My Journey to Becoming a Professional Organizer

I get several inquiries a month regarding how I got into the field of Professional Organizing, in addition to a general curiosity about the industry overall.  While I would sincerely love to respond to each inquiry individually, I just don't realistically always have the time to do so.   It occurred to me that sharing my journey in the form of a blog article would be a great solution!


There are MANY avenues that one could take toward becoming a professional organizer (and there are many types of organizers). While I don't profess to be an 'expert' at starting a business in this field, I'm happy to simply share my own story...




I married my husband 2 weeks after my college graduation.  As a new bride, I entered the full-time workforce with only a vague idea of what I wanted to pursue career-wise.  I had earned a degree in Mass Communications because I thought I would enjoy the coursework and subject matter, and I did!  Though, as time went on, I was not fully convinced I could see myself in a traditional mainstream career that my college training was preparing me for (truth be told, upon enrolling in college as a freshman, my long-term goals were primarily focused on a future in the theater...but that's another story altogether!).


For several of those newlywed years I worked whatever jobs I could, in the series of towns we found ourselves living in, to support my husband during graduate school.   While I was a hard worker and determined to succeed wherever I was employed, I was never completely satisfied in the work I did.  There was always a part of me that felt ‘untapped’ or unfulfilled.  I also had a recurring desire to work for myself.  This most likely stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs! 

During those years, I had time to contemplate what I really enjoyed about each job I had held, as well as pin-point specific talents or strengths I had that could  translate into some sort of small business.  I read several books that aided in this reflection period. 


The book, Why you Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be, was particularly helpful.

“This book is based on the idea that every person is endowed from birth with a unique pattern of  skills, competencies and motivations, or gifts.  This book describes your Motivated Abilities Pattern (MAP) which indicates your personal giftedness and encourages you to pursue your unique calling and live a purposeful life that is highly productive and richly satisfying.”
Motivated Abilities are the abilities and activities that:
  • You are drawn to
  • You find absorbing and engaging
  • You gravitate to without thinking about them
  • Come so naturally to you that you think of them as ‘common sense’
Many people lose track of time when these abilities are engaged. They represent you at your best.
I observed that in every job I had, I thoroughly enjoyed the role of service that I could supply.  I liked feeling useful and helpful to either customers or my employer.   Other jobs revealed a natural ability with leadership roles that allowed me to develop, motivate and teach in some way.  More than that, I realized that I thrived in settings where I was allowed an outlet of creativity and quick problem solving.  As a life long planner/list maker, I've always known myself to be a very task oriented person.  However, I needed plenty of new tasks and challenges in order to keep me interested in my tasks, or I'd soon become quite bored and lose motivation.  I also discovered that I am a people person and that I enjoy my work much more if I can work alongside someone else, rather than alone, at least 50% of the time.

Eventually, I stumbled upon a show on the HGTV network called 'Mission Organization.'  It was then that I learned that there was actually such a thing as a ‘Professional Organizer.'  After watching several episodes of the show, it occurred to me that this particular trade really did play to a lot of my natural abilities and interests.  
It also occurred to me that organizing is something I had been doing/thinking about (for myself and others) since childhood.  This was a type of task that was indeed easy for me to ‘get lost in’ and that I never tired of.  It also played to my natural ability and interests in helping, serving, and teaching, not to mention the creativity I could exercise in coming up with clever and novel organizing solutions.   Pairing this idea with my personal drive to own and operate my own business, this career path began to look extremely promising!

I knew it would be a few more years before I could realistically launch an official business.  At the time, I had a baby at home, and a husband in the middle of pursuing his Ph.D. I used the next few years to intentionally build my knowledge of the field of organizing in addition to researching how to start a small business.

My personal journey landed me on the website, OnlineOrganizing.com, which has now evolved into getorganizednow.com . I found it to be quite helpful in my early planning stages.  There were articles and quizzes that helped to guide my mental process in understanding the field of Professional Organizing.  Now, there several websites to choose from which provide resources for organizational study/business start-up as well as an on-line training. You can also inquire about hiring a qualified personal coach who can help take your organizing business to the next level. 

I was extremely blessed to be directed and connected with a seasoned Professional Organizer (from a personal friend) that has become a most valued mentor.  She continues to be an amazing resource that I can bounce ideas off of about building my business as well as get general encouragement and practical advice from.  
I look forward to the day that I, too, can act as a coach/mentor to budding professional organizers in the field (most likely when my children are quite a bit older).


My studies and inquiries very quickly acquainted me with The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO.net).


From the website:
The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) is a group of about 4,200 professional organizers dedicated to helping individuals and businesses bring order and efficiency to their lives. Our vision is to have the world recognize the value of organizing and turn to NAPO as the leading organizing authority. Our mission is to develop, lead, and promote professional organizers and the organizing industry.
In addition to serving professional organizers, we aim to help consumers and those interested in becoming professional organizers. We offer programs, information, and guidance for each of these groups.
While a membership with a local NAPO chapter paired with achievement of a certification in organizing {through a guided curriculum that they offer} could certainly increase your credibility, increase your exposure, and help provide general confidence as an organizer, it is not required to obtain in order to offer professional services. 


I opted to initially develop my own self-guided curriculum in the early stages of my business based on the current season of life we were in.  I considered some of the texts suggested on both websites, utilized my local library and whenever we had a date night that led us to a bookstore, I always wandered through the small business and home/decorating/hobby sections to add to my continuing education. 

I honed my growing skills by offering organizing services to friends and family members either for free or for a very low fee {I viewed this process like an Internship} to get experience as well as eventual references/referrals. 

About three years and one more baby later, hubby completed his Ph.D.  The opportunity for officially launching my business was at hand!   I created a list of all that I would need to complete for a very basic start-up with the help of the secretary of state website suggestions (things like taking care of legalities, creating a website and social media presence, getting business cards printed, generating marketing and advertising ideas to get my name out in our new community) and began working toward completing them little by little, one day at a time. 


I've made a personal commitment to continue reading and learning something new that will help build upon my skills and knowledge each and every day that gives me the continued confidence and ability to service a variety of organizational challenges.  It is also a goal of mine to eventually achieve a few specific certifications in order to offer specialized support to specific more challenging or chronic disorganization circumstances. 



It is my personal opinion that natural ability, know-how, and a general passion and enjoyment of organizing is but a small portion of what it will take to succeed as an independent Professional Organizer.  You've first got to have plenty of guts, ambition, and drive in order to conquer the many challenges you're sure to encounter as an entrepreneur.   I would also say that it's possibly equally important to not only have confidence in your skills, but also possess a nurturing and compassionate temperament in order to come alongside to serve, educate, motivate and inspire your clients in their unique organizational goals and challenges.   


Best wishes on your organizing journey!

6 comments:

  1. Great post Heidi!

    No guts no glory in business for sure -- and the comment on working alongside others was spot on. I could organize my own stuff, but organizing for someone else and with someone else took some practice! :)

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  2. OMG I was SOOOO excited to see the title of this post. Have saved it to my evernote notebook so i can find it again and again. I recently wrote this. I'm at the beginning stage of your journey...

    http://organisingthechaos.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/why-do-i-want-to-become-professional.html

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  3. I hope you don't mind but I have shared your post on my facebook page
    https://www.facebook.com/organisingthechaos

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  4. So I'm wondering did you join NAPO? And did you do any schooling on this ?
    This is the path I would like to be on! Thanks for your insight

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  5. Great advice! I'm really interested in the book you referenced; Why You Can't be Anything You Want to Be... Thanks, Heidi!!

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  6. The Professional Organizer Training Institute offers a variety of programs for you to start your own Professional Organizer business. www.professionalorganizertraininginstitute.com

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Thanks for reading!

If you have a specific question, I would love to connect with you via email:
OperationOrganizationByHeidi@gmail.com