I’m often in organizing sessions where a client will say something along the lines of:

“When I show you this you’re gonna think I’m ______________.”
“I’m SO embarrassed to tell you that ________________.”
“Please don’t laugh at me, but I couldn’t resist ______________.”
“I know it seems like I’m ‘woo-woo’ because I __________.”

They’re saying these things in a jokey way, but I know there’s a little defense mechanism sentiment behind them. They’re getting out ahead of me possibly making some organizer-y judgment call. We may be looking at a rock their school crush gave them in 5th grade, or a massive collection of concert t-shirts, or a folder full of articles about seahorses that they’ve curated over the years.

Skeletons in closets? Shoot, that’s nothing compared to some of the unusual objects or pieces of paper that folks hang onto. I recognize it’s a vulnerable moment when someone shows me their own personal skeletons – things that are kind of weird or funny or over the top. So I don’t take the sharing lightly. I was cleaning out a container in my own home not too long ago and found the entire stash of boards I broke for taekwondo belt tests. All the boards. Why all the boards? Organizers keep odd things sometimes, too (plus I think we have too much storage in this house).

I’m also not in the business of forcing someone to let go of all of their unusual stuff. What, just because most people don’t keep an E.T. rubber mask, or a collection of Star Trek action figures in their master closet, you should get rid of yours? If you have the storage to store things properly, and that is:

  • space to see them;
  • retrieve them;
  • easily put them away;
  • factor in things like temperature, light, and humidity; and
  • you enjoy them

I don’t see the harm in keeping things you care about. Regardless of how unusual they might be, or my opinion of them.

Along those same lines, sometimes someone will apologetically show me something they’ve devised to create their own organizing system. For example, maybe they’ve repurposed items like using an old ladder as a bookshelf, or used things differently like S-hooks and a towel bar for necklaces. Systems created uniquely, especially by repurposing and without the pressure of conforming, are often the perfect solution.** If they ask my opinion, my usual response is to ask how it works for them (and their usual reply is that yes, it’s a great system).

You bought it, saved it, created it, devised it…why not own it? Why fix what’s not broken? When I work with people to improve their organization, I’m working to help their environment support who they are, not trying to change who they are. If you need to modify habits that got you into trouble with your stuff management, that’s one thing. But one of the aspects I love most about what I do is learning about other people’s unique personalities. Party quirks, if you will. It’s interesting to find out that someone is really into genealogy, or entering the annual neighborhood holiday light competition. Or that they’ve figured out that putting lists on the refrigerator under that special Dunder Mifflin magnet will help them to remember things.

If it’s working for you, let your own weird way of organizing shine through.

*Pet peeve time – the term ‘woo-woo.’ It’s unfortunate that we are afraid to talk about various branches of spirituality, and have to reduce it to a slightly diminishing colloquialism to make it acceptable. Maybe that’s another post.

**As a result of my research for this post, I’m now a little obsessed with finding and upcycling an old card catalog for my office. Hey librarians – anyone out there with a lead? Anyone?