Start by assessing whether you really need to enlist an organizer. If you are relatively neat, you probably can save money and hassle by tackling the work yourself. Click here for dozens of ideas on how to get rid of unwanted stuff.

But as is the case with most life challenges, if you suspect you need help, then you probably do. If you’ve got a messy attic/junk-filled garage/stuffed closet you’ve avoided dealing with, you might get a lot out of spending a few hours with a pro. To examine how organizers work and who would (or wouldn’t) benefit from their services, we asked five Checkbook staffers to try out professional neat freaks on each of their very different projects, ranging from a wreck of a family room to a space-challenged clothes closet to a mountain of mail. They share their experiences and their takeaways in the articles that follow.

Our test-case staffers found it was valuable to have a stranger’s unbiased opinion; some friendly, informed guidance; and another pair of hands. Downsizing seniors and persons who suffer from hoarding disorders definitely can benefit from hiring an expert.

We were shocked by differences in fees charged by organizers we contacted. One wanted a $3,000 retainer to straighten out a small clothes closet.

Overall, our most disorganized staffers saw the most benefit from calling in a pro; each said they’d hire help again. Our tidier bunch generally agreed their organizers provided some ideas and benefits, but after learning tips on how to tackle their messes, they doubted they’d shell out again for these services.