It's been twelve years since I posted my first ad in Washington, DC's City Paper, advertising a full home organizing makeover for $80. This year I reunited with the lucky man who took me up on that steal of a deal! Hundreds of clients later, I'm still learning. Each client and each session continues to reveal a new layer about what makes us tick, why organizing matters, and how to better use my words and energy to deliver a healthier space.
Here are 7 of the many things I learned about organizing in 2013:
1. Sometimes organizing serves as a welcome distraction from the scary things over which we have no control. This year I had clients hire me in the face of severe depression, divorce, and looming brain surgery. They chose to focus on the minutiae of organizing because it balanced the weight of something unpleasant at best, frightening at worst. In turn, together we realized that it's not minutiae at all. To create calm in one area of life has a steady and far-reaching ripple effect. Their personal environment was something they did have control over. Organizing gave them back their power.
2. Evernote changed my life. Personally, Evernote is the best tool I've discovered for going paperless, organizing the brain, and reassuring yourself that you'll never lose a piece of information ever again. After having the app sit idle on my iPhone and computer for two years, I patiently learned how to use it. I now add to and refer to Evernote countless times per day. It has allowed me to toss almost every paper that comes into my life, capture my thoughts, bookmark sites, and manage the mental scraps of the day.
3. Organizing isn't something you ever get done. This is not bad news. It's not like getting a college degree. You don't obtain it and claim it as finished. It is a lifelong process. As long as things come into your life, organizing must be something you are always doing, not did one afternoon.
4. A to-do list is a sign of life. This "a ha" moment came to me while discussing the weight of to-dos with a long-term favorite client of mine. We were lamenting how crossing things off often begets more things to cross off. We simultaneously realized that we'll never get it all done. It actually felt liberating. Everything on our lists is a choice. Everything. Really, what do we have to do? See them as choices and either let them be a burden, or a sign that we are alive and moving forward. God forbid we actually get it all done…!
5. Posting a visual reminder of one's chores, to-dos, and accomplishments works. I had a client mark Xs in boxes to track the bags of paper that went out the door, posted my own daily household chores list on my fridge, and had another client post her organizing projects in colored markers on her office door. Each are different ways to both motivate us and keep us honest.
6. The best tool I can ever give a client is one of seeing them as the person they want to be. When I see their vision for their life as bigger and brighter than the packed boxes of paper that line their walls, the flood waters recede and the sea parts. The best part is I don't even have to use words to express it. This is when they begin to have ideas they never had before, and find a motivation that wasn't there when all they could see was chaos.
If you:Drop something, pick it up.Open something, close it.Take something out, put it away.Bring something in, get rid of something.
What did you learn about organizing in 2013? Big or small, ground-breaking or mundane, all insights & comments are welcome below!