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cluttered office

I Tried a Virtual Decluttering Service, and Here's How It Went


[Updated: Dec 21, 2020 ] May 31, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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The COVID-19 crisis has inspired homeowners to tackle projects they'd normally put off. Some are organizing their garages or cleaning out their basements. Others are repainting, installing decks, or refinishing their floors. Since I'm stuck at home for the foreseeable future, I thought I'd tackle a project that's been needing my attention since before the pandemic started: organizing my home office.

Though my house is fairly clutter-free and neat, my office has somehow always served as a dumping ground for all things without a home. And the fact that I've been sharing it with my husband since March means there's even more stuff crammed into it. When I sat down at my desk to start writing last week and couldn't so much as put my feet on the floor without stepping on something, I knew things had gotten ridiculously bad, and so I set out to enlist some help in getting that space in order.

Enter Horderly, a professional organizing service that was quick to shift to virtual appointments once social distancing became a must. The process was pretty seamless: I reached out to schedule an appointment and was connected with Nicholas Shuster, a professional organizer who's seen his share of clients over the past five years. And in the span of an hour, I came away with a solid plan to get my office in shape.

How my appointment went

To kick off our virtual session, I gave Nicholas a tour of my office using my webcam so he'd see what he was dealing with. From there, we talked about the various clutter spots that had gotten out of hand and how we'd reached that point.

Nicholas then mapped out a multistep plan for me to get my office decluttered, and he followed up with an email after our session was done. The gist of it? I'm supposed to clear out the entire space, categorize the various objects I've pulled out and group them in a manner that makes sense, find a new home for things that don't belong in my office, and then invest in the right storage tools to keep things tidy.

It may seem simple, but talking to Nicholas helped me realize just how many things I've been storing in my office that really have no place there -- things like crafting supplies (why not put them in my kids' playroom?), old electronics that aren't work-related, and even my spare compact umbrella, which was taking up space in my desk drawer along with envelopes, notepads, and tape. The whole "one of these things is not like the other" notion never actually dawned on me until Nicholas pointed it out.

Now in the interest of honesty, I haven't cleared out my office yet -- right now, I only have a plan to. But it's a solid plan, and one that I have to make good on, since Nicholas has already emailed me asking for before and after pictures. And that's really what works about this virtual decluttering service -- your organizer will stay with you throughout the process and hold your hand as much as needed. Nicholas told me he hosts virtual sessions where he watches clients clear out their spaces and offers guidance as they go. And he'll often provide direction for introducing items back into newly decluttered spaces. In other words, virtual decluttering sessions aren't a one-time deal; there's follow-up and accountability.

One thing I loved about my experience was the way Nicholas helped me embrace my office clutter rather than fear the idea of sorting through it. "Dig into the mess," he told me, "and remember, it will get messier before it gets better."

A sustainable model?

Right now, there's a huge market for virtual decluttering sessions. With so many people stuck at home and a continuing need for social distancing, Horderly Director of Operations and Co-Founder Fillip Hord says things have been extremely busy despite the pandemic. In fact, Horderly has conducted 200 virtual decluttering sessions in the past two months alone.

"This has been a pivot for our business," he explained. "When something like an economic crisis occurs, as a small business, you are reacting. That's what we had to do with virtual services, and it worked. It's kept our team busy and our clients happy."

Of course, that doesn't mean clients won't be itching for in-person sessions once the pandemic subsides. But Horderly has already received great feedback on its virtual sessions and expects to continue offering them even once it's safe to get back into people's homes.

The bottom line on virtual decluttering

With virtual decluttering, you have an opportunity to solicit outside help without making the same investment you would for in-person assistance. Horderly, for example, charges by the hour and typically has a six-hour minimum for in-home visits. With virtual sessions, you can schedule a single hour.

But the best part of virtual organizing is that it actually has the potential to work, provided you do your part to follow through on the advice you're given. And if you don't trust yourself to do that, book some more hours with your organizer and have that person watch you declutter in real time.

So would I use a virtual decluttering service again myself? Absolutely. But for now, I've got my hands full with an office cleanout that's likely to take the better part of the weekend.

Disclosure: The writer received a free hour-long virtual session from Horderly.

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