One of my organizing clients had parents who needed to move to assisted living. His mother had, over the course of her 87 years, collected over 600 pairs of costume jewelry earrings. “Mom,” he said, “you can’t take all those earrings with you.” Her response: “If I can’t take them with me I’m not going!” That’s when he called me. Thanks to special training and years of experience, I was able to sit with his mom, look through her earring collection with her, and convince her to donate 500 pairs to charity.

Professional organizers (POs) are a terrific resource for caregivers. As neutral third parties they can often diffuse tensions like the one I described. Downsizing is one task they can help with, and they know where and how to dispose of things your loved one no longer wants or needs. They also have an eye for what will fit into a smaller space and can keep you from having to be the “bad guy” — the person who says, “No, you can’t get that table into your new apartment. You have to get rid of it.”

If your loved one doesn’t want you sticking your nose into her business, a PO might be able to do what you can’t: help your loved one gather vital documents, legal papers, and financial and insurance information and organize and update it.

The National Association of Professional Organizers’ (NAPO) website lets you search for POs by zip code. Before hiring a PO, ask about his or her membership in NAPO and about certifications. Be sure the PO is insured and has the experience you and your loved one need.