Katherine Denton, a certified PDMM(R) and Professional Organizer, answers questions and shares tips in two articles published by Macon Magazine. The articles were originally published in the June/July 2013 and December/January 2018 editions.
How did you decide to become a professional organizer?
I started my career as a “professional organizer” in 1995. I had been working as an advertising account executive in Atlanta, but I was miserable, so I quit. A temporary agency assigned me a one-day receptionist job at a company called Montgomery Watson. Thankfully the phone rarely rang because when it did I answered it “Montgomery Ward… I mean … MMMMontgomery Watson.”
Even though I was struggling with the phone, I was succeeding at impressing the regional manager with my organizing skills. Over the course of the day I organized his desktop, his desk drawers, found creative solutions to his incoming paper problems, wrote a letter on his behalf chastising an employee for having a pornographic screensaver and completed 3 months’ worth of expense reports. By the end of the day, he asked me if I would be his “personal assistant.” From there I marketed myself as a personal assistant with an ever-increasing skill set.
If someone were shopping for an organizer, what should they look for?
Every organizer has a unique skill set. I specialize in helping clients organize their tax papers, utilize Quicken or QuickBooks to track income/expenses and create budgets, prepare financial affidavits and other divorce paperwork, and set-up filing systems for important estate, financial, tax and work documents. In my field of financial/paper/time organization, I recommend looking for a person who is licensed, insured, and a Certified Professional Daily Money Manager. Ask your accountant or financial planner for referrals. I also advise searching sources like Home Advisor that have pre-screened businesses and have feedback from past clients. Once you narrow it down, call for a free consultation and see if it’s a good fit.
What are some of the services offered by a professional organizer?
Professional organizers do a lot! There is no limit to what we can do. Services include organizing homes, offices, finances, time, business offices, relocation, bill pay, downsizing, pictures, garage sales, children, volunteers, events and more. Search the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals for professionals who specialize in the kind of help you need (http://www.napo.net).
What tips do you have for someone who might want to “declutter & freshen up” their home for the new year?
A common resolution is to make a positive change in the new year. Whatever it is, get started by creating the perfect space for the new you. Lighten up and let go of the old stuff that no longer fits with the new you. This can be physical stuff like clothing, paper and clutter, or commitments and relationships that no longer suit you. Resist the urge to buy. Give yourself a clean slate and purge the nonessentials. Let go of anything that doesn’t make your life better! When you do bring in new stuff, make sure something old goes out. Want to get started now? A good place to start is with your holiday decorations. Keep only the best ones because you deserve the best. Don’t forget this!
When you help a client, what are your goals?
The majority of my clients are very successful, but they tend to beat themselves up for not being organized or “perfect”. My first goal is to alleviate any embarrassment by offering support, not criticism. Next, I strive to put myself in my client’s shoes: to understand their goals, readiness for change, responsibilities, limitations, and strengths. From here my goal is to customize a plan to help my client reach their goals successfully, quickly and for the long term. This involves focusing on the projects that will have the biggest impact on their day to day lives as well as creating systems that are easy for them to maintain.
What are the most common organizational problems people need help with?
Office- desktop management, work/paper flow, filing systems
Financial- budgeting, bill pay, tracking expenses with Quicken/Quickbooks, tax prep for accountant
Businesses- records management, storage rooms, community spaces
Personal- time management, work/home balance, ADHD strategies, and coaching
Home- master closet, general clutter, incoming paper
Did you receive training before opening your business, or is it a talent you have developed?
When I started the business 18 years ago, I was “winging it.” I had a talent for organizing, a Journalism degree, some advertising experience, a desire to help people and an open mind. Since then, my skill set has grown exponentially in order to meet the constantly evolving needs of my clients.
Where do you hope to see your business five years from now?
I hope to continue my one-on-one work with clients, but also have several books published, or at least in the works.
What is the most unusual organizing request you have ever received?
There have truly been so many. I love my work!!! One time a client asked me to organize the stamps she had been collecting off used mailing envelopes. Let me clarify, these stamps were the ones that somehow made it through the machine without getting stamped. She had over 200 ranging from .01-.35. I gently explained that by the time I sorted and prepared them for posting that she could have bought a roll of 100 first class stamps. But no, she insisted and I did it.
Another request I received was from a client who wanted me to organize their 500 CD changer by genre. I made a catalog to go with it denoting exactly which slot housed which CD. A couple months later they asked me to redo the project. This time they asked me to just put the discs in random order. I suggested they could put the changer on shuffle, but no, they wanted it redone and I happily redid it!
Do You Need a Daily Money Manager?
*The American Association of Daily Money Manager’s answers your FAQs regarding the profession
As personal financial matters become more complicated – finding time to focus on the daily tasks of money management becomes more difficult. Daily money managers (DMMs) offer services to ensure nothing falls through the cracks including necessities like monthly bill payments, tax preparation, balancing checkbooks, decoding medical bills and negotiating with creditors. Other services may include notary services, payroll management, healthcare advocacy or acting in another fiduciary capacity.
DMMS work with a variety of clients such as:
- Seniors and older adults
- Adult children of older adults
- Busy professionals
- People with disabilities
- High net worth individuals and families
- Small businesses owners
- Frequent travelers
- Military personnel and veterans
- Non-profit organizations
- People in life transition
Not everyone is ready or able to manage the tasks associated with daily money management. When you hire a daily money manager to assist with your needs, you have peace of mind knowing that a dedicated, trained professional will ensure your daily financial matters are handled in a timely and professional manner so you can focus on the things you enjoy.
It’s like having a personal Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on staff. Leave the finance-related tasks and associated processes to the professionals.
If I hire a DMM, why do I need an accountant, lawyer, or social worker?
A DMM does not take the place of professionals in the accounting, investment, or social service fields. Their work complements the specialization of other professionals by facilitating the completion of your day-to-day tasks. For example, a DMM, by organizing and maintaining accurate financial records for a client, can easily compile the necessary documents for tax preparation by an accountant. When the accountant has prepared the required tax returns, the DMM makes sure they are correctly signed, that the appropriate checks are attached, and that returns are mailed on time. Unless your DMM happens to have separate professional credentials in other fields, he or she should not be offering you legal, investment, or tax advice. However, a good DMM should be able to recognize pertinent issues and refer you to professionals and organizations qualified to provide the other services you may need.￼
What types of tasks will a DMM handle?
The expertise of DMMs covers a broad range of tasks, and the actual work they do depends on client need. However, the scope of a DMM’s work generally includes the following:
- Bill-paying, including calls to payees regarding incorrect bills
- Balancing checkbooks and maintaining organization of bank records
- Preparing and delivering bank deposits
- Organizing tax documents and other paperwork
- Negotiating with creditors
- Providing referrals to and working with legal, tax, and investment professionals.
What will the services of a DMM cost and what are the common billing methods?
Most DMMs charge for their services on an hourly basis – rates varying with geographic areas and expertise. In addition to the hourly rates, most DMMs charge for their travel time and for out-of-pocket expenses such as postage costs incurred for their clients and or other purchases made on the client’s behalf. Some DMMs request payment at the time of service and others bill on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. You may also find some DMMs are willing to set a flat rate for service each month.
Will I be giving up my independence if I hire a DMM?
On the contrary, hiring a daily money manager will enable you to maintain your independence as the DMM is there to assist you with your finances while keeping you involved in any decision-making.
As a senior, they can give you the comfort of another set of eyes reviewing documents and ensuring bills are paid, potentially delaying any need for family members to step in. As a busy professional, they can free you up to focus on other important things like your family and career while keeping you informed of where your finances stand, avoiding late fees and poor credit because things will no longer fall through the cracks. For high net worth clients, you can be assured that someone else is watching over your financial life to make sure whatever tasks are required to be done to keep your household operating, they are done. The involvement of an outsider in personal financial affairs may be intimidating for some, but most clients of DMMs find that once they have established a relationship with their DMM, they don’t know how they survived without one.