Professional Organizers are Starting Their Career Younger!
I had the fantastic opportunity to have Blessing McKenzie, a high school Junior, job shadow me yesterday. Blessing is considering a career as a professional organizer! I think that speaks volumes to where our industry is headed. She also interviewed me for her school project and agreed to let me blog about her questions and my answers.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you face for this job?
If you are a business owner, I would say the biggest challenge you face is finding clients, or rather clients finding you. That’s the simple answer. The fact is, the biggest problem is having the education and experience to work with chronically disorganized (CD) clients.
What is one thing that surprised you about this career?
What surprised me about this career was discovering people are chronically disorganized rather than situationally disorganized. When I first started my career, I thought I would be organizing people’s things in a more orderly way and put loose things in pretty containers and labeling them. I didn’t know, what I didn’t know! On this business-side, I was surprised to learn I could grow my business revenue with multiple streams of income such as paid speaking, training new organizers, writing books, subcontracting with The Container Store, and many more.
What are three personality traits that are crucial for someone in this career field?
Working with clients – non-judgmental, patient, and compassionate
Working as a business owner – self-starter (you’re the boss, and you need to know how to motivate yourself), be imperfect (perfectionism slows you down), and self-disciplined (good time management skills)
What is something most people do not know about this career?
Most of your clients will be chronically disorganized (CD), and most people starting out in this career don’t know the education and training required to work with CD clients.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned from this career?
Not to be judgmental with all people, not just my clients. There could be something traumatic going on or that happened that you are not aware of and that could be the cause for why people are the way they are.
How much does this career affect your personal life?
I didn’t spend as much time with my children when they were growing up as I hoped I would have. I chose a career that afforded me work-hour flexibility, but I worked way more than I originally planned to. I think this was due to how much I love this work, and I grew my business with multiple streams of revenue which required more of my time.
How has technology changed this career?
Apps make it easier to work with clients giving them aids to help them be better organized or productive. Using video conferencing such as Zoom allows me to work virtually with clients and training participants anywhere in the world. Apps also make it easier for me to run my business, for example, scheduling clients or taking credit card payments using the square.
What least excites you about this job?
Running payroll. As much as I like numbers, accounting, and tracking financials I detest the processing of payroll. I love getting paid, not the process of getting paid.
What do most of your projects consist of? Are they like what I experienced yesterday?
Most of my projects consist of working with individuals who are chronically disorganized; decluttering their space, setting up systems for how their brain works, and teaching them organizing skills. The project you job shadowed with me yesterday was similar; however, it is a project working with a client to downsize her belongings to move to a home that is 60 percent smaller than her current home.
What other careers or industries could you work in with your education and experience?
Coaching, education, business administration, and marketing, are the few that come to mind. All careers and industries can benefit from organizing and productivity skills, knowledge and experience.
What least excites you about this job?
Decluttering a garage. I only do garage projects with my team.
What advice do you have for someone just starting in this career field?
I have a lot of advice, that is why I have a training program for new professional organizers! But, for someone as young as you, if you are planning to go to college, I suggest you study business administration with a focus on marketing and also take psychology, sociology, and communication (interpersonal skills) courses. Learn as much about the human brain as you can!
Is there anything else that I did not see yesterday or that we have not talked about that you think is important for me to know as I continue my learning experience for this career?
Develop deep listening skills.
Thank you Anne for sharing this interview! I love that question of what was most surprising in this career. I have to say for me what was most surprising is how our non-judgemental and supportive approach make a such a big difference for our clients. Most of our clients have faced criticism and negative admonitions most of their lives. They want help and are reluctant to ask for help since they fear we will judge them. Our work together focuses on working from their strengths and supporting their efforts. We offer them a partnership in getting to their goals.
How beautiful that Blessing wanted to explore the life of being a professional organizer! I can't think of a better person to learn from than you, Anne. I love all of the questions and responses and thought I'd add a few more here too. As far as desirable personality traits for organizers, I agree with all of yours- being non-judgmental, patient, and compassionate. Also, I'll add encouraging, resourceful, and curious. As far as a valuable lesson learned from this career, I've realized that change (which our clients seek) takes time and patience. The path is not a straight trajectory. My client's desire for change and what they're willing to do to make that change happen doesn't always match. So it takes patience on the part of the client and organizer to move things forward. It's important to give clients the time, space, and pacing to do that. While some will dive in and just do, others need and will move slowly. So learning to adjust your own pace to theirs is essential.
Linda and Ellen are spot on.
Listening and building trust, good communication and creating solutions that meet each clients specific needs. No one size fits all.
What advice would I give to someone just starting out?
Get as much education from the industry leaders. Anne course is how I got started. A wealth of information and she is a wonderful mentor to this day. NAPO and ICD are valuable resources. Take as many classes you can. It will enrich your business and enrich your client experience.
Also get the right equipment for the project. It makes your life easier, more efficient and WOWS your clients.
Hi, Blessing !
It is so exciting to know you are interested! I am in my 50's, and started this career in my early 40's, after a long one in high tech/database marketing.
-One needs to love being an entrepreneur as much as organizing, or if not, then work for an organizing company;
-Echoing the chronic disorganization comment: think about anxiety, depression, former substance abusers in recovery, ADHD, concussion or brain injury, aging effects, and more. When you consider the mental health issues (hidden or admitted), we need to "do no harm." And we can inadvertently do harm if not well educated.
-Key will be learning about local resources not only for 'things' but therapists, AA groups, etc. AA, Celebrate Recovery, and other groups are a familiar framework which can be used with clients on our work, too.
-Keep learning and adapting your services to the times, the generations you work with and particularly consider cultural differences (ethnic, gender, spiritual,etc.) as these can all help you tailor your solutions.