When people hear “professional organizer,” they often think of the television show “Hoarders,” where experts to come in to help people with homes that are buried under piles of stuff. But you don’t have to live in a state of total disarray to benefit from hiring a professional organizer.
Whether you have a closet that’s overflowing with clothes you don’t wear, or you seem to collect stuff you don’t necessarily need, a professional can help teach you organizational skills you may never have been taught or get you back on track.
We spoke to Lauren Williams, the founder of Casual Uncluttering and a professional organizer, to get a better sense of what a professional organizer does and when someone might want to one. Turns out, most of us can benefit from having an expert come in to help coach us through the uncluttering process.
Read on to learn a little more about how it all works and what to expect.
Why Should I Hire a Professional Organizer?
Having a professional organizer come in is a way to create an environment you want to live in—and just as important: an environment that really works for you. “It’s really all about having someone come in who has an objective fresh set of eyes,” Williams says. She can help you recognize areas that need help just by listening to you describe a space that bothers you and teach you the skills so that you’re 1.) More cognizant of the habits that created the situation and 2.) Able to create new habits and systems so that you don’t fall back into old patterns.
And while, yes, it’s an investment (rates vary, but expect to pay anywhere from $45-$65 an hour for a qualified expert, depending on what you need), hiring a professional will actually help you save money in the long run. If you’re disorganized about paying bills, say goodbye to late fees and high interest rates. Or you’ll know where things are so you won’t buy stuff you already have. Williams says she has one client who wanted to refinance her home. The home was in such a state of chaos that the first evaluator refused to do it. The second gave an assessment that was much lower than the client wanted. However, after four sessions with Williams, the client had another assessor come in and received a quote that was $15,000 more than the first one.
When Should I Hire a Professional Organizer?
Williams is adamant that it’s very subjective as to if or when someone should bring in professional help. “People’s tipping points are very different,” she says. She’s had clients who weren’t paying the bills because they were sick and didn’t have the energy and she’s had clients who realized they were uncomfortable with letting their friends and family into their space. Other times she says, it’s someone who went out bought a stapler for the sixth time because she couldn’t find the other five and finally realized she needed help. “For some people it’s an event that is thrust upon them,” she says. Whether it’s an inheritance or a divorce or a move, those types of situations can create a type of chaos that we don’t necessarily have the skillset to handle.
Though there are so many scenarios in which hiring a professional to get you organized would be helpful, one quick rule of thumb Williams has to discern how organized you are is if you find what you need in five minutes or less. “After you spend ten minutes looking for something, you’re losing time.”
Who Should I Hire?
“Organizing has an extremely strong emotional aspect to it,” Williams says. “And addressing the emotions around organizing is critical to success. Especially with clients who might have ADD or who were taught they were lazy, crazy, or stupid. No they’re not,” she says. “Their brains work differently. They need someone to teach them the skills they may have never been taught.”
Because having someone come into your space is so intimate, it’s crucial that you hire someone who you trust and get along with. Williams says you don’t want to hire someone who insists on starting right away. “You want someone who wants to go through the interview process and will do a complimentary walk through to make sure she has the proper skills and that there’s an emotional fit.”
You’ll also want to check the person’s credentials. Williams recommends you look for someone who has credentials from the National Association of Professional Organizers and/or Institute for Challenging Disorganization. “In my experience,” she says, “if you get someone who doesn’t have the professional education and standing, they might come in and do just as much harm as good.” She points out that just because someone is an organized person doesn’t mean he knows how to come in, determine what the client needs, and do the work. “You want someone who is putting in the time, effort, and money to be proficient at this,” she says. “You want to find out what their rates are, what they charging structure is, and if they’re licensed, bonded, and insured.”
How Does It Work?
This varies from person to person as it’s really all about what and how much you want to tackle, but ultimately a professional organizer will listen to what you want and then come up with a plan to get you on track, while also creating a strategy to teach you the tools you need to maintain everything since organization is really a continuous process. Ask questions like if they’ll take your donations and trash away with them, go shopping for organizational products you might need, etc.
Will I Have to Throw Things Away?
Williams says most professional organizers will make it clear they’re not automatically requiring people to let things go. “I tell my clients I want to know where their line in the sand is and if something is off limits, maybe we’ll revisit it later because perhaps they’ll be looking at things in a different light.”
“Everybody has strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “I’m teaching them how to let go of things carefully and introspectively.”
Lauren Williams is a certified professional organizer in Woodinville, Washington. You can find her on her website or her Thumbtack page where you can see examples of before and after organizing projects and read reviews of her work.
Ready to get organized? Here’s how to find a professional organizer in your area.