Hiring a professional organizer

Since January is the National Association of Professional Organizer’s Get Organized and Be Productive Month, I’ve asked Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing in Cary, North Carolina, to share her insights with us on how to hire a professional organizer. For many of us, having someone coach us through the uncluttering process can be very beneficial.

If you decide to hire a professional organizer, start by looking for someone who is diplomatic, empathetic, willing to listen, non-judgmental, creative, patient, and trustworthy. Also, to ensure that the professional organizer follows ethical business practices, check your local Better Business Bureau reports and look for someone who is involved a professional organization like the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) in the US. For professional organizing associations in other parts of the world, check the International Federation of Professional Organizing Associations (IFPOA).

It is okay to interview different organizing and productivity professionals to get a feel for who matches best with your personality. Below is a menu of questions you might consider asking when hiring someone:

  1. What are your areas of expertise? (Some possible answers may include: garages, clients with ADHD, time management, wardrobes and closets, financial matters, computer-related challenges, speaking, coaching, writing, estate liquidation, downsizing for seniors, home staging, relocation, etc.)
  2. Are you certified? Insured? (Certification is optional and not required. NAPO has many well-qualified organizers that are not certified for a variety of reasons.)
  3. Do you attend conferences or teleclasses to stay abreast of current organizing trends and techniques?
  4. Do you have local references?
  5. Do you belong to any professional organizations? (I would not hire a professional organizer who is not involved in some type of professional group or organization. To me, a professional affiliation demonstrates not only a commitment to the field but an additional way to check out that person among other business-minded individuals.)
  6. How long have you been in business? How many clients / hours have you worked?
  7. What hours do you work? What days of the week are you available? (Make sure that this person’s availability is a good match for your availability.)
  8. Do you bring the necessary supplies, or do I purchase them separately?
  9. If you purchase supplies or materials at a discount, do you “up charge” or charge an hourly shopping fee?
  10. Do you make arrangements to take away donations, consignments, and trash? If so, do you charge a fee for this service?
  11. Do you work alone or do you have a team of employees or subcontractors, if necessary?
  12. Do you have advertising on your car? (Ask this only if you do not want co-workers or neighbors to know you are hiring a professional organizer.)
  13. Do you take photographs? Will they be on your website?
  14. What is your cancellation policy?
  15. How do you charge? Of course, I don’t need to tell you to inquire about fees but there are many options available, including hourly, by the project, or bulk rates. There may be a minimum number of hours required per booking, too, so ask about that.

Remember that professional organizers and productivity consultants are not housekeepers, therapists, decorators, or nurses unless they specifically tell you that their credentials include these jobs.

NAPO defines Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant as follows:

Professional Organizer: supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around objects, space, and data; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding function, order, and clarity.

Productivity Consultant: supports evaluation, decision-making, and action around time, energy, and resources; helping clients achieve desired outcomes regarding goals, effectiveness, and priorities.

If you have ADHD or any other type of chronic organizing challenge, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization is the place to find a qualified organizer.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Making a family first aid kit

Today we welcome guest post author Geralin Thomas, the ideal professional organizer from Cary, NC, and her amazing advice for making a family first aid kit.

Whether it’s a scrape, a sting or a sore throat, being prepared and having the right antidote on hand can soothe almost anything that ails you or your children. Creating a family-friendly first aid kit doesn’t have to be a pain in the aspirin (hee hee hee).

The “kit” can be a backpack, large ice bucket, plastic cooler, metal toolbox, small suitcase or something similar. Look around your home and chances are, you will have a container that can be repurposed and is suitable for the job. The contents of the kit can be purchased from any drugstore. The idea of today’s post is to motivate you to organize, update and/or create a kit so you’re prepared.

Below is a list of possible items to include in your home remedy kit. While this list is far from perfect and won’t be appropriate for all families, it is a starting point. Please leave comments and share suggestions regarding what your own home remedy kit will contain.

  • An oral syringe, or calibrated cup and spoon for administering liquid medicines
  • Children’s strength liquid acetaminophen or ibuprofen (non-aspirin)
  • Pediatrician-approved children’s strength liquid decongestant
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Activated charcoal (use only if advised by the Poison Control Center)
  • Digital thermometer
  • Tweezers and a pair of sharp scissors
  • Latex gloves
  • Safety pins
  • Sterilized needle
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Hydrocortisone cream (0.5% for children)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Nasal aspirator bulb syringe
  • Variety of adhesive bandage strips
  • Gauze rolls, sterile
  • Gauze pads, sterile
  • Adhesive tape
  • Cotton pads and cotton swabs
  • Heating pad
  • Hot-water bottle and cover
  • Ice pack
  • Pedialyte Oral Electrolyte Solution

In addition to the store-bought items below, consider including an index card with the following information typed in a large, bold, easy-to-read font:

  • Mobile phone numbers of parents and the home address (in the event someone, in an emergency, can’t recall the home address)
  • Children’s full names, any known allergies and birthdates
  • Pediatrician’s name and phone number
  • Pharmacy’s phone number and address
  • American Red Cross First Aid — Responding to Emergencies

Yard Sales: An unclutterer’s ultimate, how-to guide

Today we welcome guest post author Geralin Thomas, the ideal professional organizer, and her amazing advice for a successful yard sale.

A pocketful of cash, a clutter-free home, and a lot of interaction between your stuff and passers-by all make yard sales hard to resist. Who hasn’t driven by a yard sale and wondered if there’s a too-good-to-be-true bargain hiding behind a used sewing machine, or if the perfect whatcha-ma-call-it at a to-die-for price is amidst all the other treasures?

Why have a yard sale?
We all want our homes to be clean and neat and to reflect who we are. A truly great home balances organization with comfort and style. Hosting a yard sale provides incentive to edit things from your house that no longer fit, work, come in handy, or relate to your lifestyle. Oh yes, and yard sales generate extra income. So, why not have a yard sale?

Choose the right day

  1. Not every day is right for a yard sale. For example, don’t schedule your sale on a holiday weekend unless you live in a tourist town.
  2. The best months for sales are April, May, June and September.
  3. If possible, try to schedule your sale near the 1st or the 15th of the month because those are paydays for a lot of shoppers.
  4. Saturdays are best.
  5. Earlier in the day is better than later.

Spread the word

  1. Contact local authorities and inquire about restrictions, regulations, permits, etc. for posting signs and hosting sales.
  2. Let your neighbors know about your sale; if they don’t want strangers parking in front of their homes, place “no parking” signs where appropriate.
  3. Inquire about placing ads with various local newspapers. Ask how many words, how much it is going to cost, and how far in advance you need to submit the information.
  4. List a rain date or have an indoor back-up plan.
  5. Post signs at local grocery stores.
  6. Place ads on electronic bulletin boards.
  7. Distribute flyers in community centers.
  8. Use foam board rather than poster board for posting signs around the neighborhood.

Advertise clearly

  1. Who is involved in the sale: single family, neighbors, community?
  2. What type of sale is it: yard, community, garage, moving, fire?
  3. When is your sale: date(s) and day of the week, time from xx am –xx pm
  4. Where is the sale: give clear directions from a major intersection
  5. Why should people come? Make your ad stand out. Be creative with your wording and list a few “big ticket” items to draw interest.

Sample ad: Multi-family yard sale; designer-name maternity clothes, educational preschool toys, upscale infant gear, and much more. NO Checks. Saturday & Sunday April 3 -4; 8:30am –1pm. Rain date: Sat. April 10. EARLY BIRDS PAY DOUBLE! 555 Main Street across the boulevard from the community pool.

Sample ad: Retirement Sale; 60 years accumulation of antiques, furniture, power tools, appliances, gardening tools, house ware. Cash Only. Saturday; September 10; 7am – 3pm ONLY (Rain date: Sat. Sept. 17); 555 Main Street, 3 miles West of Rest Assured Retirement Center. NO early birds.

Gather the following supplies

  1. Tables for displaying items
  2. Assortment of bags for people to take their items home: plastic store or grocery bags, gift bags, paper grocery bags, lunch bags
  3. Packing boxes; store them under the display tables until needed
  4. Bubble wrap and newspapers for fragile items or breakables
  5. Tape to secure lids or keep stray pieces together
  6. Permanent markers to change price signs throughout the day
  7. Rubber bands to bundle silverware, spools of ribbon, etc.
  8. Tape measure and yard stick
  9. Calculators for adding up sales
  10. Extension cords to plug in electrical items to show that they work
  11. Spare light bulbs if selling lamps
  12. Batteries for testing toys and small appliances
  13. BONUS TIP: If you want to earn extra income buy extra batteries and sell them!

Details to remember

  1. Have a trash can so people can dispose of their bottles and snack wrappers.
  2. Keep a large bottle of hand-sanitizing gel or wet naps to clean your hands.
  3. Leave enough room between tables for shoppers with strollers to browse.
  4. Don’t forget a roll of paper towels for spills and a box of tissues for sneezes.
  5. Lock the doors and windows of your home.

Price it right

  1. Do not price every single item for sale. It is time-consuming and everyone is going to ‘bargain down’ the asking price anyway.
  2. Group similar items together on a table and price them all the same.
  3. Make categories and label them: Exercise and Fitness, Bed & Bath, Camping, Books & Media, etc.
  4. Label the tables: $5.00-$10.00, $1.00 or less, or Best Offer — minimum $20.00, etc.
  5. Price in 50 cent increments (easier to add).
  6. Face the facts, everyone comes to a yard sale looking for a bargain – so give the people what they want and, remember, the main idea is to unload all your unwanted things – making money is almost secondary.

Hang it up!

  1. Make sure all clothes are pressed, clean, and hanging on hangers.
  2. Do not try to sell clothes that need mending, ironing, or stains removed.
  3. Group clothing according to sizes.
  4. Have a full-length mirror stationed somewhere convenient.

Money matters

  1. Before the sale day, go to the bank so you’ll have plenty of small bills on hand – between $50.00 and $75.00 in cash.
  2. If you really want to generate a buzz, ask the bank for $2.00 bills and silver dollars. Younger shoppers love “funny money”.
  3. Hip packs are a must for carrying cash. Do not leave a cash box unattended.
  4. Do not accept checks from strangers. A Cash Only rule is a good one – and take collected money inside your house periodically.


  1. A great way for an older child or teen to make a little extra cash is to sell coffee and donuts during the sale.
  2. Stock up at a warehouse-type store: sell mini-bottles of water, juice boxes, small packs of goldfish crackers and other parent-approved snacks for children in tow. Food and drinks will keep shoppers shopping longer.

Do NOT bring the items that didn’t sell back into your home or garage. There are 3 options for leftovers that you must take care of immediately after your yard sale:

  1. Put them into your car or van and drive them to the nearest donation center and obtain a tax credit for your donation.
  2. Place them curbside with a sign that says, “FREE—Help Yourself!” Anything that remains after 2 days should be trashed.
  3. Conduct a “Leftover Raffle.” Sell raffle tickets for $ 3.00. Draw names out of a hat. The winner gets anything and everything they want, and you make $3.00 per person on your leftovers!

Now your attic, garage, and home are clutter-free! You’ve gotten rid of your “trash” and some lucky person has discovered a “treasure”! Best of all, you now have some extra cash to treat your family to something special!