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General Organizing | Mindfulness

What Does a Professional Organizer Do? The Surprising Truth

What Does a Professional Organizer Do Exactly?

There are some misconceptions about what a professional organizer does when working in the field. The following are some truths I discovered in my own journey as a professional organizer. Some of these truths may surprise you. Read on to get a glimpse into a day in the life of professional organizer. 

What professional organizers do regularly is not always pretty.

In the beginning, what I expected to be doing as a professional organizer on a day-to-day basis, is different than what I actually do most of the time. I imagined I would be organizing pantries and closets and making those spaces beautiful and more functional.

Though I was not entirely wrong about these things, I do occasionally organize pantries and master closets. And I do love transforming a messy closet or pantry into an organized, efficient, and beautiful space.  However, most of my jobs, are not so pretty.

Often we’re dealing with dust and dirt and the stuff of yesterday.

On many days, I am decluttering and organizing a storage room or garage and we are up to our ears in dust and the stuff of yesterday. Or, we are working with massive piles of paperwork that have taken over an office.  Other times, it’s a whole house that is in dire need of attention.  Often, we are simply decluttering a room that has gotten out of hand because there is too much stuff in to too small of a space. 

cluttered room.

What a professional organizer does is often less about purchasing the perfect organizing products and more about decluttering.

When I first started my professional home organizing business, I spent hours at the Container Store trying to save to memory, every organizing product in the store. I wanted to be as prepared as possible and have product suggestions ready at hand.

Most jobs only require a handful of supplies.

In my mind, the solution to most organizing problems was all about finding the right organizing products and putting systems in place. While this is not entirely untrue, I soon found that in reality, the only supplies needed for the majority of organizing jobs I would be doing included garbage bags, empty boxes (to place items that would be donated into), a black permanent marker, sticky notes, and my trusty label maker. That’s pretty much it.

There are exceptions to this rule of course. Some jobs do require specialty organizing products to be purchased before getting the job done. But for most jobs, once a project is near completion, we often find that we don’t need to do any shopping at all.  Because in the process of sorting and letting go of no longer useful items, we have emptied several containers.

Shopping should usually come last, not first.

Once we have finished sorting and making decisions about what to keep, we do occasionally need to purchase a few organizing products; clear containers, maybe a tiered shelf, or a Lazy Susan.  But more often than not, my clients have already purchased several products months before getting started.

They do this with the good intention of getting the job done, but to their dismay, once the shopping is done, they lose their motivation to continue. It is one of the most common scenarios I see.  

Simple systems are usually best.

Another reason that I don’t find myself doing a lot of product shopping is that I have found that the simpler you can keep an organizing system, the better. The solution to my client’s struggle is not in finding the perfect organizing product to fix the problem but instead, in reducing what is kept and simplifying how it’s stored. Simple systems are easy to maintain and hence are more sustainable long term.

I discovered quickly that I was doing a lot more than just organizing closets.

Whether helping a family unpack and move into a new home, helping an empty nester declutter and simplify, or helping a busy family keep up, my job is very diverse. I never get bored. Sometimes I find myself in the homes of those who are overwhelmed due to a life transition like a divorce, or a new baby. At other times, I work with those who have struggled with clutter for years.

It’s not always about finding more space. 

Those who reach out to me are frequently overwhelmed, frustrated, and down to their last nerve.  Many have the same fear; that their house is the worst house I have ever seen. When I show up at the front door, they are nervous embarrassed, and feeling vulnerable.

Some are going through a difficult life transition that has left them feeling out of control and buried. Some have dealt with their personal clutter issues for so long, that they have grown deeply weary of this burden that they have been carrying around for years.  Self-sabotage and doubt keep them stuck and they are angry at themselves for not being able to do this on their own.

More often than not, it’s not about the stuff. 

Often, getting organized is less about finding just the right way to store our stuff and more about targeting why the disorganization is happening in the first place. For those who have struggled with clutter for a long period, the key to getting organized once and for all may be more about dissecting habits, tendencies, and internal beliefs. Things like perfectionism, ADHD, depression, addiction, and procrastination can all be roadblocks to getting organized as well.  

Uncovering the root of the problem is usually needed. 

While our ultimate end goal is to start with a messy room and end up with a clutter-free, orderly space, often my biggest challenge is to figure out the root cause of the problem. It is also to help my client gain self-awareness and self-trust. We want to end up with a more balanced perspective to achieve lasting results, rather than just a temporary fix. 

It’s about connecting on a more personal level to create lasting change.

My real work lies in connecting with my client on a deeper level, with compassion and understanding. My job is to be there to lend a helping hand without judgement or criticism. 

We may need to work on less obvious factors that are contributing to the clutter. It might involve redirecting thoughts that are immobilizing and self-defeating. Fostering self-trust and building on successes, one step at a time is often the key to lasting change. 

It’s really the relationship I have with my client, and my understanding of their needs that is important. Though I did not anticipate these things going into my career as a professional organizer, I greatly value this part of my job. 

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