Professional Organizer Training
Today’s post is written by Megan, a member of the Metrozing team, who explains how she applies the skills she attained as a project manager to her work as a professional organizer. For more information about her check out her bio on our team page: Megan
Having worked as a project manager in the IT industry for several years, I am very much a newcomer to the professional organizing industry. Besides working with friends and family, my first true organizing gig with Geralin was a group project working with a hoarder. Here’s my take-away from the experience, as well as some project management tips for other organizers.
The first important element for this particular job was time management. With only a few days to tackle the client’s home, we had to work very quickly. Within the first few minutes of a particular task, evaluate how long it’s taken you to get to this point so that you can anticipate how long it will take to complete the overall task. Does it make sense for one person to continue clearing out this space or could two organizers tackle it quicker? How long is it taking the client to make decisions on items? If the client is moving slowly, don’t bite off more than you or the client can chew, so to speak. Also, think about when you must begin wrapping up for the day, and work backwards to ensure enough time for putting away your tools and cleaning up.
The next tidbit sounds obvious, but it can be harder than it seems: Have a plan, but plan to improvise. Any project manager can create and adhere to a project plan, but a good project manager can also improvise when the plan goes out the window. As you begin the day with the initial assessment, take a few minutes to prepare a plan of attack. For example, let’s focus on this bedroom and we’ll start clearing at the door to create a safer path for carrying items out. Next, we’ll make piles of like items and potential discard items on the front lawn for the client to sort through. But what happens when the client prioritizes another room and it starts raining outside on your neatly sorted piles? Exactly. Plan B. As much as you wanted to stick to your original plan, you have to fly by the seat of your pants in order to accommodate the client and the day’s occurrences. It’s likely since you are so well prepared and organized that the outcome will be the same, and as long as the client is still happy, don’t count detouring from your original plan as a failure.
Open communication is another important element in successful project management, both with other team members and the client. Think of it as thinking out loud, explaining what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You have a method to your madness, so share those methodologies. For the client’s sake, it can help them internalize the process and hopefully learn something. For example, “Since you are right-handed and use this item more than the others, let’s place it here so that it is more easily accessible.” These things all make sense to us as organizers, but maybe it hadn’t dawned on the client. Sharing this type of information with clients increases the likelihood they will keep the item here, versus it just being an arbitrary location.
Another important reason for communication with a client is for liability reasons. As you work, explain where you’re putting items and be sure to show the client. If you’re sorting, explain your criteria for grouping so that the client can find things easily once you’re gone. The last thing we need is to be accused of anything if the client can’t find an item once we leave their home.
Extensive communication between team members ensures that everyone is on the same page at all times. In the event someone is pulled away onto another task, it should be easy to pick up where another organizer left off if all the proper channels of communication are open.
Last, but certainly not least, is resource allocation. Coming from the IT industry, I’m used to “resources” being people, particularly web developers, and the skill sets they bring to the table. In professional organizing, it’s very similar in that each organizer has his or her forte, but there are two additional resources that I quickly learned to juggle: physical space limitations and organizational products.
Managing people resources is exactly what it sounds like: assign specific tasks based on strengths and weaknesses. But one thing to keep in mind when assigning individuals to a particular task is the familiarity factor. If two people are equally qualified for a task, but one has established a rapport with the client or knows the particular details of a situation, it could be more efficient for that individual to complete the task. In other words, consider the ramp up time it will take for an individual to achieve another’s level of understanding or even emotional connection before reallocating people resources.
If you aren’t working with a team, evaluate the client’s strengths and weaknesses to maximize his or her efficiency alongside yours. Perhaps a client loses focus easily while sorting clothes by season, but he or she enjoys sorting by color. Whatever the scenario may be, try to capitalize on their interests so that you can work in parallel to maximize efficiency. A good project manager makes sure all available resources are being used and no one sits idle.
The allocation of available space is definitely an important lesson in project management for professional organizers. How much space should you dedicate to shoes? Is the space the proper temperature for sensitive items (think attics and basements)? What areas are easy for the client to access? What areas are out of reach? All of these limitations to physical space must be evaluated and explained to the client. Correct space allocation will increase the client’s chances of maintaining their items’ new homes.
In an ideal world, every client would have an unlimited budget at Bed Bath & Beyond. Since this likely isn’t the case, it’s important to properly allocate organizational products on hand or within budget to achieve similar results. If there are only four clear shoeboxes available, it’s not likely that all of the client’s shoes will fit. Instead, repurpose the shoeboxes for accessories such as hats, scarves, etc. It’s thinking outside the box (pun intended) and using space and products wisely that clients will continue to call on you for.
GT: Megan’s background in project management and customer service contribute to her being a take-charge kind of organizer, capable of managing projects, both large and small. While she’s the most youthful expert on our team, she’s the most well travelled (23 countries so far!). Her enthusiasm and cheerful disposition endear her to clients of all ages. When Megan’s not globetrotting, her hobbies include working with paper crafts such as stamping, custom card making, and scrapbooking.
Want to learn more about her? Here are a few questions I wanted answered.
Megan, what is the next book you plan to read?
MH: The Facebook Effect. I’m very interested in social media and how it can help businesses connect to potential clients and other businesses.
GT: Do you tend to buy anything in multiples?
MH: Baskets. Any size, any shape, the more the better!
GT: What is one of your favorite apps?
MH: Instapaper. It allows you to bookmark articles or websites from your computer, then read them later from your phone. It’s perfect for utilizing small chunks of time at the doctor’s office or DMV. And, you never have to pass up a good article because you didn’t have time.
GT: Are your spices arranged alphabetically?
MH: No, just by the frequency I use them. The herbs stay in the front for day-to-day cooking, and the spices I only use occasionally are in the back.
GT: Speaking of spices, what is your favorite food?
MH: Favorite food? It’s a tie between Mexican and Italian. Either way, the more cheese the better.
GT: What genre of movies do you like best?
MH: Romantic comedies.
GT: Where were you born and where did you graduate from high school?
MH: Lincolnton, NC (that’s “just outside of Charlotte” to most people) and I graduated from East Lincoln High School
GT: You have travelled a lot; where would you like to go next?
GT: What is your favorite color?
I hope that my project management observations are helpful for your next organizing client. Are there any other project management principles that you have taken away from professional organizing?