What is a Professional Organizer?

Professional Organizers (POs) use tested principles and expertise to enhance their clients’ lives. By assessing problem areas, teaching and implementing organizing skills, and designing customized systems for success, they help individuals and businesses take control of their surroundings, their time, their paper, and ultimately, their lives! (from NAPO, Inc., the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals).

What is a Certified Professional Organizer®?

The Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) designation is earned through the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO®).  These professionals have proven through examination, client interaction and education that they possess the body of knowledge and experience necessary for certification. (from the Board of Certified Professional Organizers)

CPOs® are held to a strict code of ethics that includes confidentiality to their clients and an agreement to offer services only in those areas in which they are qualified.

There are a handful of CPOs® in Oregon and several hundred worldwide.

How Do I Choose a Professional Organizer? 

Choosing your Professional Organizer is the first step to success.  Try these techniques to find the right match:

Where do I begin?

Start with an internet search or a good referral from a friend.  Look for “professional organizer” in your local community. Call as many prospects as you want and ask about their credentials, affiliations, certifications, specialties, and years of service.  Inquire about their process, rates, and policies. Some may offer a free assessment, others might charge for it but provide you with a written plan.

I’m looking for a true professional, not someone doing this as a hobby:

Organizers committed to their profession are most likely members of associations or networking groups like NAPOICD or the BCPO. They are committed to their continuing education and likely attend an annual conference, have completed a specialized training course, or take ongoing courses regularly. Feel free to ask your organizer about their professional affiliations and credentials.

I’m looking for someone with a proven record:

Ask your friends and colleagues for a referral. Perhaps they’ve had success with a Professional Organizer in your community.  Also, ask potential organizers how long they’ve been in business.  Most new business owners fold in the first couple years, so someone with five or more years under their belt might have a better track record.  Also, don’t hesitate to ask for references!

I need to “connect” with my organizer; personality is very important to me:

Feel free to call as many local organizers as you want, and peruse their websites, too.  Ask questions.  Do they respect you? Offend you? “Get” you? Do you feel a sense of compassion? Are they logical and methodical or more creative and dynamic? Which is a better fit for you?

I’m looking for someone I can trust:

Professional Organizers who belong to NAPO, ICD, BCPO or various coaching associations are bound by a Code of Ethics. (Membership in these groups does not guarantee confidentiality or trustworthiness from your Professional Organizer, but it’s a good starting point.)

I’m looking for someone affordable:

Most Professional Organizers work by the hour or the project. Prices will vary widely, even by as much as $100 an hour.  But buyer beware: your most experienced Professional Organizers will work quickly and efficiently, so a higher hourly rate doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher overall expense.

What Should I Expect from my Professional Organizer?

Professionalism and expertise. They should be able to assess your projects and give you an approximate timeline and budget. Your organizer should be able to prioritize your projects, break them down into tasks, teach basic organizing skills, build systems for success, and recommend products and resources. Your organizer should be able to tell you if they are under-qualified for your job.

How Do I know if it’s Time to Hire a Professional Organizer?

If you’ve tried multiple times to get organized, but can’t seem to succeed, it might be time to call in a professional. There are many reasons people struggle with organization. The sooner you understand what’s standing in your way, the closer you are to succeed.

Other reasons to hire an Organizer:

  • You’re facing a time-sensitive crisis -such as a move or a tax deadline
  • A situation has led to disorder in your life – a birth, a death, a marriage, a job change
  • You feel ready to “get it done”
  • Disorganization is adversely affecting someone you love
  • You have a diagnosis of ADHD and you think it’s getting in the way of an orderly life
  • Disorganization is costing you time, money, energy or peace of mind

What’s an Assessment and Why Do I Need One?

An organizing assessment is an opportunity for your Professional Organizer to conduct a comprehensive interview, observe your existing spaces and review your current systems to design an organizing plan that will result in success for you.

With permission, your Professional Organizer may ask to take pictures and measurements of all relevant spaces.

After the assessment, your Professional Organizer should be able to help you prioritize your projects, break them down into tasks, estimate a timeline and budget, and recommend products and resources.

The assessment takes one to three hours and results in the cornerstone of your personal organizing plan. Totally Orderly recognizes the most success in clients who participate in a comprehensive assessment process, and we do not recommend investing in the organizing process without an assessment.

What should I do before the Assessment?

There is no need to “straighten up” before the assessment. In fact, it’s best if your Professional Organizer can see your space in its usual state.

What should I expect at the Assessment?

Lots of questions! Plenty of opportunity for YOU to ask questions, too. This should be a time of learning for both of you.

How Should I Prepare for an Organizing Session?

Optimize the benefits of your organizing session with these helpful tips:

  • Stay hydrated and eat healthful snacks. Organizing can be physically taxing!
  • Clear your calendar. Avoid answering the phone or email during the session.
  • Make sure children and pets are safely cared for.
  • Gather a few supplies: markers, boxes, trash bags. Your organizer may provide these, but it’s nice to have extras on hand.

What Should I Expect at an Organizing Session?

Your organizing sessions will be productive and rewarding. They can also be stimulating and exhausting. Prepare yourself by keeping these tips in mind:

Things Look Worse before they Look Better

Organizing can be messy business. Spaces are disassembled, sorted, rearranged and cleaned.  The result is splendid, but the process can look shockingly disorganized.  Keep your eye on the prize and know it’s just temporary. Your organizer should schedule plenty of time towards the end of sessions for clean up, but it’s important to follow through with trash removal, recycling and homework assignments.

Lots of Feelings

You may feel any or all of the feelings noted below. Your Organizer will be aware of them and should be comfortable helping you process them.

  • Excitement – that you’re getting started
  • Overwhelm – at the scope of the project
  • Relief – that it’s not at bad as you thought
  • Shame – that it’s worse than you thought
  • Agitated – that you have to make so many decisions
  • Annoyed – that someone is touching all your things
  • Angry – that you’re paying for something you think you should do on your own
  • Relief – that it’s fun!
  • Melancholy – as you revisit old memories
  • Exhausted – from moving, lifting, reaching, thinking
  • Bored – with the process
  • Energized – by the new energy flowing through the space

Lots of Questions

Your Professional Organizer wants to help you create a system custom suited to your needs. That means she will be asking you lots and lots of questions. Some people find this overwhelming and would prefer the Organizer just “get it done” or “tell me what to do.” Either approach can work, but one in which you make most of the decisions will be better.  Feel free to ask plenty of questions in return so you fully understand how and why your organizer is recommending a particular course of action.

An Increasing Pace

The first organizing session can be the slowest. Progress will go faster in subsequent sessions as you adapt to each other’s pace and as the project starts to “take shape.”

Will You Force Me to Throw Things Away?

A Professional Organizer should never force you to throw anything away against your will. Culling or purging items (by disposing, recycling, donating, returning, repurposing, etc.) is an important step in the organizing process, but the decision will always be yours.  If you struggle with making decisions, parting with sentimental items, over-collecting, or hoarding, your organizer can offer tried and true tips for helping you through this process

How Long Will It Take?

A number of variables can impact the pace of a project. How cluttered is the space? How decisive are the decision-makers? Distractions such as pets, children and phone calls can slow progress. Paper organizing takes longer than “stuff” organizing. Be sure to let your organizer know if the pace of your project to too slow or too fast for you.

How Can I Save Money?

Your “return on investment” is very important to Totally Orderly. Get the most bang for your buck by considering these tips:

  • Complete “homework” assignments between sessions.
  • Ask your Professional Organizer to conduct an assessment only, and then try to complete the work on your own.
  • Keep notes about what is and isn’t working – share these with your Professional Organizer at the beginning of each session.
  • Once an area has been completed, try to keep it organized while moving on to another project.
  • Take full advantage of what your Professional Organizer has to offer – peruse her website for tips, articles, and ideas; ask for book recommendations; subscribe to her blog; follow her on social networking sites.
  • Ask your Professional Organizer to hire a team for big projects – multiple people work more quickly and efficiently than just one.

What is ADHD and What Does It Have to Do with Organizing?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, also known as AD/HD and ADD) is a common condition that affects both children and adults. Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. Adults with ADHD have trouble with time management, goal setting, prioritizing, and procrastination – all skills necessary for organization.

A Professional Organizer who specializes in ADHD can help both children and adults with ADHD live well-organized, successful lives.