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NAPO - National Association of Professional Organizers

 NAPO Golden Circle


An Interview with Professional Organizer Dorothy Madden, Founder and Owner of ORGANIZE IT!

Clutter to Cash blog, 1/1/07
Robert Merlo

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2007 has already arrived. And if you are like me you probably have already made a new year’s resolution (or several). Whether it is a proclamation to quit smoking or a promise to join a health club, many people have committed to making positive changes in their personal lives and careers.

One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions is becoming organized. In this hyper-competitive world that we live in, it seems like we are constantly rushing from one appointment to another, making little time for ourselves. With our lives being busier and for many, messier than ever, it’s no wonder that getting organized has become a top priority.

Being that January is considered “National Get Organized Month” by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), I thought I would do my part and help raise awareness of the benefits of getting organized and of hiring a professional organizer. For that matter, I am very pleased to share with you the following interview with professional organizer Dorothy Madden, founder and owner of ORGANIZE IT! located in Rochester, New York.

1.) What is a professional organizer?
A professional organizer is a person who helps people get organized in their offices, their homes, and their lives. We help create practical and effective systems that people are able to maintain themselves. We also help people take control of their environment, their time, their space, their information, and their lives.

2.) How long have you been a professional organizer?
I started my business in 1997 and feel blessed to do what I love and love what I do!

3.) How did you come upon professional organization as a career?
During a job search, I worked temporarily at a non-profit. While there, I did what I normally do: created a hot file drawer, organized computer files, cleaned out the junk cupboard and drawer, and created a Procedures Manual for my successor.

My colleague pointed out my strengths and directed me to the Internet, where I discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). One thing led to another and I founded my business in 1997.

4.) Are you a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)?
Yes, since January 1998. I am a Golden Circle member (NAPO member for five years) and have attended four national conferences.
Professional membership is an important aspect of my business, so I also belong to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Rochester Women’s Network (RWN), and Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN).

In 2004 the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Buffalo District, an area covering 14 counties, awarded me the “Home-Based Business Advocate of the Year.” Also in 2004 the Rochester Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners recognized me as “Inspiring Businesswoman of the Year.”

5.) What kind of professional organizing services do you offer?
I offer business and residential organizing services, individual consultations and training, hands-on organizing, seminars and professional speaking, and on-going coaching.

6.) What are your areas of specialization?
I work with clients regarding their space, information, and time management. The most common request is with paper and information organization.
We’re inundated with paper and information in our personal and professional lives and we need to make decisions about all of it in order to stay organized!

7.) Who is your typical/usual client?
My clients come from many backgrounds and usually have colorful lives and multiple interests. By the time prospects contact me, they are tired of what’s not working and are ready to change.

Among my clients are individuals and organizations: executives, homemakers, business owners, employees, physicians, attorneys, financial planners, executive directors, pastors, mothers, fathers, teachers, retirees, corporations, colleges, hospitals, law firms, medical offices, schools, non-profit agencies, small businesses, real estate, public service, media, and financial firms.

8.) Do you work with both corporate and residential clients?

9.) Do you work with clients who are chronically disorganized or have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?

10.) Can you describe your organizing process/approach? (consulting, coaching, hands-on, team organizing, seminars/workshops, training, etc.)
Each process is individualized per situation.

Generally I work one to one, side-by-side, with individual clients, helping them set up systems that work for them. We evaluate their current situation and then create and implement hands-on customized solutions together. This personalized approach is very important because what works for one might not work for another.

I also work with small groups and teams and teach seminars.

11.) How long is a typical work session?
The initial session is usually four hours. I find that’s the right amount of time for getting acquainted, assessing, brainstorming and implementing some of the solutions.

Together we reduce clutter, organize papers, create better ways to manage time, or make a list of projects clients can do on their own. At the end of the appointment, clients decide if they have accomplished their goals or if they would like to schedule more time together.

12.) What results can I expect from your service?
You will receive specific solutions to your organizing challenges. The solutions and systems that we create and implement together are customized and are YOURS. Because you helped create and build the systems, you are also able to maintain them.

Like many clients, you will discover a sense of calm and peace of mind when walking into your newly organized space. You will have confidence that you can find what you need when you need it. You will be more productive, more efficient, more effective, and more relaxed. You will be, feel, look, and know you are organized!

13.) How do you charge for your services?
Like most organizers, I charge by the hour.

14.) What are a few organizing tips that you can offer your readers?
The most important tip is to decide if getting organized is a goal you want to achieve. Only you can change yourself!

After committing to that goal, then some other tips are:
     • Have the right tools.
     • Keep what you use most often closest to you.
     • Keep like things together.
     • Break projects into small, manageable steps.

A Greek proverb states, “The beginning is half of every action.” Just begin!

15.) What are some of the more common messes that you help people clean up in your various sessions?
Paper, paper, paper. Stuff, stuff, stuff. The basic issues are usually too much stuff and not enough space. Sometimes there’s no place to sit, no floor to be seen, no desk surface to work on.

Common themes are dealing with paper and projects clients produce, dealing with daily mail at work and at home, and dealing with the various things that come into their lives. Together, my clients and I decide what to keep and where to keep it so that they can find it again.

16.) Can you give an example of a client who had a messy house/office and what you did by way of de-cluttering and/or organizing it?
Below are two photos of a client’s kitchen. The kitchen was cluttered and the counters were used for storage. It was unpleasant for the entire family to start each day being greeted with the disorganization. We donated unused and unnecessary items. All the rest of the items were placed logically with like things together in the cupboards. The kitchen is now organized and they can find what they need and can use. It is a relaxing and inviting place for cooking, eating and being together.

When I teach seminars, I use many before and after photos to demonstrate clients’ organizing challenges and solutions. Ten photos are available on my website (, along with descriptions of each situation. You will see a corporate office, college office, home office, residential dining room and residential kitchen, describing their challenge, solution, and result for each setting.

The results are pretty dramatic and life-changing!

Before ... After ...
Messy Kitchen
          Click on image to enlarge.
Organized Kitchen
         Click on image to enlarge.