With the incredible explosion of organizing TV shows, books, and magazine articles, many people are taking active steps to combat clutter in their homes, offices, and lives. Often, the easiest and most efficient way to get organized is to work with a Professional Organizer – a professional who is dedicated to helping you meet your organizing goals. Choosing the right Professional Organizer is important – this professional will be working with you in your own home or office, and will see things that most other people may not see. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering working with a Professional Organizer:

What can a Professional Organizer Do for Me? According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (the industry standard professional association), a Professional Organizer helps people take control of their surroundings, their time, their paper, and their lives by using organizational principles and concepts. This usually includes developing strategies and systems for to meet your organizational challenges, and helping you learn the skills to keep up the systems on your own.

On TV, organizing shows often portray the Professional Organizer as a taskmaster, forcefully “encouraging” clients to get rid of their stuff and chiding them when they don’t want to let go (hey, it makes for good TV). In reality, we usually help clients look at what they value and what they don’t – what they don’t value might go away, and what stays we’ll help them develop storage strategies and systems for. If you really want to keep Grandma’s broken pie plate and the resumes from when you were 22, it’s my job to help you find the most effective way to store them.

What Does a Session Look Like? A typical session might start with identifying what project we’d be tackling during the session – for instance, setting up a filing system or editing one section of a closet. We’d then work on actually doing the work – setting up the categories, files and folders in a paper management system or reviewing each article of clothing in a closet and deciding what to do with each. Finally, we would end by cleaning up the area we’ve been working in, and then reviewing what we’ve accomplished and what the next steps might be.

How Disorganized Do I Have to Be?

Areas of Specialty: While many organizers are generalists and work in many home and office settings, some find a niche within the field and serve a particular subset of the population. Some organizers specialize in areas like estate organizing (dealing with the belongings of the deceased), financial organizing (setting up bill payment systems, managing tax-related paperwork, etc.), or working with seniors (downsizing or preparing to move to assisted living). One of the areas I specialize in is working with entrepreneurs in small and home-based businesses, who often need systems developed to manage their businesses flow of information, paper, and time management.

Different organizers provide different services. Organizing often bridges several related professions, such as project management, interior design, carpentry, cabinet design and personal assisting. Ask your organizer if they are qualified to do work in any of the related areas, and if not, if they have a network of professionals that they can refer you to.

Background and experience make a difference. Professional Organizers come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds and their skills and experience vary widely. For most of the field’s 20+ year history, many organizers came out of the corporate world, where they previously may have been in systems administration or administrative/office manager types of positions; now, it’s increasingly common to see newcomers to the profession choose organizing as their first job. When choosing a prospective organizer to work with, it’s important to ask about their education and professional experience, as well as whether they have any ongoing professional education related to organizing.

Are they truly a “professional?” See whether they work as an organizer full-time and how long they’ve been in business. Find out how whether their business license is valid and if they have liability insurance. Ask if they are a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, and how frequently they attend chapter meetings. The answers to these questions can give you key information about how dedicated the organizer you’re considering is to the profession of organizing and how serious they are about their business.

Ask for testimonials or references. My clients have found that organizing has made such a difference in their lives that they have been happy to provide testimonials. Ask any organizer that you’re considering if their past clients have provided testimonials or are willing to act as references. Satisfied clients can be a great indicator of the quality of service that an organizer can bring to your projects.

Choosing the right Professional Organizer for you may seem like a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow some of the guidelines that I’ve outlined and you’ll be on the right track to finding your partner in the fight against clutter.

Author's Bio: 

Joshua Zerkel, CPO® is a the founder of Custom Living Solutions, a San Francisco-based productivity and organizing consulting firm, specializing in helping busy people save time, space and money by getting organized at home and at work. For more FREE organizing ideas, visit www.customlivingsolutions.com or call 415-830-6345.