By Lauren Bennett
JP resident and journalist Rhea Becker found herself doing something very different from writing articles and conducting interviews when she discovered what she calls the “Americanized version” of feng shui.
About 16 years ago, Becker read some books about clutter and decluttering and became intrigued by the idea. “I went through every single thing I owned and got rid of a massive amount of stuff for weeks and that’s how I got started,” she said.
She calls herself the Clutter Queen, and she’s ready to help people get organized in their homes. At first, it never occurred to her to do this for money, but as the years went by, “I really ramped it up,” Becker said. She has also optimized her website so it comes up in more online search results, and has started advertising on Yelp.
The Clutter Queen process works like this: Becker has a preliminary call with the client to find out where in the house is their priority. Then “we handle everything,” Becker said, and decide whether to keep, toss, or donate the items, and organize what’s left.
Becker said she works with the client the entire time, and has completed tasks anywhere from organizing a file cabinet to working with hoarders on getting their whole house under control. She said she’s done basements and attics as well. One thing she absolutely will not do, she said, is work in a home with an active infestation of things like bedbugs or fleas.
She said she doesn’t work with very many hoarders because they don’t typically reach out for help. “The average customer is someone who got busy and just let things get out of control,” she said.
Becker said she believes clutter has become such an issue these days because “I think that in the U.S., we get a lot of things cheaply. A lot of people comfort themselves with stuff,” she said.
“I learned that I think stuff is so far down the list of important things in my life,” Becker said. “I love meeting the different people and hearing everybody’s life story.”
Becker spends three to four hours with the average client, and she said that a lot of people only need her for one session. However, she has had clients who have needed her for repeat visits to get the job done. Some weeks, she’ll have four or five clients, and other weeks she doesn’t have many. She said she tries not to travel more than 25 miles from Boston, but she has traveled as far as Rockport, and is considering a job in Northampton. She said that a lot of her clients are from Charlestown, Weymouth, and Peabody. “JP is picking up a little bit,” she added.
She was also recently featured in a BBC article about decluttering professionals from around the world—she was the only one from the United States mentioned. She said that the BBC Googled her and found her—much like many of her clients do.
Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s Netflix show came out last month, and she has increased in popularity and gotten people talking about organization. Becker said that her highest earning month ever was this past January, and she thinks that New Year’s resolutions coupled with the popularity of Marie Kondo has contributed to her recent increase in business.
She said that one of the most challenging parts of this job can be making sure people are ready to let go of things. She said she had a client who did not want to let go of anything, so Becker really couldn’t help her. She said she also had a house where two hoarders lived, and relatives were cleaning out the house. It was “massively packed with garbage,” Becker said, and “it was extremely dirty.”
Becker said she believes in Swedish Death cleaning, where people who are little older begin to get rid of everything they don’t need or love in order to make cleaning the house after they pass away less of a burden for their loved ones. “It’s not morbid, it’s just common sense,” Becker explained.
TIPS FROM THE
Becker has some tips to offer people who want to reduce the amount of clutter in their homes. The first is simple; to start with organizing mail. “A lot of people collect their mail,” Becker said. “I have seen decades worth of mail in people’s homes.” She recommends having a dedicated place in the home with a wastebasket where mail can be brought in and immediately sorted through, and whatever is not needed can be tossed right away.
For all rooms in the house, Becker recommends keeping like things together—writing utensils, take out menus, shoes, etc.. “Kitchens are crazy for a lot of people,” she said. She said she’s seen baking pans “in three different places,” and “Tupperware storage all over the place.” She said that keeping similar items together will alleviate this issue and make it easier and faster for people to find what they’re looking for.
Becker also recommends going through clothes closets and removing any empty hangers. This will free up space in the closet and allow one to better see what they have.
One of the biggest mistakes some of her clients make, she said, is to buy storage solutions before they declutter. Since they will probably end of getting rid of a ton of stuff, they will end up with a lot of unused storage bins and shelves, she said. So “don’t buy storage solutions before you declutter,” Becker advises.
Becker has lived in JP for over 25 years. “I love living in JP; it’s a great neighborhood,” she said. “It has everything I love, it has history good people, places to go out to eat.”
Though she also does writing for a non-profit as well as some screenwriting on the side, the Clutter Queen really has a soft spot for organizing people’s belongings and helping them through the process. “I really love to do this job,” she said. “I think it’s really fun and I help people.”The Clutter Queen can be reached through her website at myclutterqueen.com.