Niche Professional Organizers
Interviews with Professional Organizers focusing on their unique niche.
This month we interviewed
Anne: Sheila, when and why did you become a professional organizer?
Sheila: I began my professional organizing business in 1994. My children were in High School then, and I was bored with my secretarial job and feeling antsy to do something more creative and fulfilling. I’d been doing ‘the thing’ of organizing since I was a young child, but I never made the connection that ‘the thing’ had a name…organizing! One day, while searching my local library, I came to the self-help section and gasped when I found a book called “How to Conquer Clutter” by Stephanie Culp. It was kismet; I could feel my heart swell to the answer of my life’s purpose and destiny. I haven’t looked back since.
Anne: What was the most challenging part of starting your business or working with clients and how did you overcome it?
Sheila: The most challenging part has been the ‘how to run a business,’ something I never learned in college, and it was my greatest challenge; in some ways it still is. I had to learn the significance of self-discipline if I wanted to succeed, and also how to master delegation (outsourcing administrative tasks I hate), as well as the challenging behaviors involving perfectionism, a major cause for procrastination. As to clients, I can’t really say I’ve had many challenges working with clients, and the majority of my clients are chronically disorganized…my favorite clientele!
Anne: Sheila, you have been actively involved in the industry associations (NAPO and ICD). How has that benefited you in the growth of your business or working with clients?
Sheila: Yes, and similarly to yourself Anne, I jumped in the same month I began my organizing business (November 1994), and immediately joined the NAPO-NY Chapter as well. Immediately NAPO provided the support and validation I needed; the Professional Organizing wasn’t a hobby but a viable growing profession. Although in those early years, there wasn’t much in terms of formal education, networking amongst ourselves created a stronger fabric (bond) and being a part of that growing structure was exhilarating. We learned from one another. Then came NSGCD through Judith Kolberg, who introduced the idea of chronic disorganization (CD) to a small handful of POs during a private gathering during conference (can’t remember the year…mid 90’s I think). All I could think was…this was my primary client base, those whom I attracted and visa-versa. In 2001 NSGCD formalized and became a not-for-profit, 501 (c)3, whose mission is to research, educate and bring awareness to other professional organizers and the general public on the issues involving CD. A board of directors was formed, and in 2002 we launched the first Industry Certification program for Professional Organizers! Fast forward, NSGCD is now the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). I cannot express the value of the time I’ve spent in leadership with both organizations in terms of business education, building valued colleague relationships, honing my writing, speaking and organizing skills which ultimately benefit my clients.
Anne: As an organization consultant, you specialize in virtual organizing and training Professional Organizers how to organize virtually. Why did you decide to specialize in virtual organizing?
Sheila: There are many reasons. The idea was born first from a need I began to observe, and it had to do with client’s ‘affordability’ and budget restraints that affected the outcome of whatever the project was. Either they would postpone appointments until they could refill the coffers (afford) to pay for another work session, or stop service before completing the project, or there were time restraints for setting appointments (I have a 3-hr. minimum), etc. Clients become discouraged when their need outweighs their ability to pay for service, which creates a huge frustration for them and us POs. I began to worry about the validity of our profession if our services alienated those in need due to financial restrictions. I realized that this was a large, developing ‘gap.’ So, in 2009 I challenged one such client with an experiment. I had an idea for how we could keep project momentum and costs manageable by meeting regularly and with less session time…via Skype. It was an incredible success for both of us, and from there, Virtual Organizing became one of my active add-on services. Virtual Organizing has many benefits for the client as well as for the PO. Today, as a 24+year veteran organizer, most of my client work is delivered virtually. As I age, I’m aware of my own physical and stamina limitations, and VO keeps me actively doing the work I love. In 2014 I developed the Delson Virtual Organizing Training Program for Professional Organizers with the hopes of ‘bridging the gap’ between accessing a needy client and a trained and willing Professional Organizer.
Anne: How has niching your business changed your business? If yes, how?
Sheila: As a PO, it has provided steady income, managed at my own pace, time and session flexibility that accommodates both the client and myself, delivered in my own office (no traveling), with less wear and tear on my body, and there are many other benefits as well.
Anne: What do you advise your clients and Professional Organizers to do as the first step in organizing virtually?
Sheila: I think the first step is directed to the PO to establish if VO is a comfortable business model and if s/he has the right experience, knowledge, and skill-set. For the PO, it’s about skilled delivery. For the client, it’s quite a bit different. I do have a list of protocols for both PO and client and find being a good fit is important. Virtual Organizing is a different delivery method, with many nuances, which is why I stress the importance of Virtual Organizing training.
Anne: What is your most surprising discovery about working with clients virtually?
Sheila: That the ability for ‘transferring skills’ is far greater than when I work with a client on-site. For the CD client, this can be an incredible, unexpected benefit that can provide long-term results. Clients are far less stressed and feel more ‘in control.’ And, although the results may be a little slower, the work can be consistently steady which increases motivation and a sense of success. Skill transfer is increased due to neuroplasticity (the development of new brain neuron connections) because they are the only ones touching, moving and doing the actual work (think brain-muscle memory). I find this to be my favorite part of Virtual Organizing because the potential outcome is just so exciting to me.
Anne: What has been a personal challenge with organizing an area of your life?
Sheila: Balancing my business life and time with my family life. As I get older, my inclination is to spend as much time with my family and friends as I can, which is another reason why Virtual Organizing works so well for me…less travel, less stress…more ‘me’ time!
Anne: Do you have any information on your virtual organizing training program that you would like to share with professional organizers and related professionals?
Sheila: Information on my Virtual Organizing Training Program can be accessed here:
Anne: What is the best way to connect with you?