"What is embarrassment? In general, embarrassment is an emotional response to an innocent mistake. The major reason that some of us are embarrassment-prone is that we’ve been conditioned to set unrealistically high expectations for ourselves and to judge ourselves negatively when we can’t possibly meet those standards...”
One of the things that has surprised me on this professional organizing journey is the varying emotional responses I see when I show up for an initial consultation. I've observed nervous pacing, wringing of hands, shallow breathing, teary eyes... and I inevitably receive an apology for the way the space looks. In fact, I often get the apologies and self-recriminations way before I even see anything. I even get apologies from friends sometimes when I'm just coming over for a visit ("Hey, I'm off-duty - can we not worry about the kids' shoes and just gossip about something?"). It is very sensitive stuff, this organizing and de-cluttering, and those who are reaching out for help should be commended - certainly not condemned.
I work hard to put clients' concerns to rest - assuring and reassuring them of complete confidentiality and non-judgment, encouraging them in their quest to take the first important steps. But I still get statements like, "You probably think I'm _____________________ (insert derogatory adjective here)." But to those of you who are so embarrassed that you hesitate to even ask for help, I just have to ask: WHY would I think anything at all? If you didn't need help with getting organized, I wouldn't have a gig, right?
Let me ask further, if you have a sore throat or a broken bone, do you go to your doctor and apologize for being so careless as to get sick or injured? Do you go to the salon and apologize to your stylist for your hair growing longer?
As the quote above mentions, so many of us set unrealistic expectations for ourselves, but when life gets in the way our priorities necessarily have to shift. While the peaks and valleys of life aren't exactly "innocent mistakes", I don't believe any of us sets out to purposely become disorganized. It's nothing to be embarrassed about - we move, we get a new job, we lose an old job, we get sick, we have a baby, we grieve a death...all of these things and more can translate into shoving too many things into a closet or letting too many papers pile up. You make messes. I do too. We live with people who make messes. Disorganization happens. The difference may be that when the dust settles, I actually have fun looking at my messes with an eye to the solutions - others might need a little boost of encouragement, accountability or creativity. Still, that's nothing to be ashamed of.
So when you are brave enough to invite an organizer into your "hot mess", please understand that we understand it's hard. We respect the difficulties and feelings of being overwhelmed. Embarrassment and fear of judgment can paralyze any good goal, so don't. Don't be afraid, and if at all possible don't be embarrassed. Just take a deep breath, start from wherever you are, look forward and dig in, even if it's with just one drawer or shelf. The rewards far outweigh the risks.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?