[Video] How to organize someone else’s stuff

Kacy Paide, organizer from Washington, D.C., shares the best ways of organizing somebody else’s stuff.

Though the vast amount of my time spent organizing is side by side with the client, there is the occasional situation where I find myself sorting solo if a client simply can’t be with me throughout the entire process. There are also the cases where we are sorting the items and papers of a client’s loved one without them being present.

You too may have found yourself in a position where you need to (or just really want to!) organize for someone who isn’t physically involved for any number of reasons. Your greatest fear may be that you’ll royally tick that person off if they realize you tossed that beloved or important thing.

I remember the first time I organized solo. It was for a consultant in his DC work office. Though he knew he had to get his paper in order, the thought of it clearly repelled him. I only saw him briefly once every few visits and though he didn’t ask for it, I regularly sent him photos and questions throughout the day. Though he was away, I wanted him be involved in my decisions.

Sometimes though, you aren’t able to involve the person until after you’ve done the big sort. And/or, the only way it’s ever going to get done is if you do nearly all of it yourself.

This can be an extremely effective and conflict-free process if:

  1. You know they won’t be livid with you being all up in their business.

  2. You make it color-by-numbers simple, spoon-feeding them just a few thoughtfully sorted categories.

  3. You give them the final say before tossing a thing. From experience, know that chances are high they’ll ok your “Probably Trash” pile. The trust gained with this step is essential.

All three of these applied when I took it upon myself to thin out my husband's papers from a house he sold about a decade ago. He always said he’d “get around to it.” Sound familiar? After I whittled it down to just a few documents (folder pictured at the very end of the video), he was so pleased. He even voiced something I suspected all along: “I was just keeping those for nostalgia, but didn’t know exactly what I wanted.”

This isn’t meant to be a video on what to keep and not to keep regarding old real estate docs, as your retention needs may differ. Rather, think of it as a dummy category that shows you how to do this for someone else who just can’t/won’t “get around to it.”

Do you have any experience with this - good or bad? Do you have someone whose things you’re dying to sort? Please leave a comment on YouTube!

Click image or here to watch How to Organize Someone Else’s Stuff.


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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.