Katherine Denton, a certified PDMM(R) and Professional Organizer, answers questions and shares tips in two articles published by Macon Magazine. The articles were originally published in the June/July 2013 and December/January 2018 editions.
How did you decide to become a professional organizer?
I started my career as a “professional organizer” in 1995. I had been working as an advertising account executive in Atlanta, but I was miserable, so I quit. A temporary agency assigned me a one day receptionist job at a company called Montgomery Watson. Thankfully the phone rarely rang because when it did I answered it “Montgomery Ward… I mean … MMMMontgomery Watson.”
Even though I was struggling with the phone, I was succeeding at impressing the regional manager with my organizing skills. Over the course of the day I organized his desktop, his desk drawers, found creative solutions to his incoming paper problems, wrote a letter on his behalf chastising an employee for having a pornographic screensaver and completed 3 months’ worth of expense reports. By the end of the day, he asked me if I would be his “personal assistant.” From there I marketed myself as a personal assistant with an ever-increasing skill set.
If someone were shopping for an organizer, what should they look for?
Every organizer has a unique skill set. I specialize in helping clients organize their tax papers, utilize Quicken or QuickBooks to track income/expenses and create budgets, prepare financial affidavits and other divorce paperwork, and set-up filing systems for important estate, financial, tax and work documents. In my field of financial/paper/time organization, I recommend looking for a person who is licensed, insured, and a Certified Professional Daily Money Manager. Ask your accountant or financial planner for referrals. I also advise searching sources like Home Advisor that have pre-screened businesses and have feedback from past clients. Once you narrow it down, call for a free consultation and see if it’s a good fit.
What are some of the services offered by a professional organizer?
Professional organizers do a lot! There is no limit to what we can do. Services include organizing homes, offices, finances, time, business offices, relocation, bill pay, downsizing, pictures, garage sales, children, volunteers, events and more. Search the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals for professionals who specialize in the kind of help you need (http://www.napo.net).
What tips do you have for someone who might want to “declutter & freshen up” their home for the new year?
A common resolution is to make a positive change in the new year. Whatever it is, get started by creating the perfect space for the new you. Lighten up and let go of the old stuff that no longer fits with the new you. This can be physical stuff like clothing, paper and clutter, or commitments and relationships that no longer suit you. Resist the urge to buy. Give yourself a clean slate and purge the nonessentials. Let go of anything that doesn’t make your life better! When you do bring in new stuff, make sure something old goes out. Want to get started now? A good place to start is with your holiday decorations. Keep only the best ones because you deserve the best. Don’t forget this!
When you help a client, what are your goals?
The majority of my clients are very successful, but they tend to beat themselves up for not being organized or “perfect”. My first goal is to alleviate any embarrassment by offering support, not criticism. Next, I strive to put myself in my client’s shoes: to understand their goals, readiness for change, responsibilities, limitations, and strengths. From here my goal is to customize a plan to help my client reach their goals successfully, quickly and for the long term. This involves focusing on the projects that will have the biggest impact on their day to day lives as well as creating systems that are easy for them to maintain.
What are the most common organizational problems people need help with?
Home- master closet, general clutter, incoming paper
Office- desktop management, work/paper flow, filing systems
Financial- budgeting, bill pay, tracking expenses with Quicken/Quickbooks, tax prep for accountant
Businesses- records management, storage rooms, community spaces
Personal- time management, work/home balance, ADHD strategies, and coaching
Did you receive training before opening your business, or is it a talent you have developed?
When I started the business 18 years ago, I was “winging it.” I had a talent for organizing, a Journalism degree, some advertising experience, a desire to help people and an open mind. Since then, my skill set has grown exponentially in order to meet the constantly evolving needs of my clients.
Where do you hope to see your business five years from now?
I hope to continue my one-on-one work with clients, but also have several books published, or at least in the works.
What is the most unusual organizing request you have ever received?
There have truly been so many. I love my work!!! One time a client asked me to organize the stamps she had been collecting off used mailing envelopes. Let me clarify, these stamps were the ones that somehow made it through the machine without getting stamped. She had over 200 ranging from .01-.35. I gently explained that by the time I sorted and prepared them for posting that she could have bought a roll of 100 first class stamps. But no, she insisted and I did it.
Another request I received was from a client who wanted me to organize their 500 CD changer by genre. I made a catalog to go with it denoting exactly which slot housed which CD. A couple months later they asked me to redo the project. This time they asked me to just put the discs in random order. I suggested they could put the changer on shuffle, but no, they wanted it redone and I happily redid it!
If you have any questions, just ask!