Getting rid of unused items can be a struggle for many people, but it is a common resolution nonetheless.

That's where professional organizers come in. Especially useful when having to clear up a home full of inherited objects or after a loved-one has to move in a smaller home, they can help 'declutter' a house for people who are just unable to decide where to begin.

Maureen Scallion found herself in that position when her father died.

"My father live in the home for 60 years, and he was 97 so there was a lot of stuff left," she said.

"Every room is just beyond full, and even though we had a sale there's still a lot left.

"It is overwhelming and a lot of it is emotional."

With no siblings living in Montreal to help, the job of cleaning out her father's home fell to Scallion, who struggled to do the job in her off-hours while working full-time.

She reached out to Kathleen Murphy, a professional organizer.

"My motto is one call does it all," said Murphy. "We make an arrangement and I take care of everything."


More common as population ages

Real Estate Agent Liane Redding said hiring professionals is becoming more common, especially as families spread apart, people live longer, and accumulate more stuff.

She said that in many cases she has put widows and widowers in touch with professionals to help them clean up and move on.

"Often the children have left, the spouse has passed away and they're really literally alone," said Redding.

"They have to downsize and as we were mentioning before, it's overwhelming."


Create a schedule

To help Scallion, Murphy first set up a schedule, then walked room by room through the house with her client to tag every single item: some were destined for the dump, some were delivered to loved ones, and others were given to charity.

She said it's not uncommon for those born before WWII to have accumulated significant amounts of items with the intention of using them someday.

"Our older parents that we have, they were not a wasteful society. It is not a throw-away society. I've been in homes where elastics were kept, string was kept, paper bags were kept, envelopes were kept.

"So there's a lot of things to go through and so for the first time an adult child is deciding 'I'm going to throw this out, even though I was raised from before I was born to keep and save everything,'" said Murphy.

Scallion was also in charge of selling her father's house, so had to get it ready to be shown to would-be buyers. She ended up relying on a professional to co-ordinate with movers, charities and garbage pickup, repairmen and cleaners to get the house looking its best.

"Normally what's typical is people have a household full of things and they don't know where to begin," said Murphy.

It's a process that needs time and can get complicated by emotions.

"They sometimes may have the voice of parent in their head, who might no longer be with us, saying 'don't waste, don't throw that out, that costs good money," said Murphy.

In Scallion's case, Murphy convinced her to donate many items that did not sell during an estate sale.

"I think the donation thing, I'll feel really good about that and then when the house looks really nice and ready to list I'm looking really forward to that as well," said Scallion.

It took several weeks, but in the end, Scallion's father's home was clean and ready to go on the real estate market, and Scallion was left with memories and a few key items that reminded her of her father, without holding on to every last scrap of paper.


Professional Organizer Tips

  • Many charge about $60/hr
  • Can help go through every item, but that will become pricey
  • Often meet client for a few hours to create a system to decide what to keep