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Becoming a
Professional Organizer

Reprinted with permission from
"The Best Home Businesses for the 90's"
by Paul and Sarah Edwards

The professional organizer has emerged as the knight in shining armor of the information age. Our lives today are oversaturated with an ever increasing flow of information. Our mailboxes are stuffed with mail, and most people have more belongings than previous generations, as evidenced by the fact that older homes never have enough storage space. Yet most Americans feel they have less time than ever to manage and organize all the added stuff in their lives. The professional organizer steps into our homes and offices to help us take control and put our lives in operating order.

Professional organizers help us organize everything from paper flow to patient flow, from desktops to filing cabinets, from bookshelves and closets to computer files. Says editor turned organizer Harriet Schechter, "As an organizer, instead of editing words, I edit other people’s time and space."

Although this profession is barely five years old, it has doubled every year since 1985 and its practitioners already specialize in five principal categories:

  1. Space planning – setting up and laying out a home or office so people can get the maximum and most efficient use of the space they have, taking into consideration such things as lighting, traffic patterns, noise, and comfort needs.
  2. Time management – assisting clients to set goals, develop action steps, define priorities, and schedule and delegate tasks and activities.
  3. Paper management – helping people know how to respond to and what to do with incoming materials and setting up filing and retrieval systems so people can find things when they need them.
  4. Clutter control – restoring a sense of order and preventing the further accumulation of clutter.
  5. Closet/storage design – designing and organizing closet and storage space.

Some organizers work only in residential setting; others work exclusively in offices, serving organizations such as banks, hospitals, schools, professional practices, and other business enterprises. Some organizers develop a particularly narrow specialty like packing and moving, or paying bills and putting finances in order.

Schechter, whose company is called the Miracle Worker Organizing Service, says an organizer’s clients are not necessarily disorganized people. "Often they are quite the opposite," she says, "but are overwhelmed with too many projects and a reluctance to delegate." Everyone who feels he or she could benefit from being more organized is a potential customer. But first that person must decide he or she wants the service, and then must be willing to pay for it. At this time only a small percentage of those who need the service are willing to pay. It’s not uncommon for a potential client to wait three years before deciding to call for help.

Harriet Schechter believes this business is almost like a calling. "Good organizers have an overwhelming need to bring order to the world," she says. "They get satisfaction from helping people organize their lives." Susan Silver, organizer and author of Organized to Be the Best, finds that "this is a very creative business. It provides many creative outlets to express your abilities. As an organizer, you can be an author, seminar leader, trainer, or hands-on consultant."

Silver believes that metropolitan areas provide the best opportunities for organizers because hiring an organizer is not yet viewed as a necessity. As such it’s a business that could be vulnerable to recession. On the other hand, Silver says, "In tough times we have to find better ways to do more with less." So with creative marketing, this service can be positioned as a cost saver – a way to trim off fat and compensate for downsizing.

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