By Kristi Kates
Do you use or need this?
What do you use this for?
What do you need it for?
These are just a few of the questions calmly asked by professional
organizer Connie Huizenga, whose business, Details, Et Al, strives to
de-clutter and reorganize peoples homes, and, by intent or merely
association, their lives, too.
A professional organizer now for nearly 20 years, Huizengas informal
training was largely accomplished on her own, a process that began when
friends and family called upon her innate skills to help put their homes
or projects in order.
Whenever my friends had to organize their homes or organize for a party,
theyd call me, Huizenga explains, that led to them telling their
friends and relatives about me. Some of those people would hire me to be
on-site to help them pack up an old house, then be on-site at the new
house to put all of the rooms together.
While to some people, this might sound like the ultimate chore or tedious
exercise, for Huizenga, it brings her a great sense of accomplishment.
I am absolutely passionate about it, she says, theres a lot Im not
good at, but organizing for me is a gift. Theres not one piece of it that
I dont love.
Huizengas job is part tidy, part psychology. Its a proven fact that
cluttered surroundings can add stress to ones life, while serene
surroundings - as evidenced by such philosophies as feng shui and the
orderly, clean, meditative design of such places as yoga studios and spas
- assist one in becoming more grounded, calm, and focused. While not all
of todays homes necessarily prescribe to something as white and spare as
what we just mentioned, theres still a huge benefit to having your things
organized and your rooms more tranquil in appearance.
I find the most rewarding and gratifying thing is seeing not only the
change of a room, closet, or garage, but often, without realizing, Ill
look over and see that the client is breathing deeper, Huizenga says,
when a connection to the puzzle of what a psychological issue has
manifested in clutter is realized, its very humbling and indescribable.
It means a lot that I was honored with such incredible trust to be part of
that, and that gratification is as transparent as an organized room.
Huizengas business arrives in an interesting fashion. She says that most
clients will meet her or acquire her contact info, and then walk around
with her business card for anywhere from six months to a year before they
actually call. From there, the process is a carefully constructed one that
respects both the person and their home or office.
I meet with them first for a free estimate, Huizenga explains, My
approach is to work alongside them. Theyre in charge. I cant know the
best way to organize their things until I learn more of their taste,
lifestyle, needs, frustrations, and their household or business functions
Most clients know that their clutter is in the way, Huizenga says, but get
overwhelmed and dont know where to begin.
I see a room or a garage full of stuff floor-to-ceiling, and I just dig
right in, she says, asking questions about what they need and why they
need it. So basically, its emptying out a closet - going through and
deciding what needs to go; what can be utilized or honored in a better
way; or what goes back in. I always encourage there to be what I call
breathing room within a room, to not let things just get stuffed back
NOT ALWAYS EASY
For those naturally-tidy folk reading this article and thinking, well, I
could do that - the lessons learned via Huizengas services, and
sometimes for Huizenga herself, arent necessarily that simple.
The easiest organizing jobs are the people who are in touch with what
its all about and what needs to go, she explains, those jobs are quick,
and far less painful.
Given the fact that I have genuinely loved every organizing job Ive ever
had, I cant really pinpoint the worst case Ive worked on. I guess the
ones that I find myself physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of
would qualify as the most challenging, she continues. Those often fall
among people who might be in the hoarding category, and involve tears,
laughter, anger - the whole gamut. I am very sensitive, and I have a
humble understanding of how vulnerable this process is - clients feel very
exposed, and can suddenly, after several days, remember that Im really a
stranger that is making them get rid of their stuff.
Huizenga says that for more sensitive clients, she often takes a pause to
stop and explore whats going on, to remind the client that they are the
ones in change.
Often, theyll come back, wiping tears, saying, oh! I need to go back
and talk with my therapist, she explains. The feedback Ive gleaned
from psychologists is that my work with some people is like churning up
emotional muck that has been sitting stagnant. What would have taken them
a year to help them heal, the client and I churn up in a few days.
But even in the least disorganized jobs, whatever the clutter, Huizenga
says, shes found that every experience has some emotional attachments,
both negative and positive.
A wide range of people can use a service like Huizengas, from busy
business people, doctors, nurses, and accountants, to harried parents, new
homeowners, those working on decorating/organizing their first apartment,
or freelancers who work from an office in their own house.
Even Northern Express own Peg Muzzall, as accomplished a sales manager as
she is, found Huizengas assistance useful when it came to putting a sense
of calm and focus back into her own home office.
Id been talking for years about getting my office organized, but it
always seemed like too daunting a task, Muzzall explains. I had a friend
who told me about someone who had helped her with some office organizing.
I knew it would be such a positive change in my life to make this a clean
break, so I called Connie.
Muzzalls before pictures, while not the worst possible scenario, show a
lot of clutter, an overloaded bookcase, and an overtaxed desk, all
detriments to her busy workdays. Muzzall and Huizenga met on a Monday, and
three days later Huizenga arrived with banana boxes to sort things into;
they spent an 11-hour day getting the project well underway.
The best thing about the whole process was completely clearing the space,
and immediately dealing with the stuff at hand, Muzzall says. One box
for donation, one for resale shop, one room for things to keep, and many
large trash bags. When youre working side-by-side with someone like that,
the albatross that has hung over your head for years melts away.
In Muzzalls case, the only things put back into her office were the
things shed actually be using.
Nothing else makes its way back into the room, she confirms, Connie
does her job incredibly well, and shell tell you right up front that
shell be tough on you, but also sensitive to your feelings. Now I can
breathe in the much larger space Im in, and I love my new office - I know
exactly what I have in there, and everything has a specific place. It
For Huizenga, its this kind of feedback that both keeps her going, and
helps her keep in mind the many rewards that she gets from helping people
restore order. So far, its mostly been referrals that have kept her busy,
but she has plans for 2011 that will expand her business, and pay back her
I have always maintained a successful business by word of mouth, she
says, but I am also working on a website, and plan to be involved with
some charities this year. The best offer is a 25-hour package deal that
will save the client $120-200. I also offer certain trades, and I plan to
offer a free day of organizing to charities I support.
Connie Huizengas Details, Et Al may be contacted at 231-330-1777, or via
Huizengas email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Charges vary based on each