I am now a Certified Professional Organizer®
What It Means To Be a CPO®
Most people do not know that there is an exam offered by the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO®) where after many, MANY hours of putting in the work, you can become a board Certified Professional Organizer® (CPO®). While it is not required in our field, it is something that I decided to pursue because of my commitment to my clients and my team for us to be the best and always strive for more, as well as helping to contribute personally to strengthening the profession and elevating this industry as a whole. Fewer than 10% of professional organizers and productivity consultants in the world have earned this prestigious credential, and I am so proud to say that I am now one of them - that I am a Certified Professional Organizer®!
An Unregulated Industry
Something I learned early on was that professional organizing is an unregulated industry, as anyone can decide to become an organizer and call themselves a “Professional Organizer.” Don’t get me wrong, you do have to start somewhere and you have to first get paid as an organizer to even think about getting the certification. 5 years ago, this was me. At that time I already had a few classes under my belt because I had been on my own personal organizing journey – long before I decided to become a Professional Organizer in Dallas and make a living as one – so I jumped right in when my schedule finally allowed me to pursue this path!
To be ‘unregulated’ means the industry does not require insurance or any protection against my personal assets versus the business, or protection for clients against injury or damage to their stuff, homes or businesses. The industry also does not require any prior experience or knowledge. So you can pretty much hire whoever you want based on if you like them or if they were referred to you, and you may get a great result. But there’s also a chance you may not!
The Value of a Professional Organizer Certification
When I started in the professional organizing industry, while I initially wanted to do this part-time so I could work around my kids schedules, I also knew I didn’t want to put my family at risk for unnecessary liabilities. I got insurance almost immediately, and I wanted my clients to have the knowledge, privacy and commitment from me that I knew what I was doing and was properly set up as a business to service them. I think my clients saw the value and experience I was providing because my business grew very quickly and we. were. busy! I also quickly joined the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and learned that while the industry is unregulated, NAPO has worked for years to try to legitimize Professional Organizers by establishing a set of ethical standards through a rigorous certification offered by the BCPO®.
And while the certification may not be necessary, I personally recommend to all my Organizing friends at minimum to be part of a professional association. While there are groups online you can join, ask questions, learn from etc, being part of a professional association (in my opinion) not only legitimizes your business, but you are surrounding yourself with the best of the best; those who are happy to share their knowledge through intense classes, workshops, conferences, etc. There are many others in professional associations and those are the people that have invested in both themselves, their clients and their business!
So here I sit, nearly 5 years later after starting my business, and finally I am a Certified Professional Organizer®.
What Does It Mean To Be A Certified Professional Organizer® (CPO®) and How Does That Help Me As a Potential Client When Hiring a Professional Organizer?
BCPO® Certification is a voluntary, industry-led effort that benefits the members of the organizing profession, as well as the public. It recognizes those professionals who have met specific minimum standards, and proven through examination and client interaction that they possess the body of knowledge and experience required for certification. This program recognizes and raises industry standards, practices, and ethics. For the public, while the CPO® designation is not an endorsement or recommendation, certification of professional organizers maximizes the value received from the products and services provided by a CPO®. In my opinion, this is a nice way of saying you get a lot more for your money both in knowledge and experience!
In real terms, earning my CPO® credential means that I’ve worked 1500 paid organizing hours in less than five years and taught and transferred skills to my clients, just to be able to qualify to apply to take this rigorous standardized exam. There are also other requirements that helped me get there such as education, courses, volunteering, coaching etc. As long as most of this is done through validated proper channels, I was qualified to take the exam. After passing this exam, I now have to re-certify every three years by either earning qualified Continuing Education Units or re-taking the exam, so my journey will now be ongoing to keep this prestigious certification.
To Other Organizers - Is it Worth It?
Becoming a CPO® is definitely a financial investment. The exam itself is $450 but you are also putting in blood, sweat and tears to qualify to take the exam, which again involves a financial investment. Then, after all that, you have to re-certify every 3 years so it continues to be a financial investment every year. I mention money because I think many organizers get hung up on that. While the industry may be unregulated and those needing help often don’t think to ask if an organizer is certified, I still think it is very much worth it. For me personally, it validates all of the hard work I’ve put into my team, my business and helping my clients. It also brings a new level of expertise to my business. This is not a hobby. This is my career, and I take what I do – helping my clients reach their goals – very seriously. And I consider teaching my team everything I know and learn just as seriously, so they too can pass their knowledge on to our clients.
So if you are a new organizer, just know that here I am 5 years later and you can do this too! You can get here!
How do I become a CPO®?
NAPO has very helpfully created a handbook here that outlines all the things one must do ahead of time to get certified. It is not an easy path, as many books need to be read (don’t let the wording of it being ‘optional’ fool you, as you do in fact need to read the books!), many concepts and vocabulary words need to be understood and knowledge of applying those concepts need to be learned. I have to say, I never knew so many official names existed on various principles and applied concepts that had to do with organizing!
Do you have to join a professional organization to be certified?
The answer is no, you can take the test without ever joining a professional association. However, I personally think that every organizer should be part of at least one association. I am in the national chapter of NAPO, as well as the local chapter for one of the markets I operate in, but there are many other organizations out there like ICD, AAPO, APPO, CHADD, etc. I am always happy to help any of my fellow organizers looking to join any association related to their field, so always feel free to reach out if interested.
If you fail the first time, try again!
If you are a Professional Organizer, one thing I want to convey to you is that I understand why so many do not belong to an association or try to get certified – sometimes you know what you love to do and are good at it, but at the end of the day, it’s a job that you have to get paid for and especially in this economy, every dollar counts and that money needs to go towards your family. I can’t speak for everyone and I definitely can’t speak to your individual circumstances, but what I can do is encourage you to try to get to the point where you are investing in yourself and your business.
When I first took the exam, I failed. Yep, that’s right. I had extenuating circumstances based on things happening in my life that were out of my control, but at the end of the day, regardless of the excuses, I failed the exam. And guess what, I was SO MAD! I was mad at the money I spent, mad at NAPO (even though they are technically separate from the BCPO) and mad at my circumstances. But at the end of the day, I was mad at myself because I did not take the time needed to put into what I was trying to achieve.
It took me some time to move past this and then I tried again. The test is hard, so don’t take it lightly! Join a study group or take a class if offered to prepare for the CPO. Now that I am on the other side, I feel a level of confidence I always knew I had, but that I strived for so I can finally say, yes, I am worth it. You are too!