Professional organiser Laurel Grey, an American living here for the past five years, who is also a life coach. -- PHOTO: ADEEL NAEEM PHOTOGRAPHY
For four years, restaurant owner Christopher Tung had letters and documents strewn all over his home office. That changed when he hired professional organiser Georgina Wong to do something about the mess.
Mr Tung, 41, says: 'Once the papers started piling up, it was difficult to find the time to go through them. It seemed easier to get an outsider to help.'
Ms Wong took five hours to sort through the stacks of papers and arrange them. They are now neatly filed in binders according to subject matter.
'Those piles of papers were something I saw almost every day. It is a great and wonderful feeling now that they are gone,' says a pleased Mr Tung.
From high-flying businessmen to expatriate wives, people are getting professionals to help them clean up the clutter in their lives. At least two outfits here - Asian Professional Organisers and Happily Organized - are offering such services, which became popular in the United States in the 1980s. Rates here start from $65 an hour.
Ms Wong, who set up Asian Professional Organisers last year, has helped expatriates clear out their bedrooms and come up with filing systems.
Her business has doubled in the past 12 months through word of mouth and her website (www.asianprofessionalorganisers.com). She declines to say how many clients she has now.
'I blame consumerism for people buying more things now,' says Ms Wong, in her 40s, who also works as a realty adviser. 'Being organised translates to saving time and money. Often, when you are disorganised, you end up paying overdue charges or premium prices.'
With more than a decade's experience in planning large conferences and summits, she charges about $500 for a five-hour organising session.
Happily Organized's Ms Laurel Grey, 27, says her job is not just about throwing out other people's junk.
An American living here for the past five years, she says: 'Digging up old stuff brings out a lot of emotions. Helping people choose not to be bogged down by so many things in life can cause a shift in personality and helps them to be more confident.'
From four clients when she started last June, her one-woman firm (www.happilyorganized.com) now has around 15 clients. Hourly rates start from $65.
She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Formed in 1985, the US-based organisation has a code of conduct for practitioners.
Ms Wong is a member of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers, started in 2005 and based in Australia.
Ms Grey, who is also a life coach, says: 'I wanted to help people be more organised. Both coaching and professional organising deals with helping people make changes to their lifestyles.'
Change does not come easy for some.
An American housewife engaged Ms Grey's services three months ago to help tackle the daunting task of unpacking 50 boxes of belongings. She had moved here from Arizona with her husband and five-year-old son last year. Now, three months later, there are just two boxes left in their two-storey terrace house.
The 35-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Karen, says: 'The hardest things to get rid of were gifts from family members. They mean a lot to me but they were taking up too much space. I kept those that I really liked and got rid of the rest.'
Ms Vivien Lim, 31, who works in the finance industry, rang Asian Professional Organisers for help last month because she did not want her colleagues and bosses to think she was messy and disorganised.
She says: 'I am in sales and marketing and am busy meeting customers all day. I do not have a lot of time to tidy up. Even if you are a good sales performer, every impression counts.'
She has spent more than $1,000 so far on organising services and says: 'My family has difficulty understanding why I need help. They think it's a waste of money.'
But consultant psychiatrist Adrian Wang, 45, thinks that some help from an outsider can be useful.
'Sometimes, people just need a short- term solution during hectic periods such as Chinese New Year and weddings,' he says.
Professional organisers work the same way as personal fitness trainers. 'They can help people get the ball rolling but it is easy to go back to the old habits,' he adds.
For a long-term change, he says, you need to address underlying issues such as depression and anxiety.