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« 9 Success Rules | Ask the Expert: April Lane Benson, Ph.D. »
Tuesday
Aug272013

10 Ways Organizers Help With "Stuff"

From the perspective of being a professional organizer for more than twenty years, I consider my field to be one of the helping professions.  There are many ways I assist my clients, which involve helping them with their “stuff.” I use that term loosely, because it isn’t always the traditional physical things of life that are part of the work. The “stuff” extends to emotions, time, transitions and more. While the list is extensive and ever changing, I’d like to share a recent sampling of how I’ve helped. While my clients have a wide range of needs, I specialize in working with individuals who are chronically disorganized. I have extensive training and certification in chronic disorganization through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD.)

What are some of the ways organizers help their clients? Depending upon your perspective, as you read ahead you might identify ways that you might benefit from hiring an organizer. Or perhaps, you’ll discover new options to provide organizing help to others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

10 Ways Organizers Help Clients With “Stuff”

1. Assessment Stuff - Organizing involves doing, but also thinking. Assessing is done at various stages in the organizing process. It’s always done before work begins so we can understand the organizational areas that need attention. Assessments don’t end there. They continue once the work begins. Each organizing visit includes an assessment before, during, and at the end to help clients stay focused, adjust the scope as needed, and acknowledge their progress.

 

2. Physical Stuff - No matter how much the digital era has infiltrated our lives, we still have an abundance of physical things to manage, maintain, evaluate, and organize. From papers to clothing to toys and gadgets, helping to organize the physical possessions of life and the space we live and work in is a major part of the work I do.

 

3. System Stuff - With all of this stuff, we need systems to manage everything from paper flow to recycling, donation, or return centers. Those are some of the ways I help my clients organize.

 

4. Emotional Stuff - There are distinct boundaries between organizers, coaches and therapists. You might more readily equate “emotional stuff” with a therapist’s work than you would with an organizer’s. I’m not a therapist and respect the professional boundaries. However, organizing and going through “our stuff” can bring up an array of emotions. So while I don’t counsel, I am there to support my clients during the organizing and letting go process, which can be highly emotional.

 

5. Maintenance Stuff - Even after all “things” are organized and in place, there is often a need for periodic maintenance, especially with the chronically disorganized population. This can involve clearing spaces, closets, or surfaces that were previously organized. It can include processing and filing papers, updating financial records, or switching seasonal clothing. Scheduling maintenance builds in time to reroute and restore things to their designated homes and evaluate changes that might be beneficial.

 

6. Project Stuff - Instead of ongoing, overall organizing help, some clients enlist help for specific projects. This can include everything from organizing a closet to house linens, clothing or gifts to setting up a unique paper management system for college applications, committee work, or writing projects to making lists and packing for a trip. The help needed is often short-term, clearly definable, and has a distinct beginning and end.

 

7. Routine Stuff - There are times that clients need help for managing routine items like making calls for research, setting up, reviewing, or canceling accounts, making appointments, logging receipts, updating check registers, processing mail, making lists, or writing correspondence.

 

8. Resource Stuff - More often than not, I’m asked about specific resources for my clients. Their requests range widely for help finding best places to purchase organizing products to sources for donating furniture to companies that remove junk to therapists that specialize in compulsive buying. I’m constantly collecting new resources, generously shared from other professionals, friends, and family.

 

9. Time Stuff - Many clients are overwhelmed by their overflowing calendars. Their schedules can feel as cluttered as their spaces. The busyness also affects their thoughts, which can create mind clutter. For many clients, I help them evaluate their time commitments, establish their priorities, work on planning, and design a more comfortable version of the 24 hours they have each day.

 

10. Transition Stuff - A favorite aspect of my work is the long-term relationships that develop. Especially because of this longevity, I have the privilege of helping clients navigate the organizational parts that life’s transitions bring such as marriage, birth, graduation, job change, children leaving, children returning home, moves, divorce, loss, death. Transitions are dramatic periods of change. Being able to help clients organize during the tumult gives them some sense of control, normalcy and comfort. 

 

I’d love to hear from you. Are you thinking about enlisting help from an organizer? Are you an organizer that helps others? Perhaps you’re in another helping profession. Which ways to get help with “stuff” resonate with you? Introduce yourself and come join the conversation!

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Reader Comments (11)

Excellent list Linda! I typically say, "D O T" for Data, Objects and Time but I think your list is much more comprehensive! I'll be sharing ~

August 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

Love this list of ways organizers help! I agree that our profession is a "call to serve" others with compassion and respect. We provide a valuable "pause" for clients who need help prioritizing and making the commitment to organize. Creating the time to organize makes organizing happen for our clients.

August 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Geralin- Love your "DOT" concept, especially the brevity. That's one of the things that makes you so fabulous...getting ideas across concisely. It's a gift. While I stopped my list at 10, my mind kept going. How about "Cheerleading Stuff" or a separate category for "Spatial Stuff?" Thank you for stopping by to add to the conversation and for offering to share the post.

@Ellen- You've brought in some essential additions to the conversation: compassion, pause, respect, commitment. These are all part of the mix organizers bring to the relationship with our clients. It's always wonderful to hear what you're thinking about. Grateful that you're here with us and have joined the conversation.

August 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Love your post. I've always thought that people always establish a relationship with their stuff, even those who claim the have "no problem" with letting go. Because of that the anxiety level could climb from almost nothing to sky height the moment people need to put in order everything around them. There, the PO importance being prepare to be a good listener and a great guidance so people maintain focus, pace and enthusiasm.
If people wouldn't establish some sort of affective relationship with their stuff, would be easy to thrown away anything that has not purpose in life. You could say, Why do they choose to keep things that remind them bad feeling? because negative feelings are also part of an affective relationship.
The more we are capable as POs to understand the intricacy of the relationship between the client and the stuff we'll be able to help or to recommend for more capable hands.

August 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Nacho- You are so right that people (including me) have a relationship with their stuff. Sometimes our things conjure up good memories or attachments and sometimes they are negative. But those attachments are strong. And letting go, if that is the client's goal, can be emotional and challenging. As you said, the more we understand, the better we're able to help our clients or refer them to other professionals as needed. It's great to "hear" your voice. I'm so happy that you joined the conversation.

August 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Nacho,

I agree! When we listen to our clients' stories about their stuff, we listen with our own "baggage" Sometimes is cultural, sometimes its experiential, etc. but, good organizers always do their best to understand the particulars of any situation and support client decisions.

@Linda,
I really appreciate your adding, "And letting go, if that is the client's goal, can be emotional and challenging." So true!

August 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

Geralin & Nacho- How important it is to be aware of our own "baggage," and the potential for how it could inadvertently influence the ways we support our clients' decisions. Staying in that neutral, non-judgemental mode where the client (not the organizer) is driving the decisions is the healthiest of possibilities.

August 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, your blog has been a great way to spend my Labor Day morning!
As a PO - I love the variety of requests from my clients - which is what I gather you all enjoy as well. One day I am finding creative options for a cat lover who's kitties run the house, and the next day I could be researching the least expensive truck rental in the area.
We are problem solvers, and innovative thinkers. We pride ourselves in our work and we care about our clients. Thank you for sharing this on the world wide web. Your influence in educating the public is greatly appreciated. I can't tell you how many times I have heard a client say " wow, you can help with that too?".

September 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Seavey

Rachel- Wonderful that you joined the conversation today. Happy Labor Day! Great thoughts that you shared how variety, problem solving, innovation, and compassion are all part of the work we do as organizers. Also good to know which things we are and are not able to help our clients with. Sometimes the things we're asked to do are in the realm of our expertise and other times out of our scope.

September 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I am really impressed with this comprehensive list. I have no doubt that it's your awareness that there's a lot more to being a professional organizer than dealing with the physical stuff that has made you successful for over 20 years!

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

So glad you like the list, Janet. The ideas kept coming too, but I had to stop them somewhere (10 seemed about right.) Thank you for your kind words. We often say in our industry that "organizing is not about the stuff." And to some degree that's true. While there are the physical possessions that we're helping our clients with, there are all these other areas too that come into play (emotions, letting go issues, meaning, attachments, etc...) It's what makes the work interesting. It's what makes building the relationships essential.

September 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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