Working with Hoarders: Training and Experience Highly Recommended

Professional Organizer Training

Hoarding & Professional Organizer Certification

Since the “Hoarders” series started airing on A&E TV, many people have been wondering what kind of training you need to work with compulsive hoarders.

If you’ve been watching the shows, you’ve seen both professional organizers and different types of mental health professionals working with the individuals featured in the programs.

Professional Organizer Training

Some of the professional organizers you’ve seen, like me, are certified (I have a CPO-CD®). Getting certified requires hours of training and experience. There are a few types of credentialing available but the two most well known and respected are:

1 – The Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) certification is offered through the Board of Certification of Professional Organizers (BCPO).
To become a CPO®, you need to have a certain amount of professional experience and education, and pass a qualifying exam.
2 – The Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®) certification is offered through the National Study Group in Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD).
To become a CPO-CD®, you have to complete an 18-month training program that focuses specifically on working with chronically disorganized clients, and then pass an exam to earn this designation.

Why two certifications?

Professional organizers work with many different types of people on many different kinds of projects. Naturally, people live with different levels of disorganization.

Becoming a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) means you’ve had experience working with many different types of clients, but it does NOT necessarily mean you’ve had experience working with clients who are chronically disorganized or suffer from compulsive hoarding.

Becoming a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®), on the other hand, means you’ve had a great deal of training and experience working with the chronically disorganized, as well as enough education to have a basic understanding of hoarding and what it takes to help them. If you then choose to specialize in working with hoarders, like I have, you can then get more training and education to help them.

Do you need to be certified to work with hoarders?

There are plenty of professional organizers who are not certified; some are extremely experienced, others are not. Certification is voluntary in this industry.

While you don’t have to be certified to do this work, it’s strongly recommended that you have a lot of training and experience working with this particular group in order to be truly helpful. If you’re not qualified, you risk doing more harm than good, and you would be wasting the client’s time, energy and money.

To learn more about professional organizing and the types of work we do, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers website,

To learn more about chronic disorganization, what it is, get fact sheets, publications, and referrals to professionals in your area, visit the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization’s website,



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  1. Diana Jenkins says

    Please help. My aunt is a hoarder. My cousin and I are trying to talk with her about getting rid of stuff. Her husband wants it cleaned up but when he tries, my aunt balks. He did however straighten up the livingroom. I finally had a place to sit and have a visit with them but the place was filthy. Her house looks just like those on TV.
    What is the price to hire a professional hoarding expert/organizer. My aunt lives in Dallas. Her place is a fire hazard and health hazard. I’ve told her this but she doesn’t seem to care. She is 83. I just want her to have a nice calm soothing place for her to live out her last days. She is not ill except for arthritis. Her mind is going.
    I need advice as to how to proceed.

  2. Savannah Warne says

    Hello, I’m a colllege student and was wondering if there would ever be a position to do an internship working with someone in the hordering, and organizational work force? I’m a Psychology major and looked learning about OCD, and disorders similar to, and I am an extreme organizer myself?
    Savannah Warne

  3. kayleigh jugg says

    hi i love the show hoarders i watch every single episode, i love how you help so many people who are in such dispear, and give them hope. im in the uk and would love to know how to become qualified to help others like you do.

  4. Debra Reaze says

    I too watch Hoarders even the repeats, because it is an opportunity for me to not only work with people with hoarding problems, but I would really like to work with the family members as well.

    Background: I am about to receive my Bachelors in Public Health, and want to persue my Masters although I undecided as to the major possibly Psychology or Environmental Health.
    However as a career in this area, I want to research other jobs or specialties aside from being an organizer, if you have other ideas or resources I would be appreciate the advice.

    Personal Experience: My mother at age 73 was removed from her home with the help of social services after living at least 10 years not as a hoarder but “failure to maintain”.
    I with my own family could not get her to grasp that she need to take care of her home and self, or move.
    She resisted every step of the way until adult services with my ok removed her and I then placed her in a nursing home.
    The whole experience still haunts me. But it was explained to me that my mother had no “survival skills”, since my father passed 15yrs ago. And the house was condemmed.

    So as you can see, I would love to be involved with the family dynamics, as often the hoarder has significant long term problems that will take much more than just helping them clean up.

    I would love to get some feedback from you or anyone, Thanks in advance!

    • Geralin says

      Congrats to you for continuing your education and I think you are on the cusp of an area of expertise that is about to grown – – helping children of hoarders with psychological issues. At the moment, I think the go-to therapist is Dr. Chabaud in New Orleans area. You’ve seen her working on the TV show, Hoarders; she is currently doing a study with [adult] children of hoarders. Also, check out the website, Children of for a lot of helpful links and information.

  5. Valerie says


    You are my FAVORITE organizer on the show! I always watch Hoarders and am so happy when I see you as the one that helping them, I also like Matt. He is meaner than you however. I am a Realtor and love organization and do some staging in addition to real estate. My husband has no patience with this people, I understand that for some they can not help it and do in deed need help. How do you find people who are already doing this? How do you get paid? I would not think that these people would have money to pay for this. Thanks,

    • Geralin says

      Thanks Valerie,

      I’m not sure if I understand your question:
      How do I find clients? (They find me, usually by doing online searches)
      How do I get paid? (Checks + credit cards, from the clients at the end of each session)
      When filming clients for TV, the production company contacts me to see if I’m available for specific dates.
      Hope that answers your questions and thanks for watching.

  6. says

    I totally agree that a professional organizer that is not specifically trained to work with hoarding, CD, ADHD, TBI, etc. clients can do more harm that good. This is in two ways: the client may become so discouraged that they may never seek additional help and second, it reflects poorly on the organizing industry as a whole.

    To add some information to Geralin’s comments about certification, the NSGCD website states the following differences between the CPO and CPO-CD programs:
    “NSGCD’s certification is based on its own highly structured, intensive educational programs specific to our client work, with follow-up exams and assignments to prove earned proficiency for certification designation. BCPO offers a certification exam based on proof of independent education and prior organizing experience; both are needed in order to qualify to take the exam. The certifications are different in approach and structure, and both are available to professional organizers depending on their own needs, purpose and educational/professional focus.”

    Here is additional information about the NSGCD’s CPO-CD program:
    “A Level III Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD ® ) (Level III) is a professional organizer who has been educated in depth on the issues of chronic disorganization. The CPO-CD student spends 17-20 months of intensive time studying and applying this learning in practical application with current clients. The purpose of the NSGCD CPO-CD ® program is to develop a Professional Organizers skills and knowledge by utilizing a coaching style relationship. This program allows the intermediate and advanced Professional Organizer an environment and forum to discuss client issues, problems and challenges. Participation in the CPO-CD ® program develops honesty, trust and improves an organizer’s communication skills. The CPO-CD ® program is specifically geared to improve the quality of service, techniques and knowledge a Professional Organizer provides to their CD clients.”

  7. says

    Thank you Geralin for taking the time and posting this important information. There are many misconceptions about PO certification, and this makes it truly clear with great simple explanations for the certifications and their importance.

  8. Geralin says


    Thank you for commenting; hopefully, many more conversations about credentials and qualifications are going to start in various communities around the world.

    The topic of hoarding is a catalyst for a lot of conversations and actions.
    I think a lot of people outside the industry are confused about their options.

  9. says

    This is really great information. I think that any professional organizer who doesn’t have specialized training to work with hoarders should get to know someone who does, if at all possible, so that if they find themselves in that situation, they’re able to refer the client to someone qualified and not just give it a whirl, which can be detrimental to their business as well as the client.

  10. Geralin says

    I agree with your comments and I think it’s a good opportunity for Professional Organizers who want to work with hoarders to ask an experienced hoarding-organizer if they could assist them on the job for a few hours. It would be an excellent way to try it out without committing to a project and then realizing it’s too much.

    Unhoarding is a very long and expensive process; many hands make the job much faster, less expensive and more enjoyable.