Make No Mistake: How to Help Clients Make the Best Decision the First Time

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Make No Mistake: How to Help Clients Make the Best Decision the First Time

As someone who struggles with the decision making process, I found guiding clients through it to be one of the most challenging aspects of my work as an organizer. If you agree, you’ll definitely want to read this summary of Annette Dubroillet’s presentation at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Region Conference for Professional Organizers, courtesy of Tiffany Mensing.


As a professional organizer, I ask clients numerous questions, each one requiring a decision. Sometimes clients wander from idea to idea, but never get back to answering the question I asked, typically “What do you want to do with this dress, book, piece of paper, etc., etc., etc.?”  I wonder if they really want to get organized. Other times, a client makes decisions so rapidly that I wonder why she hired me; I start to worry she is moving so fast she isn’t really thinking about the decision and may not be happy with that decision later.

I learned about these two decision-making styles at Annette Dubroillet’s Mid-Atlantic Region Conference for Professional Organizers (MARCPO) presentation, “Make No Mistake: How to Help Clients Make the Best Decision the First Time.” Annette is the President of Decision Drivers, LLC.  Annette  explained how to identify if I’m working with an “open-ended decider” or a “closed-ended decider” and how to help her make a good decision to reach her organizing goals.

Many of my clients are open-ended deciders – as Barbara Hemphill says, “Clutter is delayed decisions.” A client with too much clutter has many decisions to make; this can be very overwhelming for an open-ended decider. Recognizing that I’m working with an open-ended decider helps me determine the best techniques to use to take her through the organizing process. Annette provided some clear signs I’m working with an open-ended decider: she will never come to closure, she’ll keep asking questions, she’ll change her mind, she’ll want to ask others for opinions, and she’ll get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” I have seen all these symptoms with clients!

But how to help these clients come to closure so we can progress through the organizing process? Annette gave several tips on how to help an open-ended decider. The easiest one to implement is to present few options to clients. I often ask the question, “What do you want to do with this?” It has many answers (store it in the closet, donate it,  trash it), which could easily overwhelm my client if she is an open-ended decider.  However, the question, “Do you want to keep this in your home or remove it from your home?” only has two answers. From there I can help determine where to store it or the best removal method – all the while limiting the number of possible answers.

Closed-ended deciders are at the other end of the spectrum: they don’t want to discuss decisions, they hurry through the process, they just want to get it done. This may seem like a professional organizer’s dream, but it is important to make sure those clients are making the best decisions and not just making a decision for the sake of making a decision. Annette gave several tips on how to work with these clients as well; the most helpful tip was having the client consider the decision for a certain amount of time (ten minutes to a couple days depending on the situation).

Many of my clients feel overwhelmed when they think about organizing their home; so many decisions need to be made! Being able to recognize my clients’ decision-making styles is a great tool I use to reduce my clients’ stress and help them through the organizing process.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

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Tiffany Mensing

Tiffany Mensing

Tiffany Mensing is the owner of Space & Serenity, a professional organizing company that helps clients save time by creating calm through organization. Space & Serenity focuses on creating customized and sustainable solutions for clients’ physical space and their time. Tiffany is the Secretary of NAPO-WDC.

Join the Conversation


  1. Avatar Josh Trenser on October 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Janet, thanks a lot for sharing these tips!!!

  2. Avatar Thalia Poulos on November 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Thank you very much, Janet. I’ve been a Professional Organizer for a long time and I still enjoy reading about how others work with their clients. NAPO has always been a great place for collaboration. Continued success and best of luck to you!

  3. Avatar Janet Schiesl on November 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I missed this workshop at MARCPO. Thanks Tiffany for the overview. I’ll have to buy the CD to learn more. Decision made!

  4. Avatar Janet Barclay on November 5, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I’d like to thank Annette for her insight, and Tiffany for sharing it. Thanks also to Josh, Thalia and Janet S. for stopping by and sharing your feedback!

  5. Avatar Michelle on November 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Excellent article! Thank you for sharing these tips. I have worked with both types of clients and can relate. I never looked at it like this though, so thank you for the fresh perspective.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on November 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      I found it very interesting too! I know that I have the hardest time with decisions when I’m presented with too many choices, so it makes sense that other people would too!

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