General Question

Jeruba's avatar

How do I find someone to help me with this clutter chore?

Asked by Jeruba (55823points) December 14th, 2023
21 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

I have an overstuffed house. I’ve got to get rid of stuff. I need to figure out what sort of person to hire and how to find them.

I’ve talked to decluttering specialists. They charge a fortune and they don’t actually help. Instead they’re apt to say things like “First you have to decide what to keep and what to throw away…” Thanks, pal.

I was wondering if I might do best with, say, a high school kid, or somebody from the local Goodwill, to be my arms and legs while I say things like “Put that whole box in the outgoing pile” and “Spread those out on the table so I can see them.”

This could take a lot of time. I can’t pay a fortune.

Bad idea? Other approaches? Pitfalls, cautions? Let me have ‘em.

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chyna's avatar

What about a house cleaner? This would be totally different from their usual tasks, but I think they would be more likely to keep at it. I think a teenager would likely give up after a few days.
I don’t know what housekeepers charge in your state, but here they charge about 15.00 to 20.00 an hour. That may be more than you are willing to spend.

seawulf575's avatar

Unfortunately decluttering an overstuffed house is a painful and personal project. The decluttering specialists are correct…you need to start by figuring out what to keep and what to toss. It’s your stuff.

I am the purger in our house. I have cleaned out just about every room in the house. I have found the best way to do it is to take it one room at a time. Set some standards when you do it. Have a plan on how you want your house to be organized when you get done. Write all these standards down. Example:

1) Does it have sentimental attachment? If so, are there duplicates? (e.g. pictures/photos)
2) If no sentimental attachment, Have you touched it in the past 6 months?
a. If not, consider tossing it. Most things can easily be replaced
b. Does it have only one function that cannot be performed by anything else? Might need to keep it. (e.g. a Basin wrench…only used once every 7 years or so but it is the only tool that works for the job).
3) What room will it be in? Move it to that room.
4) As you move stuff, clean behind and under it.

It will likely take you several weeks to complete your whole house, but you will be able to see progress as you go.

janbb's avatar

There are people you could hire who would help and yes, charge a lot of money. It is a “professional” job these days. Or as you say, a teen or college kid. The best way to find either would be to go online on a site like and ask for recommendations. Im sure there is a Nextdoor for you area or other site like Craigslist. Personally, I think hiring an organizer, if you can afford it, would help you get the job done in a timely fashion. But even if you just do a room or two with them, it might help you get motivated to do the rest.

JLeslie's avatar

If all you need is someone to help you with the physical task of it all, then definitely a teenager in the neighborhood or grandchild of a friend might work. Or, a friend who likes to organize might be willing to spend a day or two with you and you can catch up and treat for lunch.

I’ve used organizers and it was life changing for me initially. Taught me systems and gave me storage ideas to organize my office, master bathroom, and closet. They also physically helped, not just verbally. It’s true that once you know the tricks, you just need to get it done, so I can see your logic in just needing someone to help you lift everything.

If it was me I would post something in my community’s facebook page to get a referral.

Edit: we hired a company to throw out tons of stuff in my aunt’s house. It was like $500 and three people worked several hours. Possibly, that type of company is cheaper than professional organizers. Maybe they will do the type of work you need, which is spend more time with you while dividing up what you want to keep or throw away. In the case of my aunt we had all of the trash already divided out. Maybe contact people who sell off estate items when someone passes away.

canidmajor's avatar

Ask at your local Senior Center. This is a very standard thing, I have friends that have done this, and you can hire someone for various ranges of work and price.
My friends asked at their Senior Centers, and got a number of good recommendations.

I need to do this soon, and I am trying not to consider napalm as a first choice.

jca2's avatar

You might be able to save some money if you empty the closets and other stuffed areas yourself, sort through the stuff (put into boxes (“keep donate throw away”) and then have someone come take the throwaway stuff, call a donation place (like Vietnam Vets) to pickup the donate stuff, and then hire a teen (probably 15 to 20 dollars per hour) or other local person (like a mom who is looking for some cash) to help you put the stuff back into the closets in an organized fashion. So that way, you’re only paying a one time fee for the person who picks up the throwaway stuff, and you’re only paying the per hour labor cost when the person is putting the “keep” stuff back into the closets and other spots.

It would be way more costly to have a person there while you look at each thing and make your decisions about whether it’s a keep or not item.

kritiper's avatar

I’ve found that the trick to getting rid of anything is to start with the largest items first. Then, in a very short time, it will look like a lot has been accomplished.

janbb's avatar

@jca2 True that that is more costly but I suspect if you are indecisive like I am, having a paid coach would speed the job along.

(I have this fantasy that one of my sons will come and help me when the time comes but I suspect that is just a fantasy. I do do periodic sweeps but am not savage enough.)

jca2's avatar

The OP talked about not being able to “spend a fortune” which is why I talked about trying to accomplish the task in a more thrifty manner, @janbb. If paying a pro by the hour means more money, I was looking at trying to be more economical about it.

janbb's avatar

@jca2 Got it. No problem; I wasn’t arguing, just elaborating.

jca2's avatar

It’s all good, @janbb.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

Do you have some kind of time constraint? In other words, do you have to have all this done in a month, 2 months? More?

I’ve never had to declutter my own stuff although I feel like I should do a bit of that as I accumulate more stuff. I tried to do at least some decluttering at my parents house after they had passed. That was a bit trickier because I had to worry about if my siblings wanted anything, although they couldn’t be bothered to help much with the process.

I like @kritiper ‘s suggestion that if you have big bulky items that you no longer want, get rid of those first. One of the things that really helped me when I was trying to get my stuff packed up to move was when we finally got rid of my parents old piano. (We had had a tuner come out and assess it and he let us know that there was tons of work that would have to be done on it, as my parents hadn’t kept up on the maintenance or had it tuned in 50 years.) Once that was out of the way, that gave me a fairly large corner of the living room to start stacking stuff. So if you can get rid of some big items, that may allow you to spread out a bit more as you go through everything.

I understand you want somebody to help you organize, and if I lived closer I might come over and try and help for a nicely cooked meal. But I myself wouldn’t want somebody coming in to help me because sometimes people want to force decisions on you and rush you through the process, and only you know how much time you need to go through things.

If you don’t have any time constraints, maybe just set a goal for yourself of getting rid of a trash bag or one box of things a day and hold yourself to that. It may take a while, but as you work you will probably get more of a sense of where you want to go with what you are keeping and what you are getting rid of and it should get easier over time.

jca2's avatar

Good advice from @LifeQuestioner. Another advantage of getting rid of some big items (like furniture) is it will probably motivate you. You’ll feel like “wow, the house looks a lot better already” and you’ll feel inspired.

smudges's avatar

I’m so glad you asked this. I have a similar problem with clutter, although mine has a different reason. I had to move into a different apartment complex 3 years ago due to a fire. Well, I still haven’t unpacked. I’ve managed to rummage through boxes to find most of what I need, so there are partially unpacked boxes lining the walls and things that I pulled out of them sitting around willy-nilly.

This thread has given me not only ideas, but some motivation. Just knowing I’m not the only one is comforting. I’ve wanted to ask a similar question for a long time, but have been too embarrassed. I mean, who doesn’t unpack for 3 years?! Not just a couple of boxes, but around 25! <sigh> Getting old sooo sucks. If I were younger and had no pain and a healthy back this would have been done at the very least in the 1st year!

So thank you, @Jeruba, for bringing this to light. You’ve helped someone by writing out your woes.

canidmajor's avatar

@smudges Oh, honey, you are not alone. I recently found, in my way, in my basement a couple of boxes from the Seattle days. I left Seattle in ‘94, moved to Colorado, then here in ‘98.
Don’t feel bad! <3

jca2's avatar

@smudges Around 1997/8, I lived in a building that was made unliveable (unlivable?) in a huge fire, ten days before Christmas (so, yesterday – yes it sucked and the timing sucked), and so I had to pack everything that was salvageable, and moved to another place, and put a lot in the garage there. Then I moved here around 2001. The stuff from the building that’s packed in plastic containers is still in those same containers from 1997/8. It’s fancy dishes, ceramic collectibles and stuff like that. No use unpacking it now, there’s no room for it. Whoever is the Executor of my estate will probably have to deal with it, or my daughter will get it, if she wants it.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

@smudges I read somewhere a while back that whatever you haven’t unpacked within a year of when you moved, that you should get rid of because you must not want it or need it. I know that’s not necessarily true but I thought it was an interesting statement.

smudges's avatar

@canidmajor & @jca2 Thank you, and I’m sorry you’re stuck with some things still packed, too. I grew up in very nice houses, decorated nicely, quality stuff, etc. That’s how I lived my adult life until I moved here. I think part of it is that I’m not excited about being here. I had a month in a motel that my other complex paid for after the fire and when I found this apt, I paid movers to pack up and move me. I would have loved to go through and gotten rid of stuff but had no time.

@jca2, I’d bet that you have some valuable items that people would pay a lot for. Of course…that would entail unpacking it, putting it on the market somehow, etc and just the thought is probably overwhelming. :(

My sister also moves stuff from place to place, even from a paid storage unit to another. I suspect it’s more common that I thought.

smudges's avatar

@LifeQuestioner Yes, I’ve heard that too. In my case, I know there are things I want that are still packed, but I’m looking forward to getting rid of a lot also, whether giving them away or tossing them.

raum's avatar

During the pandemic, we took the opportunity to do a major house decluttering project.

We rented a storage unit that was delivered to our driveway. And used that to clear one room at a time.

Deciding what to throw out was daunting. But for some reason, clearing everything out and choosing what to move back in was actually easier.

Another hurdle of deciding what to get rid of is knowing where it goes once it leaves the house. That adds to the inertia.

Doing it this way is immediate gratification of a clear space. And gives you energy to tackle the unfun stuff of sorting.

We had a garage sale. Donated what was leftover. Had a free sign for stuff that wasn’t donatable.

And during the whole process, worked through the idea of being okay with throwing away things that didn’t get taken. That was hard. As there were still items that I felt had value. But at that point, we had been enjoying the extra space and that made it a bit easier to let go. Exposure therapy!

Best of luck with this, Jeruba!
(And all of the other jellies that can relate.)

raum's avatar

Oh! I didn’t actually answer the question!

I would second the suggestion to ask your local senior center for resources. This is definitely not an uncommon issue.

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