Professional Organizing Q & A

What is a professional organizer?

In my case, I’m an outside force that helps you make changes to transform your home or workplace into an efficient, productive, and attractive environment.

What can a professional organizer do for me?

I can provide you with solutions to your specific challenges, suggest attractive and functional furnishing and storage options, and keep you on task until we make your environment match your needs. If you’ve been feeling like you “need to get organized,” but it never seems to get done, working with me can reduce your stress, make you much more productive and give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. It’s time to check that biggie off your to-do-list!

How long have you been a professional organizer?

I started doing this about fifteen years ago on the west coast. While based in Seattle, I had clients there, in San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Connecticut. After a move back east in 2002, I’ve focused my work in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Washington, DC.

Who are your clients?

Smart, busy people. People who are tired. People who are supposed to make every single thing in their life their number one priority. People who frequently bump their own needs to the bottom of that list. My clients have included people with physical and mental challenges, including ADHD and depression; people who were moving; people dealing with a deceased parent’s possessions; parents with children growing up and moving out; lawyers; children; a thrift store; nurses; a person dealing with a flooded house; a realtor; artists, designers, and crafts people; mothers and fathers; writers; academics; and more.

What specific areas can you help me with?

The lists below are just starting points. I’m happy to talk with you about any system in your home or office that feels like it needs support. I can help you with:

  • closets : making the most of the space you have
  • children’s rooms and playrooms : coming up with creative solutions for toys and clothing; organizing clothing by season and size; setting up fun, easier-to-keep-neat play and work spaces
  • baby prep : setting up the nursery; integrating gifts and hand-me-downs into a pretty, safe environment
  • bedrooms : returning these to their role as places of rest and serenity; moving inappropriately stored items, maximizing hidden storage
  • kitchens : clearing counters, maximizing cupboard space, choosing the most efficient placement for tools and supplies
  • home and workplace offices : creating efficient filing systems, effective bill paying systems, functional workspaces
  • paper management : making sure only the important survive, and that those end up where they will be safe, clean, and easily found when needed
  • attics/basements/garages : reclaiming these spaces, and recreating them as the storage and work space you need
  • cars : packing your car with the maps and emergency supplies you need, and removing everything that shouldn’t be in there.
  • memorabilia : organizing and storing your photographs and collections
  • packing for a move/unpacking once you’re there : thinning your possessions and sorting before a move makes the whole process easier and less expensive.

Why would I want to hire a NAPO organizer verses a non-NAPO organizer?

The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) keeps professional organizers up-to-the-minute in the field by offering ongoing education and professional development, and has a Code of Ethics by which members are expected to abide. A NAPO member has made a commitment to her business and to her clients.

What are some common causes of disorganization? (Or, “Why does my place look like this?”)

There can be many underlying causes for disorganization, but often it’s because you either never had systems that worked, or more likely, the systems that were fine before aren’t working anymore because things have changed. Changes that can result in “system slippage” can happen at work, like:

  • starting a new job or business
  • changing your work schedule
  • experiencing financial success or hardship
  • losing your job
  • retiring,

or at home, like:

  • setting up a new household
  • moving
  • merging households or families
  • getting married or divorced
  • having a child
  • having children grow up and move away
  • experiencing temporary or permanent illness and/or disability
  • going through the illness or death of a family member

Nobody in my house has been killed by falling papers. Why do I really need to get organized?

Getting organized can:

  • Save you time, because you’ll be able to find things when you need them. Did you know that Americans waste 9 million hours per day looking for misplaced items, according to the American Demographics Society?
  • Make your life easier: according to the National Soap and Detergent Association, getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of housework in the average home.
  • Save you money. No buying duplicates of things that are… somewhere. No more missed bill payments or the resultant fines. You can donate unused items for tax credit. No more last minute shopping at premium prices.
  • Give you peace of mind.

And really, who are you to question the wisdom of the American Demographics Society or the National Soap and Detergent Association? Also, decluttering can make your house sell more easily and quickly, and for more money, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. (Stats from Morgenstern, Julie, Organizing From The Inside Out, New York: Henry Holt, 1998.)

I’ve always been disorganized — can that ever really change?

Organizing is learned: it’s never too late. Sometimes just getting one area organized and seeing how that makes you feel is enough to get you rolling. In other cases, it can help to have someone come in periodically to help you stay on track.

I just can’t do it. I don’t have the skills.

That’s not a question! Listen. Getting and staying organized is a choice and a process. If it’s almost always getting a little better, you’re heading in the right direction. Just keep plugging along, and your life can be as organized as you need it to be.

I’m creative, and I’m worried: won’t organizing my work space and supplies destroy my inspiration?

No one system works for everyone, which is why my individualized support can really help you. (Plus, I have an MFA. I understand studios, and how different people’s needs are.) If you need visual stimulation, we’ll make sure you keep plenty of that. But it may be images tacked to a big bulletin board, instead of mounded all over your work surface. You’ll be able to craft or make art any time you want if your workspace is open and your supplies are findable and cared for. And of course, if you’re doing a series of oil paintings of mold rings in coffee mugs, we’ll save a few for you.

How does this work? What do we do?

We figure out what’s not working, strategize to solve those issues, and put new systems in place. I suggest personally appropriate organizing techniques, and keep you directed and focused as we set these up. I support you through the organization process, and teach you the skills to keep it up. Here’s a whole page on the process.

How do I know that it’s time to ask for help?

In a perfect world (the same one in which your refrigerator is constantly replenished with healthful, delicious food and magically disposes itself of the rotting leftovers), we all have the time to do everything ourselves, thoroughly, and with joy in our hearts. Until then, we need to do our best, and ask for help with the rest. It’s time to ask for help when you see that important things aren’t working. Are you

  • wading through clutter?
  • spending too much time looking for important things?
  • missing deadlines?
  • constantly running late?
  • frustrated by mountains of incomplete projects?
  • feeling overwhelmed or depressed?
  • embarrassed to have people over?
  • feeling like there’s never enough space in your home or office?
  • wondering if you’ll ever unpack those boxes you moved seven years ago?
  • wishing you could enjoy and share your photos, but they’re… um… you’re not sure where they actually are?

It’s time. Life is short. You should be spending it doing things that are important to you, not being tortured by undone tasks and stacks of mysterious papers. Let’s get you and your space into a better place.

What makes you the right professional organizer for me?

It’s important to feel comfortable with the person who’s looking through your stuff. People have enjoyed working with me because, besides giving them a dramatically improved environment, they find me patient, non-judgmental, and kind; but firm enough to keep them focused and on track. I also have a good sense of humor, which tends to help when there’s a possibility of anyone feeling overwhelmed. The organizing process, whether it’s over the course of one afternoon or a series of visits, is about building a relationship: you trusting me to respect you, your values and your privacy; and me trusting that you’re motivated to make some changes.

Will you make me throw away all of my stuff?

Absolutely not. But I’ll ask you some hard questions about why you’re keeping some of it. Or why it’s under the toaster instead of in a filing cabinet.

Do you do the work, or do I?

We tend to work together, because there are often a lot of specific decisions to be made about what to keep, and what is important to you. Also, when we work together, we can design the best systems for your specific needs. I can help you understand why we’re setting things up the way we are, and you’ll learn how to maintain the systems.

I’m afraid of what we might find. Are sessions confidential?


How much do you charge?

I charge by the hour, with the first hour with every brand new client being a free consultation, with no obligation to continue.

Do you accept credit cards?

I accept checks and cash. And livestock.

How long will this take?

Every job is different. When we talk, you can describe the project you have in mind and I can give you a rough estimate of the time it should take.

I’m ready! What do I do now?

Great! I’m looking forward to talking to you. Just call me at 413-531-8317 or email me at so we can set up a time for an initial consultation.