Cutting through all that clutter

  • Richard Barbalato of Francestown runs Bee Organized, a service which helps people de-clutter or organize their possessions. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Richard Barbalato of Francestown runs Bee Organized, a service which helps people de-clutter or organize their possessions. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Richard Barbalato of Francestown runs Bee Organized, a service which helps people de-clutter or organize their possessions. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/25/2019 9:26:50 PM

There’s a spot in every home that could use a little TLC. Whether it’s the basement, garage, a hall closet or pantry, all of the above can be used as catch-all areas for items found cluttering other areas around the house. But after a while, thanks to the piles of papers, boxes, toys and things you’ll “use one day,” they become too crowded and just overwhelming to look at. 

And at that point there are a few choices. You can continue to ignore it and make an even bigger chore in the future, spend an entire weekend cleaning and putting everything in its proper place – or just call Bee Organized out of Francestown and they’ll do all the hard work for you.

Seventeen years ago Richard Barbalato and his wife Donna were looking for their next great career challenge. Richard spent almost two decades as a dental technician in an orthodontist office and then worked seven years for Pitney Bowes in New York, which specializes in mailing and shipping services.

But it was time for a new venture, and something they could do as a team. So they started looking at small business models and came across one for personal organizers. They’ve both been “relatively organized people,” Barbalato said, so he decided to see what it was all about. As he put it, “It’s almost no start up and all you really need is a computer and a brain.”

So he took a three-hour seminar at the Empire State Building in New York City and left knowing that was what he wanted to do next. The couple spent five years in New York and another two in New Jersey before moving to Francestown about 11 years ago.

For a business like this, the first step is getting your name out there, Barbalato said. Once the word starts to spread, the work comes to you.

“Most of the time, it’s one of those businesses where people seek you out,” Barbalato said.

Barbalato works by an hourly rate and has a four-hour minimum. Some jobs can be completed in less than a day, while others are more what you’d think about when the topic of hoarders comes up. Barbalato recalls one family that had six storage units at four different locations they were looking for help with. The goal was to eliminate the need for all six of them.

“For various reasons, they had to sell a couple houses and had to put everything in storage,” Barbalato said. “I was literally looking at the last 45 years of their life.”

It took time, but Barbalato has whittled them down to one unit and that will be taken care of this spring.

Barbalato’s been to houses where you can barely walk because there’s so much stuff. For those clients, it’s a difficult decision to seek help, because the issue is much more than simply having too much stuff. It’s been a lifestyle, sometimes for many years. At times, someone will have hundreds of pieces of mail to go through, thousands to books to organize and just sheer amounts of stuff that they’ve collected.

“It gets to the point that I look at it this way, they’re in the water and the water’s at their chin and climbing,” Barbalato said. “When people are in trouble, that’s when they find you, and for a lot of my clients, they have to want to do this.”

Then there was this one multi-story home that he’ll never forget.

“Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom, was filled with stuff,” he said.

There have been instances where it takes a year for him to actually start a job because while people inititate the contact, they might not actually be ready for the change. It almost always starts with a conversation over the phone, and then Barbalato will go see what the job really entails.

“I had to adjust to [this job] because you can’t be overwhelmed, and you just don’t know what’s going to be there when you show up,” Barbalato said. “But you’re there to help, you’re there to make a difference.”

And it all comes down to what the person wants.

“I just tell them I’m here to help and try and make them feel comfortable,” he said. “But no matter what, you throw out nothing without your client’s permission.”

The clientele is not just residential either. Bee Organized can help small businesses with paper management and filing systems. There’s one local business where they go in every three months for maintenance. Donna is the paper guru of the two and handles a lot of that work.

And one thing Bee Organized takes very serious is the privacy of their clients.

“A big majority of the people have stuff going on they don’t want people to see,” Barbalato said.

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