What It's Really Like to Work with a Professional Organizer

Three pro organizers help demystify what really happens when you hire a professional organizer.

Woman working with a professional organizer to organize her closet
Photo: Viosin/Phanie/Getty Images

Hiring a professional organizer sounds like a great idea—someone who would come in and finally get the upper hand on your clutter while you do something else? Yes, please. Once you really start thinking about it, though, the idea of ushering a stranger into your home to go through your possessions may sound more intimidating than appealing.

In reality, working with a professional organizer is more of a collaborative process than, say, hiring a house cleaner is. A good professional organizer will work with you to learn your habits, lifestyle, and more in order to help you develop a system that will work (now and in the future) for you and your family. Because you’ll be working relatively closely with this person, you want to look for a pro you can communicate easily with and who seems to understand your needs—personality compatibility matters.

Start With a Consultation

The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) recommends looking for someone who takes the time to get to know you, understands your needs, and is capable of helping you reach your goals. To that end, professional organizers often start the process with a consultation.

“We offer a free at-home consultation, because the biggest thing for me is that the client is comfortable with the whole process, and that the clients are comfortable with me,” says Ría Safford of Southern California–based RíOrganize.

Joni and Kitt, co-founders of Los Angeles­-based Practically Perfect, use their consultations to get to know their clients and talk through what works and what doesn’t in their homes. The pair identifies challenging areas and makes suggestions about where to start—often with high-traffic drop zones, such as kitchens or entryways—that cause stress or anxiety.

“Part of this consultation is an opportunity for the clients to interview us,” Kitt says. “They get to meet us and understand how we work and get to know us as people, because it’s a very intimate thing, to have us come and go through your home.”

To that end, Joni and Kitt have a contract outlining their confidentiality agreements, to help build trust and rapport with clients. If the relationship is a good fit—and sometimes it’s not, as different organizers have different specialties—they move forward with the project.

How the Organizing Process Works

The extent of the project depends on the client’s needs. Some people want a full organizing service, from cutting down on their belongings to installing new organizing tools and establishing new systems; others just want a few suggestions and help getting rid of some extra boxes. Some projects could be finished in a day, while others could take two weeks, depending on how much work is needed.

“It can be everything from us giving clients a plan to implement to us there every step of the way, until everything is done,” Joni says.

All three organizers agree that the majority of clients ask for the more hands-on jobs, in which the pros are there to help with the initial clear out, coordinate installation, set up the new systems, and everything in between. That kind of service can get costly, though.

“It’s all so based on your budget and what you’re comfortable with at that time,” Safford says. “It is 100 percent an investment.”

Beware (or Embrace) the "Domino Effect" of Organizing

Often, clients will tackle one project with a pro, then hire him or her again to organize another room or closet. “We do a lot of maintenance for our clients,” Joni says. “We’ll reorganize their spaces. We’ll go back through the seasons or the years, as their families or their lives grow and change, and we’ll tweak the systems that we’ve created.”

Fair warning: Working with a professional organizer once could give you the organizing bug, so before you know it, your project to fix up the pantry could turn into a full-floor (or even a full-house) organizing project, something Joni and Kitt call the “domino effect” of organizing.

Ready to hire a professional organizer for your home? Check NAPO’s database for a pro near you.

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