Raz helps Hollywood director Darren Bousman decide what to keep and what to throw away, while organizing his home office. Helen Zhao | CNBC
During the pandemic, Dr. Julia Raz turned her passion for organizing into a lucrative side hustle that’s become a full-time business with more than half a dozen part-time employees.
Since January 2021, the 38-year-old in Los Angeles, California, has earned about $103,000 decluttering and organizing homes for everyone from “self-described hoarders or self-described shopping addicts” to people who need help letting go of physical or emotional baggage. Her business, Golden West Organizing, typically brings in more than $10,000/month.
Since people tend to feel very attached to their personal belongings, Raz likens her job to that of a therapist. “I’ve had a client tell me that I saved their marriage, because I taught them how to communicate with their partner about the management of the things in their home,” she says.
That’s where her PhD helps. Raz is an adjunct professor of communication and media studies at various colleges including Santa Monica College and Cal State Long Beach. Her teaching duties went online because of the pandemic, freeing up more time for her to pursue organizing professionally.
Raz partially attributes her business success to how much time people now spend at home. “Your home becomes your workspace. For some people, it’s homeschooling too, now. It’s so many different roles than it used to be,” she says.
“I think that all of us struggle with maintaining order and balance in our lives,” she adds. “And decluttering, to me, is the simplest way to find peace and order in your life.”
In 2019, Raz came across a museum exhibit about “happiness through minimalism,” that changed her life. Afterward, she let go of about 80% of the belongings in her own home. The experience was so empowering, Raz decided she wanted to help others do the same.
“That’s really important, to feel like your stuff hasn’t taken control of you,” Raz says. “You get to determine what stays and doesn’t.”
Nearly two years after that museum visit, she began organizing clients’ homes for free, in exchange for testimonials and before and after photos.
Business trickled in. Raz was able to start charging for her organizing services. She brought in about $13,800 between January and July 2021.
Then word-of-mouth took off, especially among Facebook groups for Los Angeles moms.
In August, Raz’s revenue was $11,000. In February, Golden West Organizing had a record month, bringing in about $20,800. (All those figures are before factoring in business costs including insurance, accounting, software subscriptions, professional association fees, and various supplies.)
Golden West Organizing brought in $13,800 in its first seven months in business, with revenue surging since then. Julia Raz
Demand has been strong enough that Raz now employs a team of more than half a dozen part-time organizers.
Clients pay by the hour. Her rates are $150 for two organizers from the team or $250 for Raz and another organizer. On the low end, Raz says she has seen organizers who charge as little as $25/hour, and others who charge $275/hour for just one person.
“I consider my business in the middle of things, but it’s toward the higher end,” she says.
Raz says she provides value beyond physical organization. She’s guiding clients through an emotional journey of letting go. “In a lot of ways, it’s very similar to therapy,” she says.
One client started sobbing after the team arrived, Raz recalls. “She told us she hadn’t slept in days. She was so anxious about us coming in. I just gave her a hug in that moment and told her that we’re going to be there for her.”
Some clients are letting go of possessions that belonged to a loved one who passed away. “They feel stuck because there’s this stuff from someone that they lost and it’s really burdening them,” Raz says. “They may not be able to work in their room because that stuff is still there. And when I come in, they’re finally able to start processing through it.”
Raz finds fascinating objects when organizing homes, such as horror props used on Bousman’s film sets. He directed Saw 2, 3 and 4. Helen Zhao | CNBC
With another client, Raz spent five to six hours sorting through a shoebox of photographs. “We looked through every individual photograph of her deceased parents,” she says.
Raz says she doesn’t express judgement, no matter what she may find in someone’s home. “We’ve come across guns that we didn’t expect to find — that the client didn’t even know they had,” she says. “It can be surprising and also a little bit alarming when you find weapons or drugs or other unsafe things in a space with children or pets too.”
Bousman said he felt much less stressed when he saw the final result of his office. Helen Zhao | CNBC
Raz says she’s still evaluating whether the organizing business will be lucrative enough to sustain for the long term.
“When I was straight out of graduate school, I would have been like, ‘Oh my god, I never made this much money in my life,’” Raz says. “But I’m pretty far into my other career now at this point. And so, for me, personally, unless I am netting six figures and up, I don’t feel like it’s lucrative enough.”
After all, Raz is working 60 hours a week on her business, on top of her teaching career and raising her five-year-old daughter.
Raz hopes Golden West Organizing could turn a profit of $200,000 a year. “I don’t know how long that will take, or if it’s possible, but that is a goal of mine,” she says.
Raz helped Bousman organize all his films, books, and film props. Helen Zhao | CNBC
To get there, Raz is now offering new services: Unpacking people’s boxes when they move into a new home and 30-minute online decluttering consultations.
Eventually, she will have to raise her rates, too. But while steadily increasing her hourly rate has been empowering, it doesn’t come easily.
“As an academic by trade, we are not paid highly,” she says. “It’s a combination of my experience as an educator and being a woman. Both of those two things together have made me kind of fearful of saying like ‘Oh, this is what I charge.’ Even though I can.”
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