We’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).
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 custom services priceless… or worthless? And why would you need one?
All the answers, best knowledge – from and about Professional Organizers – and helpful organizing resources are coming up.
Why They Exist
There seems to be a profession for any problem a person has. Organizing is no exception.
And because organizing struggles are so prevalent, Professional Organizing has been booming to help people sort through their issues, sometimes literally.
Here are some of the top reasons why POs have grown in popularity:
- Because people bury the important paperwork under mountains of useless stuff
- Physical and digital clutter chaos can be 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 a house or apartment in preparation for or after a move is serious work
- The difference between cleaning and organizing is lost on many people
Definitions and Facts from NAPO
So what’s the definition of a Professional Organizer?
According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) – the industry authority – a Professional Organizer:
Enhances the lives of clients by designing systems and processes using organizing principles and through transferring of organizing skills. A PO also educates the public on organizing solutions and resulting benefits. POs help individuals and businesses take control of their surroundings, their time, their paper, and their systems for life.
You can definitely get much more than simple definitions at the excellent NAPO website. They have Professional Organizer stats like their top five client groups, top ten services, top reasons a PO is hired – broken down by home, business, and kids categories – and more.
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) needed some major changes
- A classic hoarder
- A visually impaired woman with stacks of paperwork to purge and no good way to do it
And if you appreciate stats, facts, and quotes, you’ll love the NAPO database search for tons related to organizing.
For example, “Parents spend an average of 23 percent of their free time outside of work scheduling and coordinating their children’s and family’s schedules.” And “30 percent of all employees’ time is spent trying to find lost documents.”
Dig in to the database yourself. It’s fun!
Now: what can a Professional Organizer actually do for you, your kids, and your business?
What a Professional Organizer Can Do For You
If it’s even remotely organizing related, it seems the sky’s the limit for PO services. There are even niches for specialists dealing with customized memorabilia organizing systems.
But at a high level, here are the skills and services you can expect from a Professional Organizer.
- Chaos, collection, and hoarding identification (along with pointing out the hazards)
- Process and system specialist for maintaining an ideal organized environment
- Tailor of solutions to your behaviors, personality type, or disorders (e.g. ADD or chronically disorganized)
- Consultant for possession and time management when moving or downsizing your living space
- Educator of organization principles and tactics trainer
- Workflow designer and guide to the spatial relationships between objects
- Emotional coach to help reconcile your deep-seated relationships with “stuff”
- Resource connector to recycling, donation, and disposal options
- Storage and action system expert (physical and/or digital)
- Creator of efficient email systems and prioritizing managing them
- Teacher of time management skills (and common time wasters) in daily scheduling
- Listener and assessor of a senior’s special physical, medical, and emotional organizational needs
- Solution provider for the “document life cycle”
What They Can Do For Your Kids
People with kids can appreciate the distinct organizational challenges of having them. Although kids have some of the same issues we do, POs deal with kid-specific struggles like:
- An out of control toy box or accessories drawer
- A haphazard mess in their room, play zone, or study area
- Time management with homework and chores
What They Can Do For Your Business
I won’t discuss mid to large-sized businesses because that’s not the Value of Simple community. And although the problems of small business have much in common with individual problems, depending on its size and structure, there could be major differences in needs and solutions.
A really good PO can step in, assess an overall business situation, identify needs and goals, and develop a customized organizational system for an aspect of the business. Some can even help with project management initiation and implementation.
I’ll talk more about this in a moment, but if you have a small business and need a Professional Organizer, make sure they have experience with its unique needs.
What They Can’t Do For You
Unlike the same section in my Daily Money Management Hand Guide, I couldn’t find definitive information on what a PO can’t or won’t do for you.
However, here are a few of things most POs won’t do.
- Clean your house
- Provide long term manual organization of your physical or digital space
- Forcibly work with someone who hasn’t requested their services (e.g. a hoarder)
How Do You Know If You Need One?
So what are the symptoms of a good candidate for Professional Organizer services? Here are the top ones:
- Trouble categorizing, sorting, and identifying the excess in life
- Struggles with document, space, workflow, and time management
- Chronic disorganization (i.e. stress inducing and quality of life reducing)
- Attempts to self-reconcile issues have failed repeatedly
- Progress with major problems isn’t normally achieved without third party help
- A lack of skills, patience, or emotional balance to convince or train a family member/friend about being organized
- Issues setting SMART goals
Where to Look for One
POs may network with local neighborhood associations, Geriatric Care Managers, non-profits, the AARP, or social workers, but they don’t have typical hang out spots.
The best bet is searching online for one near you or one that offers virtual services (if nobody’s close to you). And I’d suggest looking for a PO in another country that offers virtual services if you can’t find a suitable one in your own.
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 October 2012, there are very few results for these countries, but this could change over time.
Use the Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) Find an Organizer Directory.
In the UK
Use the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (UK) Find a Declutterer tool.
In Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Singapore
Use the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO) Find An Organiser directory.
How to Analyze Them as Prospective Client
I’ve curated some of the best content on the topic from the web and aggregated it here.
Besides generic questions like work history, references, ability to view a sample contract, what differentiates them from everyone else, and whether they sub-contract out their work, make sure to ask them questions like:
- How do you address challenges of space, paper, and time management?
- What code of ethics do you follow?
- How do you facilitate decision-making and identify regression back to bad habits?
- Do you charge an hourly rate, by the session, or a flat fee per project?
- Do you have a minimum number of hours or sessions you bill or can I stop without penalty at any time?
- How often can you work with me (e.g. weekly, monthly, intermittently)?
- 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?
- Do you have a list of other professionals you can refer me to if you can’t meet a specific need?
- Do you offer any guarantees on the services you provide?
- Do you specialize in specific types of organization (e.g. digital) or specific types of clients (e.g. small businesses)?
- Are you a member of my country’s Professional Organizer industry group (e.g. NAPO, POC, AAPO)?
- Do you offer remote consultations and virtual sessions (e.g. Skype-based)?
- Do you have special training or certifications (e.g. chronic disorganization, feng shui, ICD certs)?
- What does your general approach and process look like (e.g. hands-on, team based, workshops)?
- Have you successfully resolved problems similar to mine and how?
- Do you have insurance?
Fantastic Professional Organizer Related Resources
This section could be pages and pages long. But I don’t want to overwhelm you so I’m only highlighting my favorites. Most of them come from OnlineOrganizing.com, which I have no affiliation with, by the way.
- 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 POs use. Most of them could be really useful to you as well.
- 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 POs 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 POC, this two-pager has some great tips for dealing with the hoader in your life.
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 or awkward to sustain, contact a PO to determine how they could help you.
I’m not trying to convince you that hiring one is the right decision. But if reading books and blogs or watching videos about getting organized isn’t cutting it, this could be a good choice for you or someone you love.
Now it’s your turn.
Please leave a comment about the most valuable part of this article or what else you’d like to see added to it. I’m committed to keeping this updated and loaded with the best information.