Emotional journey: Expert organizer helps people declutter, part with long-loved possessions
Seconds after she walks into a client’s front door, expert organizer Steffanie Porter’s keen eye for clutter kicks in, focusing on items that can be removed to achieve her customers’ optimal-organization wishes.
That keepsake cabinet and the Precious Moments figurines arranged neatly on its shelves next to the couch in the living room are nice, but probably expendable.
The neatly-hung (but space-eating) collection of plaid 1970s dresses and bell-bottoms in the spare bedroom closet stir great memories, but should be arranged near the top of the we-can-live-without-this recommendation list.
And the eight pair of well-aged sneakers that haven’t been worn since George W. Bush was President would no doubt be embraced by the local Salvation Army.
Emotions run deep
If decluttering people’s homes was only that easy, the owner of Northville-based TidySmart Organizing Solutions lamented.
“When we’re helping someone get ready to move who hasn’t moved in, let’s say, 20 to 50 years — someone whose spouse has just passed away or simply is at an age when they need to move into a smaller home or an assisted-living facility — it can be a very emotional process to let go of items that have been in their possession for decades,” Porter said.
“We literally shed tears with some of our clients, it’s that difficult. But we assure them that we’ll make sure we find charities or new homes for the cherished items they have to let go of and that we’re there to hold their hand through the entire process.”
Goodbye is never easy
Porter revealed there is a consistency to the items TidySmart’s clients dread to part with.
“A lot of it depends on the generation,” she said. “For seniors, it’s often the china or dishware that has been in their family for generations; for instance, their great-grandmother may have given it to them. We find that people don’t want to part with the outfit their now-50-year-old child wore home from the hospital after they were born.
“Collectibles are common, too: record albums, doll collections. One of our clients had a giant Pez collection we helped them sell. We’ve seen a lot.”
TidySmart, whose home base is Porter’s Northville home, is a multi-dimensional business offering services that include managing moves, packing and unpacking, organizing/decluttering homes, home-sale preparation and professional staging.
“Probably our most-popular service currently is working with Realtors on listing prep,” said Porter. “Getting homes ready for buyers. Realtors will walk into some of their clients’ homes and find them meticulous, so they won’t need our help at that point. But they may need us down the road for packing and unpacking.”
Hobby to career
Helping friends and family members get better organized was a hobby for Porter before she saw the potential for monetizing her knack for getting things in order.
“I had a friend who was moving from Northville to San Francisco into a home that was half the size of her Northville home, so she had to purge a lot of her belongings,” Porter reflected. “There was no way the family was going to be able to take all their stuff, so I offered recommendations on what to keep and get rid of.
“Once I started the business, I was working with a few Realtor friends, helping them get homes ready for listing. Then my name got around as to what TidySmart was doing and we’ve been very busy ever since.”
The company, which is part of a $12 billion industry, has grown from a one-woman operation to a staff of six — a reflection of the stellar results it delivers.
TidySmart’s neutrality is priceless when it comes to helping people decide what to keep, what to donate and what to place at the curb on garbage pick-up day, Porter said.
“Every time we walk into someone’s home, we don’t live there, so we’re not numb to things,” she said. “In one of our client’s homes that was close to being listed, I pointed to something hanging on a wall and said we should probably remove that before the showing. And they said, ‘Honestly, I didn’t even realize that had been hanging there for the past 12 years’. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re walking by something all the time.
“When I walk in, I’m playing the role of the potential buyer and I see everything that may not be attractive. Even if it’s letting them know of a certain smell that needs to be eliminated. Real-estate agents find value in our consultations we do with their clients when we do our walk-throughs for the first time because we can tell (the clients) all the bad things and the agents can stay neutral.”
If she could share one tip to everyone thinking about decluttering or selling their home, it would be this:
“I would tell them to go room to room, getting rid of the stuff they don’t want in one room before they move on to the next,” she said. “I’ll find clients get analysis paralysis by popcorning all over the house and not focusing on one room before moving on to the next.”
If you’d like to set up a consultation with TidySmart, visit its website or call 248-755-4992.
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