When I officially started this incredible career in 2015, I would occasionally get quizzical looks after mentioning that I was a professional organizer. Even though tv shows like Clean Sweep had long come and gone, professional organizing still wasn’t entirely well-known. Best-sellers like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning introduced more of the public to the frequently life-altering endeavor of decluttering. These days, I rarely have to explain what it means to be a professional organizer.
Now the question is, “What is virtual organizing? Was it just created because professional organizers’ bottom-lines came to a screeching halt in 2020?”
I’ll explain the former and emphatically exclaim, “No!” to the latter. I’m guessing it will take some time for this valid method of organizing to catch on. I’m hoping to speed up the process for those of you who need help today.
Virtual organizing has been around for quite some time. It started with phone organizing and largely transitioned to video with technological advances like Skype. It was well established by the time I started organizing, but I initially couldn’t wrap my head around it. “How does it work? Do clients get the same great results as on-site organizing? What about the technology? Why would a client opt for virtual over on-site unless geography was an issue?”
Over the years, I found answers as I took online NAPO courses and spoke with colleagues. Virtual organizing is a different vehicle for delivering the same great results as on-site organizing. Instead of meeting on-site, the organizer meets with the client via videoconferencing technology such as Zoom. It’s a relatively easy set-up, even for self-proclaimed luddites. (I know this to be true because I’ve instructed those clients, and we happily made progress after brief instructions and practice.)
I have offered virtual organizing since 2015. Most of my clients have been in San Francisco, so they opted for the on-site work, but I have worked virtually with clients as far away as Europe.
Fast forward to 2020. For various reasons, I got an unusually late start with my goal planning. I had been increasingly interested in the benefits that virtual clients gained more quickly than on-site clients. As I fleshed out my goals for the remainder of the year, I created a plan to grow a broader virtual organizing practice. Cue global pandemic.
As shelter in place rolled out, clients who were open to exploring virtual collaboration continued to make tremendous progress.
Extensive virtual organizing training became a no-brainer after COVID. I learned an incredible amount of nuance that helped clients get even better results than before. I had known that virtual work contained some benefits that on-site organizing couldn’t provide (at least not as quickly), but I was shocked by how quickly my clients made progress, integrated skills, and gained confidence.
One of the most significant advantages of virtual work is quicker habit formation and confidence. Transferring skills is incredibly important in both on-site and virtual organizing. Clients not only learn the crucial concepts of organization during our virtual sessions, but also actively clear out clutter while we are together. Additionally, I support them between sessions while they are continuing to declutter. They are also equipped to keep clutter at bay because they understand how to organize in a way that works for their lifestyles.
As we work together, I aim for clients to feel confident, uplifted, energized, self-reliant, and ready to tackle anything after meeting organizing goals.
In virtual work, I’m no longer splitting my attention between object manipulation and teaching. Clients gain skills more quickly, which means increased efficacy and ability to maintain progress.
New organizing habits are vital to nearly all client success. New neural pathways, critical to habit formation, are created with virtual sessions and between-session support. It also happens during on-site work, but more slowly since part of my focus is devoted to sorting and similar tasks.
Some clients prefer the structure of virtual work. Shorter appointments mean less fatigue. Clients feel good about progress during weekly sessions, and the project stays top of mind amidst competing priorities that pop up during the week.
Virtual organizing can be an excellent alternative for those who want to work with me but feel nervous about having someone in their home. The goals are more granular than on-site organizing, which can elicit less fear. Additionally, a client can choose to solely show me the area that we’re working on rather than other areas that I typically see during on-site organizing.
It has been inspiring to witness individuals progress and complete projects with virtual organizing that we had started on-site. By taking the plunge, they reaped the rewards of meeting their goals and gained a new sense of self-efficacy and confidence.
Virtual organizing is not for everyone. Like on-site organizing, a client needs to be ready and committed to doing the work, be open to real change, and amenable to being guided through the process. It can be too challenging for those with mobility impairment unless an on-site helper is willing to take my direction. It’s also not ideal for those with memory issues unless a helper is on-site.
On-site and virtual organizing methods are both incredibly effective ways to get help from a professional; their pros and cons differ. Hiring a trained professional organizer to work on-site or virtually can make the difference between struggling to tread organizational water and completely transforming one’s home so that it supports activities, goals, and dreams.
Are you ready for your transition? Let’s schedule your consultation so you can stop struggling and start relaxing in your newly organized space!
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.