How to Work with a Professional Organizer

by classicalgeek

Don't believe the DIY shows--this is a process that will take more than a weekend!

We have all seen those great DIY shows where someone comes into your house, makes you throw half your stuff away, there occurs many tears and much drama, and after a weekend stay in a moderately-priced hotel, you are presented with a clean, redecorated, organized house, and your life is improved forever. Alas, if only life really worked that way!

Instead, working with a professional organizer is a long-term task, which can take weekly visits over a period of time up to a year or more, and involve several complete reorganizations as you discover what works and does not work for you.

What You Should Know Before Hiring an Organizer

In the United States, professional organizers can be certified by two different standards agencies, but both agencies require hundreds of hours of paid work as an organizer before they can achieve their certification. Therefore, hiring an organizer who is working towards their certification may be cheaper at an hourly rate, but that person may take longer than someone who is certified and charges a higher rate, and therefore the certified organizer may end up costing less overall. And, not all organizers follow the rules once they are certified, so a personal interview with your chosen organizer is necessary.

You will need to identify your worst problem areas: you want to know what isn't working for you now, and what you want to work better. If, for example, your kitchen and bedroom are the worst areas, that is where you will want to start, but understand that the process will work best if you do your entire living space, because as things in one part of the house get rearranged, they may end up moving to other parts of the house where they will function better.

You will also need to know your primary sensory modalities, so that any changes in organization can be documented, and your organizer needs to know how to make your stuff findable to you, not just to him or her. There's no worse feeling than forgetting where something is in an organized house!

Another way that will help you work with your organizer is to understand how you arrange objects in your mind. People who use primarily visual modalities for thinking may group things by color, appearance, or size, and may work best if all the blue things are near each other. People who use primarily auditory modalities may work best if things with names that sound alike are near each other, and people who use primarily kinesthetic modalities may understand the relationship of things to each other by weight, texture, space where it is used, etc. All of these factors figure in to how organization will work best for you.

And yet another way to help your organizer help you is to understand your process of working on a project. If you are primarily a visual person, it may be important to you to have all the parts of a project laid out where you can see them all at once.

Your Primary Sense Modality Determines How You Should Organize

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A professional organizer should understand what kind of sense modalities you use most. For example, if you are a kinesthetic person, and something gets moved, even a few inches, it could be "lost" to you, because you didn't put it there.

Choosing Your Organizer

Let's face it: anyone can be organized if you own only five things. However, many of us lead quite complicated lives, and it's partly the disorder that is preventing you from doing some of the things you want to do. Any organizer who tells you, "If you haven't touched it in six months, get rid of it," is just asking for trouble when it comes to looking at your Christmas decorations in September!

Instead, if you haven't touched something in six months, your organizer should be asking you, "What is preventing you from using this?" Maybe it's something as simple as you need a part, or a tool, to deal with the problem, and rather than getting rid of the item(s), you just need them in a different place, or for them to be working again. Perhaps you're ready to get rid of something, or perhaps some emergency or lack of time has prevented you from using it. Organize for the life you want, not the life you have!

Sometimes a different form will help, too. I ran into this problem with my thousands of DVDs, and finding a way to move 700 DVDs onto a hard drive smaller than a paperback book helped enormously with this problem. I haven't finished yet, but simply moving the first few hundred onto a hard drive made it much easier to deal with the rest. Now I'm in the process of transferring more than a thousand CDs of audiobooks into mp3 format, so I can cut down my storage space to a tenth of what it is now. I also changed forms of storage with my table linens and my herbs and spices.

So your organizer should not be forcing you to get rid of your possessions, unless you are ready for them to go. Parting with things should be joyful, not stressful, and pressure from someone you are paying money to doesn't make it easier.

Updated: 06/14/2015, classicalgeek
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