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What Does A Professional Organizer Look Like?

I once had an apprentice organizer express concerns about not succeeding in this field because she didn’t fit the stereotype of a real PO. She described a terminally left-brained and logical individual, fastidious to a fault, immaculately dressed in a suit and sensible shoes—a compulsive neatnik who follows a strict schedule from dawn to dusk, never puts anything where it doesn’t belong, and insists that her clients do the same. All I can say is, if that’s what a “real” organizer looks like, not many of my colleagues qualify. (Lord knows I don’t look anything like that!)

There’s no such thing as a “typical” PO—we’re as varied and diverse a group as you could ever hope to find. We’re young and old, gay and straight, male and female, liberal and conservative, representing every conceivable socio-economic, religious, and ethnic background. Some have been anal retentive since birth, others are recovering “messies.” (And many of us actually revel in slobbery during off-hours!) You’ll find buttoned-down “banker’s-business-blue” alongside jeans and tees—a handful of birks-and-hemp granola-types, a few serious fashionistas, and even a couple of total weirdos like me. (I’m pretty sure I’m the only NAPO member who pairs biker boots and facial piercings with a professional blazer!) Whomever you are, there’s a place for you in our house!

Organizers also hail from every occupation imaginable—teachers, scientists, executives, actors, lawyers, counselors, artists, homemakers, hookers (joke!), you name it. Many were previously involved with tangential industries (like interior design, social work, con-sulting, or house cleaning) and saw this career shift as a natural transition. Others fled white collar slavery in search of a more balanced life. The majority either worked in “helping professions” or at jobs which required them to be exceptionally efficient and methodical in order to survive. But they all share one common characteristic, in that they wanted more—more satisfaction, more control over their time, and more freedom.

Let me also point out that organizing is just about the least cutthroat industry you’ll find anywhere in the free market. Think of this profession as more of a tribe, a family, an anarcho-syndicalist commune (if you’re a Monty Python fan)—filled with positive reciprocal relationships. We’ve adopted a “pay it forward” way of thinking rather than a “me first” mentality. You’ll find folks (who should by all rights be your competitors) offering advice, pulling for you to succeed, and even referring their excess customers your way—the general attitude is, “there’s plenty for all of us.” It’s a refreshing little slice of cooperative economics in the midst of all this insane, frigging, dog-eat-dog capitalism!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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