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How to Hire a Professional Organizer

After many years of unrealized New Year's resolutions and failed attempts to get organized on your own, you have decided to really make it happen by hiring a professional organizer. After all, people hire personal fitness trainers, life coaches, and image consultants to help them achieve their goals. Why not seek professional help in getting—and staying—organized? You will be amazed how quickly your dreams of living and working in an orderly, clutter-free environment will become your new reality.

Finding and hiring a professional organizer is no different than choosing any other service professional. The "right choice" for you will be a professional organizer who has the expertise, skill set, and personality that best suit you and your goals. Consider the following issues before making the first call.

What kind of professional organizing services are you looking for?

Some professional organizers offer a wide range of services, while others limit their practices to a specialized niche. For example, some organizers prefer to work with corporate rather than residential clients; some specialize in creating custom filing or closet systems; others may specialize in preparing for moves or organizing collections and memorabilia. There are even professional organizers who specialize in working with clients who are chronically disorganized or have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Where should you begin your search?

By using NAPO’s Professional Organizer Directory, you can search for a professional organizer by type of service, distance from your location, or both. Another resource is the local Yellow Pages or some other variation of area telephone listings. The headings vary from city to city, but one of the more commonly used headings is "Organizing Products and Services."

How do you interview professional organizers and decide who is right for you?

You should speak to several professional organizers before choosing one to work with. This can be done easily by telephone or email. If you prefer to meet in person before making a decision, note that some organizers offer free consultations, some charge for the consultation and credit that fee toward services if hired, and others charge totally separately for assessments and services.

What fees should you expect to pay?

As with most professions, fees vary widely based on experience, geographic location, and competition. Many professional organizers charge by the hour, while others prefer value-based pricing and charge by the project. Some will give you options. You will need to establish a budget and decide what feels most comfortable to you.

Avoid choosing a professional organizer strictly by price. Instead, focus on value by finding an organizer with a personality you click with and a skill set that matches your needs. That person is most likely to deliver the results you expect in the shortest amount of time.

What questions should you ask?

One of the first questions you should ask is whether the organizer is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). Of course, NAPO membership does not guarantee the quality of the professional organizer's work, but it does demonstrate a commitment to continuing education and an industry code of ethics. Other professional associations directly related to the organizing industry include Professional Organizers in Canada (POC), the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD), and the Australasian Association of Professional Organizers (AAPO).

Your relationship with a professional organizer will be a very personal one. An experienced professional organizer will ask a lot of questions about you, your work style, what you are looking for, and the issues you believe have thwarted your best attempts to get organized in the past. They want to get to know you, understand your objectives, and determine whether they will be a good fit for you. It is in your best interest to be as candid and clear as possible about what you want to achieve.

Suggested Questions to Ask a Potential Professional Organizer

  1. What kinds of organizing projects do you do?
  2. Who is your typical/usual client?
  3. What services do you specialize in?
  4. Do you have any training or hold any certifications in organizing or related areas (chronic disorganization, coaching, feng shui, interior design, etc.)?
  5. Can you describe your organizing process/approach (consulting, coaching, hands-on, team organizing, seminars/workshops, etc.) and describe a typical working session?
  6. How long have you been in the organizing business?
  7. Will I work directly with you, or will you assign an employee and/or subcontractor?
  8. What is your fee structure?
  9. Do you work with a written contract?
  10. What is your cancellation policy?
  11. Can you provide references?
  12. I have tried to get organized before. How will this be different?

Keep in mind that your choice of a professional organizer is not irreversible. Professional organizers should be nonjudgmental, encouraging, and supportive. They should be good listeners and recommend a variety of suggestions, alternatives, and solutions to create the system that will work best for you. If you begin working with a professional organizer and decide along the way that you are not comfortable with his or her particular style, you are rarely under obligation to continue the relationship. Be sure to let the organizer know how you feel. More than likely, he or she will be happy to recommend a colleague.