I recently had a potential client call me; she was looking for an organizer to help her with a garage sale in the fall. She's downsizing, and wanted someone experienced in the disposal of a large number of items.
She had the right idea: She did her homework ahead of time, and knew what she wanted.
Evaluate your own situation. What kind of service do you need? Clients have hired me for jobs as varied as helping them sort for a downsize, helping them purge unneeded possessions, helping them rearrange an interior space or organize a specific area of their home, helping them pack and organize for a move, helping them categorize a collection, re-systematize their files and workspace, or choose storage systems.
Hiring an organizer can be expensive; many organizers in the Toronto area where I work charge upwards of $50 an hour for their services. It pays to know exactly what you need.
Let's say you're overwhelmed by a cluttered basement. You have boxes piled everywhere in your family room, which you'd ideally like to use as a space for relaxation and entertaining guests. Do you need help sorting through the boxes? Do you need advice on how (and where) to store the things you decide to keep? Do you know where you're going to put things? Do you know who will take the things you no longer want?
Let's say you decide you need someone to help you with the sorting and purging. Do you need them to hold your hand through the entire task, or do you just want someone to jump-start the process? Are you willing to do "homework" if the organizer assigns it?
Once you've defined your needs, write them down. This will help you when you begin talking to prospective organizers.
Where do you look for an organizer? Start by asking friends who may have hired professional organizers themselves. Most of my colleagues get their clients through referrals and word of mouth.
If you don't know anyone who's hired an organizer, check out professional organizing association websites such as Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) and the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) in the US. Members of these organizations must adhere to a code of ethics, and often will have had training in professional organizing. Both sites have a "find an organizer" function which will generate a list of organizers in your area.
Ask prospective organizers about their background and training. How long have they been organizing? Do they have a specific area of expertise? Do they provide references? Are they insured?
How much do they charge? Is there a fee for the initial consultation? Do they have an hourly rate, or will they charge a fixed fee per project?
Some organizers may ask you to sign a contract, outlining the specific work to be done and any conditions they may have regarding cancellations or payment. Some organizers may also ask permission to take "before" and "after" photos for their portfolio. Don't be afraid to assert your own needs and preferences.
Having an organizer come into your home is a very personal and intimate experience. You may feel vulnerable about revealing your perceived disorganization. Know that most professional organizers have probably seen it all before. We are generally compassionate, caring people who delight in helping others achieve their dreams.
Look for someone with whom you feel comfortable. Most organizers are committed to satisfying their clients. We want to know if you're unhappy. We'll help you find someone to meet your needs if we can't.
What happened to the prospective client I mentioned at the beginning of this post?
I was honest and told her I don't have a great deal of experience organizing garage sales. I know many other organizers in my city who do, so I gave her the names of two who specialize in downsizing and estates. The client was thankful for my help, and we had a lovely conversation about her situation. She hung up the phone feeling encouraged in her efforts.
Seek to feel good about the situation, and good feelings will follow...
copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow