Let’s face it: Moving is tough.
By the time the truck is unloaded and the last box is lugged up the stairs, the task of unpacking can be daunting. So daunting, in fact, that it can be tempting to avoid unpacking some of those boxes of odds and ends altogether. And that’s how the mess begins.
Sometimes the only way to make sense of the mess is to bring in an outsider with an objective eye – and that’s where a professional organizer comes in. Professional organizers can help you pack for a move, downsize or address clutter by introducing storage solutions customized to your specific circumstances.
Fees for these services vary depending on your organizers’ level of experience and the size of the task at hand, but typically are charged by the hour. Many organizers offer free quotes for services requested too, so it never hurts to reach out.
In order to find the perfect organizer for you, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)’s directory can link you up with professionals right in your neighborhood.
To help you along in your search, we went ahead and consulted real Chicagoans to learn which organizers they felt were are a cut above the rest. These were their picks.
Though Terri Albert officially founded her organizing business, The Chicago Organizer, in 2007, she had a reputation as a clutter-buster from a young age: when she was 10 years old, her parents made her a t-shirt that read “Neat Freak.”
Albert specializes at jumping in just when her clients are most overwhelmed – helping with messiness that has gotten out of control, or unpacking after a recent relocation. And she said she’s been told her can-do spirit helps make what felt like an impossible project entirely achievable.
“I feel my enthusiasm for what I do helps people get through the projects they dreaded having to conquer and they realize the process wasn’t so bad after all.”
In college, Kelly Brask was the rare student whose dorm room was defined by neatly-organized binders holding all her notes and class materials.
Today, drawing on 22 years she spent living in Stockholm, Sweden, Brask helps bring a Scandinavian organizing flair to homes throughout the Chicago area as lead organizer for the Chicago branch of Less Is More.
Brask also serves as the director of administration at NAPO. Her organizing mantra and motto? “Know what you have, and where you have it!”
Monica Friel is a veteran among the ranks of the Chicago professional organizing community. As a founding member of the Chicago chapter of NAPO, she opened Chaos To Order in 1990 and never looked back.
Since then, Friel’s business has grown to a staff of 10 organizers, all of whom have different specialties ranging from a “queen of the closet” to others specializing in storage spaces, home offices and more. Friel’s work has even been featured on television shows including the Oprah Winfrey Show and Hoarding: Buried Alive.
So what’s the key to her success? “Time is precious,” Friel said. “we help you make the most of it.”
You could say that Erin Kelly’s hyper-organized tendencies are in her blood. It all started when she spent summers growing up with her Grandma Kessler, who took a great deal of pride in her perfectly orderly cabinets and closets.
“I blame my passion for organizing on her,” Kelly said.
Kelly initially worked in sales before she went on to found Arranged By Erin, where she takes a creative approach to coming up with solutions to even some of the most challenging storage issues.
When Schae Lewis and Bahar Partow first met through a mutual friend in 2001, it wasn’t long before they discovered their biggest mutual interest: organizing.
Nine years later, they founded Mission 2 Organize, where they specialize in creating order in their clients’ homes and workplaces and even event planning and running errands.
Beyond making physical spaces tidier, they also can bring their keen eye to the digital realm, assisting with photo organizing.
Kate Marengo always enjoyed helping her friends and family organize their lives – but it wasn’t until she was done with college and six years in the corporate world that she took the dive to found her own business, Interior Chicago.
Marengo not only organizes closets, bathrooms, offices and other household and professional spaces, but she does so through the lens of an interior designer.
“I organize with aesthetics in mind,” Marengo said. “I’m always considering form vs. function. Things must also look nice, but be usable.”
Before she founded her business, Organizing With You, in 2009, Pooja Naik worked for six years as a marketing and communications executive for a healthcare non-profit. But she felt she had other gifts she believed could help people achieve their goals and dreams: helping people use their physical spaces more efficiently.
Today, Naik specializes in offices, home offices and closets, but said that she is inspired by any space that needs a little bit of organizing TLC. And she takes particular pride in offering truly personalized solutions to her clients’ problems.
“I am big into systems and don’t believe in cookie-cutter solutions,” Naik said. “I really interview my clients and get to the bottom of the psychology behind the disorganization or chaos.”
For Michele Ritchie, being neat, tidy and efficient has always come hand in hand with being stylish.
Through her My Moving Liaison business, Ritchie brings her background in art and photography, including past work as an interior decorator and photo stylist, to the world of organizing.
In addition to offering organizing services, Ritchie also specializes in interior styling, home staging and move management – taking care of all the stressful details of coordinating a relocation. And through it all, she aims to cater her work to each client’s particular needs.
“My approach is not to come in and reorganize in a way that works best for me,” Ritchie said, “but to listen to my clients’ needs and goals, identify their pain points, and work together to develop a style and organization approach customized to their lifestyle.”
When Jessica Stelzer had a bad day growing up, she said she would come home and reorganize her closet or clean a bathroom. After leaving her first “adult” job in HR in 2010, she decided to turn her comfort into her profession.
At Just Simple by JS, Stelzer not only helps simplify her clients’ homes and offices, but also offers move management and personal assistant services to help reduce stress and make life, well, simpler.
That work has transformed many of her clients into her friends, something Stelzer is particularly proud of.
“I truly care about my clients’ well-being,” Stelzer said, “and I like to get to know them on a deeper level so we can get to the root cause of their organizational issues.”
Karen York had worked for 25 years in HR when her executive position was eliminated. While procrastinating her job hunt, she began to declutter and reorganize her own home when she realized that organizing could be her new career.
From that “aha” moment came Organize Me, where York enjoys not only rising to the occasion of any particular organizing challenge, but also draws on her background in organizational psychology to teach her clients how to change their behavior to maintain the transformation she helps bring about.
“Most professional organizers don’t have this level of education and experience,” York said. “I like to think of myself as ‘The Professional’s Organizer.’”