The end of March marks 15 years since I started Emend. To celebrate, I’m sharing how I got started as a Professional Organizer and earned my certification. Next week, I’ll be sharing some memorable items I’ve organized and a few funny stories from the last 15 years.

How I got Started as a Professional Organizer

I can still remember going to a bookstore as a child and seeing a book by an author that was also a professional organizer. I immediately thought, “Oh my gosh, there’s something out there for me!”

I couldn’t believe there was a job that involved organizing. But I was also a child, and I didn’t give the thought too much weight. I finished high school, attended LSU and got a degree in Information Systems and Decision Sciences (ISDS).

I graduated from college at 20 and decided to earn my MBA, with a concentration in Organizational Development. Although it sounds like it, Organizational Development isn’t about managing things, but it’s more about helping businesses be efficient with their staff and internal processes.

During my time in graduate school, I took an entrepreneurship class taught by Dr. Justice. In his class, you have to write a business plan — for a real or a fake business — and you can accept your initial grade or continue to resubmit it until you get an A. Any business plan that gets an A is one Dr. Justice thinks would be a viable business.

I wrote a business plan for a Professional Organizing company. It wasn’t called “Emend,” but it was essentially the business I’m running today. I turned in my plan until I got an A.

After earning my MBA, I started working for a local consulting firm doing small business consulting. Although I got some great, valuable experience working at the consulting firm, I ultimately decided to pull out my MBA business plan and give it a try.

I started from scratch in March 2006.

I have always craved structure and systems because of the way they can make our lives easier. When things are organized, they’re easier to find and it saves time. Putting things in their proper places came natural to me, but understanding the mental and emotional side of organizing did not.

Within my first batch of 10 clients, I worked with someone who was chronically disorganized. We would continue to work together, but the systems never stuck. We made progress, but ultimately the space never stayed organized.

I never anticipated how different my clients’ brains would be from mine, and I quickly learned that I couldn’t just say, “This makes sense to me, so certainly it’ll make sense for you.” That’s when I decided to learn everything I could about how my clients’ brains worked.

Becoming Louisiana’s First and Only Certified Organizer

Attending conferences is an essential part of my continuing education.

I’m an education and credentials junkie, which is how I found the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). I started taking classes and attending conferences with a focus of understanding how my clients’ brains worked.

I realized that learning this part of organizing was going to set me apart from someone who was solely good at the physical part of organizing, and I would offer tremendous insight to my clients.

In 2008, NAPO helped create the certification for Professional Organizers with the intent of separating hobbyists from those looking to transfer organizing skills to their clients. In order to get certified, you had to have three years of business under your belt and a specified number of paid client hours completed.

I was eligible to take the exam in 2009, which is when I took it and earned my certification. I’ve maintained this certification ever since and am still the only Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) in Louisiana.

In 2010, I attended my first conference in Austin, Texas and it was hosted by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. I learned so much there — it was lightbulb, after lightbulb, after lightbulb for me.

It gave me insight into how someone with chronic disorganization thought and how I could help in a meaningful way by alleviating as much stress from everyday life as possible.

Since becoming certified, I’ve:

  • Earned more than 225 continuing educations units,
  • Attended 10 conferences across the country,
  • Given more than 100 presentations to groups and at conferences,
  • And have continued to invest in industry-related education.

I truly believe education makes me a better person for my clients — more than 350 of them so far!

I’ve learned so much over the years, and am continuing to learn how to understand my clients’ minds and create custom systems that will work for them.

Come back to the blog next week, when I’ll share some stand-out memories from my years in business, along with unexpected benefits and myths about the job.