Interview with NAPO Founder’s Award Recipient, Leslie Josel

Each quarter, the NAPO Awards & Recognition Committee will select a member to feature here on the Get Organized & Be Productive blog. This regular blog feature will give everyone the opportunity to get to know a few NAPO members and to see the value of their NAPO experience in a more informal way. This quarter the choice was easy! We had to feature the 2018 winner of NAPO’s FOUNDERS’ AWARD, Leslie Josel of Order Out of Chaos Organizing in Larchmont, New York.

What was the first thing that crossed your mind when your name was announced as the winner of The Founders’ Award?
O-M-G! I really have to make this speech!! I was shocked that I won! I was glad I was sitting next to Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton (also a nominee). I wasn’t as composed as I normally am, and I was VERY emotional. Three of my colleagues said, “Hey, let’s nominate this person” for no other reason than to honor me. It is really a pure, selfless act to say, “We think your work is divine, and we want to nominate you and let everyone see that as well.”

Was there anything you wanted to say during your acceptance speech that you forgot?
So many things, but I don’t think we have time for all of it! I only had 2 minutes! I would have probably said when I first joined NAPO that I thought NAPO owed me…you know, you join a membership and what am I going to get back? I soon figured out I was wrong. I think if I had more time, I would have shared more examples of what I did wrong – meaning what I took for granted. Maybe I would have shared more defining moments of what changed the script for me. You really do need to give to get. Not until I started to give, in big ways and small, did I reap the rewards. I’m talking about the relationships, partnerships, and friendships. There is no better organization to empower you.

When did you begin your business? What year? Where?
2004 in New York.

What prompted you to start?
I started my business because of my son. When he was 5, he was diagnosed with ADHD and there wasn’t a lot of information back then. We didn’t have all of the conferences, podcasts, books and magazines we have now. I had to scramble for information and rely on my instincts as to what might “untangle” his world, both at home and at school, and I re-arranged my house top to bottom. I had a friend who was a therapist who saw what I did and told me she had a patient with 4 kids under the age of 10, all diagnosed with ADHD. Long story short, I went and spent 8 hours at her house one day. Within 2 weeks, four of her friends called. They saw what I had done at the first house and asked if I could do it for them. I had been working part-time as an executive director of a non-profit organization. I turned to my husband and said, “But I don’t do this for a living…,” and he said, “You do now!” Within six months, I quit my job and started organizing full-time.

Did you have a mentor?
I never really had a mentor, but I had guidance through the ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization). I actually found the ICD before I found NAPO!
I had guidance through their network and their tele-classes, conferences, and education. ICD was a natural fit for me. Not on how to run my business, but how to work IN my business.

What was your biggest fear going into business for yourself?
I was fearful of everything! What do I call myself? How much do I charge? How do I do this? And the bigger fear for me was being an imposter. Not knowing enough. Not being good enough. Could I do this? You have to remember, back then, not only was Professional Organizing not common, but doing the kind I wanted to do was really not common.

Is there a mistake you made (that you’re willing to share) when you first began organizing?
I didn’t charge enough. I didn’t know my worth. I didn’t hire help soon enough in my business. Don’t bring in help when you are desperate. You need to do it before it gets to that point. In the beginning, I said YES to way too many things. I think we’ve all made those mistakes. My biggest mistake, that had an impact on my business, was a couple of years in, I stopped listening to my gut and I got FOMO (fear of missing out). I had always charged hourly and that was my business model. That’s what my clients liked because they didn’t have to commit. Everyone around me was offering packages. I thought, if everybody else was doing it, I should be doing it too. I stopped listening to what was right for me and my business. I switched my model over…and it sank my business. I learned the hard way.

What’s your proudest achievement (other than this award)?
My academic planner product line. I’m proud of myself for having the foresight to say that these products are necessary and there’s a market for them. We’ve been successful every year. We sell 100’s of thousands of them!! They are products that are real and valuable. They are in schools and learning centers. I’m proud of them because they’re a teaching tool. I’m not only proud of the success, but I’m proud of what they are.

Do you have any advice for newer NAPO members? Advice for veteran members?
Come from a place of service. Not everything is rosy and not everything is perfect. I make mistakes all the time. Stop watching what everyone else is doing. Do what works for you and your clientele. Go with your gut! Bigger is not necessarily better. I treasure my NAPO membership beyond words. People always ask me what has made me so “successful” in my business, and I always say NAPO. No organization is like ours.

Tell us something about yourself that we would never know just from looking at you.
I tap dance. I go to tap class once a week and I love it! It’s great exercise, but mostly it’s such a great way to relieve stress.

Thank you to Leslie for sharing with us and we hope you’ll check out her business at

Interview courtesy of Sara Getzkin of Hands On Organizing Services
Member, NAPO Awards & Recognition Committee

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One thought on “Interview with NAPO Founder’s Award Recipient, Leslie Josel

  1. Congratulations on being a recipient of the NAPO Founder’s Award.
    Knowing about you and the products that you sell will be a valuable resource for me to share with my clients.
    I have subscribed to your newsletter and have your website bookmarked.

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