At the end of every year I compile a list of things I learned about organizing in the previous twelve months. 6 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2017 listed #5 as “Be explicit.” It was last year that I realized I had become much better at this, and that this is what the majority of my clients need from me.
I recently found myself being explicit with a long-term client. Like with a lot of my long-termers, it’s a bit of a two steps forward, one step back journey. In some sessions we find ourselves in the zone, filling bin after bin of recycling, while in others she somehow talks me into just tidying the den so it looks better (and neatly hiding the piles in the process). I called her on it:
"Make no mistake, this is a cosmetic fix. This is not organizing.”
She agreed. Being on the same page felt like progress. We proceeded to spend our time filling boxes with articles that she was near certain were trash. Then, the next month we proceeded to empty those boxes. Ten years in, I’m still learning about how to best help her. That day I finally learned that in order for her to move ahead, she needs to see “improvement," even if we both acknowledge that it’s a band-aid. I wanted a real excavation to happen in one session, but her processes had it happen in two. So be it. Change happened.
I challenge you though to recognize when you are in the midst of a cosmetic fix, rather than deep organizing. If you get stuck in the phase of cosmetic tidying, you may hit a frustrating wall weeks, or even years later. Call it what it is, take that one step back, but be sure to take two steps forward after you find that initial relief in the empty space you’ve made!
Have you ever caught yourself just tidying, mistaking it for organizing? In the long run, did it make eventual discarding easier, or just delay the inevitable? Please share in the comments!