What's the difference between Professional Organizers, Interior Designers, and Interior Decorators?

Whether you're considering a new career path or looking for a service provider, it's important to understand the distinct differences between these similar, yet vastly different businesses.

It's easy to get confused between professional organizers, interior designers, and interior decorators, because they all have an impact on the interior look, feel, and function of the home, but make no mistake...there are some MAJOR differences between them.

The best way to visualize these differences is to consider three aspects of each service:

1. Scope of Work (what they actually do)

2. Key Partnerships (who else they rely on to get the job done)

3. Requirements (education & certification required to perform the service)

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Professional Organizers

Organized Closet

Scope of Work

Professional Organizers declutter and organize by helping clients manage the items which are already in the home. They recommend storage solutions but do not design or decorate.

Decluttering and organizing is an art in and of itself. Organizers must learn the layout of a home and the daily routines of the individuals living there. Then, they must determine why the space is not functional by identifying the source(s) of clutter and disorganization.

They help the clients go through every item to determine what stays and what goes, and organize the remaining items in the house by determining a permanent place for each item to "live".

The organization must be intuitive, functional, and easy for the clients to maintain, as these items will be used and frequently moved around (unlike furniture or decorations).

Organizers may sometimes rearrange large items such as furniture, bookshelves, entertainment centers, etc., to help create a better flow and also to create designated areas for specific categories of items.

While Organizers do recommend and source storage-related items for clients, this is not the main focus and they do not recommend or purchase decorative, artistic, or design aspects of the home. Nor do they construct, design, build, or rebuild any structural components of the home, including closets, shelves, etc..

For example, we (The Organized Couple) do not even hang pictures, as this is not inside our scope and in certain areas is a liability that Professional Organizers are not insured or licensed to do.

There is also a psychological aspect to decluttering and organizing as well. Organizers must help clients understand how things got the way they did, why they should do something different, and how to create new habits.

Key Partnerships

Professional Organizers must have a thorough knowledge of storage-related products, and as such should develop relationships with sellers, manufacturers, and distributors of such items.

It is also best practice for Professional Organizers to develop a referral network which can be utilized by clients for frequently requested services that do not fit within the scope of organizing, such as; junk removal, handyman work, moving services, auctioneers, antique dealers, general contract labor, electricians, interior designers, interior decorators, painters, waste disposal services, and cleaning services.

Requirements

Professional Organizers are not required to earn a degree, certificate, or license to be a Professional Organizer.

It is recommended, however, that Organizers have a deep passion for helping clients solve problems and that they study and create unique, effective methods to help their clients reach their goals. 

Interior Designers

Interior Design

Scope of work

Interior Designers help create the actual design of a space and also contribute to the decoration of said space. They do not declutter or organize.

They must consider building codes and many other safety precautions that are legally required when performing such work.

Designers also match colors, patterns, and furniture. They are responsible for determining the right placement of items such as furniture and decor, the correct upholstery, carpeting, textiles, etc..

Interior Designers work with CAD (computer-aided design), video editing, and photo design software to provide plans to clients, contractors, and architects.

They also must be proficient in business administration, spreadsheets, managing budgets, and so on, as they are often responsible for planning and executing the entire design project.

Key Partnerships

Often Interior Designers are involved in remodelings and new build projects. They are responsible for communicating with contractors and architects to ensure that the design features inside the home match with the architectural and building elements of the home.

They are also responsible for growing a network of reliable manufacturers and distributors of the products they will be recommending and sourcing throughout the project.

Requirements

As interior design crosses architecture, building codes, and safety protocols, most regions require a bachelor's degree, plus a post-grad certification to become an accredited Interior Designer.

Interior Decorators

Interior Design

Scope of Work

Interior Decorators decorate, but they do not design, declutter or organize.

Decorators help clients understand and define what their style may be, and what pieces will help them create the look and feel they are going for. They recommend and select furnishings and other pieces to decorate a room to suit a specific style or taste, to direct the flow of traffic, or to alter lighting and colors of the room which were created by the designer or architect.

They must have an expansive working knowledge of interior decorations, furniture, colors, textures, and art.

Key Partnerships

Interior Decorators must develop relationships with sellers, manufacturers, furniture designers, art galleries, and distributors of other products they will recommend and source for their clients.

Requirements

Most areas do not require a degree or professional accreditation to become an Interior Decorator.

Cup of Tea

And now you can relax, have a cup of tea, and dig into more research about the profession you want to pursue!

If you were looking for a service provider, this article should have cleared up that debate as well.

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Nick Keesey

About the Author

Nick Keesey is an expert Professional Organizer and co-founder of the 'Mindful Organization Method'. When he isn't helping clients get organized, he's working with students in his certification program to become professional organizers themselves.