Wanna-be Professionals

I’ve been collecting horror stories from clients, of other “professionals” in my field they’ve hired who have done crappy jobs, and I feel like venting about it today.

A current client of mine loves to sing my praises. She has also told me that she is paying more for me than she has for any other organizer. My rate is $50, which is hovering just above the bottom of the official range. Let me tell you just what my client got for her money when she hired the bargain basement “organizers.”

These organizers seemed to focus mainly on appearance over utility. My client has one of those cubby-type wall units, and rather than create any sort of system, the organizers would just stash things in there to make the room appear neater. That’s bad enough – bare-bones housecleaning rather than organizing – but some would also just put things up in the attic to create more of a sense of neatness. Now, my client’s attic is a space that is freezing in winter and stifling in summer, which my client (who is not in the best health) would virtually never enter. Oh, the things were in boxes, and the boxes were labeled – most of them – but there was no master list given to my client, so over time she forgot what was up there. She had to buy new clothes (and clothing is one of her hoarding issues), because she had no idea that there were entire boxes of nearly-new clothes sitting up there. Until she hired me, my client had no idea what a real organizer could actually do for her. I don’t claim that I’m the best organizer EVAR; my only claim is that I am actually organizing rather than tidying and stashing. These organizers were also often judgmental and scoldy.

Another client family hired a home stager to come to their house to help them get it ready for sale. (Home staging is a related profession to organizing.) This woman was incredibly rude to them, telling them that theirs was “the worst house she’d seen,” and basically making them feel like crap. This family definitely had chronic disorganization issues, and the house needed a lot of work to get it ready for sale, but there are tactful ways the stager could have expressed this. They said that I had been so non-judgmental and gentle that the stager’s attitude was like a slap in the face.

Another client recently told me that a housecleaner basically refused to clean around her family’s clutter, and was very unkind to them about the state of their house. Although her house is not very cluttered compared to most I’ve seen – the clutter would really only interfere with dusting – my client has put off hiring another housecleaner because she doesn’t want to deal with the stress.

I’m glad that professional organizing is one of those careers that’s open to self-starters. I’m glad that I didn’t have to invest years of schooling and tons of money to get a degree so that I could be an organizer. But the problem with the fact that anyone can be an organizer, stager, or housecleaner is that anyone can be an organizer, stager, or housecleaner. And many of them will suck. There is a fairly new title created by NAPO: Certified Professional Organizer. It requires a certain number of hours of work experience and a written exam. I appreciate this, and I may take the test someday so I can put those letters after my name. (Also so I can charge more money, woohoo!) It will help give clients some assurance when choosing an organizer.

I know there are many people who would like to hire me but can’t afford my rate. I’m all for bargain shopping, and there are beginning organizers who do a fine job at $20/hr. But I want everyone to remember that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, and that organizers should be giving you more control over your belongings, not less.

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