Organizing the Organizers: When colleagues are few and far between

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Albuquerque Shred-A-Thon

Today I’m pleased to introduce a very special guest blogger, someone I came to know through social media and the Professional Organizers Blog Carnival, and whose WordPress site I had the honor of creating last year.  As one of the co-founders of Professional Organizers of New Mexico, Hazel Thornton is here to explain the ins and outs of forming a networking group for local colleagues.


Eight years ago I moved from Los Angeles, where there are hundreds of professional organizers and a thriving NAPO chapter, to Albuquerque, where there are seven of us. Well, there are a few more than seven, but I am referring specifically to our little group, PONM (Professional Organizers of New Mexico). When I was planning my move I learned that there was no NAPO chapter in New Mexico, so I emailed all the members within a 50 mile radius of Albuquerque and asked them: Do they know each other? Do they ever get together?

Happily, they all replied. Some did know each other; No, they did not meet; Yes, what a great idea! So, although I get credit for the idea, I must say I was glad they took it and ran with it. I joined them a few months later and we have been together ever since.

NAPO requires 20 members for a chapter, and for good reason. It’s a lot of work to have officers, task forces, sub-committees, event coordinators and such! My role in NAPO-LA, for the six months I was there, was chapter librarian. PONM, by contrast, is v-e-r-y informal, as is the entire state of New Mexico, I learned. We do have a few assigned (more like assumed) roles, like Treasurer and Resource List Editor, but we do not have a President or anything as formal as that. We meet in each other’s homes on a rotating basis. Each month’s host prepares the agenda and writes the meeting minutes. At the next meeting the previous host makes a presentation on a topic of her choice. Our main rules are:

1) All PONM members must first be members of NAPO; and

2) Cashews must be served at every meeting.  (Would I kid about such a thing?)

We’ve experienced some growing pains, to be sure – What should we call ourselves? (We switched from an Albuquerque-centric name to a more inclusive one.) How shall we handle membership fees? (We vote on all expenditures, and if we run out of money we all chip in again.) How can we include organizers who live hundreds of miles away? (We have tried various meeting locations, and anyone who is a NAPO member can join and have a listing on our website, but those who live too far away to attend meetings tend to fall away after a while.) When are we ever going to find a competent web designer? (We love our current webmistress!) But things have gone swimmingly the past few years.

Our informality has not worked for everyone. We’ve had members that moved here from large chapters and got frustrated with us. But the seven founding members of PONM remain steadfast friends and colleagues. Coming from a corporate environment, complete with water coolers, I don’t know what I’d do without colleagues to compare notes with, and to rely on for support. We refer clients to each other, hire each other to help on jobs, encourage and applaud each other’s successes, and work on community projects as a group. The PR we get as a group, and individually, increases awareness of the organizing industry and helps all of us.

Some of our accomplishments over the years include:

  • Pro bono organizing for non-profits (Adelante, Cuidando los Ninos)
  • GO Month Shred-a-thons and Recycle-a-thons
  • Messy Desk Project for Albuquerque the Magazine (15-page spread, June 2011)
  • Volunteer team on A&E Hoarders (Dee, episode #64, with Geralin Thomas)
  • Two Get Organized tips e-books (available for free on our website)
  • Hosted a dinner for then NAPO president Barry Iszak while here on his book signing tour

When I tell people about PONM, some are surprised that we are not more competitive. Although our skill sets overlap, as do even some of our social circles, we all have different niches. We figure there’s plenty of business for everyone, and we might as well have some fun while we’re at it!

I recommend...

Hazel Thornton, creator of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection, is a virtual organizer and family historian based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She combines her genealogy research and organizing skills to help clients tell the stories of their families and their most treasured belongings. Her forthcoming book is called What’s a Photo Without the Story? A Guide to Leaving Your Family Legacy. Visit her online at

Join the Conversation


  1. Avatar Kelly Koepke on March 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Great article, Hazel!

    I had the distinct pleasure of working with this group of organizers as their group formed, helping them with public relations around their volunteer efforts. I’m fortunate to have gotten to know all of them, and helped raise awareness of the good they do for so many clients.

    • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on March 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks, Kelly, we learned a lot from you!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Kelly, from what I’ve seen, they’ve had a lot of media attention, so they are very lucky to have had your support!

  2. Avatar Miriam Ortiz y Pino on March 14, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Great article Hazel! I’m sooooooo glad that you made that initial contact! It has been a pleasure watching us all evolve into our thriving businesses. It is also a nice reminder of just how much we have accomplished. We need to share this story with NAPO – maybe via the newsletter?

    • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on March 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Me too, Miriam! Yes, the next step is to share with NAPO.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Miriam, I’m so pleased that Hazel has brought you to my blog! I don’t know if you been here before, but I hope you’ll find lots more information here that you can use in your organizing business.

  3. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on March 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Janet, thank you for asking me to write about PONM! It had been on my mind to do so, but it took your asking to get it done!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      And thank YOU for taking the bait! I found it very interesting to see how similar PONM is to the Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group – comparing notes, support, referrals, hiring each other to help on jobs, encouraging and applauding each other’s successes – but we don’t require cashews at our meetings. Maybe something to consider for the future… 🙂

  4. Moreen Torpy Moreen Torpy on March 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Hazel, this sounds like an amazing group! AND to serve cashews too! I’m in.

    Where I live POs are few and far between, so we don’t have any real connection apart from POC’s Cyber Chapter. You’re fortunate to have each other to share with.

    You’re certainly an inspiration,

  5. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on March 15, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Yes, we are fortunate! NAPO now has a Virtual Chapter, but they didn’t 8 years ago.

  6. Avatar Pam Bowers, Organized Chaos on March 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Hazel–sounds like your Chapter and the NAPO-DFW Chapter would get along beautifully! Our dynamics are similar but we don’t have the cashews, although a few of us are nutty! Love this blog and hope to meet you in person in New Orleans?

    • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on March 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Hi Pam…yes, please look for me. I love meeting on-line friends in person at conference!

  7. Avatar Margarita Ibbott ~ on April 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Hazel that you so much for adding your blog to my LINKY ( I am so happy to bring ORGANIZING blogs to my readers and followers and those that follow my ORGANIZING blogs to follow board on Pinterest.

    Make sure to drop by next Friday and add your link to another post!

    Have a great week.

    Margarita Ibbott

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