Professional Organizer: Your Ultimate Guide to This Booming Service

Professional OrganizerWe’ve all been there.

Looking for lost keys, a missing wallet, a file that’s just gotta be around here somewhere!

Maybe it’s putting the grocery list together or organizing all your food into something that resembles a meal.

Perhaps it’s bringing order to a relentless barrage of information or keeping track of the kid’s schedule (and your own).

Sound familiar?

There’s a reason why Closets magazine exists and why the home organization industry is a multi-billion dollar business. So maybe you could use a shortcut to organized happiness by hiring a Professional Organizer (PO).

But are a Professional Organizer’s services priceless … or worthless? And why would you need one?

All the answers – from and about Professional Organizers – plus helpful organizing resources are coming up.

(This is also a great time to download the tools that I and countless others use to simplify, organize, and be money wise).

Click Here to Download Them All Now

Why Do Professional Organizers Exist?

There seems to be a profession for any problem, and organizing is no exception.

Because organizing struggles are so common, Professional Organizing has been booming to help people sort through their issues (often literally).

Here are some of the top reasons why POs have grown in popularity:

  • Because people bury important paperwork under mountains of useless stuff.
  • Physical and digital chaos is overwhelming.
  • Some folks have no system to decide what possessions to keep or toss.
  • Many people routinely can’t find the things they need.
  • Organizing your home before or after a move is serious work.
  • The difference between cleaning and organizing is lost on many people.

That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Break It Down: National Association of Professional Organizers Style

I’m paraphrasing, but according to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) – the industry authority – a Professional Organizer:

Enhances people’s lives by teaching core organizing skills and designing systems or processes based on rockin’ organizing principles. A Professional Organizer also educates the public on organizing solutions and their benefits. Also, Professional Organizers help people and businesses take control of their environment, time, paper, and habits.

What’s not to like there, right? To back up their statements, the excellent NAPO website has Professional Organizer facts like their top ten services or the top reasons a PO is hired.

NAPO also has case studies about different types of people and businesses who benefit from their services. People like:

  • A relocating corporate professional.
  • A single mother needing serious time management skills.
  • A scrap-booking and sewing fanatic with way too many supplies.
  • A work-at-home project manager whose bed-based home office (yes, seriously) needs major changes.
  • The worst hoarder you can imagine.
  • A visually impaired woman with stacks of paperwork and no good way to purge them.

Want to have some nerdy fun? You’ll love the NAPO database search for tons of organizing related stats, facts, and quotes.

For example, 30 percent of all employees’ time is spent trying to find lost documents.

But let’s get personal for a moment: what can a Professional Organizer do for you, your kids, or your business?

What a Professional Organizer Will (or Can) Do

Professional Organizer

The sky’s the limit for Professional Organizer services if your need is remotely organizing related. There are even customized memorabilia organizing systems and specialists available!

At a high level, here are the skills and services you can expect from a Professional Organizer.

  1. Collection and hoarding identification … and explaining their hazards.
  2. Process and system creation for maintaining a tidy environment (and brain).
  3. Solutions to your behaviors, personality type, or disorders (e.g. ADD or chronically disorganized).
  4. Possession management for moving or downsizing your living space.
  5. Workflow designer and spatial relationships guide.
  6. Emotional coach to help reconcile your deep-seated relationships with “stuff.”
  7. Resource connector to recycling, donation, and disposal options.
  8. Storage and action system expert (physical and/or digital).
  9. Creator of efficient email systems and how to manage your inbox.
  10. Teacher of moment-to-moment time management skills.
  11. Assessor of the elderly’s special physical, medical, and emotional organizational needs.
  12. “Document life cycle” guru.

Ask a Professional Organizer if they do “that” and the answer may just be, “Sure!”

What Professional Organizers Can Do For Your Kids

People with kids can appreciate the, shall we say, distinct organizational challenges of having them. I have two young boys and I know exactly how tough it can be.

Although kids have some of the same issues we do, POs deal with kid-specific struggles like:

  1. An out of control toy box or accessories drawer.
  2. A haphazard mess in their room, play zone, or study area.
  3. Time management with homework and chores.

Now, if only someone could get my baby to pick up after himself …

What They Can Do For Your Business

Professional Organizers typically work with small businesses, especially those with the same problems as individuals. But most won’t shy away from a mid- to large-sized businesses, even if their needs and solutions are way different.

A really good PO can step in, assess an overall business situation, identify needs and goals, and develop a customized organizational system for many aspects of the business. Some can even help with project management initiation and implementation.

If you have a small business and need a Professional Organizer, definitely make sure they have experience with a structure like yours (not to mention the systems).

What They Can’t Do For You

Unlike a Daily Money Manager, I couldn’t find definitive information on what a Professional Organizer can’t or won’t do for you.

However, here are a few of things most POs won’t do.

  1. Clean your house.
  2. Provide long-term manual organization of your physical or digital space.
  3. Forcibly work with someone who hasn’t requested their services (e.g. a hoarder).

When in doubt, just ask, “Do you do that?”

How to Know If You Need a Professional Organizer

Professional Organizer

What symptoms make you a good candidate for Professional Organizer services? Here’s a great starting point:

  1. Trouble categorizing, sorting, and identifying the excess in life.
  2. Struggles with document, space, workflow, and time management.
  3. Chronic disorganization, especially the kind causing stress and quality of life issues
  4. Repeated failure to reconcile organizational problems yourself.
  5. A lack of skills, patience, or emotional balance to convince or train a family member/friend about being organized.
  6. Issues setting SMART goals.

Where to Find a Professional Organizer

Professional Organizers may network with local neighborhood associations, Geriatric Care Managers, non-profits, the AARP, or social workers, but they don’t have typical hangout spots.

The best bet is searching online for one near you or one that offers virtual services if nobody’s close to you (or even in your country).

In the U.S.

Use the NAPO Professional Organizer Directory.

Note: If you click on the link to “Country,” you can search for NAPO certified POs in countries like Brazil, France, and Israel. As of May 2015, there are few results for most countries outside of North America, but this will change over time.

Professional Organizer

In Canada

Use the Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) Find an Organizer Directory.

In the U.K.

Use the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (UK) Find a Declutterer tool.

Note: They also have a good resource on Professional Organizer associations in other parts of the world here. It could come in handy if you’re in Africa, Japan, Germany, and other places.

In Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Singapore

Use the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO) Find An Organiser directory.

How to Analyze a Professional Organizer

I’ve curated some of the best content on the topic from the web and aggregated it here.

Start with basic questions about their work history, references, sample contracts, what’s unique about them, and whether they sub-contract out their work. Make sure to ask some more advanced questions too such as:

  1. How do you address challenges of space, paper, and time management?
  2. What’s your code of ethics?
  3. How do you facilitate decision-making and identify resuming bad habits?
  4. Do you charge an hourly rate, by the session, or a flat fee per project?
  5. Do you have a minimum number of hours or sessions you bill? Can I stop without penalty at any time?
  6. How often can you work with me (e.g. weekly, monthly, intermittently)?
  7. Do you offer a free consultation? If I have to pay for the consultation, will you subtract the amount from the services you provide if I hire you?
  8. Do you have a list of other professionals you can refer me to?
  9. Do you offer any guarantees on the services you provide?
  10. Do you specialize in specific types of organization (e.g. digital) or specific types of clients (e.g. small businesses)?
  11. Are you a member of my country’s Professional Organizer industry group (e.g. NAPO, POC, AAPO)?
  12. Do you offer remote consultations and virtual sessions (e.g. Skype-based)?
  13. Do you have special training or certifications (e.g. chronic disorganization, feng shui, ICD certs)?
  14. What does your general approach and process look like (e.g. hands-on, team based, workshops)?
  15. Have you successfully resolved problems similar to mine? How?
  16. Do you have insurance?

Fantastic Professional Organizer Related Resources

Professional Organizer

This section could be pages and pages long, but I’ll just highlight my favorites.

Note: Most of this article’s original resources below are no longer available. Let me know in the comments if you have a great one and I’ll consider adding it to the list.

  • The “Organizer’s Toolbox”: As a curator, I appreciate a well-filtered and categorized list of resources. OnlineOrganizing has the most comprehensive one on all the tip sheets, checklists, schedules, and other tools Professional Organizers use.
  • The “Clickable House” and “Clickable Office”: Although somewhat cheesy, there’s practical information here on creating or restoring order as you click on various red dots in a house or office. I don’t agree with all of it (e.g. “Every minute that you spend planning your day saves you 3 to 5 minutes later and every minute planning your week saves 5 to 15”), but there’s enough good stuff to make it worth checking out.
  • Research, Reports, and Articles Professional Organizers Rely On: See the (mostly) objective third party research, reports, and articles POs reference. There’s quality stuff from the U.S. Census Bureau, top trade journals, newspapers, and magazines, and other reputable places.
  • Get Organized Now Forums: If you like online forums, I believe this is the best one related to serious organizing. They have categories for home and family, the holidays, business and career, computers and technology, time and schedules, and more.
  • Tips for Dealing with Hoarders: Courtesy of the Professional Organizers in Canada, this two-pager has some great tips for dealing with the hoarder in your life.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tools that I and countless others use to organize their physical and digital landscape. You’ll have them instantly when you join my email newsletter with the button below.


Click Here to Download Them All Now

The Bottom Line

As with any professional help, you’ll have to weigh the time, energy, and financial costs against maintaining your status quo. But if the status quo is too painful to sustain, contact a Professional Organizer to determine how they could help you.

Hiring one might not be the right decision. But if reading books and blogs or watching videos about getting organized isn’t cutting it, they might help a ton.

For the comments: What was the most valuable part of this article for you? What else would you like to see added to it?

Photo credit: jenni waterloo, Amanda Krueger, csuspect, kevin yezbick

54 Responses to Professional Organizer: Your Ultimate Guide to This Booming Service

  1. Shanna Mann says:

    Wow. So detailed! It must have taken a tremendous amount of time and effort to pull all this together!

    • Yep, it did. But I don’t want people to appreciate the amount of time it took to create this resource. I’d like them to appreciate the value instead. Based on the comments so far, I’d say I’m moving toward achieving that goal.

  2. Ethan says:

    This is such a great resource! I’ve always been really intrigued by PO’s but have never pulled the trigger on hiring one. I think in some ways, I wish I could be one. I find it really easy to organize for other people, and really difficult to organize for myself.

    One question- do you think that the professional clutter busters fit into this category? I mean people like Brooks Palmer who come and help you get rid of lots of your stuff while working through the emotional attachments you have to it.

    • Hey Ethan,

      Knowing you, I could see you making an awesome PO! I’m sure NAPO would be happy to let you in some day if you wanted to pursue it. But it seems like I’m the opposite of you. I find it so much easier to organize for myself than to help anyone else get organized. I think it has something to do with how immediate and directly I can shape my personal organization instead of having limited control helping to shape someone else’s. Well, that and I know what I want and need when it comes to organization (unlike other aspects of my life).

      Getting to your question, I’d say a guy like Brooks Palmer falls into the PO domain. Getting rid of your stuff while working through the emotional attachments to them – not to mention altering your future relationship with stuff – is almost the textbook definition of what a PO can do for you.

  3. Denise says:

    I don’t think I would hire one, only because organizing is one of my strong suits. I’m usually the one helping people declutter and organize their stuff.

    But, I know some people really struggle with organizing. Like they don’t know where to begin or what to get rid of or they totally miss really simple solutions. So, there is a big need for this. I’ve seen a lot of people miserable because of the chaos all around them or simply because of really inefficient systems in place. Those percentages of how much time is used for scheduling, coordinating, and looking for lost stuff is important to take notice of. I’m sure we’d all like more time to do more of what we like!

    This is a very detailed resource! I’ll be sure to share it.

    • Hi Denise,

      I’m a strong organizer like you. I’ve often thought that if someone gave me a list of a hundred positive attributes and only let me pick my top ten, being organized would be one of those. It’s that essential to my sanity and productivity.

      Have you ever thought about why you’re a strong organizer? Do you think it’s something innate you possess or did you have some experiences/familial influences to help you achieve it?

      • Denise says:

        Hm, not sure. I was the opposite when I was a kid. I have adhd, and most adhd-ers are stereo-typed as messy and disorganized, which I was.

        But, as a working adult, I was super-organized at work, and the more people praised me for my organization the more I wanted to be organized.

        Eventually, I got really good at it and I learned that organization and simplicity is almost like a cure to adhd. Well, sort of. It certainly made a huge difference for me because I get distracted too easily when I see things in front of me that I don’t need. Visually, it’s just too hard to filter out the chaos.

        • Karen J says:

          Ding!Ding!Ding! Denise – me too.
          I’ve trained myself to “push through” *some* of the distractions that the clutter causes, but to find new homes (even if that’s the trash) for more of it would be such an improvement…

  4. Wow! Great article about Professional Organizers…one that could literally be “cut and pasted” onto any serious Professional Organizer’s website. This article answers so many of the questions folks might have when it comes to getting organized. And you hit a key point: “Are their services priceless or worthless?'” As a Professional Organizer myself I would say that probably 95% of folks that hire me or any other organizer would say we are priceless (figuratively speaking of course)…because POs are problem solvers, they evaluate each situation on a case by case basis, they transfer skills to clients teaching them basic organizing principles, they genuinely care for their clients and they are passionate about creating a clutter-free and stress-free world! Now for the other 5% who may find the services “worthless” its usually because they have the wrong idea about what a professional organizer can do (like magically create a clean, organized space in 1 hour like you see on television)…or perhaps its something deeper…like the person needing to make some serious changes in their own lives and accepting responsibility/ownership of their organizing challenges (shopping addictions, hoarding tendencies, over commitment and not being able to say no, procrastination, ADD, etc.). There is a distinct difference between my clients that hire me because they truly “need and value my help” or hire me just simply as “the hired help.” The later clients don’t last that long because neither client or PO get any value out of the organizing process. That said, organizing is a process…not a magical fix. It’s about creating systems and developing habits and routines to help you maintain your organization. Sorry for the long comment but I very much appreciate the effort and time you’ve put into defining what a PO is and can/can’t do for you. I subscribed to your blog a couple of weeks ago and look forward to reading/sharing more about the value of simple…because I’m not just about organizing….I’m all about simplicity and embracing the idea of “less is more.” Thanks again!!!!

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Thanks for all this feedback on my resource and providing an actual Professional Organizer’s view. I wish I would have consulted with you first before publishing this because your comment has some golden nuggets in it. :)

      As you mentioned, organizing is absolutely a process and not something you can wave a magic wand at to permanently resolve issues. Thanks for subscribing to Value of Simple! Feel free to let your Professional Organizer and non-Professional Organizer friends know this place could be a good fit as an online hangout. I’m still working on the best ways to make this a refuge of simplicity, but if you have suggestions, I’m all ears. I bet you have a ton more great stuff to say after seeing the quality of what you just wrote.

      • Joel-

        Well thanks! Honestly, you can always feel free to bounce any ideas off me. Organizing and simplicity is such a hot topic right now…and I’m so glad that many are starting to turn the corner toward a better life. I was blown away a couple of weeks ago when Lifehacker asked me to do an “Ask An Expert” segment and there were something like 9800 people viewing! My keyboard started to spark I was typing replies so fast! I never expected so many people to be interested and take part during that segment right in the middle of the workday. I think it goes to show that many people are getting a little overwhelmed…so posts like yours today will go a long way toward helping them.

        You’re doing great stuff, Joel, keep it up!

    • Angelica says:

      Hi Vanessa,

      I totally agree with you in respects with what you said about why people hire us. I am a professional organizer myself from Toronto, Canada. I love what you said “organizing is a process not a magical fix.” It’s very true and if some want magic, they should hire a magician :)

      I am also all about simplicity and ‘less stuff’ is better. I am new in the business but these are some of my principles of organizing that I would like to teach my clients. Thanks for reading my comment.

  5. Erin says:

    I had no idea professional organizers could do so much. Time management skills? Nice!

    I don’t see myself working with an professional organizer, because I’m someone who really likes to figure things out for myself (and it helps that there’s no part of my life that I feel is really out of control). But wow, could they be useful for someone in need of help.

    As someone who reeeeally likes organizing (other people’s stuff…not so good with mine, but I’m getting better!) and is a new convert to systems, I’m particularly excited for the resources you provided. I’m always up for a little help. And knowing they came from super-curator Joel means they’re probably the best of the best. Thanks!

    • Two is not a trend, but based on conversations I’ve had with people over the years, you and Ethan seem to be in the majority in that you’re better at meeting other people’s organization needs than your own. I’m really starting to wonder why that is. Maybe somebody reading this will reply with a great peer-reviewed psychology paper about our own organizational abilities versus helping others with their organizational needs. I’d be happy to add that to my curated secret stash.

      • Karen J says:

        I don’t have any peer-reviewed research on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a large reason for “better with someone else’s stuff than my own” is because of *my* total lack of emotional attachments to *their* stuff.
        I definitely come under that category, too!

  6. Very very detailed! I can’t really think of anything else you could add. A lot of great work!

    I agree with Vanessa, if I was an organizer, I would be hiring your to write my copy :-)

    • Well Lori, hopefully the PR and Marketing folks in the Professional Organizer world will be taking note. I’m not planning to write anyone else’s copy – heaven knows I have enough trouble with my own – but I am interested in engaging the POs of NAPO, APDO, POC, and AAPO to help me spread the word. And for that matter, I’m hoping this catches the attention of other bloggers and media outlets who could use a resource like this.

      I have some outreach planned tomorrow so we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, thanks for the kind words and the opportunity for me to somewhat shamelessly promote myself. :)

  7. This is awesome!

    But dangerous lol. I have a relationship with organizing in the same way that I do with office supplies – I’m hopelessly obsessed with them, but rarely seem to make much use out of them after I buy them.

    That awesome set of markers? Gimme! That cute little drawered storage bin? Mine!

    Funny that these two go together well lol.

    • Hey Kim,

      I’m glad you like the images I found for the article. They certainly are colorful and look useful, huh? What I do wish was that I could have found some pictures of a neatly organized brain. I find it so much easier to organize my physical landscape than my mental landscape, don’t you? And honestly, I’d rather spend my time working on internal achievements like amazing brain organization than external achievements like making everything look well put-together.

      Hopefully reading this didn’t trigger your office supply itch my friend.

      • Organized brain! I need one of those! Physical is way easier than mental, for sure! (For this very reason, I use a program to help me organize my writing – to keep everything in order and easy to locate!).

        Have no fear, I recently bought a huge stack of brightly colored Sharpies (which I’m actually using!) and made a small shelf out of small origami boxes ( office supplies + organization ftw!). So, I am itch free today!

  8. Sarah says:

    Joel – this is fantastic. The list of things a professional organizer can do really expanded my concept of what one is and when/if I might need one. This is a fantastic example of a way in which people can get help for a problem which often goes un-addressed and can be hugely detrimental. In fact, I think I have a particular client who could really use a PO service and I’m going to send her this article. :-) Thanks for the great resource!

    • Yeah, isn’t it amazing how much a PO can help us with? When I was researching the list of ways they can be useful, I kept thinking, “Wait. They can do that too?!” I felt the same way about investigating Daily Money Managers and will probably feel the same way about the next major profession I write a comprehensive hand guide on. Any suggestions on the profession I should cover for the next one based on what your clients needs are? I’m sure you’ll keep it in my wheelhouse if you have an idea.

  9. Patti says:

    I’ve often thought about hiring a professional organizer, mostly for the motivation factor. This post is really helpful for deciding whether it would be beneficial and then moving on to select one. I’m actually pretty organized, but have a tendency to hang onto things too long, so I end up with nicely organized clutter. I’ve written a few articles myself on the process of getting rid of clutter. It’s not always easy.

    The links you provided are great, thank you! I was already familiar with Get Organized Now – that is an excellent resource for home organization with a good mixture of tips and motivation. I’ve been checking out the other links, very helpful info.

    • Hi Patti,

      Can I use the phrase “nicely organized clutter?” Something about that struck me as both funny and powerful.

      Let me know how your experience goes if you do end up hiring a PO. Sometimes it takes a financial commitment like paying for professional help to really give us the kick in the pants we’ve been hoping to generate for ourselves. I know all about that.

      If you have a great article of your own about getting rid of chaos (I prefer that word to clutter), link to it in a reply here so people can check it out. And if you have an awesome resource that I should include in this hand guide at the end, let me know about that too.

  10. Hey Joel,great post on a profession that I didn’t even know existed.

    I love the fact that people can hire someone to actually get help in this area. A subject like this can be difficult to master, and turning to family for help can make the situation even more complicated, depending on the relationship. People have a system that works well for them that may not actually work for others. Individualized thinning from the pros can make all the difference.

    • Individualized thinning is a new phrase for me Michael. I like it!

      I know what you mean about engaging family for certain types of help. Organization is one of those areas where most family members are ill-suited (or think they’re uniquely suited) to lend a hand. I was recording an episode of Smart and Simple Matters yesterday and this really hit home for me in the amazing story my guest was telling me. But I digress.

  11. Wow, this is a fantastic resource which I will be sharing, sharing and sharing again. Very comprehensive – thank you so much for the mention of APDO uk. The PO industry in the UK is small but growing fast and we at APDO uk are doing everything we can to mirror the fantastic work that our colleagues overseas have been doing for many years. Thanks for writing this and including us in it.

    • Hi Lesley,

      I’m glad you enjoyed this hand guide. I love exploring and documenting how other countries address the same topics from different perspectives than the U.S. Most of my research turns up approaches and solutions that I wish we were pursuing in America. As the PO industry grows in the U.K., I’d love to hear about the points of differentiation between an organization like APDO and NAPO. I know that the vast majority of your efforts and methods are the same of course, but it’s fun to see the changes from one place to another.

  12. Joel,
    This is a great article, full of wonderful information. I can’t imagine how much time it took to pull all these resources together!

    Personally, I have the reputation of being highly organized, and I can certainly see why the business of PO has emerged in recent years. However, I spent last weekend in a large closet going through mounds of old files in preparation for moving. While they were very well organized files, it was time for many of them to meet the shredder. What I learned from this experience is that it is one thing to be organized — and quite another to maintain orderliness over a period of years. I guess that’s why it’s time to move!

    Thanks for a good read! — Marilyn

    • Moving is always a wonderful incentive to organize your stuff and get rid of a bunch of it. As you mentioned, the tricky part is staying organized once you get to the new place. I’m sure if I moved again that I’d find some items that were not as organized as I give myself credit for. Thankfully, I’m not planning to move anywhere for a decade or four.

      I hope everything goes smoothly with your move! I’m interested to hear where you’re heading and what the catalyst was for moving, but perhaps a different medium is better for that.

  13. My organization goes in waves – some times obessed with cleaning and organizing spaces – other times I am perfectly comfortable with a little mess. Luckily my husband is my personal organizer. He cannot stand if things are out of place. Every night when we go to bed, the remote is back in its spot, the dishes are done and taken care of, the afgan is folded and back on the sofa, and the coffee pot is programed to start at 6 a.m. It is a joy to get up in the morning. But I love organizing our finances, investments, retirement, etc. We are good team.

    However after reading this – I think we could still benefit from a PO. Thanks.

    • Teamwork Jane! That’s what life is all about. For people who don’t have a strong enough circle around them, POs can be great. For people who are lacking a team mentally inside their own heads, POs can be great too. But it’s awesome to see a couple find their strong points and let each other do what they do best (and both agree is in the collective best interest). It sounds like your hubby works on the external organization of your home and you work on the internal organization of your shared lives. Sounds like a mutually beneficial deal to me.

  14. Bobbi Emel says:

    Great resource, Joel!

  15. Amit Amin says:

    I would never hire one, but only because I don’t have that much stuff (I could easily live out of a suitcase). But I know some people who could use one, mostly because they have issues throwing stuff away, and because their filing systems are terrible (make it look neat by throwing stuff together).

    Do you think a lot of your readers should hire a PO? Or is this article targeted towards another audience?

    • Hey Amit,

      I don’t assume that anyone needs to hire a PO. I want each person to decide after reading this. But even people like you and me who are impeccably organized on the outside might need a PO to help them get organized on the inside. As I’ve said before, I’d rather have my physical environment look like a zoo and my brain look like a calm prairie meadow than the opposite. Fortunately, I don’t have to work for either of them since I already seem internally and externally organizationally fit.

      As the topic of organization is part of my “big three” on Value of Simple (along with personal finance and simplicity), I wasn’t giving the organization side of things enough attention. So I thought, “How about I write the best dang PO hand guide out there and have it be an evergreen resource for this whole community?” This is targeted at people who want a comprehensive resource about a particular topic that is given away freely. Most of the people in the VoS community fit that description, but that could describe just about anyone with Internet access.

  16. What a resource. I agree that you could hire yourself out to these professional organizers. You’ve just done an awesome job in promoting their profession. This is a perfect read for anyone whose thought about, but is just not sure if they need a personal organizer. So complete, can’t think of anything to add..

  17. Gary Korisko says:

    Wow. Very thorough, Joel. There’s a lot of great information there.

    I have to be honest. Prior to this post, I didn’t know that a Personal Organizer was a thing. :)

    But now that I know, I have to believe that I could put a few of their kids through college if I hired one!

    Not sure I ever would personally, but after reading this, it sounds like a fantastic idea for a business to consider.


    • I know what you mean Gary. When I wrote my Daily Money Manager Hand Guide, 99% of people who came across it said, “What’s a Daily Money Manager?” Now, many more people are aware they exist and what kind of services they can offer. It’s not like I was instrumental in this overall growing awareness, but it felt good to be the introductory source for a lot of folks. I’m hoping this Professional Organizer’s Hand Guide can do the same thing.

      And I get your comment about a PO making more sense from a business perspective than a personal perspective. I can’t see myself needing one for my personal life. But for my business? Yeah, I could see that happening some day.

  18. Dave says:

    Hi Joel,

    What an impressive, well thought out resource. I feel like I’ve spent years dreaming my life away in a series of clutter caves, so I’d make a great candidate for a PO.

    My wife and I actually had a Professional Organizer help us out when our first child was born, and it saved our sanity. She guided us through de-cluttering and dealing with our feelings of overwhelm, as well as helping us get a few systems into place.

    We were lucky, we got a great person through sheer luck. She wasn’t a member of any organization as far as I now, but she really did a great job. The thing that struck me as most valuable for someone going through the process for the first time, was your set of questions. They provide a great filter to make sure you get someone who is a good fit for your situation.

    • Hey Dave,

      Clutter caves is a new phrase for me. One of my favorite parts about all these awesome comments are the new terms I’m learning related to organizing. Perhaps this is what my grade school teachers meant when they said that learning could be fun?

      Thanks for that brief story about your experience with a Professional Organizer. You’re the first in the comments to mention an actual experience with one and it sounds like a solid result. I’m glad you got lucky finding yours and I’m glad other people won’t need to get lucky to find a good one with this hand guide available now.

  19. Izzy says:

    Hi Joel :).

    I found you from the A-list blogger forums :). Wow! this is an excellent post. I had no idea there were “PO” services out there.

    In my head I always thought a PO was simply a notebook or calendar I carried with me.

    For me, the entire purpose of organization is that it increases my efficiency and allows me to get all of the stuff in my head on some outside source so I no longer have to worry about it. This frees my mind up to focus on those things that actually matter.

    Very fascinating stuff you got going on here man :).

    • Hey Izzy,

      A good organizational system is like a great second brain. You outsource the hassle of worrying about it and systematize it so that it becomes just another habit among many. It really does free up your mind and energy to focus on other things, doesn’t it?

  20. Joel,
    Whoa, this post is comprehensive and well organized (and I’m a pro organizer!) I teach NAPO classes (aimed at new organizers) and I’ll be sharing this post with students in future classes. Looking forward to reading your posts on a regular basis via RSS.

  21. Karen J says:

    This IS a terrifically helpful guide, Joel (I just found it)!
    I also didn’t realize that helping you learn to deal with the emotional background was more than a “common sideline” for POs; a part of the job description, as it were.

    Thank you for putting this together, and sharing it so freely!

  22. Gianne says:

    Thanks for pointing out that you don’t have to be in total chaos to get a lot of benefit from working with an organizer. With more and more people time and space crunched, a higher level or organization makes life so much easier.

  23. This is one of the best articles I’ve seen about professional organizers and our field. I’m a professional organizer and member of NAPO. Just wanted to thank you so much for pouring your heart into this research!

  24. Mike says:

    I can’t thank you enough for compiling all these resources together. My cleaning service is expanding into the area of professional organizing and this has just drastically lowered the learning curve.

    In your experience, or findings in creating this article, have you found that professional organizers have the resources to supply someone who has emotional detachment issues with a sort of therapeutic experience? Or have you seen professional organizers ever bring a third party into the picture to help a client with those type of issues?

    • I’m glad you got a lot out of the resource, Mike. Most of the Professional Organizers I know think of themselves more as an emotional coach than process nerd and are generally well-equipped to diffuse the inevitable detachment time bomb. I would venture that a lot of their clients do get a therapeutic effect from working with a PO, but that benefit certainly doesn’t pop up in marketing materials (partially from a legal liability perspective and partially because you can’t guarantee something like that).

      Most veteran POs can act like a project manager, bringing in outside resources and people when the situation calls for it. So although I don’t personally know of a PO who brought in a licensed mental health pro for really tricky inner turmoil, I’m sure it has been done and will continue to be done.

      • Mike says:

        Hey Joel, thanks for the reply! This certainly eases the concern, the more one knows the less frightening it is walking into a new situation. In the past our cleaning services have been pretty cut and dry but this requires a much more personal experience from what I gather. Agreed on being against delineating any services that may cause legal liability issues! Thanks again.

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