What to Look for in a Professional Organizer
On Monday I talked about what to think about before gifting a professional organizer to a friend or family member. Today, I want to go over some things to look for when choosing a professional organizer to hire for yourself or as a gift.
Organizing Style and Philosophy
There are certain dynamics that all organizers work with - sort, purge, put back. However, how each one does it is different and that will make all the difference in who you want to work with. I can't tell you how many times I've heard horror stories of working with an organizer that had a bad experience - usually from unexplained expectations. Do you leave while they do the work or are you there? Do they do the work for you or do they guide you through the work so you learn how to deal with future messes? Do they expect you to get rid of everything or are they reasonable? For example, I recently worked in the small, home kitchen of a personal chef and caterer. She had a LOT of equipment that I would have questioned the need harder for with the average cook. However, since she's not the average cook certain adjustments and allowances are to be made. Each person's situation is different and your organizer should ask a lot of questions to best understand you and your needs. Ask them how the process works and then listen closely. If you don't think it will work for you be honest and tell them. An organizer's process has developed to create the best fit for them and their ideal client. If it won't work for you, then it may not work for them either. However, also understand that you are going to a professional for help. If you could do it on your own, you already would have. When you go to a doctor, you don't tell them what illness you have and how to treat it. Same holds true here.
This is a very personal process. You want to make sure that the organizer you choose is someone you can get along well with and trust. This work can also be a very emotional process as letting go of clutter you've put off for so long can kick up a lot of things. I've seen the full gamut of emotions through my work. You want an organizer that can relate or at least empathize with compassion and with whom you feel safe to release those emotions without judgement. As I often say, I know everyone's everything but I never put names to stories. You also want a person that you feel comfortable being pushed by without them pushing too far. You'll need the challenge to get to your goals, but there's no need to be beat up by it either, right?
What level of disorganization do they generally work with? Couple of rooms gone awry? Whole house out of control? Hoarders? Do they understand your individual situation? Are they a recognized expert in their field, often quoted in articles and speaking at events? Have they won awards for their work? Do you recognize your home in the before pictures and like what the after results were. Are there enough before and after photos to satisfy your need to see their competency? These things all go to tell you whether they have enough experience to handle your organizational issues.
Profession vs. Hobby
Does the organizer do this as their sole source of income or is it a side gig or something to do with spare time? Not to begrudge those doing this in their spare time as that could work out if you don't have much of a mess or are just looking for ideas for easy things that don't concern you too much. However, "something to do with my spare time" may not be right fit if you're looking at a whole house of clutter and emotional attachment. Then there are the little things that will quickly tell the difference between professional vs. hobbyist: does the organizer answer their phone in a professional manner? Do they respond to emails within an acceptable amount of time? (Ideally one business day.) Can they quickly and competently answer your questions to put you at ease?
Does the organizer utilize Facebook, Twitter and/or a blog? If so, this should instantly reveal their style, personality and experience. Do you enjoy their postings and find them helpful? Then most likely you will enjoy working with them and will find them helpful in your home. One client of mine, after talking to me on the phone, read my entire blog and put many ideas to use immediately. When someone asked me why this client would hire me if she could just get the info off the blog, the client said if she can get that many ideas from my blog, just imagine how much she could get out of me in person, in her home. Does this organizer's social media make you want to get more out of them in your home? Also, do they regularly keep up with their postings? This can reveal insights into their consistency in general.
Are they a member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, or another organizing organization? This can sometimes be helpful to know if they're part of an organization that holds it up to certain standards of conduct. However, this shouldn't be a deal breaker either. I remember reading about a major organizer in the New York Times that said she wasn't a member because she saw it primarily as a lead generating tool and didn't need that for her company. I personally am not a member of the local chapter of NAPO because they don't serve my city and the monthly meetings are over an hour away, sometimes up to two hours in traffic. I am instead a member of a different business association that is very specific to my city...a much better fit for me and my company. So while checking memberships can be helpful, it's not a total indicator. As with other things, ask questions.
A note on certification - If you've watched any of the organizing shows on television, you may have heard organizers say that they're certified professionals. For many industries, certification happens in the beginning before you work with clients. However, it's opposite in the organizing industry. Certification candidates must be able to show 1500 paid hours over three years time before becoming eligible for certification. Essentially, certification for the professional organization industry is like getting an advanced degree vs. a bachelors. In other words, certification is a nice thing to look for, but shouldn't be a deal breaker.
The best way to ensure that you have a good experience is to make sure all expectations are out there up front. Find a professional whose organizational style and philosophy, personality and experience is what will be a good fit for you and get the job done. Your new house is waiting!
Want to learn more about my style and process to help you turn your hot mess into a fabulously organized home? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today.