Lessons From a Professional Organizer

Professional organizer Ellen Faye shares her best tips and explains what it means to really be organized.
August 28, 2012

Life is messy, but Ellen Faye has a system. Her action lists ensure that deadlines get met. Office furniture flows logically. Files have easy-to-remember names so someone can extract a carefully preserved memo in seconds.

When it was time to leave her career in hotel management and choose a new direction—one that would allow more time to raise two children—she weighed options against her strengths. She knew she was good managing space—furniture, files, storage. She was also good at listening. Then, a professional designer told her, “You should be a professional organizer," and the light bulb went on.

What Is Organized?

She started her business 11 years ago through referrals. Today, Faye is an organizing coach and a professional organizer certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, a nonprofit education group that helps train and promote the nation’s 4,200 professional organizers. (Faye also serves on NAPO’s board of directors.) Faye, who works in Southern New Jersey, specializes in helping home-based small businesses and works with as many as 20 clients at one time.  

Organizing, she says, is just maintaining a system.

“I’m not anal. I’m just as organized as I need to be so I have the quality of life I want," Faye says. “Being organized is not being perfect. It’s having a simple system you can maintain. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be perfect."

For many people it’s a form of therapy, and self-discovery.

“I start by asking `What causes the most stress?’ and 'If one thing was different and you fixed it and it changed your life, what would it be?’ says Fay