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« Stepping Back to Let Go | Letting Go Even While Blooming »
Tuesday
Apr172012

Ask the Expert: Geralin Thomas

Geralin Thomas, Metropolitan OrganizingWe’ve had a tremendously positive response to our “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog. In February, John Ryan of The Life Change Network talked about change. In March, Yota Schneider of Open for Success spoke about next steps. This month, I’m excited to introduce you to the vivacious professional organizer, Geralin Thomas to share her wisdom with you about letting go.

Geralin is a wonderful friend and colleague with tremendous energy, style, and grace. My gratitude and thanks goes to her for taking the time to join us.

Geralin Thomas is a professional organizer that trains new professional organizers, provides residential organizing services, and works with hoarding clients. She is founder of Metropolitan Organizing and has been featured on A&E’s Hoarders, The Nate Berkus Show and Today. Geralin is a wife, mother, gardener, painter, documentary lover, and has a passion for fashion. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blog or website.

 

Linda:  You are a professional organizer helping clients transform their homes from chaos to calm. You also specialize in working with people that hoard. Why is letting go so challenging for some?

Geralin:  Some folks are sentimental savers. They might say, “Oh, my son made this macaroni necklace for me when he was in 1st grade; I’ve gotta keep it.” Others are utilitarian savers. They could say, “The reason I hang onto all these old tuna cans is because I plan on welding them together to make a lamp for my dog’s house.” A person with a hoarding disorder has these same exact struggles, but they are much more intense. They over-accumulate and find it extremely difficult to let go of things they’ve acquired.

 

Linda:  If someone is struggling with letting go, what do you suggest?

Geralin: When someone is struggling with letting go, I encourage them to read a blog post I wrote related to this topic, “The 4 Personalities that Save Stuff.” It’s been useful for many of my clients. In addition, I’ve heard from several therapists and social workers that shared it with their clients say it was helpful for them as well.

 

Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around letting go?

Geralin: Oh, I always dread this question because I’m not a sentimental person and our culture seems to believe that women are supposed to be sentimental.  For me, letting go isn’t a challenge. I don’t save cards, awards, certificates, photos, trophies  – none of that stuff matters to me; it’s just stuff.  Same for projects – I’m very aware of how much or little time I have for projects so typically, all those DIY projects look and sound great but at this point in my life, I don’t have time for them so I don’t accumulate a lot of task-related stuff.  I’d rather spend my time painting or gardening.

 

Linda:  Do you have a letting go philosophy?

Geralin: I ask someone struggling with clutter if they want to surround themselves with meaningful things. If they answer in the affirmative, I ask, “Is this [thing] beautiful? Useful? Helpful? Does it resonate with who you are right this moment?”  Sometimes people hang onto things that represent who they used to be. Examples include “special occasion” serving dishes or “trophy” sizes of clothes.

 

Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

Geralin: How about I share one of my challenges?  We all have our challenges and mine is packing a suitcase. Let’s just say that if you are stuck on a runway for three hours, you want to sit next to me because I’ll have nuts, chocolates, reading material, manicure supplies, dental floss, tissues, etc.

Warmest thanks, Geralin for taking the time to share your insightful, clear thoughts about letting go. I invite all of you to join Geralin and me as we continue the conversation. What are your thoughts, experiences or questions about letting go? 

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Reader Comments (17)

I'm not a very sentimental saver, but there's one thing I wish I had done perfectly. I wish I had saved my son's birthday and Mother's Day cards to me every single year so that I would have a "complete" collection of 2 each year. Just seeing how the signature changes, how the sense of humor changes, the artwork evolving, would replace all the macaroni necklaces in the world for me. And it doesn't take up much space at all.

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Lukens

Love this post about "resonating right now"! It is so freeing to know that things have lost meaning and we can let them go.

And I am very affirmed in not being a someone who saves too! For me it is about the experiences, not the stuff. My favorite keepsake is a picture taken at a destination.

Thanks Linda and Geralin for sharing!

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

I loved this interview and I'm so happy to learn - relearn better said! that it's OK to throw away all the little things my kids make and that I really see as "junk in the closet". I admit I feel guilty!
I also came to the conclusion I'll never have the time or patience to do any craft project as I did feel bad about it when coming from a culture that has no crafts at home.
I am looking forward to read the blog post on the personalities!
Thank you Linda for these great series of interviews shining light on the "other side of organized"!

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Hi Margaret - Even though you identify yourself as NOT being a "sentimental saver," I hear the sense of loss in letting go of something that you wish you hadn't. It's normal to feel some loss, whether we desire to let go or not. I had a similar experience with some love letters that my husband wrote to me when I was 14. I kept them for years after we had broken-up, until one day I decided I had to let them go. It was just too painful to keep them any longer and I needed to move on. What I hadn't anticipated was that almost a decade later, Steve would become my husband. And guess what? He had kept all of my letters. So while it would have been wonderful to have his letters, I realized that at the point I let them go, it was what I needed to do. Since then, I have kept all of his letters, cards and notes. Perhaps that makes me a "sentimental saver."

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hey Ellen- Like Geralin & Margaret, you too are not sentimental about saving? Your value of focusing on experiences, not things come through here. I know what you mean about photos having a lot of meaning. I too treasures the photos I have (some digital, some paper.) They remind me of the people I love, the wonderful and difficult times we've shared, and the beauty that exists all around me everyday. Similar to music, the visuals can be instant reminders of joyful times.

Like you, I too appreciated Geralin's question of, "Does it resonate with who you are right at this moment?" That gets to the heart of the "thing." It gives us the opportunity to be present and allow the stuff in our lives to support us, rather than detract from our essence.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Helena- Isn't it interesting that sometimes when we read or hear someone else share their thoughts, it helps us process our own conflicts. How wonderful that reading Geralin's interview has helped you remove some guilt about letting go! Bravo. Letting go isn't always easy to do. You've identified one of the reasons we resist: GUILT- the feeling that we "should" keep something. The "shoulds" can get tricky and don't allow us to honor what we truly want and value. I'm sure you will arrive at the keeping/letting go balance that fits you.

I'm so glad you're enjoying the "Ask the Expert" series. I'm having a great time sharing all these amazing people and the inspiring conversations that are generated. Thank you for being such an active participator. I appreciate your support, honesty, and enthusiasm.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Margaret Lukens, I forgot - you reminded me; I have saved something! Letters to Santa! The signatures, handwriting and wish lists are priceless.

@Ellen Delap, Some of my very favorite memories are vacation-meals. When traveling, I try to eat and do things that I don't do at home so I have a few hilarious stories about "road food."

@Helena Alkas, While I often admire crafty-stuff (like stained glass windows) my very first thought is usually about the price. The price we pay for storing stuff, caring for the stuff once it's created and the price we pay to buy the equipment to create the stuff. I like to garden and paint and both of those hobbies can be quite expensive. Plus, they take a lot of time but, I find them both sooooo relaxing I do them anyway.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

wonderful post linda and geralin. Always can learn wonderful insight from geralin thomas. Love hearing what you struggle with everyday. Makes us accountable and human to our clients.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Great to have you weigh in, Leslie! We all have our struggles, don't we? Organizers or not, we're human. Love this conversation about letting go, holding on, saving & releasing. It's a common thread that comes with challenges and rewards.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Letting go is an emotional experience. It frees us up to enjoy the moment, instead of being tied to what has been or what will be. Thanks Linda for providing Geralin's insights.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharee Macdonald

Charee- You've identified THE top reason why letting go is so challenging. It is the emotions that we have around our possessions that can make releasing so difficult. Sometimes just touching the objects flood our being with sadness, joy, and very strong feelings. When I'm helping a client to let go of things that they want to release, sometimes it's effective if I hold the object for them while they are deciding. If they hold it, the bond or emotions can return. My holding it in view instead, helps them detach from it physically which can help them more easily let go.

Thanks so much for stopping by to join our conversation.

April 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Leslie, my running joke is, "I'm modeling imperfection"

@Charee, decluttering also frees us up in the sense that the less we own, the less time we need to spend caring for our possessions.

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

I have to confess that I am a sentimental saver. I never saw it as an issue because my mementos were all contained and I had the room to store them, but when we downsized a few years ago, I was forced to let go of a lot of stuff - and I realized that I didn't need it in order to retain my memories. Although I kept a number of ticket stubs, theatre programs, etc. from my past, I no longer hang on to new ones. The longer I live, the more I've done, so I attach less significance to every little thing.

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Janet- I completely identify with what you are saying. Memories are strong and we don't necessarily need the physical objects to keep them alive. It's true that the longer we live, the more possessions we can accumulate. We also collect wonderful experiences. We can choose to focus on being and doing rather than accumulating more objects.

I appreciate you joining in the conversation and sharing your story.

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi ladies -

I love things! As an organizer, that might appear a little out of keeping, but I think it is my appreciation of things that helps me understand and inspire clients to make sometimes tough decisions. I have the conversations with myself that I have with my clients.

I really enjoyed reading "Objects of Desire" by Salman Aktar. He is both a psychologist and a poet, and I felt a real connection with his writing on our sensual relationship with things. Turns out he is from the same city in India as my father. I would encourage anyone exploring the relationship we have with things to source this book.

cheers,

Clare

April 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClare Kumar

Clare- Thank you for pointing us in the direction of this wonderful resource, "Objects of Desire." I've added it to my must read list.

I'm enjoying the diverse perspectives about acquiring, saving, and letting go. Thank you for sharing your love of things. This enables you to help your clients let go because you identify with their challenges on a very personal level.

April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Loved all the comments. I am semi-sentimental. There are a few things that I keep (mainly from my kids) but mostly I don't keep things that don't 'resonate' with who I am. I ALWAYS throw out pictures that don't look flattering - whether I am in them or not! Who needs to see me my bathing suit 20 years from now???

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