By Colleen Sparks
Getting organized can be an emotional roller coaster for people as they struggle to decide what longtime possessions to keep and which ones to throw away or donate.
Recruiting the help of Erika Gentner and Kerry Rehberg, co-owners of Dependable Divas, a professional organizing company with clients in Gilbert, can help.
The mother-and-daughter duo spends the most time in Gilbert, along with Mesa, Gilbert, Ahwatukee and Tempe, tackling people’s messy closets, play rooms, garages and other areas of their homes.
“A lot of times when people call, they are in the middle of a life-changing event – if it’s death, divorce, a move, a new baby – so a lot of times people are very emotional,” said Gentner, a married mother of two sons. “We’re probably greeted at the door once a week to someone crying. It could be tears of fear or tears of happiness. Fifty percent of our jobs is counseling; the other 50 percent of jobs is actual organizing.
“I know how busy and hectic life can be,” she added. “I know how much better and smoother my house runs when it is organized.”
A former event planner with a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Northern Arizona University, Gentner said she and her mother started the company 11 years ago. Gentner had also worked as a household manager for a family in California, and Rehberg had worked as an assistant to a CEO.
The two women put their organizational skills together in starting the company, initially doing mostly personal assisting for people, including helping clients pay their bills and get clothes from dry cleaners.
“Once we got into homes, we thought maybe they need help with their stuff,” Gentner said. “We’d go from room to room and help them get organized.
“We mostly do the organization now,” she said. “We help people with their moves, help get them de-cluttered before they move. We’ll help them unpack.”
Customers can request a certain area or get the whole house organized. Three to five contract workers will help Gentner and Rehberg organize an entire house. Sometimes only two people are needed to organize an area.
Before starting their work, Gentner and Rehberg ask clients questions whether they are comfortable sending photos of the space that needs to be improved.
“We ask them questions on the phone,” Gentner said. “What areas do you need the most? If you could wave a magic wand, what would it look like? Are you willing to get rid of items? Do you have built-in storage? How long has it been since you’ve been through your closet?”
After talking for about 30 minutes, the ladies have a good idea of “what the problem areas are” and how many people it will take to do the work, she said. About 75 percent of the calls are from women, often between the ages of 30 and 60.
It costs customers $55 an hour per organizer. The clients also must reimburse Dependable Divas for any products the business buys to help them get organized, including bins, baskets or shelves.
Rehberg said the company made in the six-figures after having only been in business for about two years.
When it comes to deciding what the organizers will donate to charity or throw out and what to keep, some clients want to see every belonging first, Gentner said. Some people want to supervise the organizers and approve everything before it’s given away, while other clients don’t want to be involved.
Gentner said often people have too much stuff in their master bedroom closets and have trouble parting with clothes that hold sentimental value.
She and Rehberg ask clients when they last wore certain clothes. If it’s been a while, they suggest the clients donate them. It’s OK to keep some things for sentimental value, but the organizers urge clients to display them, perhaps in a frame or archivable photo box.
It’s easier for Gentner and Rehberg to be objective in deciding what clients might want to keep because they have no emotional attachment to the belongings.
“You don’t just want it wadded up in your sock drawer,” Gentner said.
Speaking of sock drawers, she and Rehberg said one special moment was when they were helping a young mother, whose husband had died suddenly, get organized. While they were packing the husband’s clothes, they discovered he had hidden money in his dress socks, which meant his widow, who had three young daughters, received more than $3,000.
They said the woman was crying with joy.
Another perk of the job is seeing people excited about the positive changes in their homes.
“That’s probably one of the best parts about the job is at the end when you get that big smile and hug,” Gentner said.
Working with her mother is also a benefit of the job.
“It all just comes so naturally,” Gentner said. “We are able to finish one another’s sentences or act without even saying a word to each other.”
Rehberg also had praise for her daughter.
“Who do I know and adore more than anyone else in the world? My daughter. Erika was, and still is 11 years later, my number one choice as a business partner,” she said. “She is trustworthy and honest, which are huge in our line of work.”
For anyone who wants to try to get organized on their own, Gentner offered advice. When trying to organize bedroom closets, she recommends grouping clothes by types, including all pink shirts hung near each other and all black work pants in one section.
In children’s playrooms, Gentner likes to put toys in bins with labels bearing pictures on them to help younger kids know where to put things away.
To learn more about Dependable Divas, visit dependable-divas.com.