ORGANIZE!: How to Choose the Right Professional Organizer

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by Helene Segura, MA Ed, CPO®

A professional organizer can literally change your life and help create improvements in your physical, mental and emotional health. But first you need to find the right one, a qualified, experienced professional organizer. Knowing how to do that is important.

The organizing industry is relatively new when you consider that other professions such as medical, legal and accounting have been in existence for hundreds of years. These industries have developed rules, regulations and standards over the centuries in order to keep standards high and protect the public from those who don’t measure up.

The organizing consultant industry is very young. Six years ago, in 2007, the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO) developed its certification credential. Prior to that, there were no regulations established beyond a voluntary code of ethics promoted by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). This voluntary code of ethics is unenforceable, so anyone can create a website or print business cards and call themselves a “professional organizer.” They can also violate every part of the code with no professional sanctions or repercussions.

To protect your safety, your privacy and your wallet, before you engage an “organization professional” ask some questions. Here are some good ones:

1. Are you a Certified Professional Organizer® or are you employed and trained by a Certified Professional Organizer®?

The requirements for certification are rigorous. To be eligible to take the BCPO® certification exam, a professional organizer must acquire (within three consecutive years prior to the exam) 1,500 hours of paid client work that must include a transfer of skills (teaching, not just shuffling papers or buying bins and baskets). Once the exam is passed, the certified organizer must adhere to the Code of Ethics or risk losing the credential, and continuing education units are required to re-certify every three years. To find a CPO® in your area, visit http://bit.ly/ FindCPO. Because of the requirements, certification is not quick or easy.

Currently, there are three certified professional organizers in San Antonio:

  • Vanessa Hayes, MHR, CPO® since 2013
  • Joan Kearl, CPO® since 2009
  • Helene Segura, MA Ed, CPO® since 2009

2. Do you belong to the local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO San Antonio)?

If the professional organizer you’ve found online is serious about her/his profession, that person will belong to the national group that supports the profession and the local chapter. NAPO separates the pros from the pack, so make sure you choose a pro from www.NAPOSanAntonio.com. There are only 11 Professional Organizers in San Antonio who meet this requirement, including the three CPOs listed above.

3. What personal training have you received from Certified Professional Organizers® or experts in psychology, project management, spatial planning or other fields related to organizing and productivity?

You want your doctors and attorneys to be up-to-date on the latest information in their fields. You should expect no less from your organizing consultant or productivity specialist.

4. Is your company insured?

Anyone who is running a legitimate business will carry commercial liability insurance (called NAPO SURE – not just liability under their homeowners insurance policy). If they have employees, they should be bonded and insured.

5. What kinds of organizing or productivity projects do you do?

Organizing falls into two broad categories: residential and business. Within each category, there are specialties. You want to find a professional organizer who specializes in what you need for your situation. Some organizers come in and do, while others consult or coach, and some offer a combination. Ask them to describe their organizing process/approach or a typical working session to see if it’s the right approach for your needs.

With the help of the right professional organizer, you will be able to get your home and life in shape.

Helen Segura, MA Ed, CPOHelene Segura, MA Ed, CPO®, is the owner of LivingOrder® San Antonio. She began her professional organizing career in 2006 after spending more than a decade as a classroom teacher, where she began developing her organizing training techniques. She is the current President of BCPO®, was a founding board member of NAPO San Antonio, and serves on the trailblazing team at Clutter Diet. She is the author of Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom and ROAD MAP to Get Organized: Discover Your Thinking, Learning and Working Styles to Get Your Life Back on Track. To view her free tips from media appearances or for information about her books, individual coaching and workshops, visit www.LivingOrderSA.com.

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