How Professional Organizers Work: When should you hire one?

For the Home

Hiring a professional organizer might seem like a disaster-only situation, but many people -- from busy professionals to overwhelmed stay-at-home parents -- find it worthwhile to call in the reinforcements. Professional organizers can help around the home in loads of ways. They can:

  • Tackle a closet packed to the brim with questionable clothing ensembles and an army of shoes, restocking it in a way that makes sense
  • Address a playroom littered with toys that never seem to find the appropriate storage nooks and crannies
  • Assist with paperwork pileups scattered across desks, whether that's a heap of unsorted bills, daunting tax forms or complicated estate planning
  • Wrangle a client's electronic life down to a more manageable level
  • Attack a jam-packed attic, basement or garage
  • Help out in life-changing situations like a downsized home, a big move or a merging of households

When hiring professional organizers, it's important to express your needs as clearly as you can. Their job is to listen -- without judgment -- and hatch a plan to get your organizational situation on track. Remember that organizers are different from housecleaners -- people who come into your home, tidy things up and leave. Instead, professional organizers offer visits and consultations to help you solve the immediate concerns and develop long-term strategies for moving forward. Most professional organizers prefer in-home (or in-office) consultations, although virtual visits may be an option if you live in a remote area.

While interviewing prospective professional organizers, there are a few things to look out for other than experience and qualifications (which we'll discuss more on the next page). Obviously, you want to make sure the two of you get along; this person is going to be rolling up his or her sleeves and going elbow-deep into your personal life. Organizers will want to know what efforts you've made in the past, what activities occupy most of your time and what your organizational goals are.

While often brought in for an immediate need, a professional organizer will also help his or her client learn strategies to continue to stay organized in the future. After all, what good does it do if a week later you slip back into your old habits? One good way to recognize whether your situation calls for a professional organizer is if you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with your particular mess. If the very thought leaves you stressed or even panicked that you'll never get things under control, then that's an excellent sign you need someone who can help with the immediate problem, and coach you on ways to avoid slipping into the same cycle.