Please drop the "Professional" in Professional Organizer

Please drop the "Professional" in Professional Organizer

I'm writing this post in the hopes that someone in the professional organizing realm can tell me why the National Association of Professional Organizers, or NAPO, calls it's workers "Professional Organizers."

This is part of the reason I don't want to join NAPO. The other part is that I don't feel they help solve the larger problems that underlie the ubiquitous mess in everyone's homes these days. Maybe they can't solve those problems but they could certainly shed some light on hyper-consumption. And I think they could shoulder the responsibility for research on how so much material surplus ends up in American homes.

Most of my clients are very organized. Surprising, right? Many people think I only help hoarders. In fact most of my clients spend lavishly on organizing products from Muji, West Elm, Container Store and Target. They know they have a lot of stuff and it's got to be organized. What frustrates them enough to call me and ask me to come in for a consultation is that, despite their best efforts, they never feel:

  • on top of it
  • like it will ever end
  • relaxed at home
  • that their system is working or even that they have a system

What clients talk about after we tour their home:

  • they feel they don't have time to keep up their home or work space
  • they feel stressed out
  • they feel resentful that other people in the house or work area don't help with upkeep
  • they are depressed
  • they want to start over
  • they feel they need to change but don't know how
  • they feel ashamed, exhausted, lack energy for continued maintenance of their space
  • they keep sending stuff to storage units and don't remember what's in the boxes there anymore

These are the larger problems I mentioned above.

The problems I really don't see solved by strategizing on storage alone, the kind of work done by so many of the hard working Type As who call themselves professional organizers. For the first time on this blog I am going to say what I really think about the over consumption of your ordinary average family in any developed country like the US - it's a public health concern. Yup. We buy more than we need and we discard at alarming rates.

It's bad for the individual and then it's bad for society when we constantly throw things away. I know, I'm such a kill joy, even in December when Americans will spend:

Now back to the problem I have with my job title. Think about it, do we preface any other job with professional? My partner, John, is a publicist. He didn't go to school for that. He went to school for theater and he has worked long, hard years as a publicist, promoting theater and establishing relationships with media to get the word out about great theater off Broadway. So, he's a publicist and he makes a living in NYC off of it and we know it's professional. So do we say he's a professional publicist? NO.

Saying "professional" seems to me a way to legitimize a relatively new kind of job in which people with domestic management skills help clients create systems in their home using a mix of tools. The point of which can be to make the home useful or beautiful or peaceful and perhaps all of the above. It's legitimate and necessary given our "buy more stuff" driven society and the need for many people these days to have multiples of the same types of things.

Do we say he's a professional teacher? There is not one before counselor, life coach or banker. Chefs, puppeteers and photographers don't have to say they are professionals to describe their work. 

The only one I can think of that I've heard is professional wrestler... 

I understand the need to clarify "organizer". One could ask, organizer of what? People? Events? Wedding planners avoided this by avoiding the word organize. Project managers essentially organize a project and it's time line along with the people who need to contribute according to that timeline. And having once been a project manager in the corporate world, I would say the title project manager fits my current role best. I organize objects within spaces for an individual for that person's benefit whether it is aesthetic or for efficiency, usually both.

My organizing work with people is very personal. I do it to make them productive and for their enjoyment at work or in the home. So I call myself a personal organizer.

Please, NAPO, drop the "professional." I'd fork over the national member fees if you could rebrand our professional title so it didn't sound so desperate to be... well, professional.

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