Whether you plan to stay in your home as you age or want to downsize into a home that requires less maintenance, you may be daunted by the thought of reorganizing the possessions you’ve accumulated over a lifetime to match your changing needs.

Many seniors find that hiring a professional organizer to help them can make the process easier. If you have to move quickly or have physical limitations, hiring a professional organizer makes perfect sense.

And there are other times to consider bringing in a professional, notes Scott Roewer, a certified professional organizer and owner of The Organizing Agency in Washington, D.C.

“You should hire an organizer if you’re overwhelmed before you even get started or if you’re not making progress the way you anticipated,” he says. “An organizer can assist you if you’ve tried to downsize before and not had luck. If you’re emotionally stuck, an organizer can help you with the challenges you face.”

What a Professional Organizer Can Do to Help

Roewer says a professional organizer can do much more than rearrange your closets.

They can develop a plan to help you age in place or create customized floor plans for your new home–or help you interview movers, schedule a move, supervise a professional team of packers, and unpack your new home so you never have to lift a finger.

You can also hire someone solely to sort your belongings and arrange disposal of the items you no longer need through donation, auction or consignment–or by shipping them to family members.

How to Find a Professional Organizer

Whether you plan to move or not, you can find professional support through the National Association of Professional Organizers or the National Association of Senior Move Managers: it’s best to hire a professional organizer who has experience with older adults and their families.

“Ideally you’ll hire a Senior Move Manager; these are professionals who assist older adults and their families with the emotional and physical aspects of downsizing, relocation or aging in place,” says Roewer. “Be sure to ask them for referrals, copies of their insurance policies, ask about similar projects and question them on the exact services they provide.”

“For example, if you need help with cleaning, waste removal, and help with space planning, be sure they can provide those services,” he adds.

Before choosing a professional to assist you, Roewer recommends you also ask about how long they have been in business, whether or not they have had any formal training, how much they charge and whether they will provide a written contract.

Most organizers charge by the hour, with the rate varying according to their level of experience, the type of project and your area.

“The scope of the project might include helping you stage a house for selling and move management services if you’re considering a retirement community or moving to a smaller home,” Roewer. “Anyone you work with should always provide an outline of the job costs with a written estimate before you begin working together.”

DIY Home Organization Tips

If you prefer to organize your own household before downsizing or just to simplify your life, Roewer offers the following home organization tips:

    • Avoid the idea you can do the whole house in one weekend. Think in terms of weeks or months–not days.

    • If you’re moving, keep in mind how much space you will have in your new home. Use that as a decision making factor in how much you will keep and focus on the items you use the most.

    • Create rules for yourself to follow while working. For example, you should donate or toss out all items that are stained, broken, chipped or missing pieces. You want to only move your best stuff.

    • Avoid working with your family members. Most family dynamics do not support a stressful experience such as downsizing and moving.

Moving is high on the list of stressful life events, so whether you hire someone to help you or rely on tips from the pros, keep in mind that taking a systematic approach and giving yourself plenty of time can make the process easier.