I love reading and participating in some great Facebook groups that are focused on getting and staying organized. This week, someone posted (paraphrased here):“Have any of you hired professional decluttering/organizers? I got an estimate from one and I was astounded by what they charged per person on the job (Clever Girl note: the number was between $50 and $100). It hardly seems like a reasonable rate for the skill set required, but I wanted to find out what was the going rate elsewhere.”
A few people weighed in on whether they had hired someone, or looked into it. A few provided results from what they could research on the web. I took the opportunity to share my thoughts on why someone might spend an amount of money, and how you might consider the value of hiring someone, vs. just inviting in a friend or buddy to help you out. I thought I’d share my thoughts here, and add to it a bit:
“As a professional organizer, and I can share that people hire me for a variety of reasons… the most important thing you need to ask of yourself, when considering hiring someone to help is “What do I really want to achieve, and what has been holding me back from getting there on my own?” What I’m talking about below isn’t even those people with chronic disorganization or hoarding issues, just the standard person who is living a life in their home that isn’t their imagined ideal.
- In some cases, maybe it is purely muscle and labor — wanting to get items out of your home, but it involves physical labor and removal from a junk company or donations or what have you. This isn’t a SKILL need, but it is a LABOR need. It’s worth paying for that sometimes, for sure. An organizer might not be the best answer there, but an organizer may very well know vendors she or he trusts, and may even get better deals on pricing than you can.
- For some, it’s about accountability. I call this one the “professional trainer” model. Could you go to the gym and get a decent work out without a trainer? Sure you can. But, would you get a BETTER workout with one, one who is making sure you’re maximizing your efforts and time? Yes. And, for some people, just the fact that there is someone waiting for you at the gym is enough motivation to go at all, right? So, this is the “my organizer helps me stay on target, stay focused, and quite frankly, if she wasn’t coming over today, I’d find something else to do and put it off even longer.” I have one client whose time with me in her house is known by her whole family as “uninterruptible”. She’s a successful professional with 3 children, and they all know that, if Mommy’s Organizing Friend is coming over, there are no interruptions allowed! She considers it as valuable as going to the spa for a day, because she gets that much out of our time together.
Important note on this one here: maybe you don’t need to pay someone for this kind of help. Maybe you and a friend can swap time to help each other, or you can get people from a local church or synagogue looking to help people. For many people, that may be exactly what they need; only YOU know what’s been keeping you from moving forward. Keep in mind that, in these cases, you’re probably getting hands, but not coaching and guidance from a professional who has helped others just like you. Just because someone is organized doesn’t mean s/he is good at teaching and helping others get there, too.
- For some people, it really is a skill they’re lacking, and they not only want help, but they want to learn how to be better at it. They didn’t grow up learning how to be organized (or have enough stuff that this was an issue). They live in a home that doesn’t have the right set up or systems. Or they have accumulated too much, and struggle with figuring out (a) what to keep in their lives and (b) what to do with the items they let go of. There’s decision-making skills, risk/reward evaluation, helping think through the “what if’s”, which for some can be really paralyzing.
- Some people can do a lot of that stuff, but need a new system, because their current one just isn’t working for them, but they just don’t know how to redesign things to totally work for them, and they try and try to get past it but can’t. These are likely the people who continuously buy new bins and baskets, thinking that will solve their problems. They don’t recognize that this seems to be their annual answer, and yet, they’re back at square one each time.
- Finally, there are the ones who “kind of” have a sense of the decisions they need to make, “kind of” know what they want to do with things, “kind of” think they have a sense of what they’ll do with stuff they want to let go, but they just don’t know where to start. They need someone who will help them identify the right plan, structure time together, keep focused, and make sure that the progress continues to reinforce achievement of the goal. I find this is the case with a lot of my downsizing seniors — “how do I let go of a lifetime of memories in the 4 bedroom home I raised my family in, and move to a one bedroom condo in an over 55 community? Where do I start??? How do I separate from the emotion of it all?” Often, I get the initial call from the adult children, who cannot have effective and productive conversations with their parents about this any more, and my number one asset at that point in time is my unbiased voice in the process.)”
And there are many other reasons why someone might choose to work with a professional organizer. These are just a few that came to mind for me when I wrote the reply to the post.
Now, not all professional organizers are the same, and we don’t all bring the same skill sets to the table. Me? I am a certified coach, have a degree in psychology, an MBA, and twenty years of human resources experience. I have taken classes, workshops, and other great ways to get development and education in the organizing profession, have developed skills appropriate for special populations (ADD, seniors, some learning disabilities, etc.) And, in case you couldn’t already tell, I LOOOOVE my job!
But knowing that not all organizers have the same skill sets or experiences, or even the same personality and approach is why I encourage potential clients to meet me and to meet others, so that they can feel comfortable with the person they bring in their home for this very personal project. For that reason, I often do initial consultations with potential clients, so that we may mutually decide if we’d be a good fit for each other.
Can’t escape the part where hiring an organizer means it will probably cost some money. Rates for organizers will vary in geographic location. The Boston area is typically between $50-$150 an hour (higher end ones are for people with extremely specialized skills, like working with hoarders, or are also interior designers, and will do a great deal of aesthetic design in your space). But other regions may significantly vary from that. You should research what you can find in your area to know better what you’re looking at. Many will have a minimum hours, to be sure that an appropriate amount of time is being dedicated to the project, to help ensure real progress is made, and make the time worth it for both parties. Some will charge for travel, or for an initial consultation. Make sure you know what applies to the people you might hire.
Think hiring an organizer is for you? Great! Maybe it’s Clever Girl Organizing you’d like to work with (hooray!), or maybe it isn’t. No matter who you think about working with, I would encourage anyone looking into hiring an organizer to consider one who is a member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers). We have access to the best education and resources, stay informed of current trends and the latest solutions and products, follow a Code of Ethics, and we have the ability to seek certification as an organizer after being in the business a significant amount of time, and passing a certification exam. The NAPO site has an ability to search for organizers in your area by zip code, with a variety of specialties. They also have some resources on their site about things to consider when hiring someone.
So, you’re ready to move forward and start to talk to some organizers about whether they might be the right one for you. Be sure to have questions you’ll ask anyone you might work with! Here are some I’d suggest:
- What kind of organizing work do you do?
- Who is a typical client?
- Are you insured?
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you a member of NAPO? Why or why not?
- What kind of training have you done? Do you have any certifications?
- Will I work with you? Or with someone else on your team?
- Do you bring supplies, or do I need to bring them?
- When do you make appointments? What hours do you work?
- What happens if I have to cancel or change an appointment?
- Will you take photos? What will you do with them?
- Will you take away the things I don’t want to keep any more?
- What do you typically charge? How and when would I pay you? Do you take credit cards?
- How should I prepare before we meet in person?
- Can you provide me with references?
Have done some thinking and think that working with a professional organizer isn’t something you can spend the investment on right now, but would love the knowledge? Well, there are lots of free and inexpensive ways to get that value!
- Read our blogs! So many of us love to write and teach others about getting organized
- Heard about an event in which the speaker is an organizer? Go to listen!
- Read a book about organizing… even an e-Book (less clutter! Hooray!) about a topic that you think can help you. I always see free or almost-free ebooks being promoted for organizing help
I hope my perspective helps some of you think through why an organizer might be good for you, or where it may just be way more than you need. Again, the most important thing you need to know about yourself is:
“What do I really want to achieve, and what has been holding me back from getting there on my own?”