It’s been 15 years since I started Emend! To celebrate, I’m sharing some stand-out memories from my years in business and how the pandemic has changed things. Plus, read on to see what’s next for Emend.

Things I Never Thought I’d be Organizing

Of course, I expected to sort clothes, files, and photos, among other things, but my clients have presented some unique items for us to organize over the years:

  • Ashes (from loved ones – pets and humans)
  • Thousands of animal bones for a research project.
  • Hair – lots of wigs, extensions, braids, etc
  • Goat milking supplies
  • Crisis closets
  • Gold and silver
  • Olympic medals and other rare sports memorabilia
  • Lots of candy (for a store’s inventory)
  • Adult “toys”
  • Bank statements back to the 1930s
  • A “COVID station” with masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes (more on this below).

Unexpected Benefits of the Job

Running a business has its challenges, but there’s some invaluable benefits I’ve experienced over the years:

  • Lifelong friends. I went into the job thinking I would maintain a strictly professional relationship with my clients. But for some clients that I have worked with for years, this was impossible!  I know more about my client’s lives than some of my own family members.  I didn’t think I’d become friends with my clients, but I love them!
  • Learning about families. In the time I’ve built my business, I also grew my family and had three children during the process. I was a new mom when I started Emend and getting to work with families at different stages allowed me to learn so much about marriage, parenting, and running a household.

Misconceptions about Professional Organizing

There are all sorts of misunderstandings about the industry. Here are a few I’ve come across: 

  • That it’s only affluent people who hire me. I’ve worked with all sorts of clients with different levels of income. But organization issues can affect anyone. I’ve worked with clients who had to save up for a while to hire me, and they have bee some of my best students.  Because my time with them is very limited, they are open to new ideas and ways of thinking about their space. We can make a big impact even in a short period of time.
  • That I only organize closets. Of course, organizing closets is part of my job. But my day-to-day work focuses on helping people reduce stress in many different areas of their life, which could be a closet, an office, a garage, a kitchen, you name it. The home is a system – all of the areas and stuff are connected. It most cases, it is hard to isolate just one area to work on because things in that space may function better in another area of the home.
  • That it’s putting stuff in bins. Yes, that’s a part of my job. An even bigger part of my job is the mental part of dealing with the physical items, which sometimes involves other resources, such as a therapist. The job is heavily physical on top of taking on clients’ stressors and helping them improve their lives.
  • That it gets done in a single day. Patience is the name of the game here. Often, I work with my clients for multiple sessions. There are times when we’re dealing with attachment issues and we work at their pace. We do challenge our clients out of their comfort zone, but we don’t want them to break.

Memorable Moments on the Job: Highs and Lows

It means so much to me when a client shares that I’ve helped them and made their life easier, which is my ultimate goal. But there are some memories on the job that I’ll never forget:

A hidden dirt cake!

  • Once, a client and I came across thousands of dollars while sorting through things in the house.
  • I found a long-lost Rolex watch from a client’s grandfather and at a different home, found a lost diamond ring.
  • Rescuing clients’ memories from the attic is always a great moment for me — these are often priceless photos that have nearly been lost because of inadequate storage conditions.
  • I’ve found snake eggs, chased countless mice out of homes, and have seen droppings of all sorts! I’ve even taken a class on safety that included how to properly deal with rodent droppings.
  • I was cleaning out a kids’ room and unfortunately came across urine, which spilled on me.
  • I was a part of two episodes of “Hoarders,” (in 2010 and 2011) which was a huge learning experience. I’ll share more about it in an upcoming post.

There’s a queen-sized mattress in here…

  • I’ve had several clients who wanted to organize a room as a surprise for someone, which results in funny, detective-level phone calls after that person leaves the house, such as “Drive around the block, he hasn’t left yet!”
  • I had a client who was trying to get a book published, but the state of her space was holding her back. After we worked together, her book went to the publisher and that was a huge win.
  • Anytime I’ve worked with a family who has lost a child — or any loved one — is a difficult moment for me, no matter how much time has passed.
  • I’ve worked with artists who needed help getting organized in order to host an art show or open an Etsy shop.
  • I once had a client order a Temperpedic mattress that was shipped in a tiny box. After opening the box and having the mattress grow 100 times its original size, the client discovered it was the wrong size! She ordered a twin and it was a queen. In order to return it, she had to put it back into the original box. This was one of the most impressive things a client and I have ever done. We got it back into the box. After this session, I knew I could accomplish anything!
  • I once had a husband try to hire me for his wife and that same wife had called me to help the husband. Needless to say, they both needed a little help. 😊
  • I once found an entire cake under a bathroom sink that a child was trying to hide.
  • The worst day of my organizing job took place in a storage space that a client and I were starting to clear out. Unfortunately, her husband wanted it cleared quicker than it was taking us because we were going through the unit thoroughly to determine what would be incorporated into the home, what would be sold, and what would be donated. He hired another “organizer” that called a donation truck to the space to haul everything away without the wife having a chance to go through the items. I was with her when she discovered the empty unit. It was a horrible experience to say the least. She has never and will never get over that day. Side note, another benefit of hiring a CPO is that we follow a code of ethics that includes never organizing a space without the owner’s permission.

How the Pandemic has Changed my Business

At first, Emend stopped doing in-home visits until we could figure out a safe way to effectively do the job. But now that we’re back to work, people are using their homes so differently.

Mask station

In many homes, I’ve set up stations near the front door for families to house their masks, hand sanitizer, and Lysol — something I never thought I’d be doing. There has to be a system for managing your clean and dirty masks.

Many of my clients have been working from home — and will likely be remote indefinitely — so much of my work has been transforming spaces to adapt.

The nature of the pandemic has fed hoarder-like tendencies. Many of my clients have stocked up on food, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. Even in my own home, I’ve got an entire cabinet dedicated to pandemic-related supplies.

We’ve been through a lot in the last year that validates a need for having excess supplies in our homes, which is a new layer to my job. It is hard to convince a person that they don’t need 60 rolls of toilet paper when we all experienced that shortage last year.  I am hopeful that this will not happen again!

What’s Next for Emend

At Emend, we have added focus on transitions, such as anyone prepping for a move or settling into a home. We also offer services to help seniors downsize or get organize if they’ve decided to age in-place.

Photo organizing — with physical and digital pictures — is also something we’re focused on.

I’m so grateful for my 15 years in business and for all of the clients I’ve met along the way. I’m looking forward to meeting new clients and getting them on the path to an easier, more organized life.