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She is an Expert in Getting Organized:
When Dorothy Madden discovered she had a knack for neatness, she decided to make a business out of it

Messenger Post Newspapers (Penfield Post), 4/19/07
Amy Cavalier, Messenger Post Staff Writer

“Emergency chaos” was how part-time grants writer Cheryl Testa would have described her home office and filing system up until a few years ago when she contacted Dorothy Madden of ORGANIZE IT!

“I knew I had everything,” she said, “but where was it?”

Tired of being disorganized, Testa decided to call Madden, whom she had read about in a local publication. Madden helped her organize her office, come up with a new filing system, cleaned out her sewing room and even organized her coupons.

“Now everything has its home, and it’s clear and easy to see,” said Testa.

“She showed me how to mark everything, label things better and organize them in file cabinets.”

Testa said she struggled with spending money to hire a professional organizer.

“It took me a long time to contact her because you always think you can do it on your own,” Testa said. “Why hire someone?

Being more organized has saved her time and reduced her stress level, Testa said. “If you go into your office and it’s chaos, you’re not going to get anything done,” she said.

Penfield resident Madden discovered her organizing skills while working for a nonprofit, and looking for a new job.

“My colleague said to me, ‘Why are you looking for a job? You’re so good at what you do. Look at what you’ve done to this office’,” Madden recalls.

What she had done was clean out the junk cupboard, put together a procedural manual and set up a filing system.

“It’s just my natural tendencies,” she said.

Madden’s colleague encouraged her to look into the organizing business. She went on the Internet and discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers.

“And, of course, then I realized people could get paid for helping other people get organized,” she said.

She joined NAPO in 1997. There were 600 members at that time, she said. Today
there are 4,000.

“That’s due to the television shows … and newspaper articles, the visibility has really increased,” she said. “The recognition of the profession has made it more acceptable for people to hire professional organizers.”

Inspired, Madden and her colleague came up with a name for the business, ORGANIZE IT!, and she went to the county office and got her DBA for $29.

A former teacher, Madden knew she had the people-skills necessary to have her own business. The challenge was finding clients.

“My job for the first two years was primarily networking,” she said.

Since 1997, she’s helped hundreds of clients, locally to as far away as Nevada. She works with people to organize their corporate or home offices, and in their homes. Her services begin with a phone interview, which is free.

“It really helps me identify what’s wrong with their picture and what they want their picture to look like, feel like and function like,” she said.

The secret to getting organized is based on the individual’s needs, Madden said.

“It’s not a canned product,” she said. “I offer lots suggestions, lots of possibilities, but ultimately, the client is the decision maker … because they are the ones who will maintain it.”

One of the main issues she finds with people who feel disorganized is they’ve got too much paper - mails, e-mails, documents, things they’ve printed out.

“We’re inundated with paper,” she said. “We’re tangible people. We like to touch.”

Sometimes it’s a space issue.

“Just having an outside eye, a fresh look can help you see it differently, consolidate it,” she said.

The trick is finding a place to keep something you do need or want to keep so you can find it again. Madden said she can’t help someone clean out if they don’t want to. Jobs vary in cost by size and the amount of time it takes Madden to complete the task.

As for her own personal life, Madden won’t admit to being disorganized. “I can make a mess, however, I know how to clean up my mess when I set aside the time to do so,” she said.

That’s the trick to keeping up the systems Madden puts in place, Testa said.

“It’s amazing how quick you can file things and find it,” she said. “If two or three weeks go by and I don’t file things, I can very quickly get things organized now.”

Things that can cause disorganization:
  • Too much stuff
  • Too much paper
  • Not enough room
  • Ineffective filing systems
  • Inefficient use of space
Reprinted with the permission of the Messenger Post Newspapers (Penfield Post)