Method to the Madness
A Guide to Professional Organizing

by Mary Claypool


It is not news to any of us that in general humans tend to be hoarders.  We like our stuff.  In consumer-driven countries especially, material items seemingly propagate under our very noses, filling up our homes, garages, storage units, and lives. We're also busy—far busier than previous generations.  As a result, sorting, organizing, and storing of our worldly goods and keeping track of day-to-day affairs can be troublesome, costly, and downright nerve wracking.  If you have surplus time, revenue, energy, and inclination to deal with this problem, then kudos to you, and you can stop reading now.  If you're like me, though, minutes, money, and off-hours ambition are in low reserves.  Fortunately for people like me, there is an answer to the disarray dilemma.

In recent years, there has been a boom in the growth of companies specializing in organization.  Firms, independent consultants, personal organizers, books, magazines, stores, websites, and even software have been burgeoning like the clutter in my spare bedroom. Demand is high for those who can restore order to our disordered lives.

Thousands of companies and individuals across the U.S. have risen to meet this demand.  There is a strategy or specialist equipped to handle any organizational need imaginable.  There is even a group dedicated to the cause called the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) with chapters based throughout the United States. Our neighbors to the north, clearly suffering from the same dishevelment syndrome, have their equivalent group known as Professional Organizers in Canada (POC).  Both groups offer tips, referrals, and membership to those interested in what has become the fine art of organizing.

The mere thought of cleaning out a room, closet, or drawer is often daunting, because it means that something has got to go.  Parting with personal belongings can be an uncomfortable experience, as Rosemary Chieppo notes in her book, "Clutter, Chaos & the Cure."  "People don't own their stuff," observes the author.  "Their stuff owns them. Bringing themselves to donate or discard an item of sentimental value takes a certain amount of self-reflection."  Chieppo, a member of the National
Organization of Professional Organizers, guides the reader through simple steps and offers a pragmatic methodology—almost a philosophy—to help solve clutter issues.  Sort of a 12-step program for the organizationally impaired.

Usually, when I think of professional organizers, my mind darts to those
mailers and TV ads featuring closet and garage renovation by large franchise concerns.  But there are companies of every size, designed to tackle nearly any organizational challenge, many of which can be readily found on the Internet.  Some are geared to handle a niche clientele within their field, such as the organizational needs of people of specific faiths.  Jewish Life  offers professional assistance for the Jewish household in everything from meal planning to major holidays. One Christian-based company, Faithful Organizers  not only serves their clients with personal and business organizing, but they also offer seminars, retreats, and workshops on the subject. For those seeking Asian-themed order and balance in their lives, Professional Organizers and Feng Shui Consultants is at your disposal.

If you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, you can always run down to the hardware or home supply store and pickup a truck load of storage containers, racks, sorting boxes, labelers, or whatever.   But before undertaking the formidable task of putting your things in order, you might want to consider laying out the groundwork first on your computer. offers HOMEwise 3.2, a family and home organizing software.  This is a Windows-based platform that allows you to completely organize your home and life.  It boasts over 170 features and functions including cataloging personal belongings in a "virtual home" from attic to basement and garage to yard, project/event/travel/meal planning, bank account record keeping and storage, calendars, diaries, lists, recipes, and so on. The program even permits you to add unlimited users, each with full access to every feature.

It's hard to know when or why the tendency toward amassing possessions in our society became a serious enough problem to warrant professional solutions.  In extreme cases, obsessive hoarding or saving is identified as a behavioral disorder, often associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or syllogomania (rubbish hoarding).  These, of course, are examples of abnormal and excessive stockpiling that require psychological evaluation and treatment, whereas the muddle and jumble of the average American is primarily a byproduct of an affluent and fast-paced society that can't keep abreast of itself.

The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) is a network of professional organizers dedicated to addressing the needs of the chronically cluttered.  Much like NAPO, of which the group is a member, the NSGCD explores many levels of disorganization and offers resources and education on the subject.  A visit to their website at reveals a wealth of information, as well as links to other websites that deal with organizational issues due to specific conditions, such as OCD and Alzheimer’s.

Up until now, I never realized the widespread impact of personal organization and the overwhelming shortage of it.  The only clutter I've been concerned with is my dining room table/makeshift office/workshop, strewn with paperwork, festooned with sticky note reminders, and laden with countless snapped-off bits of toys and household items that I would someday get around to repairing or replacing.   I see now that I'm just a tiny component of a much bigger picture, and that my organization woes are quite run-of-the mill.  The solution should be an easy fix, and just
as soon as I find one of those flyers buried under the pile on my dining room table, I'm on it.




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© Melt Magazine 2008