Growing up we all have grand plans about our future professions: doctor, teacher, ballerina, pilot, footballer, astronaut. Few of us ever actually enter these widely understood professions. Instead, we grow up to become executive assistants, marketing directors, account managers and personnel officers.
Do any of us actually know what these jobs are?
I wanted to be an author when I grew up, before realising I had no interest in writing books and even less skill in doing so. I headed to university with plans to become a history teacher. The growing realisation that teenagers can be awful soon put me off this plan and I continued into academics.
Fast forward several years and I left my academic career to establish my own professional organising business - The Tidy Life Project.
My friends and family were thrilled for me and supported my decision but it quickly became clear that not one of them had any idea what a professional organiser might do.
"So... You're a fancy tidier?"
Those around me are not alone. In the UK there are less than 300 professional organisers and declutterers in the nationwide professional association. We organisers are a rare breed! Despite our small numbers, we are growing fast as awareness of the many benefits and skills of professional organisers spreads through the country.
Not only are we rare, we are also diverse. Some of us specialise in interior design, others work exclusively with the elderly. None of us are "fancy tidiers" though. Having met many of my colleagues, I have developed a simple explanation of what it is exactly that we do.
Professional organising can be summed up in one simple Venn diagram.
We are part designer, part tidier, part mental health carer. Not all clients fit into all three categories (in fact, most fit into only one or two) but the average client can be found somewhere in the middle and overlapping areas.
1. Tidying, sorting and decluttering
This is perhaps the only universal part of the job. Every single professional organiser will tidy, sort and declutter the homes and businesses they work in. The scale of this work can range from tidying up one small, minimalist cupboard to entire hoarded house clearances.
2. Mental health care and wellness
Professional organisers often work extensively with individuals suffering a degree of mental health illness. This could be clinical hoarding disorder, depression, ADHD or any other mental health condition. It is our job to work with the client to focus on putting in place strategies to help them cope with their clutter.
Like doctors, professional organisers also follow the motto of "first, do no harm." While we are not all trained mental health professionals (some are), a professional organiser can serve as a key component to an individual's treatment. For me, a tidy home really helps to build a tidy mind.
3. Interior design and home staging
Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are increasingly spreading images of aspirational wardrobes, pantries and laundry rooms across the internet. Many professional organisers will therefore spend time with clients organising beautiful storage, printing custom labels (we do love our label makers!) and decanting food stuffs into jars.
Still others will specialise in interior design, creating soothing and welcoming homes or preparing homes for sale by decluttering and staging homes to their best advantage.
Professional organising is perhaps the most specialist yet also diverse career I have ever encountered. There is no such thing is a "typical day" in the life of an organiser. Monday may be spent organising a rainbow of designer shoes, Tuesday hanging pictures in a nursery, Wednesday helping a hoarder clear decades of accumulated possessions, Thursday working with busy parents to tidy up a messy playroom, Friday emptying a house on behalf of a bereaved family.
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of what professional organisers do.
It is this diversity that so many of us professional organisers are so passionate about. Whether I spend the day at my desk working on taxes or legal forms or working with a client, I can always guarantee that there will be something exciting and something rewarding in that day.
If you think a professional organiser may be able to help you or are interested in learning more about what we do, you can check out www.apdo.co.uk (The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers) or get in touch with The Tidy Life Project using the contact form above.
Happy organising and decluttering!