Some of you know I've recently added student organizing to my services, and I thought I would share a little of why and how this idea came onto my radar.
First off - what is it? Student organizing involves getting to know how a learner works, thinks, and plans most effectively, then implementing a plan that allows them to do and be their best at school. It combines many areas - physical study space, paperwork, time management, goal setting, supplies, tools, and technology (so many of my favorite things!). Taking into consideration the atmosphere and interactions of the entire family, a solid student organizing plan teaches skills that not only assist with studies, but carry forward into all areas of life.
Second - why does it fit with SkillSet Organizing? When I was a young teacher, I was always aware of the classrooms and colleagues that seemed organized and "together" vs. the ones that, well...weren’t. Students responded to these environments accordingly. Conversations I've had with teachers since then (especially substitute teachers!) support my observations. Students need some sort of reliable framework to do their best. But even the most organized of classrooms can't always customize and accommodate the differences students may have in how they manage their stuff and their time. A three-ring binder might be perfect for Johnny who likes to take the time to separate papers by subject, but a nightmare for Susie who piles everything together. Anne may study best in complete quiet, but her younger sister Julie may need to have people or “white noise” in the background. That’s where I come in. I have the background, tools and resources to assess a student’s learning/thinking styles, organizing habits (or lack thereof), and natural tendencies, so that we can come up with a system together that helps them do their best. Plus, I’m a mom - I’m living this situation myself. Our kids couldn’t be any more different in terms of how they approach organization, so I see firsthand the need to customize their systems and teach them the skills for keeping everything under control.
Third - why is it important? We know that schools, teachers and students all face a variety of pressures and challenges. It’s tough to find the time to come up with differentiated organizing and time management skills during the regular school day. Many households have shifted to a more digital life - including their clocks and calendars - making awareness of schedules and time more elusive for many kids. Most also juggle a variety of activities, homework (that still includes TONS of paper), and technology, and rely on parents to keep the trains running on time. However, once a student graduates and heads off to college, the ability to effectively deal with their stuff, schedule, finances and personal time becomes critical. If they haven’t learned how to create their own practical organizing structures, the new freedoms can turn into a nightmare of missed classes and late assignments. Giving a student the tools to organize well for themselves empowers them, and builds confidence - no matter what their age.
I’m currently booking assessments in August, so if this service sounds like a good fit for your family please contact me soon. I’d love to help guide your student on the path to organizing success.
(Side note: Amanda had a lot to conquer. We worked steadily for several sessions, and she was totally dedicated to the process. We even contacted Goodwill to come do a huge pickup (this in addition to my taking at least 3 van-loads of items myself). She was able to sell many items, and trips to the trash can were numerous. By the time our sessions were completed, we could both see the potential in the newly cleared out space. She told me several times that she felt like she was getting rid of the old Amanda, and ushering in a new chapter of her life.)
S: OK, be honest - were you pleased with the overall results? Would you hire a professional organizer again if the need arose?
A: I was more than pleased with the overall result. There were a couple of sessions where it was mentally and sometimes emotionally exhausting, but you encouraged me to take breaks and regroup. I feel like you taught me so much about what to keep and how to more effectively organize what was in the basement. I didn’t just invest in a personal organizer, I think I invested in a new friend, someone I know I can go to for some quick advice or maybe a future resource. You showed compassion and were so patient with me because of my circumstances and for that I will be forever grateful!
In our last episode, Amanda was considering hiring me to help with de-cluttering and organizing her basement. We had just gotten to the point where she called me to get more information. Did Amanda take the plunge and bring me on board? What happened next? Did she get that basement cleared out? We join our heroine as she waits for my arrival at our first appointment...
S: How did you feel immediately prior to me arriving for our first meeting (nervous, excited, embarrassed, etc.)?
A: I was excited. I remember you told me not to try and make things look “presentable”. I left everything like it was and knew we would conquer it all together.
S: I think that is a common feeling, although others may feel varying degrees of anxiety...or even shame. And it was important for me as an organizer to see how things were in their normal "un-presentable" state, so that I could really understand what you were dealing with. Hiding or changing the clutter is like trying to not cough or sneeze when you go to see the doctor.
Was the first organizing session different from what you had expected? If so, how?
A: No, not really. I knew we had a lot of work to accomplish. I was excited about getting through the tools and all that “man” stuff that I had no clue how to sort or organize.
And I am grateful to Amanda, for being willing to open up and share her experience with you. If you're on the fence about whether or not to seek assistance for an overwhelming project, I hope her words might encourage you to feel less embarrassment and more hope. Reaching out for help could be just the thing you need.
Despite the fact that professional organizers have been purging, encouraging, and systematizing "stuff" for at least three decades now, I think there are still misconceptions about what we do and how we work with clients. Do we force people to give up all of their possessions? Does everything have to go into a clear plastic bin with a label? Will your house or office look like the cover of "Real Simple" when we're done?
To give folks a more realistic, "fly on the wall" viewpoint, I thought I would share a first-hand account of a client's recent experience with me. Amanda contacted me several months back to help her organize her basement, with the end goal of remodeling the entire space. When she called, she was awash in a flood of situational disorganization - she had experienced separation, deaths in the family, and other challenges all within a year's time. Combine that with being a single mom and caring for an older relative, and you have a perfect storm of events resulting in organizational paralysis.
Amanda was kind enough to answer some questions about her experience, and gave me permission to share her responses with you. These first questions cover the thought process leading up to my first consultation with her:
S: What prompted you to seek help from a professional organizer?
A: I tried to organize and clean out my basement on several different occasions, but I would get overwhelmed and discouraged and give up. I have lived in my house 15 years and had recently been through some major life events that led to an accumulation of other people’s stuff. I was becoming agitated every time I went to the basement and saw all this stuff and feeling like I would never get rid of it without some serious help.
S: What did you know about professional organizers before you actually hired one? Do you recall how you first heard about professional organizers?
A: Well, I watched a lot of shows on television that had to do with cleaning out people’s homes. I always wanted to be on that show Clean Sweep, but that’s just wishful thinking. I knew my issues with stuff wouldn’t get me on an episode of Hoarders so I did some research on-line and found the organization of professional organizers (NAPO Nashville*). I reviewed a handful of personal organizers' websites and read their profiles and reached out to you because I thought you would best fit my needs.
S: I'm really glad you did! You also make a great point - people see organizing shows on TV and may not realize that they can find quality professional organizers in their area by doing a little online research. Did you have any hesitations/reservations about reaching out to someone for assistance? If so, why?
A: I was feeling a bit embarrassed but I knew it was something I would get over. I wanted help and guidance to organize more than anything so I put my emotions aside and was eager for the help. The only reservation I had was I didn’t want someone who was pushy. A person who would force me to get rid of things too quickly. I knew I needed someone to guide me with compassion and empathy but also someone who was objective and would encourage me to think about what was important.
"...I put my emotions aside and was eager for the help." That sentiment is perfect for starting the organizing process. When items are emotionally loaded but all too much to deal with, it's important to get as objective as possible to make progress. Although she knew there would be some tough moments, Amanda was eager and willing to do the hard work of making decisions and taking the first steps.
As we both expected, there was a lot of ground to cover in that basement. Tools, memorabilia, teaching and crafting supplies, and many, many items stored for other people had taken over the space. What's the rest of the story? Stay tuned for Part II of our interview...
*The Nashville Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers - you can find us at www.naponashville.com
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, coach, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. Excited to be in the long but worthwhile process of becoming a Certified ADHD Organizer Coach. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?
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