Help & Advice: About our profession
The following are some commonly asked questions about the organising profession and the role of apdo-uk within it, intended to assist both professional organisers (or those who are interested in joining the profession), and those who wish to use their services.
You may also find helpful the links on the left of this page, which tell you more about our Association.
We would like to express our grateful thanks to the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers (AAPO) whose equivalent FAQs form the basis of this information.
What is a professional organiser (PO)?
Whilst there is no such thing as a typical organising session, since every client - and every client’s needs - are different, the general role of an apdo-uk Member is
- to act as a practical enabler and/or coach
- to improve the safety and wellbeing of clients, whether in the home or the workplace
- maximising functionality, efficiency and comfort
- using effective processes, storage and organising solutions
- where necessary, by expediting the removal of unwanted items
- ensuring appropriate and responsible sale, donation or disposal of such items
- to help clients to adopt positive and workable habits and processes for the future
What skills and qualities are needed by a professional organiser?
Regardless of their background and specialisms, all successful organisers will share certain characteristics:
- a passion for organising principles
- a strong set of people (interpersonal) skills
- the ability to convey new ideas and possibilities
- sharply honed "problem-solving" skills
- the ability to organise their own business dealings
NB: For a professional organiser to ‘be organised’ themselves is clearly of great importance, but it is by no means the whole story; somebody who lives in a perfectly-ordered state themselves may not necessarily have the skills or personality to convey such skills to other people - and indeed, may be daunting to a client who feels that they will never achieve such perfection!
Like many other personal service providers, a Professional Organiser needs to:
- Be a good listener - to ensure the client feels heard, valued and respected
- Be non-judgemental - to provide the client with safe environment
- Be creative - to provide the right solution for the client's challenge
- Be flexible - to understand that one size does not fit all
- Be intuitive - to ensure we listen for what is not being said
- Be committed - to ensure we provide value for the client
- Be collaborative - to ensure we engage the client in the process so that they have ownership
What is the difference between and organiser and a declutterer?
The word ‘clutter’ means “a disorderly heap or assemblage; litter: a state or condition of confusion.” Clearing clutter – helping clients to make decisions about, and then to dispose of (in a responsible and appropriate way), unwanted items – is undoubtedly one of the most important weapons in the artillery of the professional organiser. It is, however, not the whole story.
Put simply, it is perfectly possible to organise somebody without decluttering them; it is not possible to declutter effectively without implementing organisation. While many clients come to us for help with clutter – the visible manifestation of disorganisation - some problems relate not so much to unwanted and superfluous goods, as to the appropriate and sensible storage of the items that they wish to keep. Similarly, without the creation of workable processes and systems, tailored to the client’s needs, the problem of clutter is likely to return.
In other words, all members of apdo-uk are organisers; decluttering is a vital organisational tool that is used probably more than any other, but it cannot stand on its own. However, many members of apdo-uk emphasise the provision of their decluttering services in their business descriptions and names, reflecting the fact that this is the most important tool in their professional arsenal; and the word ‘decluttering’ now appears commonly in media references to our profession. As such, our full title (the Association of Professional Organisers & Declutterers) remains an accurate description of the broad spectrum of our membership.
What about people who have chronic hoarding disorders?
Clutter and disorganisation become a problem for many different reasons. Many cases are in no sense ‘chronic’; clients are capable, stable, and free of serious emotional trauma. The help required by such clients is practical, motivational and positive; they need a fresh pair of eyes, a spare pair of hands, a brain full of inspiration and suggestions, and experience of creating appropriate systems and processes.
The accumulation of mess, or the need for systems, is often for no more unusual reason than a life change (new baby, house move, new job, retirement) – or, as the client of one of our Members recently described it, “can’t-be-bothered syndrome”, where people often simply put stuff away (eg. in their attic) because they can’t muster the energy or enthusiasm to deal with it at the time.
However, serious disorders (such as chronic hoarding and OCD) can often be symptomatic of far more profound difficulties. Such problems may be indicated by, for example:
- major difficulties in letting go of inanimate objects, even when they are broken and useless
- a tendency to spend money as therapy, but never using the purchases
- stock-piling of items that are inappropriate to the daily life of the sufferer
- rooms that cannot be used for their intended purpose (e.g. sleeping in a chair because the bed is inaccessible)
- levels of clutter that would make it impossible for the emergency services to access the house
These symptoms can indicate difficulties that may require a level of coaching, therapy or medical intervention that should not be attempted unless the organiser is confident and experienced in such matters. Moreover, ‘clutter-clearing’ and organising procedures are unlikely to be of any lasting value if the underlying problems have not been dealt with first.
apdo-uk has qualified counsellors in its number, as well as members who have been trained in interventions such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), and members with experience in areas such as social work, psychology and nursing. Such skills can clearly be of immense value when faced with any kind of chronic disorder, and it is vital that both that the client and the consultant are confident of the appropriateness of the match. We are building relationships with relevant charities and other areas of support for these specialist matters, and we also have members who have extensive experience of working with chronic hoarders.
In turn, this also means that a lack of experience in chronic disorder cases does not mean that an individual cannot work as an organiser; it simply means using commonsense and honesty to determine when they are able to use their available skills, and to make use of the resources available (via apdo-uk or elsewhere) to refer such clients to the specialist help that they need.
Why should a professional organiser join apdo-uk?
We encourage members to join apdo-uk so we can continue to promote and grow our industry and provide support and resources to members and clients alike.
As a not-for-profit, Unincorporated Association, apdo-uk uses all income (from membership fees, sponsorship, advertising and commission) for the administrative operation of the Association and for its growth and development; for training, conferences, PR, Google Adwords, website maintenance and SEO.
We are passionate about our profession, committed to its regulation and growth in the UK, and will provide opportunities, networking and publicity for our members, and information and support for both members and clients, in any way we can.
Is there a formal certification process to become a professional organiser?
Whilst there is currently no specific certification program offered in the UK to become a professional organiser, apdo-uk is working towards developing such training & certification. There are private training programmes available but they are not endorsed by apdo-uk at present, or – as far as we are aware - by any professional association. However, apdo-uk is interested in hearing from private training programmes, with a view to possibly incorporating them into our own training and development programme, if they are considered appropriate.
In addition, we also intend to develop an accreditation scheme, which will reflect the amount of experience – both in organising work (paid and pro bono) and in related fields of personal development – achieved by members.
What professional backgrounds are there in the field of organising?
Those already working as a PO in the UK come from diverse backgrounds. Their training (formal or otherwise) may be in many different fields and from many different sources. These may include (but are not limited to):
- Business & project management
- Director-level secretaries
- Marketing & event management
- Office & IT systems management or training
- Social Work
- Life coaching
- Property management
- Interior design
What does a client expect from a professional organiser?
The client expects the organiser to be competent in their area of specialism, to be honest yet non-judgemental, to be committed and willing to stand behind their work and most importantly to maintain a level of confidentiality. This expectation is expressed in our Code of Ethics, to which all members of apdo-uk agree to comply as a requirement of their membership.
We strongly suggest that consultants discuss expectations with clients so that all parties are fully aware of what can and cannot be done for them. (It is also highly recommended that the organiser creates a set of Terms & Conditions of business, explaining precisely their capabilities, limitations, requirements and services offered.)
What does a professional organiser do?
Clients may be in a domestic or business context (including home offices, SMEs [small to medium enterprises] or major corporations). Across this range of clients, Professional Organisers may assist with many different needs, including (but not limited to):
- Time management
- Paper management & filing systems
- Clutter control
- Space planning
- Wardrobe organising
- Event planning
- Personal shopping
- Financial management
- Information management
- Children's rooms
- Public speaking / seminars / training
- Feng Shui
- Space Clearing
- Home staging
- Interior design
Professional Organisers may be very specific in the types of organising they offer, or they may be general and offer a wide array of organising services.
Some professional organisers offer products and/or have written books and/or offer seminars/workshops.
Some POs work locally, while others have national or international availability.