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What Does a Professional Organizer Really Do?

BY: Aimee Algas Alker | Jan 24, 2019


What does a professional organizer do? A professional organizer can not only create order from chaos, but they can also work with you to create a system to keep it that way.

Maybe you think this is something you can do on your own, but think about the other parts of your life that require maintenance that you can’t do on your own: keeping your car running, for example, or getting your hair cut. Even going to the doctor.

To find out what, exactly, a professional organizer could help with,I talked with Amy O’Donnell of Magic Maker Solutions. A “type-A Virgo,” she says she was destined for this career. Her take: “Some people don’t have the ritual in place, or the spatial skills to determine the best place to put stuff,” she says. Lots of people can benefit from the outside expertise a professional can provide—especially parents.


What does a professional organizer do, in a nutshell?

A professional organizer helps to “make sense of your space,” says Amy. They also function as “a cheerleader, a fellow team member, who can help talk you through what will certainly be tough decisions.”

You’ll share what you want your life to look like—and the organizer will take into account other factors, such as your family size, how likely your environment will change, and even whether you’ve had a recent upheaval, like a move or a death in the family, in order to help you come up with a system that works.

Together, you’ll embark on a collaboration, where the organizer and you will roll up your sleeves and get to work. “We also do our best to keep everybody sane,” because what can be more overwhelming than overhauling your space?


What doesn’t a professional organizer do?

A professional organizer will never pass judgment, not about why you’ve been holding onto that refrigerator magnet for 20 years or that you keep a jar full of pennies in your pantry. “We just want to understand how things got into the state they’re in.”  

She also believes that a professional organizer doesn’t leave all the dirty work up to the client. She was recently watching a popular organization show, where the host taught the clients some great techniques for organization. But when the clients said they were overwhelmed, the host still left them on their own, “with this whole mess to deal with.” Says Amy, “That’s doing a disservice to the client. A professional organizer should work side by side with them, so they can see they’ll be able to maintain this system themselves.”


What can I do to prepare for an organizer to come in?

Nothing, says Amy, emphatically. “People always ask, ‘Do you want me to clean my house?’ No, that defeats the purpose of what we’re doing.” A good organizer wants to see your home in its current state, so she can see what the patterns are and where the family normally puts their things.

So to prepare for a professional organizer to come is simple.

“Take deep breaths, relax, and get ready for some life-changing things to happen.”


Also be ready to talk honestly about the roadblocks you have to keeping an organized space—and again, stay open and don’t worry about judgment. The more honest you are, the better this collaboration will be.


This closet could be yours, with the help of a professional organizer.


What should I expect at our first meeting?

At the first meeting, expect a walkthrough of not just the space you’ll be tackling, but the whole home, as the organizer might pick up on patterns that carry through the house. Amy often also asks questions about the family: how busy are they, how involved are the kid, is there anything going on in the dynamic that she should be aware of. During this walkthrough, she also might tackle part of a space if she sees something that can be organized in just a few minutes.

Most spaces can be organized the same day as your first meeting. Amy herself likes to get right to work. And she doesn’t clear out the space, but works top to bottom, left to right, organizing as she goes.


If I want to organize a pantry, how many sessions would that take and what should I expect?

Depending on how much is in there, and how much actually belongs there (that jar of pennies is a true story), organizing a pantry could take just 90 minutes. What she usually does is categorize things so, for example, all the breakfast items are together, as are pasta and rice, and paper goods. Sometimes it’s simple adjustments, such as making frequently used items easier to reach, bringing a shelf a little lower, putting lighter things on higher shelves, or keeping all bags of chips in a basket.


What are the challenges people often face in getting and staying organized?

The biggest challenge for people is taking that first step. If you don’t have the “spatial skills” needed to organize, deciding where to start can be daunting. “Having a second set of eyes to see where the opportunities are is so important, but can also discourage people from getting help.” So being open to someone evaluating your space and also giving you a new way of looking at that space can be nerve-wracking, but so necessary. Amy goes so far as to call it “totally life changing.”

“Lots of people don’t know what their options are. They think the’re only one way to do it, and I say, ‘Have you ever thought of it this way?’” Anyway, she’s seen it all—so the judgment people fear never comes to pass.


It is possible for your child's room to look like this—and stay that way.


What will a professional organizer teach me?

The most important thing that Amy likes to impart: “I think you should only have to touch something once before it’s put in its place.” That might mean teaching the entire family where to put a single item—and doing this for every single item—but it’s what needs to be done. “I also explain why [we’re putting it there].”

“The best process is one you don’t really have to think about,” she says. “When you come home after a long day, the last thing you want to do is [a big undertaking like] sorting a closet out. The best thing to do then is [for example] taking a few minutes for mail management.” Her advice is to work with the natural rhythms of a your day, or else it’ll cause more stress: “identify the things you do and don’t like to do, and I can help you make both of those processes easier.”

Once the “right” system is set up for a particular family, staying organized “should be pretty easy. Like with anything, it takes a little time and effort every day, but it doesn’t have to take a lot.”


How can I find a professional organizer near me?

You can go to the website for the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals to find out more about what they do and locate one near me. You can also check out Groupon for deals on professional home organization near you.


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