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Queen of Decluttering

Professional Organizer Alum Tackles Tiny NYC Apartments

By Karen Shih ’09

Clutter

You might look with dread at those countless condiments in the fridge, children’s toys scattered around your living room and piles of papers in your office.

Natalie Schrier ’98 fires up her label maker.

“If anything can be organized, I can organize it,” says the professional organizer. “My goal is to leave people with a space that is set up logically and intuitively that they can maintain on their own with ease.”

As owner of Cut the Clutter, she finds clients among the 8.4 million New Yorkers living and working in some of the most limited square footage in the world.

“There’s no typical client,” says Schrier. “Some people are completely detached and have no sentimental attachment to anything. Others need to lament over every tchotchke and photo, and I get it—it’s harder for some people.”

Natalie SchrierIt might be the most difficult for hoarders. One of the jobs she’s most proud of was helping a man who was just a week and a half from eviction in 2013. (Despite having a spacious apartment, the man could step only on narrow paths between rooms; he’d created piles and piles by simply dumping out his suitcase between frequent business trips.) Working around the clock, Schrier single-handedly packed up about 80 boxes—after significant purging—to keep him in his apartment. Earlier this year, she also helped him consolidate his storage units, saving him about $3,000 a year.Clutter

Her childhood home on Long Island didn’t qualify for hoarding status, but it was cluttered enough that she went in the opposite direction, keeping her La Plata Hall room and off-campus apartments pristine.

Schrier moved to New York after graduating, working primarily in human resources for nearly a decade. Then, a week before she was supposed to start a new job, it fell through.

“I started thinking, ‘What am I good at?’” says Schrier, who often organized for her friends in her spare time. “I just wanted to clean out people’s closets, but I didn’t know if that was a real job or not.”

Luckily, she found the website for the National Association of Professional Organizers, of which she’s now a member. She used social media to get the word out about her new business, offering to do a few jobs for free to get before and after photos and testimonials. To extend her reach, she sold 101 Groupon deals.

These days, her five-star reviews on Yelp, where she’s called a “fairy godmother” and a “miracle worker,” represent just a portion of her clientele.

Schrier prides herself on being nonjudgmental, putting her psychology degree to good use when she soothes clients’ emotions. “My job is very personal. I’m going into your home, you’ve never met me before.”

That attitude helps her connect with all types of people who come to her for help, whether they’ve just let things pile up for years, or they’re facing a major life event like a divorce or birth of a child.

(It’s important the person is on board: Though she’s happy to sell gift certificates, “you can’t surprise someone with the gift of organizing,” she says.)

While her focus is on home decluttering, she’s also been asked to help organize thoughts—for someone starting a business, and for a student struggling to write a doctoral dissertation.

Despite her busy schedule—she has to remember to carve out days to rest, since she works weekdays and weekends—she plans to keep her business a one-woman show.

“I really care about my clients,” she says. “I can hear the desperation in the tones of their voices or their emails, and I’d rather give a day for someone else than take a day off for myself.”

Neater Is Sweeter

Schrier offers the following basic organizing tips to help restore order in your life:

• To tackle a major mess, begin by purging. “Organizing is like a domino effect—you can’t put things away unless there’s room for them.”

• Identify categories that are “low-hanging fruit, like old periodicals with outdated information,” she says, “and get rid of those right away.”

• Keep like items together so you know where to find them.

• Put things back right after you use them, whether seasonings in a spice rack or a file in a drawer.

• Don’t keep seasonal decorations or other seldom-used materials in prime real estate, like your front closet. Store them in spots that are out of the way.

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