Jeff Mayer bills himself as the most expensive maid in the nation. Business executives actually pay him $1,000 to tell them how to clean off their cluttered desks.
"I go into an office, and it looks like the desk was in the spin cycle of a washing machine," says the 39-year-old Mayer. "And when we're done, it's like the flight deck of an aircraft carrier."
Over the past five years, Mayer says his one-man company, Mayer Enterprises, has done this job on 700 executives in the Chicago area. He has gathered enough theories and techniques about office organization to fill a book, so he's writing one.
But are his lessons worth $1,000?
Barry Wolf, owner of Communications Research & Development in Chicago, swears his money was well spent.
"About three years ago, I realized my office was just piled high and very disorganized and time was getting tighter and tighter," said Wolf. "So out of the blue he calls and says, 'How would you like to get your time more organized?' "
"So he got my life organized," Wolf recalled. "And my office is still as neat as a tack."
Wolf said other executives face the same problem--a limited amount of time to get a lot of work done.
"If $1,000 buys you an hour a day, and you can make money during that hour, you bet it pays," said Wolf.
Mayer's formula for clutter-busting is simple. (Executives: Pay attention and save $1,000.)
Mayer has the executive make a master list of things to do, an inventory of all unfinished work. He does it by sorting through the papers piled on a desk one by one. If the paper needs to be saved it goes into a file, otherwise it gets pitched.
Stacks of papers represent wasted time and wasted money to Mayer.
"If you ask them about it, they say if they see it, they'll remember to do it. But it gets buried and they don't see it anyhow," Mayer said in an interview earlier this week.
He meets with the executives for two sessions of two hours each.
"At the end of two hours, there's a list one or two pages long, a handful of file folders we've made, and there's probably two garbage cans filled with junk," said Mayer.
Patricia Wier, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, concedes that she had doubts when she hired Mayer, but concluded that his techniques "really do work."
She said his system was so simple she should have thought of it herself.
"But the fact is, I didn't," she said. "I was so impressed, I sent him to four or five other executives in the company."