What Is a Professional Organizer? Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Here's what to expect when working with a professional organizer.

If you’ve watched even one episode of Get Organized with The Home Edit, you likely have the itch to tidy your own home, including arranging your books and snacks in rainbow-color order.

But organizing a house requires a lot of time, effort, patience, investment, and discipline. While you might wish you could snap your fingers and have clutter disappear, a more direct (and realistic) way to get clutter under control is to hire a local organizer. Thankfully, with the rising popularity of the industry, there are plenty of professionals who can help and one that’s bound to align with your specific needs, goals, and budget.

I started my own organizing business in 2017 and have witnessed hundreds of others successfully do the same since. Here, my colleague Laurie Palau gives a rundown of what you need to know before hiring a professional organizer.

Laurie Palau is the founder of Simply B Organized, podcast host of This Organized Life, author of Hot Mess: A Practical Guide to Getting Organized, and mentor to professional organizers.

Benefits of Hiring a Professional Organizer

Aside from your pantry looking pretty, there are many advantages that come with hiring an organizer. The biggest benefit, per Palau, is “having someone with the perspective and experience to guide you through what can be an overwhelming process and reclaiming time in your life.”  

Clients almost always find that getting organized saves them time, as the systems put in place can help homeowners more easily locate their things. It also saves money in the long run because they avoid double purchasing items they forgot they owned, and usually think twice before buying anything unnecessary. Not to mention, tidying up can even reduce stress levels and improve relationships with other household members.

toy cabinet storage

Werner Straube

When to Hire a Professional Organizer

"Many people call an organizer when they have finally reached their breaking point; they are physically or mentally exhausted and feel as though they are at an impasse,” says Palau. Many people also pick up the phone or send an email after (or ahead of) a major life event. “After a birth, a death, a divorce, a move—these are the times when people tend to re-evaluate their space and the stuff inside it," adds Palau.

However, not all circumstances are serious or time sensitive, and Palau points to two different types of people who reach out for professional help with organizing. "The first ones are overwhelmed with clutter and it’s negatively impacting their lives and homes. They care less about the clear decanted bins of cereal and more about paying their bills on time," she says. "The other type of people want the aesthetic benefits of any organized space but need help getting there.”

There are also clients who fall into both categories, and many organizers do their best to make a space both beautiful and functional.

organized closet mudroom shelves with shoes coats and supplies

Laura Moss

What to Look for When Hiring a Professional Organizer

Organizers tend to specialize in certain areas. For example, if you’re struggling with hoarding tendencies, you'll want to look for someone with certifications in that subject matter. If style is top priority, peek through an organizer's website or social media to see if their aesthetic jives with yours or the one you have saved on your Pinterest board.

Overall, Palau suggests hiring someone who asks a lot of questions and listens to your needs and goals. "There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to organizing, and much like a therapist, you want to find someone who you connect with and who you trust.” I remind clients that they're in a judgment-free zone when decluttering, and you should feel the same way with whomever you hire.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to organizing, and much like a therapist, you want to find someone who you connect with and who you trust.

Cost of Professional Organizing Services

Organizing services are an investment. The cost will vary depending on many factors, such as where you live (organizers in larger cities tend to set higher fees) and the size of the project. Many organizers also charge for work done outside of the house, such as custom labeling, so take that into account when evaluating the overall expense.

“When you are factoring in the cost, you’re going to want to consider the amount of time on site plus the off-site time needed to plan, research, and prepare, which could entail shopping for products, arranging for donation pickup, design work, etcetera. There’s a lot more that goes into a project than most people realize,” says Palau.

Some organizers charge clients by the hour while others charge by the project. “I never want my client to feel rushed to make a decision because the clock is ticking," says Palau about charging by the project. "I tend to look at the scope of the job and break it down into sessions which are essentially blocks of time so the client can focus on getting organized, not watching the clock.”

Whether it’s by the hour or session, the overall cost of hiring a professional organizer shouldn’t vary much when it’s broken down. According to Thumbtack, the average cost of a professional organizer is $65 per hour, with higher-end organizers charging up to $200 per hour.

Luckily, this investment is generally a one-time cost. While some clients ask for maintenance sessions or occasionally have an organizer return to work on another space (i.e. they had a baby and want the nursery organized), the majority of the cost for a professional organizer is up front and the payoff continues over time.

professional organizing plan

Marty Baldwin

What to Expect During Your First Session

Ask any organizer if you should clean up before they arrive and they'll give you an affirmative no. “I want to see people in their natural living environment,” says Palau.

Once the session gets started, the first phase involves purging items. “I call this ESP, short for empty, sort, and purge. The client is in the driver's seat deciding on what stays and what goes, so, yes, we need your participation during this part,” says Palau.

Once decluttering is complete, most organizers don’t require the client to be present for the second phase: organizing. Some people like to watch the magic unfold but most prefer to be surprised by the systems that are put in place.

Regardless, a professional should go over the new organization with you at the end of the session and explain any strategies or tips that you should use to maintain it.

What Not to Expect from a Professional Organizer

While every professional organizer has their own way of doing business, duties usually fall within the confines of decluttering and organizing. “Typically, an organizer is not there to clean. We’ll wipe down shelving and drawers as we work, but our purpose is to help the client identify what they no longer need or want and how best to organize the things they do,” says Palau.

A professional organizer's expertise and passion lies in letting go and getting organized, so they're the best person to call if you’re struggling in one or both of these areas.

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