Professional organizers find business is booming

TIME SAVER

January 22, 1995|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

It may take up to an hour for the president to describe the State of the Union or the governor to detail the State of the State, but the area's chief professional organizer can sum up the State of the Organizing Business in the time it takes to utter one word.

"Booming!" says Gloria Ritter in an exuberant manner that matches the word. She's president of the Washington/Baltimore Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Ms. Ritter has been an organizer for 10 years, but it wasn't until two years ago that business became so good she put a formal face on it and incorporated as PaperMatters & more, operating in Washington

Bonnie Blas, a professional organizer in Baltimore, echoes Ms. Ritter's story. "People are getting more comfortable with the idea of hiring an organizer," says Ms. Blas, whose business is called the Organizer. "Their lives are so crazy, they need to. They don't have time to do this stuff, but it has to be done. And it's boring to them." She says that's why her 11-year-old business has expanded rapidly in the past two years.

Barbara Hemphill, national president of the 728-member National Association of Professional Organizers and author of "Taming the Paper Tiger," says another reason more people are contracting for organizers' services is that it's no longer considered a personal failing to need that kind of help. And there is more awareness of the business.

"People realize now they're not some sort of freak for using the service," says Ms. Hemphill. "We say, 'Look, you don't know how to fix your car or cut your hair, so why should organizing be any different?' It's a skill."

Ms. Blas says doing paperwork and filing gives her great satisfaction, even though she was trained as a speech therapist. Now she specializes in helping people organize and file their medical claims. Anyone who's ever wrestled with that nasty, time-eating tangle of paperwork can attest to the need for such a service. Her medical-claims clients include a visually impaired man and a family with two working parents and three children.

However, like most professional organizers, she provides a variety of services, including checkbook balancing and upkeep of household finances; sorting through dusty stacks of paperwork to set up filing systems for individuals and businesses; organizing closets, drawers, kitchens and basements; and weekly consultations with small business owners, to help them set and reach goals and manage their time efficiently.

The costs of organizers' services vary greatly, depending on the organizer and the service rendered. Some charge by the hour -- from $25 to $125 and more. Others set costs on a per-day basis or by the job performed. Ms. Blas, for example, charges $350 to straighten out the yearly medical claims for one person, $450 for two and $500 for a family, no matter how long it takes. She will keep a checkbook balanced for $40 a month.

Ms. Hemphill says some organizers charge more than $1,000 a day for corporate work. "It's all over the board," she says.

The National Association of Professional Organizers doesn't yet have a certification process, so before engaging an organizer's services, do some interviewing and research. The national group has set these guidelines for consumers:

* Ask how long the person has been in business and about their background.

* Determine the organizer's area or areas of expertise and tell the organizer what your need is. A crackerjack kitchen organizer, for example, may not be the best at setting up a household filing system.

* Get references. Call them.

"Above all," says Ms. Hemphill, "make sure you feel comfortable with that person. It's an intimate relationship."

For help locating a professional organizer, call the National Association of Professional Organizers at (202) 362-6276 and leave a message.

IN TIME

What do you do to save time, to make life easier? What have you cut down on or cut out to make more time for yourself and your family? Have you found a way to simplify your lifestyle? Call the Sundial number that follows to tell us your tips and thoughts. Future columns will feature your ideas. Be sure to leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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