense?"

Clutter Costs Cash, too!
Let’s say your costs per year for your home add up to $40,000. That means that in this scenario, every year you are wasting $4,000!!

What’s worse is that many homes devote far more square footage to house clutter. Is yours closer to 40% or even 80%? Take a moment to do the math and figure out how much of your money is going down the drain each year. Now add up the years that this has gone on.

So if it’s 40% of $40,000 and you’ve lived there 15 years – that equals a grand total of $240,000 wasted on uninhabitable real estate.

With a downsized, organized house new possibilities emerge –

A romantic relationship – sharing the costs
A paying roommate or relative to put money in the coffers
Selling a freshly organized space quickly for a good price

Isn’t it time to get off the fence and jump on over to Contact Jill to get started saving money today?

If you also pay extra for one or more storage units, that monthly fee (think of the storage unit as a “broken-down clutter taxicab.) That meter keeps running – but the stuff goes nowhere. This also gets added onto the money that is going down the drain.

Engaging body, soul and hard-earned cash is a major investment in a long-term, quality-of-life improvement project. It is not a luxury – it is essential.

Renovating or Building an Addition isn’t Cheap
Are you considering shelling out some major dough to build an addition onto the back of your house or even to buy a bigger house? Or maybe it’s renovation on a smaller scale – a new bathroom, fixing walls, and painting. These costs are real, but are often accepted and ignored. The bank fronts the money so it seems easier to swallow, but then you owe more money and still are surrounded by clutter!

$ Disappears: "Why do I have a good income, but I have nothing left for organizing?"

This all boils down to aligning your financial behavior with your internal core values. Do you whip out your credit card for–

quick bites of fast food
pricey coffees and restaurant dinners
new outfits and shoes
the latest tech gadgets
weekly mani-pedi appointments
tickets to sports or cultural events
collecting on eBay
weekender travel jaunts?

Do all these costs come first – BEFORE making your home functional and fun?

Do these items really bring you the day-to-day and long-term peace and joy you seek?

Reality Check – Costs of Organizing
But there can be a scary feeling when you sit to write a check directly to a professional organizer at the end of a day session or a marathon. Even though you see the visible major results and feel good about the progress, in this situation you actually notice the money as it is being spent.

All of the above choices cost you money. The only difference is that with the status quo of clutter or the renovation options, or the quickie consumer purchases – it is easy to be deluded about the actual costs which are truly far more than for organizing!

But the difference is that each time you pay a dollar for organizing help, you improve your chances of using and enjoying the home you already pay for anyway!!

So if you are ready to FACE the reality in order to FIX the reality, please Contact Jill for help.

Discounts: "Do you offer any discounts?"

The section of this web site that deals with Rates covers the topic of discounts in the area on marathoning.

To learn more about free hours for clients who refer friends and family, check out the section on the referral program.

Saving Cash: "How can I save money using Jill-of-all-Trades?"

Here are some ideas to speed up the process – thereby saving you money.

Schedule a play date or get a sitter for young children.
Take the dog for a big long run before the session begins.

Help Jill bring in tables and supplies.
Help to set up tables in the sorting station.
Assemble white cardboard boxes.

Break down tables and carry sorted boxes to new areas.
Help carry equipment and supplies to car with Jill.

Avoid distractions like phones ringing and knocks on the door.
Ask for and complete homework assignments between sessions.

On Being Pleasantly Surprised:

“I was worried you’d be real perky with bad ideas – too superficial – and I wouldn’t learn new stuff, but in fact you have very good problem-solving abilities and I learned a lot of new things.”
ME, international finance, Scott Circle, Washington, DC
































On a Consultation with Jill:
“Although we hired Jill to help with our closet/bedroom, we talked about our larger issues with space and storage. A 2.5 hour consult resulted in doubling the space we have for the baby to play. This weekend, we’ll attack the closets with a full battle plan. It think this will be like “Clean House” but without Neicy’s berating me for my foolishness...:-)”
S.Y., transportation executive (Posted to a Moms’ Listserv), Capitol Hill, Washington, DC







On Learning Space Planning Skills:
“By working with Jill I learned how to space plan. It’s not about gadgets or minutiae. I used to get flummoxed trying to micro sort the categories and got confused with subtlety and crossover categories. She helped me design a visual structure that doesn’t confuse the eye. We went step-by-step through the process with her helping me to avoid pitfalls. The framework is fantastic.”
M.T., junior high schoolteacher, Fairfax, Virginia

On Family and Friends Helping vs. Jill:
“People harass you – family, friends, even movers. But, you’re not like my mother. You have such a good attitude – no condescending superiority. Whenever I was desperate and growling, you put a positive face on it.”
B.T., Navy nurse, Bethesda, Maryland





On Realization for a Client’s Next Phase:
“...So what I’m dreaming about is the possibility of coming back sometime during the winter and doing a two or three day marathon with you. I’m beginning to realize that what I’m doing basically is finding storage for everything I own rather than eliminating a lot of the stuff. As you know, this is challenging for me but I always appreciate your positive attitude and input.”
C.U. Quiltmaker, retiree, Arlington, Virginia



















On Emotional Despair:
“It was impossible for me to emotionally face the old things which represented enormous changes in my life – not all of which were pleasant (i.e., an additional 4 sizes in dress size.) It was hard for me to part with worn items which represented positive events in my life. It was impossible for me to sort through all the papers I had hoarded for years. I could not determine the important from the unimportant...”
B.T., Navy Nurse, Bethesda, Maryland











































On Budgeting for Jill-of-all-Trades:
“I’ve started talking to my husband when we consider purchasing something, I say, “How many Jill hours is that going to cost?” We call it ‘Jill-lira’. I’ll say , “No we don’t need that. That’s 5 Jill-lira that I’d rather spend on Jill.’

Also, the more we get organized, the more stuff we find that we already own and don’t need to shop for. My husband loves his tool room transformation. Now, we don’t need to make a special shopping trip because whatever we need – it’s right here on the shelf!!”
R.L., community volunteer and active grandmother, Kemp Mill, Maryland


On the Value of Jill’s Organizing Services:
“I’ve mentioned you to several people but they are either unwilling or unable to pay for this kind of help. Little do they seem to know how much quality of life this can add. I’m a believer...that’s why I call you my Wonder Woman!”
C.W., retiree, Arlington, Virginia



















On Saving Money on Therapy:
“After years of therapy, I still couldn’t tackle my organizational chaos. After a few sessions with Jill, I felt like a new person. In retrospect, I could have saved a lot of money had I found Jill earlier!”
L.S., sandwich generation mom/caretaker/full time job, Tenleytown, Washington, DC




On the High Costs of Shopping:
"I’m a shopaholic. I get stressed, I shop. I zone out. It’s euphoria. But it doesn’t last. It’s a costly obsession. I had to cut up my charge cards and I owe lots of people money.”
M.E., international banking, Scott Circle, Washington, DC








On Miraculous Work:
“Jill, I write this check with whole-hearted gratitude for your miraculous work!” Love, T.
T.O, speaker, entrepreneur, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC