Professional organizers are very busy these days.
There’s a growing reliance by homeowners on Certified Professional Organizers to help them not only live less cluttered, less chaotic and more organized lives, but also to help them prepare for downsizing and entering the next chapter of their lives. CPO certification is granted by the National Association of Professional Organizers (check out their website), but there are also plenty of great people who are experts at what they do, who do not hold the CPO designation. There are about 4,000 members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (most of whom are located in the U.S., with a few hundred scattered across other parts of the world). NAPO is based in Washington, D.C., and has 31 other chapters scattered throughout the country.
How they typically work.
Being a professional organizer is not easy. In addition to doing a lot of physical work that’s involved in de-cluttering and organizing, most also play the part of counselor and inspirational coach. While many hire assistants to help with some of “the dirty work,” most organizers traipse up and down stairs themselves, multiple times a day, and haul countless garbage bags full of trash to the curb. Organizers must also make multiple trips to The Container Store or The Home Depot to buy storage bins for the new systems they create for restoring order in homes where once there had been disorder (sometimes of epic proportion). They also arrange for furniture, household accessories, and collections to be sold or taken to charities and otherwise distributed to make way for a new, less cluttered space.
Most professional organizers will provide a 30-minute phone consultation at no charge to discuss the size of the client’s home, the type and severity of the clutter, other challenges they face, and what they hope to achieve from the organizing process. If the client wants to learn more about what the organizer would recommend, an in-home consultation is often scheduled, which can range from $125 to $500 for one to a few hours. From that time, a plan is typically laid out for the homeowner and an estimate for the entire project is included. Projects can take between two weeks to two months to complete, depending on size of the home, the state it’s in, the state it needs to be in, and the access that’s granted to the organizer to complete the work. Costs vary dramatically, as well, depending on urgency, size the the home, willingness of the homeowner to install elaborate closet systems and other storage solutions.
The process can be emotional, for both homeowner and professional organizers alike. Imagine the tension that occurs when the CPO says to the client, “These clothes that you say you haven’t worn since 1988 really should be donated — or tossed,” and the client responds, “Those clothes hold special memories for me and I refuse to let them go.” It’s a delicate balancing act that an organizer must follow, but most experienced organizers know when to push and cajole and when to back off.
“Senior Move Managers” specialize in helping seniors and the elderly downsize and move.
Most senior move managers who have developed a specialty in helping seniors and the elderly downsize and move do the same things that a professional organizer does, but they do it with an additional level of tact and understanding. According to Mary Kay Buysse, thee executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (nasmm.org), senior move managers donate and sell items; hire movers; maneuver through restrictions on what types of trash can be put at the street for pickup by city trucks; deal with family members who may want items shipped to them; pack and unpack; and arrange for utilities and cable to be cut off at a certain date, and counsel their clients on the many steps of the process. Most also help with decluttering and organizing the homes of the seniors and elderly who decide to stay put and “age in place.” An estimated 1,000 people specialize in senior moves (New York Times, July 24, 2016, “Helping the Elderly Downsize.”), with hundreds or perhaps thousands more working with seniors at least some of the time.
Other specialties and services typically offered.
Among the additional services that professional organizers provide are renovation design consultation, in which projects include organizers working with homeowners who are going through renovation projects to ensure that the architect and builder designs adequate storage space and has logical, step-saving layout in mind when designing or re-designing kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and utility rooms. A related service is in helping organize the newly renovated space after movers or homeowners unpack items that had been in storage during the renovation process.
Another specialty service provided by some organizing professionals is productivity consulting, in which organizers help homeowners and business owners become more productive through better organization and adherence to a strict schedule of daily activities.
Check out our Resource Directory of Downsizing Experts for a list of professional organizers.