Rising ‘closet organizers’ transforming space and lives

By Phan Duong   April 10, 2024 | 03:00 am PT
After a year in the business, Hoang Hong Anh still feels overwhelmed every time she stands in front of a new customers’ wardrobe, with towering stacks of clothes waiting to collapse.

Last week, Hong Anh and her team finished organizing the family closet of a female client in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District. The VND30 million (US$1,200) project required five employees working continuously over a span of four days.

The family of four possessed a huge amount of clothing. Anh’s client alone had a total of 230 skirts, roughly 300 shirts, 150 pairs of trousers, over 100 cardigans and sweaters, not to mention countless other garments such as dresses, jackets, suits, and gym clothes.

"It's literally a mountain of clothes. Without expertise you wouldn’t know where to start," said Hong Anh, the 36-year-old founder of a professional closet organizing company in Hanoi.

Before the makeover, part of a customers wardrobe in Hanois Ba Dinh District awaits organizational transformation by Hong Anh’s team. Photo by Tudo

Before the makeover, part of a customer's wardrobe in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District awaits organizational transformation by Hong Anh’s team. Photo by Tudo

"After a decade of working at a Japanese company, the ‘kaizen’ (continuous improvement) mindset has become second nature to me," said Hong Anh. "And I often wanted to make myself more comfortable when opening my wardrobe."

After talking to friends, she realized many other people were also similarly frustrated with their cramped wardrobes. Thus, her idea of launching a closet organization service was born.

Last summer, Hong Anh decided to leave her professional position as head of sales at a company to pursue her vision.

She first enrolled in an online course for professional organizers at the International Association of Professions Career College (USA).

Professional organizers are people who make a living helping others organize their lives, including assistance with many small niches such as time management, closet organization, and performance enhancement.

The profession, born in the 1980s, has seen significant growth in recent years. According to Statista, in 2020 the professional organization market in the U.S. was valued at approximately $10.3 billion, a 4.7% annual increase for 2019.

In the U.S., a closet organizer can earn an annual salary of from $42,000 to $55,000, while the range is between £20,000 and 24,000 per year in the U.K.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, the industry is still developing, and most of such businesses are based in Hanoi. Hourly fees for closet organization range from VND200,000-300,000.

Hong Anh organizes a clients closet in Hanois Nam Tu Liem District in November 2023. Photo by Tudo

Hong Anh organizes a client's closet in Hanoi's Nam Tu Liem District in November 2023. Photo by Tudo

Lan Anh, a 36-year-old mother of three living in Dong Da District, has only been doing this kind of work professionally for just over a month, but already feels she was born for the job.

"I came across the job posting earlier this year and applied right away," said the former homestay owner.

To become a closet organizer, one must be skillful and meticulous, as well as equipped with fashion knowledge and excellent communication skills, especially when dealing with high-profile clients.

With her life experience and innate aesthetic sense, Lan Anh quickly adapted to the role.

"After 20 days at work, I was already promoted to shift leader," she said proudly.

Lan Anh, with her natural flair for organization, drew inspiration from minimalism experts and explored various methods, including the KonMari Method developed by famous Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo.

She then developed her systematic approach:

Whereas she first prioritized compactness, Lan Anh now categorizes clothing by color and type and pays attention to small details that can enhance the overall aesthetics of the closet. Clothes are neatly folded for easy storage and identification, while identical hangers are used for hanging clothes.

"I also learned to arrange clothes using a grid layout. Rarely-used and off-season items find their place on the top rows, ensuring easy access to frequently-worn pieces. Tops and bottoms are arranged vertically, allowing our clients to quickly put together their daily outfits", shared the professional organizer.

This past weekend, her team organized the closet of a three-member family on Pham Van Dong Street, Cau Giay District.

Although the family did not have too much clothing, the items were all wrinkled and not properly separated, leaving everyone in the home frustrated about insufficient storage space.

However, after emptying the whole closet and sorting every garment, the team was able to free up space in three closet compartments. The client’s family was pleasantly surprised and satisfied with the result, calling it a "revolution."

"The most rewarding part of this job is seeing a beautifully arranged closet and receiving positive feedback from our clients. We’re helping people improve their quality of life," she said.

In certain situations, customers rediscover items that they thought were lost, make some extra money by selling old clothing, and even adjust their shopping habits.

Thanh Hue, a 43-year-old resident of Hai Ba Trung District, had her family’s closet professionally organized in September 2023 for VND5 million. The closet space was thoroughly cleaned, with all the clothes neatly folded and categorized.

"It was a nightmare living in too much clothing. After using the service, my closet looked like that of a celebrity and remained tidy for at least 6 months", said Hue.

After organization by Hong Anhs team, a clients closet space in Hanois Long Bien District shines in February 2024. Photo by Tudo

After organization by Hong Anh's team, a client's closet space in Hanoi's Long Bien District shines in February 2024. Photo by Tudo

However, since the profession is still new, it inevitably faces misunderstandings. According to Hong Anh, many customers mistake her business as a maid service.

"Our goal is to enhance our client’s living space through logical organization, not just helping with housework," the business owner clarified.

In the early days of operation, Hong Anh had a 30-year-old female customer in Thanh Xuan District looking for a wardrobe makeover before buying more items. After giving birth and staying home for nearly a year, the customer, Hoa, had not purchased any new clothes.

Taking a quick glance at the wardrobe, Hong Anh could see the relationship between Hoa and her husband was out of balance. The husband’s clothes occupied two thirds of the space and their son’s clothing took up another significant portion, while her clothes were tucked away in a few small drawers.

"She then confided to me how her husband had been unhappy about how she was not dressing up when going out," said Hong Anh.

Hong Anh decided to speak with Hoa’s husband about re-organizing their shared wardrobe. Considering Hoa’s limited height and busy childcare responsibilities, her clothes were strategically placed in easily accessible locations.

Hong Anh’s team of stylists provided personalized style consultations, ensuring that Hoa acquired suitable new items. To this day, Hoa continues to collaborate with Hong Anh to maintain her organized wardrobe. And she seeks consultation whenever she adds new clothing items.

"After three months, my client has become much more confident in her look and the way she dresses. The couple’s relationship has also improved significantly," said Hong Anh.

Although the case did not earn Hong Anh a lot of money, it helped her realize the impact of her work.

Hong Anh remarked: "To some extent, we don’t just transform closets, but also the life of our customers."

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