Are you planning to hire someone to help you with a home organizing project?
Do you know how to find the right service or individual for your needs?
Since this person will most likely be working with you in your home, do you know how to find someone who is both qualified and experienced as well as someone you can trust?
The blunt truth is that anyone can call themselves a “professional organizer.” There are no laws governing the use of the title. However, there are a few ways you can increase the chances of finding a trustworthy, qualified and experienced organizer who is also a good “fit” for you and your goals.
Even though I own a a residential organizing and move management business, we don’t work with everyone and not everyone is a great match for us. Usually when someone calls us to ask about our services, it’s to ask what we charge or whether or not we do a particular kind of organizing. Both good questions. However, there are several more questions you should be prepared to ask when considering the services of a home organizer.
Whether you’ve finally decided to tackle getting your garage, kitchen or office organized, or you need help getting, packed or unpacked before or after a move (or remodel), or you simply are overwhelmed by the piles of paper and other clutter in your home, finding the right company or individual for the job will mean the difference between feeling frustrated and disappointed or knowing when it’s all done that it was money well spent.
I recommend scheduling 20-30 minutes to chat with 2-3 organizers you are considering. Most should offer this type of consultation by phone, at no charge. Here are some suggested questions to ask when you have decided to hire an organizing or productivity professional.
- How many years have you been in business? This is a good way to gauge how much professional experience an organizer has working with the public – not just friends and family. There is a real difference between someone who just launched their organizing business and someone who has been operating for 5 or more years. This doesn’t mean a less experienced organizer lacks the skills to help you but it could mean they don’t yet have in place things like insurance, policies to protect both you and them or processes to be responsive to your needs. It could also meant they don’t yet have the experience to assess the scope (time and labor) of your project. This is important to know if they are charging you by the hour.
- How do you charge? You will want to know in advance if an organizer charges by the project or by the hour and whether or not they charge for an initial onsite, consultation. You will also want to know how they charge if they bring in crew or extra help. Yes, it is possible to find someone who can do certain types of jobs for $25/hour but it may cost you in the long run.
- How long is your standard organizing session? Many organizers won’t work for less than 3 hours since they want you to see results, which will in turn make you happy. They know if you’re happy, there’s a likelihood you will hire them again. Keep in mind that no matter how long you think something will take, chances are it will take longer. This is because it is more than just the physical task of organizing. The rate at which you make decisions also plays a part in how long it will take. The more decisive you are about keeping vs. letting go of items, the quicker items can be staged for organizing, removal or disbursement elsewhere.
- Do you work alone or with others? Having a well managed crew will probably mean the work will get done sooner and more efficiently. Larger jobs, such as unpacking an entire home take more people. A smaller job like organizing a bedroom or closet may just take one organizer. An experienced organizer will advise you on your options.
- How do you work with clients who have a lot of sentimental attachments to things?
This is one of the most important skills an organizer can have. Most people, whether they admit it or not, are attached to possessions for various reasons. How the organizer responds to you may make the difference between you hiring them back or not. Most professional organizers will not dispose of items without your explicit permission. Even if you believe you want to be told “toss it,” an experienced organizer will be able to guide you toward a decision you can live with and not regret later.
- Will you donate items for me? This is a great added service. Often, the very act of removing items from the home, is what that keeps people stuck in clutter. Don’t fall into the trap of saying, “I will take them myself.” At the very least make an agreement with yourself and your organizer that if you don’t remove something by a certain date, that you will allow someone to move it for you.
- Do you recommend and/or shop for organizing products and if so how much do you charge for your shopping time? Experienced organizers are experts at finding just the right organizing product or tool for their clients, quickly and often for less than retail. It’s a huge convenience to have someone pick out the right solution for you, much the same way an interior designer can find the right piece of furniture or even a plumbing contractor can find just the right fixture. At LET’S MAKE ROOM, we include shopping time in our packages.
- Can you provide me with recent client references? Get at least two. Ask the organizer to provide you with references for the same type of project you need to get done.
- Do you have a contract or letter of agreement? It’s always a good idea to have something in writing that confirms your mutual understanding and expectations. Be sure you understand what the organizer’s process, timeline and fee structure is, including their cancellation policy, before you agree to work with them.
- What is your cancellation policy? Most likely they will volunteer this ahead of time but if they don’t, ask. Most organizing companies or individual organizers will commit to doing your project to the exclusion of others. This means they are expecting to do work on a particular day and time for which they will be compensated. If you change an appointment at the last minute, it’s difficult if not impossible to reschedule that work at a similar scope and thus they lose income. To protect themselves from this income loss, most organizers, LET’S MAKE ROOM included, charge for cancelled appointments with less than 48 hours notice.
- Are you insured or bonded? Insurance for organizers is expensive which is why many don’t carry it. We do. It is there to protect both the client and the organizer from loss in the event of accidental damage to a client’s personal property. Bonding is important if the organizer is subcontracting for other services for which they are responsible in cases of theft.
- What credentials do you hold? Since the field of professional organizing is not licensed by any State, the industry has become self-regulated, primarily by the National Association of Professional Organizers or NAPO. NAPO was established in 1986 as a 501C-3 non-profit organization to promote and protect the integrity of its membership as well as the public who benefit from their services. In 2007, NAPO created a process by which highly experienced organizers could be certified through a separate governing Board. The Board for Certified Professional Organizers or BCPO® recognizes and raises industry standards, practices and ethics through independent certification. An organizer who is a member of NAPO must meet a minimum standard before they can claim membership. An organizer who is certified through the BCPO® is entitled to use the CPO® designation as evidence that he or she has met specific minimum standards, and proven through examination and client interaction that they possess the body of knowledge and experience required for certification. Incidentally, I am both a member of NAPO and a Certified Professional Organizer.
Finally, if you are looking to hire an organizing professional the best place to start is by asking people you know who they recommend. You need not say why, you can just simply say, “I have some organizing projects I need done around the house. Can you recommend someone?”
If you can’t find a personal recommendation, check out these three websites that can help you find a qualified professional in your area: