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 - I'm a Certified Professional Organizer®, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. I'm also an Evernote Certified Consultant. I love to help people from all walks of life get organized and productive - and I'd love to help you, too:
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