When we need something done that’s out of our range of expertise, we hire a professional. We go to the hairdresser when our locks get shaggy; we see a doctor when our health is compromised; and we hire a computer wiz when our PC goes haywire.


So why is it so difficult for many people to accept that they can’t manage their decluttering challenges on their own?


I thought I’d share the story of Karen, one of my clients, to illustrate this issue. Karen is 50 years old and suffers from depression. She was never one of those mothers who could keep the house immaculate, but she did manage to raise her three kids into great adults.


Suddenly, her world came crushing down last September when her 17-year-old son died from a horrible construction accident. Now, six months later, Karen is coming out of her shock. She calls it “thawing out.”


During those months, she hadn’t been able to go through her son’s stuff in the basement. She was reminded of her loss every time she walked by the suitcases in her bedroom that were still full of her son’s belongings. And as a result of her sadness, she neglected herself, her mail and her housekeeping to the point of disaster.

Finally, she was ready to get help, so she decided to call a professional organizer. Karen was so excited that she told a good friend about the news. Her friend said, “You don’t need an professional organizer — I’ll help you. In fact, while you are away on the weekend, I will do it.” Karen accepted the offer with a smile.

So with the best of intentions, Karen’s generous and ambitious friend took on the challenge. She didn’t know where to start; she didn’t know what to keep or toss out. How could she possibly make such precious decisions? By the end of the weekend her friend was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. She was able to clear one counter in the kitchen and wash the dishes.

Karen is blessed to have such a great friend. But friends and family are rarely able to tame such organizing challenges for the same reasons the clutterer couldn’t — because they also have an emotional connection to the stuff, and because they lack the skill set.

This is where professional organizers come in. They don’t have an emotional connection, and they do have the relevant skill set. (And in case you’ve watched one too many reality shows, you should know that professional organizers do not do the while-you-were-gone-we-threw-everything-out thing.) So the happy ending is that, with much sweat from my team and many tears from Karen, we were able yo declutter and organize her space. We helped her create a new beginning for herself while cherishing memories of her son.

Brenda Borenstein is your Professional Organizing Guru. For more tips and ideas please visit www.organizedzone.comor call 416-665-2165. She has organized hundreds of homes and says, “There is nothing I haven’t seen and nothing that can’t be overcome.”