Organizing vs. Cleaning

This entry will go hand in hand with my next entry, “Helping Hoarders.”

Often when I get calls to help with estates or hoarders, after looking at the property, I will turn down the task, simply because what they really need is someone to haul junk away and to clean.  So, what’s the difference between cleaning and organizing?


According to, the verb clean means “to remove or consume the contents of; empty; clear”

while the verb organize means

“to systematize”

That’s quite a difference in meaning!


So, what does a professional organizer do?  Well, as the name of my company suggests, we bring some management to the chaos that has been created.  We systematize what’s there, so the chaos of clutter goes away.

In the case of estates, we are able to set up systems for going through the entire contents of the home of a loved one, so that the heirs can see exactly what’s there and divide or disperse the items in an orderly manner. The details of this process can be found here.

Dealing with hoarders is a little different.  As will be addressed in my next blog, “Helping Hoarders, ” the person must be ready for the change. Another person cannot do it for them. The hoarding person needs to be accountable and accept the need to change. When dealing with hoarders, we go through each and every item together and make decisions for that item, whether it be to toss, sell, donate, or keep.  This rough sort stage may take weeks, months, or even years, however, the end solution is the same: to set up systems to make sure that it never happens again, and that kept items have a home where they are used or honored.  In this way, the person is accountable for their actions and a participant in the process to fix it.

Cleaning will certainly be necessary in both hoarding and estate situations, but referrals for those services, as well as for junk haulers, can be given once the organizing phase is complete.

So, how do you know if you need a professional organizer or a cleaning service?  Simply take a look at the space. Is the clutter unmanageable and needs to be organized to know what is actually there? Then you need a professional organizer.  Is the clutter mostly junk and dirt and leftovers you don’t know how to clear?  Then a junk hauler and a cleaning service are needed.

As always, contact Managed Chaos, LLC for a free consultation.  We can help you figure out your specific needs.