What made you decide to start an organizing and move management business?
(Terri speaking) I’ve been asked this question so many times so thought I would answer it here. After many years working at an engineering association, I knew there was something out there more in line with who God created me to be. In fact, I’d been praying about it and was in a watchful and waiting mode for quite some time. In July of 2003, as I was walking downstairs to get my morning coffee, I heard a still small voice that simply said Professional Organizing. I immediately got on the computer, typed in “professional organizing,” and couldn’t believe what I was reading. I knew this was the answer to my prayers! I called my husband and he said it was a “no brainer” and that I had his full support. Ten years later, in January of 2013, my husband quit his long-time career in cable design and joined me as our Operations Manager. This work truly has been a calling for both of us and the most fulfilling thing we’ve ever done, knowing we’re making a real, tangible difference in people’s lives.
I feel embarrassed to have anyone come to my home. Do I have to clean up first?
No, you don’t have to clean up beforehand – as a matter of fact, it’s helpful if we see how you typically live so we have an accurate picture of the way things really are. We’re accustomed to seeing all kinds of situations and we’re there to support you, not to judge or criticize. We’re members of two professional associations, NAPO and NASMM, and abide by a Code of Ethics concerning client confidentiality. You can rest assured that your identity and our work together will remain confidential.
I’ve tried to get organized myself but am overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. How can you help me?
We focus on solutions, not problems. We can see the big big picture and envision the end result, no matter how bad things may seem to you. We have project management skills and the ability to break down large projects into manageable tasks. We keep you on track so you can focus and you’re not bouncing from one thing to another, never completing anything. Working with us is similar to working with a personal trainer to get in shape. When you work with us, you learn how to exercise your “organization muscles” by helping to create organized systems, learning new skills, and practicing them until they become habits.
How much does it cost?
We get asked this question ALL the time. The short answer is “it depends,” as the cost varies from project to project, as no two situations are identical. During the initial consultation, we give an estimate based on the services you need and other variable factors. Professional Organizers and Move Managers in the Atlanta area typically charge anywhere from $45-$95/hour per person. Our rates fall in between that range. We can break the project into phases to make it work with your budget. Factors that may influence the rate different companies charge are experience, specialties, accreditations and professional memberships. Choosing a Professional Organizer or Move Manager strictly by price may be a mistake. You’ll most likely get the result you want if you focus on value and choose an organizer with a personality and skill set that matches your needs.
How long does it take to complete an organizing or move project?
It depends on the scope of the project and can vary greatly. When we do the initial consultation, we discuss goals and do a walk-through of your home. Factors that affect how long it takes are the services needed, manpower requirements, size of rooms, volume of clutter, level of organization, how quickly decisions are made, your health/energy level, distractibility, and interruptions. During the consultation, we evaluate these factors based on our experience, and give an estimate of what we think it will take to accomplish your goals.
Will I be able to do it all myself?
People who are highly motivated and already fairly well organized may be able to follow through on our suggestions and do it themselves. However, most people who inquire about our services have already tried and failed on their own and need hands-on assistance to accomplish their goals. There are many books in the marketplace with ideas and tips on getting organized, and we often find them in our client’s homes. However, we’ve found that most people need more personalized direction, help and accountability than any book can provide.
What should I look for in a Professional Organizer or Move Manager?
Professional affiliations with the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) are a good place to start. A professional strives to continuously improve their knowledge so they can better serve their clients. Certifications such as Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) is another indicator of professionalism and experience. Many people may possess natural organizing abilities and skills that work well for their own personal lives. However, an experienced Professional Organizer or Move Manager is someone who applies organizing principles to achieve their client’s desired outcome, not their own. They’re excellent listeners and watch for subtle clues, shifting gears when needed, and have an innate ability to know when to push and when to back off. They focus on solving the unique challenges of the client and put judgment aside so it’s a safe and supportive environment.
What is the difference between a mover and a Senior Move Manager?
There are many differences between a mover and a Senior Move Manager, but the main one is that a mover is just about the boxes and getting things moved from Point A to Point B. A Senior Move Manager is about the whole transition – the emotions, memories, and family dynamics. As Senior Move Managers, we help our clients take the right amount of furniture and possessions so the space is attractive and not cluttered or dangerous. We’re mindful about not randomly disposing of items without first asking the family if they want them. We watch out for things like the glass coffee table with sharp corners that may not be easily seen due to poor eyesight. We watch for expired medicines and jars of salad dressing that are ten years old that need to be tossed. We handle all the other stuff the client is not taking to their new home. A Senior Move Manager has the TOTAL picture of the client and their family, and is a single point of contact throughout the project. Most of all, a Senior Move Manager is about caring, compassion, organization, efficiency, and responsiveness to the client’s needs. Can a mover do all that? I don’t think so!!
I’d like to get organizing help for someone I care about. Can you help them?
The million-dollar question is, “How does the person feel about getting help?” Are they open and receptive or resistant? As much as you may see the need and want to help someone, if they aren’t emotionally ready and don’t think there’s a problem, they will likely be resistant. There may be a better time later when they’re emotionally ready to make the changes necessary to become more organized and let go of excess possessions that may be contributing to the problem. The bottom line is you can’t force or coerce someone into getting help if they don’t want it.
Do you work with hoarders?
Our policy is that we do not work with hoarders unless they’re actively engaged in therapy for emotional support and there is a collaborative (three-way) relationship between the client, therapist and organizer. Even then, progress can be extremely laborious and slow. Various surveys have found that compulsive hoarders often have other mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and social phobias. We usually refer people with hoarding disorder to the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, Steri-Clean, or ServiceMaster ReStore. Professional counseling and free self-help support groups are available at The Anxiety & Stress Management Institute in Atlanta.
How do I become a Professional Organizer or Senior Move Manager?
We often receive inquiries about how to get started as a Professional Organizer or Senior Move Manager. Here’s what we recommend:
- Visit the NAPO website and read the Getting Started Guide. Familiarize yourself with the rest of the site as well.
- Use the “Find a Pro” feature (on the NAPO home page) to visit many different web sites of organizers in various locations. This will give you an idea of the broad scope of services that professional organizers provide.
- Visit the NAPO-Georgia website. You are welcome to attend as a visitor for a small fee before joining.
- Visit the NASMM website for information on the senior move management industry, if interested.
- Visit the ICD website. While you may choose not to work with chronically disorganized clients, it’s important to know about this.
- Read up on the subject. A few recommended books are:
Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morganstern
How to Start a Home-Based Professional Organizing Business by Dawn Noble
Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash by Vickie Dellaquila
The Organizing Sourcebook by Kathy Waddill
ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg & Kathleen Nadeau
- Practice on family and friends to see what it is like and get written testimonials from them. Take before and after photos and use them for future marketing.
- Tell people what you are doing and offer to help them at an introductory rate.
- Document all the hours you work even if you don’t get paid. This will provide you with the backup information you will need to get certified if you want to in the future.
- Check out as many local networking groups as you can to help spread the word.