Thursday, January 15, 2009

Organizer Confessions

When I first started working as a professional organizer, I assumed that everyone in the business had everything perfectly together. You know what I'm talking about: you go into their houses and nothing is out of place, there are labels on everything and even the junk drawer is tidy. Just the thought of something like that makes my skin crawl with feelings of inadequacy!

Imagine my surprise when I joined a company run by three talented, capable organizers who didn't not have "perfect" homes. Sure, the houses were tidy, but sometimes things would get out of place. And, it turns out that even organizers need help sometimes! Hard to believe, isn't it? As part of my training, I did role-plays with the other organizers and we would work on their personal stuff. My mentors would take on the personality of various clients to let me practice different techniques organizers use to help people, but we were still tackling real problems that the organizers themselves had. Like so many other people, organizers aren't always that fond of filing either!

What I learned from this training explained so much about why people chose to work with a professional organizer. First, having another person helps keep you on task. It can help make a really tedious job more pleasant. If someone is sitting at the file cabinet with you, you're less likely to get distracted by that interesting article you found and stop working because you want to read right now. Secondly, *stuff* can be overwhelming. Without a set of detached eyes to look at your stuff, it's really easy to get lost in the trees and not see the forest. When I'm working with a client, I don't feel the same emotions they do looking at their stuff, so I don't get overwhelmed.

Here's the confession. Sometimes, when I look at my own stuff, I do feel overwhelmed. How do I know if this piece of mail telling me about a cool organizing product is an important resource or just junk mail? What if one of my clients might need it in the future?? And that article about the "right" way to set up a kitchen? It has great tips. Will I remember all of them? Does it mean I'm not a good organizer if I don't know every single thing this says??? These kind of thoughts can be so debilitating. What to do?!

Now you know--I'm an organizer and sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how to deal with my stuff. But you know what? I'm an organizer, so I have a system! When it comes to facing the hard stuff, I work through a series of questions.

1. How long have I had this? Have I ever used it? If yes, when?

2. How long has it been since it's been used?

3. What is the worst thing that could happen if I don't have this? How likely is that?

4. How hard would it be for me to replace the item or retrieve the information? (Here's a hint, if I can find it with Google, the info isn't staying!)

5. If I didn't have this, what could I use instead?

6. How important is this to my clients? (For example, I DO keep info sheets on the local recycling rules because they're so complicated!)

Now, my little system of questions is fine and dandy, but it doesn't help with the fact that it's tedious! That's where conning, I mean, asking a friend to help comes in. They don't have to actually participate in sorting, they just can sit there and chat and drink tea (or margaritas--your call) while you work.

Some important qualities of friends who help you organize: They absolutely must not be judgemental. They should be able to help you stay focused and not distract you from trying to organize. They should be someone you feel comfortable sharing your weaknesses with and know that they'll respect you.

If you have a hard time thinking of someone who might fit that bill, it might make sense to call a professional organizer. A professional has already seen the worst of what's out there and is trained to keep you focused and motivated as you work.

Happy organizing and feel free to send me questions!


Becky said...

This is a *great* article. You're an awesome writer, Sam. You make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Also, I feel encouraged because I like that I fall into the category of having (beneath my clutter) everything labeled, and even my junk drawer is neat. It feels good to know that stuff has a place, even if it's not in it!

Whew! I'm on the right track.

templework said...

Was sooo excited to see another post!

Not being able to do things myself - even though I have 'a plan' means "Having someone else to work with" makes ALL the difference!

Bless my son(#4) and DDIL - tonight - the Christmas tree came down (hey! last year it wasn't until April when son #5 came home from college!)LOL - yikes

Next week we tackle my bedroom!
(the rest of the house is GREAT - I run a tight ship - chuckle)
but my bedroom - well it's a long story that involves switching to 3 different rooms this past year and I just ran out of oomph!

You are very motivational!

Loving your blog!