Why I'm a professional organizer

21 January 2013

Often when I meet folks who learn what I do for a living, they’re keen on learning how I became a professional organizer. I explain the training I took and how I went about starting my business. (That’s all detailed in my blog post, Are you interested in becoming a professional organizer?.)

But seldom am I asked why I became a PO, rather than how. I thought I’d spend a little time today exploring that question.

In my observation, there are two sorts of folks who become professional organizers:

  • Those who do it because organizing comes so naturally to them. Being organized is like breathing. It’s their passion. So why not make a living doing it?
  • Those who enter the field because of their own struggles in getting and staying organized. They’ve spent a lifetime seeking solutions for themselves and want to share those solutions with others.

I fall into that second camp. As I’ve mentioned over and over, I’m a naturally messy person. I’m pretty organized in my space and I’m definitely organized inside my head, but I’m a bit messy and unruly. I sought solutions for my time management and clutter issues throughout my life and I learned a lot. I felt it was time to start sharing.

When I first contemplated starting my business, I was a freelance writer. I’d been writing about pets for ten years and had written hundreds of articles on various aspects of pet care. I’d had seven books published (a couple of which are no longer available) and contributed to several others. I was working on my last book, an ill-fated venture called Jane Goodall’s Return to Gombe co-written with the famed primatologist. The process of that book about killed me (and was never published) and I knew that in order to get through writing that manuscript I had to know it was going to be my last book. So I started looking for other things to do.

As I considered becoming a PO, I thought of several very important things that being a professional organizer would offer that being a freelance writer was not delivering:

  • The ability to help people directly and tangibly
  • Respect for my expertise (I was being very disrespected during the whole Goodall book experience)
  • Payment at the time of service

That was very appealing and a big part of why I became a PO. But why do I keep doing it, now that I’m in my eighth year of business?

Those initial three reasons did prove to be powerful. In addition, here are some other things I’ve found to so rewarding:

  • I get to help people transform their lives.
  • I help people feel better about themselves as I normalize (and empathize with) their messy behaviors.
  • I can help my clients go from striving (and failing) to be perfectly organized to reveling in being organized enough.
  • I get to effect vast, fast change by bringing in a team of organizers to help my clients.

Being a professional organizer is life-changing work for me. And its results can be life changing for my clients. It is easily the most rewarding work I’ve done in a career that’s spanned almost three decades. And as long as it continues to be this rewarding, I’ll keep doing it.

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Comments

Hello my name is Tanji and I have been stronglly considering becoming a PO. I enjoy orgnaizing things. I’m a single parent and I’m looking for something to do to better myself and my family. I just need a team of people who can help me get started. I live in Tulsa, Ok and I’m ready to run with this idea. Any suggestions?

Tanji Canada Dec 2, 11:54 AM

Janine,
Well said as usual! I don’t think I knew what you did before but I have always admired your writing. I always find it fascinating what other organizers did before finding their way to organizing. We have been teachers, rocket scientists, managers, salespeople, lawyers, and actresses. For twenty years you would have found me looking in a microscope in a hospital laboratory.
The final four points you shared are our common thread today. I love the hug, the paycheck, and the “When can you come back so we can do…”

Melanie Dennis Jul 3, 07:09 AM

Thanks so much for writing this blog! I’ve been considering being a PO as well. I currently work in retail management and it has really made me an organization freak. I absolutely love it! I need a nice group of people to help get me up and going. I live in the Houston, TX area and I am open to any ideas and or suggestions.

Brittany Jul 13, 02:41 PM

Brittany, I’d heartily recommend you join NAPO and the Houston chapter of NAPO. There you will meet a very nice group of people who can give you all sorts of advice and support. If you haven’t already, I also urge you to check out my blog post, Are you interested in becoming a professional organizer?, which has all sorts of resources. Be sure and read the comments, contributed by other POs.

Janine Adams Jul 13, 05:02 PM

Hi.
I’m a Teacher and ever since i’ve knovvn me, i’ve been keen in organizing and improving everything i put my eyes and hands on… even my students lifes. LoL!
Besides my love for Comic Book Art and Marcial Arts/Personal Defense, ive been helping friends organizing their micro/small interprises in order to create documents, organization and strategies to improve their income and their vvork rate.
Hovvever all in a “pro bono” status, since the Portuguese/European crisis isn’t helping anyone.
Hovvever i’m very curious in knovving hovv to start such a vvay of life as an Professional Organizer including not only the strategies needed to improve an Interprise but includid the Personal Defence and the need to be better prepared to look after your ovvn stafety in a daily basis.

Pharoyar Dec 13, 12:51 PM

First thank you for writing this post!
I am a college student pursing a bachelor’s degree in International Studies in Alabama and organizing is my passion so I am considering becoming a PO. I’m not exactly sure what route I should take due to me still being in college and not really being able to start a business just yet.

Clintisha Sellers Feb 19, 12:56 PM

Hi! I’m loving your posts and info! I’m a natural organizer and would love to get started as a PO! If we are just starting out, bottom floor, what do we consider ourselves when joining NAPO? We aren’t yet professional organizers, some of us aren’t in school, but our passion to grow and learn is there. Thanks!

Nicole Apr 12, 05:19 PM

Thanks for your comment, Nicole! New and aspiring organizers who join NAPO are considered provisional members. After taking three required courses, they move to professional member status. During that provisional time while you’re forming your business, I think it’s okay to consider yourself a professional organizer. I just think it’s a good idea to be honest about your experience level when talking with prospective clients.

Janine Adams Apr 13, 07:12 AM

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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