Do people compliment you on how well organized you are? Such a compliment ultimately led Leslie Hopp to a whole new career.
Hopp was working in the special events department of Christie’s auction house in Beverly Hills in 2009 when the company laid off half its staff worldwide. A woman from a charity Hopp had been working with on behalf of Christie’s noted Hopp’s organizational skills and asked if she would be willing to help with some organizational projects.
“She had hundreds of Martha Stewart magazines she couldn’t part with because she wanted the recipes, but meanwhile, she didn’t know which issue contained the recipe she wanted at the moment,” Hopp explains. “She and I sat together for weeks going through the magazines figuring out which recipes she wanted to save. Then we created notebooks with indexes so she could easily find the recipe she wanted.”
From one project to organizing as a business
This first client had beautiful gardens tended by a specialist who also saw Hopp’s organizational skills and referred Hopp’s next client to her—and from that point the referrals just kept coming.
Though Hopp’s business began with organizing people’s possessions, it moved into office organizing and computer organizing. “Now I also do a lot of bookkeeping for people,” she says. “It started as one thing and grew into taking on a lot of different duties in other people’s lives. Now, it’s a little bit of everything.”
From the beginning, Hopp acquired her clients by word of mouth. She has never spent a dime on advertising. “There’s never a lack of people who can use my services,” says Hopp. Sometimes I’ll meet people who ask me what I do, and, as soon as I tell them, they immediately tell me about someone they know who needs my services,” she laughs. “It’s a little like getting fixed up.”
“The people I have now on a regular as opposed to a project basis I do a lot of personal record and bookkeeping for them,” she says. “It’s turned pretty much into a full-time job. Some of my regular clients actually don’t refer me because they don’t want to share me.“
The process of helping clients get organized
Hopp describes her organizational interactions with clients as a process. “You have to start at step one, and people have to be willing to change the way they live to a certain extent,” she says. “They have to be willing to throw things away in order to make room for the things they really need in their day-to-day lives and be willing to put the stuff they want but don’t need in alternative places.”
Hopp begins by asking clients to identify what they need in everyday life and what they want to keep for the sake of keeping. At that point, most people are willing to devise a storage system. “Most of the people I run across don’t really need storage, they just need to figure out what they need immediately and what they want but don’t need and where they can create space for it without cluttering their homes,” she says. “That’s usually when we go to the garage and find an area to put things in waterproof containers.”
“Once we move the stuff out that doesn’t need to be there, I can create a workable system for that client because everything that’s left is something he or she needs.”
Hopp, who charges $45 an hour for her services, tells new clients, “If you can’t do it yourself, you can hire me to sit with you while you go through your stuff,” she says.
“OR, YOU CAN DO IT YOURSELF, THEN CALL ME AND WE’LL GET TOGETHER AGAIN.”
After the identification process is complete, Hopp devises categories for the items being organized, such as home files for bills, taxes, mortgage and business files that include the hundreds of business cards we all seem to wind up with. “I create the content for them on the computer so they can throw out the papers,” says Hopp. She often also organizes a lot of personal files, including uploading photos to the cloud and putting them into folders so clients can find them easily. “This takes a lot of client time because I don’t know which pictures are of their kid’s 10th birthday and which are of the 11th birthday,” she says.
Some people won’t let go of paper files even when they have the same files on their backed-up computers, Hopp observes. “Sometimes I’m successful in convincing them they should be secure in letting go of the paper and sometimes not,” she says. “I have to be willing to work with people at their level.”
Such organizing requires some dedication on the clients’ part. “It’s not like they can say, ‘Here, Leslie. Take it and I’ll come back later,’” she says. “Sometimes it can work that way, but 90 percent of the time, no.”
“THEY DO IT BECAUSE BEING FREE OF CLUTTER IS REALLY A WONDERFUL WAY TO LIVE.”
Hopp’s story is echoed by another organizer named Leslie Josel, who says she was desperate to come up with a new job that would afford her the time needed to take care of her various health issues and those of her son and support her family while her husband built his brand new law practice.
“As the years have passed, my business has grown beyond my wildest imagination,” says Josel. “Since its inception, I have worked with over hundreds of families, students, businesses and individuals with a variety of organizational challenges ranging from the merely clutter-filled and overwhelmed to the chronically disorganized and individuals with severe hoarding behaviors.”
Josel has also expanded her business to include downsizing and relocation services and has hired a fellow entrepreneur to run that division. “I now have four employees and three contract workers and am opening offices this summer in Florida and Los Angeles,” says Josel. “I have also developed my first product—a new Academic Planner —that was introduced nationally this past fall and was awarded a finalist spot this winter in the Walmart ‘Get on the Shelf’ contest.” Her product hit retail shelves this summer just in time for back to school sales.
Written by: Julie Crawshaw