When you think "professional organizer," you may have a very clear picture in your mind, perhaps of someone who's neat as a pin and who takes control the moment she walks in the door, or perhaps of someone who will listen carefully to your stories about what your stuff means to you and will let you take the lead in clearing out clutter. In either case, you'd be right!
There's an incredibly broad range of professional organizers out there who come from different personal and professional backgrounds, have different working styles and organizing philosophies, offer different kinds of services, and charge for their services in different ways. These tips can help you find the professional organizer (or PO for short) that's right for you.
Know what you want
Before you start making calls or sending out e-mails to potential organizers, take the time to do some thinking about what you want to achieve by working with a PO, what your working style is, how much help you need, and what your budget for the project is. Here are some sample questions to keep in mind:
- What kind of organizing do you want to do--cleaning out closets, redoing your filing system, getting your home finances in order, streamlining the family schedule, or something different?
- Are you looking for an organizer who can get into the thick of things with you (helping you sort through piles, for example), or would you prefer one who acts as more of a coach and motivator?
- Once a project is underway, do you prefer to work on your own, or do you like to have someone working with you?
- Are you someone who does better with lots of "tough love," or is a kinder, gentler style more your speed?
Once you have a clear sense of what you want from your organizing project and how you'd like to work, you'll be better equipped to find a PO who can help.
Start your search
Depending on where you live, there are several different ways of finding professional organizers near you. In some areas, PO's advertise in local newspapers, the Yellow Pages, or community centers. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, you might try checking out online bulletin boards such as Craig's List (www.craigslist.org). Another method is to ask local friends, family members, and acquaintances if they know a professional organizer they can recommend. (As a professional organizer, this is my favorite way of getting new clients.)
Wherever you are, you can always use online resources like the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) site (www.napo.net), the NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) site (www.nsgcd.org), or the Professional Organizers in Canada site (www.organizersincanada.com) to search for organizers near you, or those who are willing to travel to you.
Ask the right questions
When you have the names of a few potential professional organizers, get in contact with them to learn more about how they work, what they charge, and what their policies are. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Do you belong to NAPO (or to POC in Canada)? [Membership in one of these associations shows that the organizer is committed to professionalism and adheres to a code of conduct.]
- Do you do hands-on work with clients, or do you serve more as a consultant or a coach?
- How do you charge for your services? By the hour? By the project? Do you have any minimums?
- What are your policies around things like cancellations and appointment changes?
While talking with organizers, be sure to keep in mind your goals for your project and your working style. Remember, you want to be sure to choose an organizer who will work well with you and with whom you'll feel comfortable. You may also want to ask for testimonials or references from the organizer's past clients so you can learn more about what it's like to work with him or her.
When you've found a PO who seems like a good fit, schedule an appointment and get ready to get down to work! In the next Organization article, we'll take a look at how to get ready for your first meeting and how to make the most of your time with the professional organizer you so carefully chose.