Diving Into a Small Organizing Project

Often when we “tackle” an organizing project, we dive in only half-heartedly. I don’t believe this is intentional, just a sign of other struggles: afraid of being overwhelmed, unsure of how long it will take, of making it complicated, etc. It can be daunting to truly dig into a space completely, yet this is exactly what we need to do, just in small increments.

It’s simple to go look at a shelf or a drawer and shuffle things around, trying to pull out the things that don’t belong there, whether they are trash or simple in the wrong area. This can even be a way to begin. One of the problems that occur when we do it this way is that we easily get frustrated or unmotivated to continue. Things are already in a jumble, shuffling things around leaves little room for progress. It provides no sense of accomplishment or of having made much of a difference.

On the other hand, if you take everything out of the space – the drawer or shelf (remember, start and stay small) – you can begin to group like items together. You will see right away if you have several items that are unnecessary duplicates. It might be time to find a container to keep some of those like items all together, and you will know what size you’ll need since they will be together.

Now that you have pulled everything out of the space, you can start grouping them with similar items. Deal first with the items you know you want to keep and figure out where you want them. Since the space is already empty, you can start putting them away. You will also see whether you still have too much for the space. You’ll need to decide then whether you can get rid of more or find another location to keep them. A container can be useful to keeping like items together within the space as well.

Frequently we come across items that we’re not sure where they need to go, they do not have a good home. These things can set us back since there does not seem to be a specific place they belong. The first step in dealing with those things will probably not feel the best, but to gather those items together in a container and put them to the side for the moment. Don’t concern yourself with right now with these things.

Those odds and ends can often be found throughout the house. If you have the time and availability to do it, I recommend letting them sit in a container for a while. You have the container, so if you have a need to get something from it, you know where it is. Putting them somewhere “just because there is nowhere better” does not serve you in the long run either. As you deal with other spaces, you might come across similar type items. Sometimes that is when you have a sudden idea of where to logically keep those items.

It takes time and energy to pull everything out, yet it will increase your productivity and effectiveness in whatever organizing project you dive into – as long as you remember to start with small projects. A standard drawer or shelf should take you typically less than 30 minutes for the entire process: from pulling everything out, sorting and purging, and putting the things back in. Maximize your energy by doing it right the first time, avoid shuffling things around, and find the wonderful success of accomplishing your organizing project on the first try.

Where to Start with Organizing the Entire Home

“If I want to get the whole house organized, where do I start?” I have the answer though most people don’t like what I tell them. Ideally, you want to begin in the area where you store most of your boxed up things – the basement or attic, sometimes the garage. Here in the Midwest, the basement is usually the place where boxes and holiday stuff goes. In one client’s space, it was a section of the finished basement, the laundry area. If you have an attic and this is where you put things for storage, then this is where you begin. It is the least exciting area to begin this transformation of your home, but will make your life easier in the end.

“But why the basement?”

First, it is likely that what lives in the basement are things that can be removed from your home entirely. We put things in the basement, forget what we’ve put there, and it becomes a bizarre discovery of items. This varies, and you probably have plenty of things you will want to keep. Those holiday decorations are worth keeping. The point is that the basement is where you store the things you want to keep, but do not want to have out and your opinion of what to keep changes dramatically over time. It has probably been so long since you dove into a number of boxes, you will be happy to get rid of many things.

Second, you need to make room for all the things you want to save from all the other rooms in the house. Where are they going to go if you have no room to put them in your main storage area? If you clear out everything from the basement at the beginning, you know what’s left are things you want. You also know how much space you have left for the things from the rest of the house.

Third, by starting with the storage area, you will reduce the amount of repetitive organizing you’ll need to do. If you just start putting containers in the basement before getting it organized, when it is time to work there, you will probably end up going through some of those bins again. It is easy to forget what is in each bin. It feels more tedious and likely to add to feeling overwhelmed and therefore becomes that much easier to procrastinate. If you added stuff to the area before clearing it out, it is also harder to work in there.

Organizing is often a repetitive process. As you go through things, you put like items together. It is virtually impossible to organize the like items until you have all those items in front of you. It is hard to predict how much room or what size container you need before you see everything together.

As you are going through things in the basement, you can start containers for those – “I know I have more of this type of …” If you have the space to leave those bins open and accessible, all the better. Just like the items that you use regularly, it is easiest if you keep like items together, even in storage. If you have this option, as you move along organizing each room, you can bring the keep items for storage down and put them away immediately.

Just imagine filling a container of treasures from another room. You carry the container into the basement and there is a space for it right now. You get to put it away, safely and not think about again until you are ready for it. It is a completed task now.

Although starting the process of organizing with the basement often sounds like the least exciting (and sometimes the most daunting), it will give you fabulous rewards. I have known many people who cannot believe the relief and ease of having that area ready, even lightening the process for them of dealing with the rest of the rooms. All of this is not to say that you can’t work on other spaces first, and I have done this plenty of times, just that this is the ideal place to begin.

On some level, I think of the idea of starting with the most tedious, hardest part first and then everything else feels easy. Having this done helps motivate you. As usual, I recommend setting aside small chunks of time to dig into the basement, not trying to make yourself tackle it in one weekend. Slow and steady wins the race, just direct your focus and energy in one area – make it the basement. You won’t regret it!

Overwhelmed by E-Mail No More

E-mail is a fabulous, wonderful thing that speeds the process of communication as well as a way to get tons of information. There are listservs and newsletters everywhere, including this one! They easily accumulate in our mailboxes. This does not even include the e-mail from co-workers and friends. Unlike a physical mailbox, they can keep piling up without demanding that we discard them. Often we tell ourselves that we’ll get to them eventually. Yet there are things we can do to control the demands of our e-mail.

First, you need to deal with your e-mail – the pattern you establish from here on out. When you read your e-mail, you need to choose an action. Do you need to respond? Do you need to delegate it? Do you need to take some action before anything more? Can you delete it? Do you need to save it? Some of these will be addressed as you read on, but you need to figure out when you are reading each e-mail what action you need to take. Then take the action!

Second, de-clutter. What do you have that you don’t need? Delete it. If you are subscribing to things that you are regularly not reading, unsubscribe. From many years ago, I subscribed to some library related listservs, and I didn’t unsubscribe for a long time. I did manage to delete them as they came in, but the e-mail notification distracted me… oooh, new mail. It was information that was coming in that had lost relevance for me. Do you have any of that? You can always sign up later if it becomes important.

What if you have e-mails that are relevant though not urgent? I adore the NAPO listserv- the questions and answers, and the ideas it generates. It is a fabulous resource. The number of e-mails coming in during a given day varies, but trends toward around 50 a day. Hopefully, you can understand that I might fall behind in my keeping up with them! I am reluctant to just delete them. This is where you need to realistically evaluate your ability and commitment to make time to look through any build-up of e-mails. There comes a time when your time is more valuably spent elsewhere. In my case, those NAPO e-mails are archived on their website, so I can always find them later.

Remember the goal is to de-clutter, to reduce the number of things distracting and demanding time that you don’t have. A general rule for all organizing is to ask yourself when you don’t need something currently, if you can get the same information easily if you discard it now. If you can, then you can get rid of it. As a society we keep way to much stuff and that electronic stuff seems easier to hold onto, but this is no reason to not get strict with yourself and delete it.

Third, make folders to collect specific information. Most e-mail programs offer this feature; you can choose the title and even tell it which items to put in the folder. You can do this manually as well. Setting up folders allows you to focus on your priorities. If you filter all the less important things into folders, the e-mail that remains in your inbox is likely to be things that need your attention.

Consider whether you could use a folder for things that require follow-up. You want to keep the e-mail as a reminder that you’ll need to check with someone else down the road, but does not need action for a while. If you have folder dedicated to this, you check that folder periodically and see at a glance what is approaching.

Your imagination is your limit as far as how many and what folders you create. They need to make sense to you and help you reduce clutter and distractions. I have several folders that sort automatically. I also make sure that I move the non-sorted items that come in, into folders after I have taken some action, but might require more action down the road. I like to keep the general inbox for items requiring my action and short enough that I can see everything without scrolling. For me, if it requires scrolling, I start to feel overwhelmed and I know I need to make time to deal with it.

We cannot live or work without e-mail. It is the way the world is, so we need to take control of it. Like so much in life, we need to make time to work on our e-mails, whether that is deleting, sorting, or archiving. It is worthwhile to set aside time in our schedules for doing just that. With some determination and planning, we can save money and create systems that work, without spending money on a program that claims to solve our electronic clutter. As with so much, finding what works for you is the ultimate goal, so what can you do to solve your e-mail clutter?

Help, My Partner is a Slob

Does the title sound familiar? Nevertheless, finding the balance between different people’s various styles of organizing can be challenging, especially when you are living with them. Living with anyone can be difficult; we all have quirks and ways that we like things. If you’ve decided to share your life with someone it requires compromise and sometimes just plain tolerance. So then what do you do when your partner is not as particular about things as you are?

First, where are your intolerables – those things that have to be a certain way? Where can you shift enough to accept things? Then ask the same questions for your partner. A weird example for me: I feel strongly about the toilet paper being put on the roll in a certain direction. My husband could care less. No problem, I change the rolls so they go on the way I want.

At a presentation I was giving, a woman asked at the end how she could organize so that her husband would not interfere with her systems. She explained that she needs the visual reminders of things. I suggested that they make “safe” areas in their home, a couple of places that were hers alone. That way when she set out the stuff by the back door to remind herself of errands, her husband knew to leave it alone and then the same thing for her vertical filing rack. Making some safe zones means that things are always where you left them. It also might mean that you’ll need to retrieve something for the other person, but it can be maintained in a way that works for you.

There is nothing wrong with creating certain spaces that are off limits to the other person, not that there is anything sinister going on. We are so individual in the way we deal with things, embrace that, and find ways to make it work. Hopefully it is easy to ask for areas that are purely yours and have that respected. Additionally, you keep control of that area, and if it gets disorganized, you can figure out why and make modifications.

I heard from a woman who said she needed help and her partner was not willing, so she wanted to hire someone. There did not seem to be any animosity there, just limits. On the other hand, he did not mind her hiring someone to come in to help her.

Depending on the situation, we might want or need the other person’s involvement. This is where I return to the power of a timer. If you want someone’s help, find a time limit that is mutually acceptable, then set the timer. There is no way that you will lose track of time. You gain credibility too that you want exactly what you are asking for. The stereotype of the nagging wife can be eliminated and the husband can be helpful. I warn you though that it might feel a little silly setting the timer, but don’t let that stop you.

We cannot change anyone else. We can only change ourselves. Can you accept that the dirty laundry never makes it into the basket? Or that you find random glasses around the house and not in the kitchen sink? Are they willing to meet you part way? Sometimes it can be a simple matter of their systems are not working anymore, so they need to find other ways to approaching things. Systems break down, we outgrow them, it happens to all of us. Finding systems that compliment each other so that you can maximize your own productivity is what matters. Look for ways to balance your different approaches. If you cannot figure it out, there are always professional who can help.

Creating a Digital Filing Cabinet with a Scanner

From the moment my computer connected to the Internet almost 20 years ago, I started saving most of the e-mails that I received. I organized and archived the information. I began daydreaming about converting much of the paperwork around me to digital. I didn’t even own a scanner at that point, so it would have required extensive typing. Then several years ago, when I joined NAPO, I started seeing discussions of scanners and digital filing systems, specifically The Neat Company and Fujitsu ScanSnap. Beyond the actual monetary price of these systems, there are other costs to consider.

Beginning with the upfront, actual cost – the desktop versions range start at $400- and the mobile versions start at $200- so it is an investment not only of your money but your time. They can be helpful for businesses in organizing paperwork and working toward the goal of going paperless.

I adore the idea of these for myself. Then I was talking with my husband about them and how much we could use them. How much more organized we could become and get all digitized to boot! He had envisioned how helpful they could be for having access to reports easily without needing to physically carry around a huge folder. The files that they create are searchable (the extent varies between products) and readable by PDF readers.

I saw myself obsessing about getting all the information into the system. I could then spend hours, or more likely days, organizing it. I could keyword the various files and start shredding the growing pile of papers no longer needed. We could eliminate so much paperwork, making it all digital and I wouldn’t even have to type things out. It takes time to set everything up and then the time to “get caught up” with all the things we want to scan.

What is my time worth? Would it be worth your time? Any time you invest in a new organizational system, it takes time and energy to put it into effect. The new toy and revolutionary tool tempts us with the idea that it will solve our struggles. There are certainly situations where this tool is useful and the best alternative. They’ve been designed so that anyone who wants to pay the money can use it, regardless of their purpose.

One of the things I do as a volunteer, is to scan a sheet once a month to e-mail into the office. I also add the information from that sheet into my own spreadsheet. In addition, I have a file with that original sheet, since that sheet is clearer than the scanned sheet. Oh, and I keep a copy of each e-mail with that attachment. How many copies of this one piece of data do I need? I have fallen into the trap of digital clutter, which I only recently recognized. (I’ve been doing this for almost three years!)

I cannot help but wonder – having this wonderful ability to have so many things digitally available, does that not increase our ability to “hoard?” Those digital files don’t really take up that much space, right? There is no visible clue that we are holding onto more than we actually need. It would be simple to forget about the things that were supposed to be only temporary. Those “what if I need this one day” questions entice us to simple scan it in, adding clutter. Maybe only to our hard drive, but clutter is clutter.

Despite some of the possible detractions, I will keep this technology in mind. It is not for me at this moment, but I am still tempted. That physical cost is more than I am willing to spend and I need to plan how to not lose my time to it when we do get it. I might sound like a broken record, but whatever tool luring us with making our lives easier comes with caveats. The more I look around, the more I am aware of these temptations for making our lives easier have hidden costs that come with them.

Tame Your Tupperware

As I was putting away the Tupperware the other morning, it occurred to me that this is something that easily gets out of control. It almost seems like it is having a party all by itself when we’re away. It gets all jumbled and chaotic. Tupperware is also one of those things that can be hard to part with, there are always uses for them. Nevertheless, it does need to gone through from time to time.

I decided to take a picture of MY Tupperware storage for you to see. This is not the most organized it gets, but this is how it looked this morning. It has been a little while since I went through it. Due to how we’ve arranged things in the kitchen, we have a large drawer dedicated to the Tupperware containers. In truth, we have more in there than what we regularly use and some that I could part with.

Sometimes I think of socks when dealing with Tupperware, their lids are like matching socks. They somehow become separated and seem to disappear. Therefore, the first step is to match lids to containers. Then it is time for the container without a lid to get recycled or re-purposed. If the container is short enough, it can fit in a drawer to contain small items there.

After you’re left with the containers and lids, you need to consider how many you actually use. As I’ve said, Tupperware is always useful and therefore can be hard to part with, yet there is limited space in your kitchen. Feel free to repurpose them for crafts, small kid stuff, hardware, or whatever, but limit yourself to what you need and use for the kitchen.

Since kitchens have so many variations, there is often no set place where the Tupperware is kept. As I said, we have a deep drawer we use, and with this it is easy to keep it from overflowing into other areas. This is part of the reason that many people need to make a point to go through their containers periodically – to limit the chaos from infringing on other areas.

There are also different approaches on how to deal with storing it. You might be able to see in my drawer that we are fortunate that many of them are quite stackable including the lids, even the ones from different companies. Yet, we have several that are not stackable. One great way is if you have a container, especially missing a lid that can hold all (or most of) the lids together. If you use a container for holding lids that you periodically use, you suddenly have floating lids until you have access to that container again. Never mind that you will need to make the time to gather all the lids together again. Ideally you’ll want to keep them altogether in one location.

Make the time to go through your Tupperware. I enjoy the process of finding where else I might use the excess ones. It should take you less than 30 minutes to pull it all out, match lids and put back what you want to keep. Not much time at all, so pick a time and dig in. Keep an eye on it to see when you might need to make time again.

Tackling One Room

No matter what your environment is like, choosing the room that you most want to get organized is where to start. What room do you just yearn to have some peace and organization in? This is your chosen room.

The simplest way to start is to walk into the chosen room, containers nearby, and look around. Find all the things that belong in another room. Put those items into the appropriate container. This is a great time to evaluate whether the item is something worth keeping. As you pick up something, look at it and think about it. Make a decision if you can.

It can be a good idea to have a pending area as well, a place for items that you cannot decide on at that moment. Of course, if you create a pending pile, you will need to make time to go through it at a later point.

This is also the time to pick up any trash, those loose pieces of paper that wander about or any trash that just was set aside. The idea is that you find all the things that do not belong in that room and remove them.

There are at least two ways to approach this. One way is to walk around the room focusing on one type of item, so all the things that belong in one other room are gathered up at one time. Then you do that for the next type of item, like gathering all the paper and trash.

I prefer the approach of focusing on one area within that room. You start with the coffee table for instance. It does not matter what is on it, you put all the items into their appropriate container, staying focused on the coffee table until that area is completed. Only then do you move on to another area within that room.

This is a great way to approach any room: from the storage areas like your basement or attic to any of the actual living spaces you have. It works for any degree or lack – of clutter. I admit that piles will accumulate in our living room, by the side of the couch to the coffee table. This is the way that I handle getting the room organized again. So, choose your room and dig in today.

What room would you choose to work on first?

Preparing to Purge

As FlyLady says, “You cannot organize clutter.”  I am sure many people wish this were not true.  The very idea of having to go through stuff and make decisions about what to keep and what to let go causes many people to shudder.  It can be so tedious and often emotional.  Sorting and organizing can be a time consuming process.  As organizers, we sometimes forget that this process can be foreign and unfamiliar to others.  Therefore, I am breaking the process down and sharing the critical steps to embarking on the task of sorting and purging.

The first thing you need to consider when beginning, this is to include in your time frame, any time you need to get it completely out of your possession.  If you want to try to sell it on e-Bay, this takes time, so you need to make sure that you make the time to work on the process of it.  Only you can judge whether you can be disciplined to take photos and create the listing.  Until it is in the mail, you are not done.  This applies just as much to donating it, so until it is out of your house, garage, and trunk, you are not finished.  It is important to schedule the time for these things as you tackle purging your belongings.

Unless you have boundless energy and never get overwhelmed, start small.  You do not need to accomplish everything in one day.  Set aside a small amount of time for working on this, even using a timer so that you have a clear stopping point.  It is so easy to get overwhelmed.  This can happen to anyone, whether there is a lot of stuff around or even if there is minimal clutter.  Overwhelm happens and it is something to avoid if you can.  When we get overwhelmed, we often dread working on that thing again.  “Ugh, the last time I started doing that….” FlyLady also comments that things did not get that way overnight, and therefore cannot get fixed overnight.  If you start and stay small, you can help yourself stay motivated and productive.

It is important to decide on ONE area in which to focus.  After you have chosen the area, have some containers to gather things in, you want to remain in that room until you are done working.  If you want to donate items, you’ll need a container for those things.  A trash bag is also a useful thing as you are working and cannot get distracted by going into another room.  You might want a container for the things that belong in other rooms, as the goal is to wait to return those items to their appropriate room until you have completed working in that space.  I often will have two containers for misplaced things, one for the upstairs rooms and one for the downstairs rooms.  If you have even more stuff, you can have a container for each room.

In thinking about and planning to sort and purge your belongings, ideally you want to make time to regularly review and purge things again.  By setting up some time to do this periodically, you can limit the burden and tedium for the future.  You can adopt the approach of each time you bring something into the house, something else must leave.  I find this somewhat extreme, though it certainly can be helpful.  Find a time that makes sense to you to review things.  If you rotate seasonal clothing, this is a great time to go through the past season’s clothes and part with what you did not wear.  The key is to make time to review things.

These are the keys to getting you ready to sort and purge in the process of becoming more organized.  It is important to consider these points before digging in and doing anything.  Here is where you lay the groundwork that will help you succeed in the often tedious process of getting organized.  You might notice that there is very little action at this level, yet without considering these points, it is easy to get distracted or overwhelmed.  Both of these things can get in the way of making the progress you are aiming for, so it is helpful to factor these things into your plans.

Ask Yourself These Questions during Organizing

So you’ve decided that it might be time to go through your belongings and try to decided what to keep and what to get rid of? This can be a challenging process, it requires making decisions about the things that we have some attachment to or even love. Unfortunately this is an important activity, we cannot keep buying things without figuring out what we can part with as our homes have limited space. People have such a varied approach to this process: from the person who has no qualms parting with their stuff to the person who holds onto it – dearly concerned with that “might need it one day” mentality. Then there are the ones that fall somewhere in-between, where they hold onto things for a while and then seem to reach a point where they are fed up and are happy to purge with ruthless abandon. Regardless of where you find yourself, there are questions that you can ask yourself as you tackle the sorting and purging process.

1. Do you love it?
2. Do you need it?
3. When was the last time you used it?
4. When is the next time you anticipate using it?
5. How hard would it be to replace?
6. How many do you have like it?
7. Do you have room for it? Are you willing to make room for it?
8. If you knew someone would love/need it more, would you give it away to them?

Some people believe that the first two questions are the only ones worth asking. This is especially valuable if you live in a small space. If you do not love it and you do not need it, it needs to find a new home. I understand this philosophy, and in many ways these are the two most important questions to ask yourself. They encourage you to think twice before simply keeping that gift you secretly dislike. You do not actually love that gift, and you certainly don’t need it, so how do you handle that non-cherished gift? If you do not need nor love something, is there ever a good reason to use your valuable space to store it?

It can be hard to part with everything that does not pass the criteria of the first two questions. Questions 3 through 6 can help you whittle down things further. Maybe you really like something, but when you start to think about it, you realize that you have not used it in 5 years. Then it can be easier to decide to pass it along to the next person. Answering these questions as well helps you see what you might be keeping that is simply taking up space without giving you much value.

I like asking people whether they have room for it. The ultimate goal of going through things is so that your things are uncluttered. You want to be able to find and get the things that you need and want. Yet, we all have our own values and cherish things that someone else might look at with a puzzled expression. I see how I can cling to certain things, and no one else seems to understand. With this in mind, if you can make room for it, then keep it. When we are reluctant to part with something, the next question is to figure out what you would rather give up in order to make room for it. I think I have shared the story of getting rid of shoes to make room in the bottom of the closet for books. This is a good example. It was an unlikely place for books, yet reflects the value of them and the lack of need for excess shoes. It directs you to figure out where your priorities really are, and what are you willing to do in order to make space for what you determine is important enough.

I will briefly talk on the idea of passing along your things if you knew someone else would cherish it more. Sometimes the idea of simply dropping your belongings at the local thrift store seems like an amorphous thing. Does it become less so if you posted it (or had someone do it for you) on FreeCycle? When people use FreeCycle, there is little doubt that the person requesting that very item you listed wants or needs it. You often have the option of picking from several people. You know that it is going to be appreciated instead of potentially sitting on a store shelf for a while. You could apply this to friends and family as well if you knew there was a need.

There may be other questions to ask yourself. Any question that will make you pause or even stop to think about the value of keeping the item is valuable. It is too easy to gloss over the process and simply keep the things. The truth is that if you have room for it, uncluttered and functional space, until there is a drive to go through it, it can stay as it is for the time being. I am an advocate of working with the space that is available and limiting yourself to that space. If or when that space needs more breathing room, that is the time to start the process of going through it. Then these questions can help you with making the decisions about what stays and goes.

Professional Organizer – 4 Questions Answered

I’ve been trying to write about what makes a professional organizer. It can be challenging since there are differing opinions and I want to be as unbiased as possible yet am passionate about it! In many ways I could go on endlessly talking about various aspects, yet I am going to try to cover the points that I think are the most important as well as some of the things to consider.

There are a few questions that I think are worth answering:
* What qualifies someone to be a professional organizer?
* How does someone become a professional organizer?
* Who needs a professional organizer?
* If you are thinking about hiring an organizer, do you know what to look for?

There are varying opinions about some of the details of what makes a professional organizer. Since it is a relatively new profession, there are no qualifications per se. Many people say that what qualifies someone is that they have a talent for helping people get organized. This is undeniably important, who would want to hire a professional organizer who cannot do that? Organizers can come from any background and have different expertise. This leads us to the next question.

Anyone can become a professional organizer. Yes, anyone can. The person down the block can hang up a sign or build a website and proclaim themselves a “professional organizer.” This is one area where I have strong feelings and I wish there were more restrictions and it was not open to just anybody. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has created a Code of Ethics for members to follow. They also offer classes for training and continuing education. Anyone can pay the membership fee and become a member of NAPO. Most states also have a local chapter of NAPO. Being a member suggests that there is commitment to the profession.

Then we come to, who needs a professional organizer? Anyone who feels that they need or want help dealing with any or all of their spaces can benefit. If someone feels stuck and is having problems completing or even setting up an area, having a professional organizer come in can help get past the difficulty. Sometimes it’s simply wanting someone by your side as you deal with the stuff. In many ways I have to chuckle to myself, since there are apparently many people who think that only “hoarders” need an organizer. A client was telling me how she was raving to her co-workers about working with me. She mentioned that several of them turned to her and asked with shock on their faces, “Are you one of those hoarders?” She apparently tried to explain that you do not need piles of stuff around to benefit from working with a professional organizer. What it comes down to is that if you think you could need assistance, a professional organizer can help, no matter how small or large the struggle.

Now, I think the most important question, what to look for when you are hiring a professional organizer. If you are going to hire a professional organizer, they are going to be standing by your side as you go through your things. This is challenging for most people, and understandably so.

This is why the most important thing to look for when you decide to hire a professional organizer is feeling relatively comfortable with them. If you are likely to feel uncomfortable, this can be hard to judge.

Do you appreciate their philosophy? The blog and/or newsletter can reveal their attitudes and beliefs.

Do you feel like you can relate to them? What are people saying about working with them? This is why most websites have a testimonial page; it gives people insight into other’s experiences working with that organizer.

The more nervous you might be at the thought of having a virtual stranger in your home, the more difficult it can be to be objective. Unfortunately I do not have an answer for that, you need to be ready to take the risk!

I have seen other posts on this very topic. I do not think that having an organizer that gives speeches makes them more qualified. I give speeches, and it is a great way to get out there and share my passion and philosophy, but using that as the basis for hiring me seems too simplistic. Likewise for being involved in the local chapter of NAPO. These things do not make me an expert at coming into someone’s home and helping them to create systems that bring organization. While the qualifications and requirements remain loose, it is that much more important to look for someone who fits your style, personality, and values.

What would you look for – first and foremost?