After closing the doors of a children’s indoor playspace in Connecticut, a business that she owned for five years, Rachel Winter went through a period of situational depression. She was 40 years old at the time, her children were in school during the day, she didn’t have a job and she felt like her career had ended. “I felt very lost,” she says today.
One night when she couldn’t sleep, she was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon the TV show “Hoarders.”
“That was the first time I saw the term ‘professional organizer,’” she said. “I was absolutely riveted and fascinated.”
The next day, she started researching the organizing industry and got a job with a company that specialized working with clients who suffer with extreme clutter and hoarding disorder. She worked with that company for a year then founded Happy Home Organizers, LLC in 2012.
Her experience with depression helped her gain empathy for her clients, many of whom suffer with depression and/or anxiety, she said.
Five years after she started her business, she appeared on “Hoarders” — on the third episode of Season 9 — as a professional organizer. “It was quite a thrill and an unforgettable experience.”
What would surprise people about the process of decluttering?
“People would be surprised to know that we do not force people to throw out their stuff. In fact, I’m an organizer who tells my clients to keep something if I truly feel it would benefit them. My clients are always so surprised when I do this.
“Also, we are not junk removers! We simply help our clients decide what they should keep and what they should let go of — in a very kind, respectful way.
“Many of our clients are embarrassed and think that their home is the worst we have ever seen. We never judge. We are there to help and get the job done.”
What do you wish everyone knew about professional organizers?
“Being a professional organizer is not glamorous. You have to be willing to get very dirty. After many jobs, I am covered with dust and dirt and have to run into the shower. It’s also very physical. Not everyone can do this job, as you really need to be in excellent physical condition, especially when working on garages.
“You also need to have a tremendous amount of patience and compassion, as well as be a good listener and genuinely care about people to be a good professional organizer.”
What services do you provide?
“I’m a Declutter Coach and a Professional Organizer and my specialty is residential organizing. I declutter and organize every area in the home: bedrooms, dining room, living room, kitchen, bathrooms, closets, garages, children’s playrooms and more.
“My clients range from those going through a life transition, such as divorce or the loss of a spouse, to those downsizing or moving, including those moving into assisted living facilities. I also help with packing and unpacking.
“My job is to help people purge items they no longer need or want and then I help them create their organized system, their foundation of order. After I work my decluttering and organizing magic, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. I take my clients from chaos to calm.
“I help people who are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out with TMS (Too Much Stuff). I also work with people who might have excellent organizational skills but simply do not have the time. I teach my clients how to declutter, how to get organized and most importantly, I teach them the skills to stay organized. I want them to maintain the organized system that I developed for them.”
How does the process work?
“I provide complimentary one-hour consultations, either in person or through FaceTime. I ask for the grand tour of the home. I want to see everything so I can assess the client’s organizing needs and then we talk best plan of action for getting the job done.
“I also provide free removal of items being donated to Goodwill or any trash going to the Phoenix dump. Purging is essential to getting the job done so this is a huge part of my service. I am at Goodwill and the Phoenix dump several times a week.
“Basically, my job is to make life easier and more efficient for my clients. My three Golden Rules for staying organized are: 1. home for every item; 2. like with like and 3. one in, one out.”
What do you think makes you so successful?
“I feel that what makes me successful in this industry is my work ethic, my talent for organizing and my overall commitment to customer service. Customer satisfaction is everything to me.
“I care very much that my clients love my work. I always want to exceed their expectations. My goal is always to make my clients’ lives easier, better and happier.”
What professional or personal organizations are you involved with?
“I’m a proud member of NAPO national and NAPO-Arizona (The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals). I’m also a member of Temple Chai and became a bat mitzvah there in 2017.”
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
“Seeing my clients’ reactions after I finish a job. It’s so emotional and thrilling. Many of my clients cry with joy. They cannot believe how light, spacious and totally beautiful their homes can be. I feel so blessed that I discovered this profession and that I get to do what I do. I’m always so honored when people trust me in their homes and let me help them.” JN