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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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In The Other Side of Organized, Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions. Already, thousands of clients and readers have found help and inspiration in her advice, personal reflections on change and connection, and vision of what can be accomplished when you find that sweet spot between chaos and perfection.

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« Ask the Expert: Dorothy Breininger | 7 Kid-Tested Organizing Success Tips »

12 Ingredients For Successful Appointments

What makes an organizing session successful? In the 20 plus years I’ve been working with clients, I’ve observed many things that have created positive organizing visits. Both organizer and client contribute to the success. If you desire a better organizing experience, consider adding some of these “ingredients” into the mix.

12 Ingredients For Successful Organizing Appointments

1. Self-Care – Organizing takes physical and emotional energy. Taking care of your basic needs are essential. It's important that you and your organizer are well rested, hydrated, and have eaten prior to organizing. When you’re exhausted and hungry, it’s more challenging to think clearly, be creative, and make decisions.

2. Distractions – Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Some common ones include phone calls, email, digital “dings,” visitors, pets or children. Think about what you can do in advance to minimize distractions so that you can receive full benefit from the organizing session that you’ve committed time and resources towards.

3. Trust – Establishing a trusting relationship is crucial. You might feel uncomfortable with someone seeing or touching your stuff. Just remember that your organizer needs to be someone you trust. They are there to support and help you and not to judge you.

4. Clarity – It’s important to understand some basic parameters at the start of each organizing session. Include these:

  • What is the session’s focus?
  • What are your goals for today?
  • How many hours will we work?
  • Are the goals realistic based on the time allotted?
  • Are there any concerns or relevant information that might influence what we’ll do or how we’ll be working?

5. Preparation – In addition to thinking about what project you’ll be working on, collect the basic supplies you’ll need. Supplies might include sorting containers, markers, place to make notes, or receptacles like bins or trash bags for items being donated or removed.

6. Atmosphere – Organizing can be fun, especially if you lighten the mood with music, laughter, singing, and even dancing (and yes, I’ve done them all.)  There are also simple environmental enhancements that can boost the success of an organizing session. If the rooms are dark, turn on more lights or bring in additional lamps. If you respond well to aromas, burn a favorite candle with an uplifting or energizing scent. Consider the room temperature and make the necessary adjustments to be more comfortable.

7. Decisions – The client is the decision-maker and gets to establish the parameters for what stays, goes, gets touched or not. The organizer is the facilitator, supporter, question-asker, timekeeper, goals-reminder, and cheerleader. Successful sessions are client-centered.

8. Strengths – Notice what’s already working well. Pay attention to your strengths and what you’re good at. Collaborate with your organizer to design systems and strategies that play to your strengths and how you process. Some examples include activating visual, auditory, kinesthetic, verbal or emotional organizing strategies. Denslow Brown, organizer, coach and author, identifies nine of the modalities in her book, The Processing Modalities Guide.

9. Breaks – Include snacks, water, caffeine, or fresh air breaks when needed. It's time for a break when you notice waning energy levels, decision fatique, decreased focus, or agitation. Breaks might also include switching projects midstream. This could be driven by attention needs or a desire to shift to a less emotionally intense project.

10. Letting Go – Successful organizing sessions include letting go whether it’s physical objects, pre-conceived notions, negative thinking, or calendar clutter. While the challenge to let go can range from easy to ambivalent to impossible, clients often share with me how great they feel once they’ve done it. This is reflected in a positive shift in their mood, which is noticeable by their smiles, laughter, giddiness, and open, receptive body language.

11. Review – Know where you are at the beginning, middle and end of each session. Know where you’ve been, where you’re heading, where you are, and what you’ve accomplished. Discuss follow through items to be handled between appointments by organizer and client. Review the schedule for when you’ll connect and next meet.

12. Compassion – The most successful organizing sessions include full servings of compassion. Negative self-talk and disparaging remarks get left behind. Positive language like, “I’m becoming more organized,” or “I’m working on my organizing goals,” is substituted. We all struggle with something. We are all works in progress.

Have you experienced a successful organizing session? What ingredient was part of your mix? Come join the conversation and share.

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Reader Comments (12)

What a powerful review of the elements of success! It isn't just one thing, it's a combination of all of these. I always ask my clients what was most valuable at the end of our session, just so that they process that for themselves. Thanks for sharing!

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Hi Ellen- I LOVE the question you ask at the end of each session, "What was most valuable?" as a way of helping your client focus on and process their experience. Excellent! Thank you for sharing that one.

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

#7 is so important to establish up front. Organizers can do many things, but clients need to be the final decision maker! Plus, my best sessions are when clients see themselves getting better at making decisions - it is very empowering because that skill is a great source of hope and encouragement for all the spaces yet to conquer!

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Seana- I couldn't agree more. It's easy to be the "answer person," as we're called in as the experts. However, asking rather than telling is confidence building and empowering. Plus, it's just not up to us. It's their lives, their stuff, and they need to be in charge of the decisions.

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great tips for a great organizing session. When the client follows step by step the organizing project with our help, we can support each other just fine, no rush, no pressure only success based on reciprocity. "I listen to you, I talk to you, I share with you" no matters if the "I" is me or the client, has to be a two way road always. It is not a dictatorial process.

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Nacho- Oh, yes! You couldn't have said it any better, "It is not a dictatorial process." We're there to support, understand, help, and facilitate.

September 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great advice. I agree with Seana, #7 is important. The client needs to know that they are in charge, you are there to guide them in their decisions about what goes and what stays. We are there to suggest possibilities they might not have come to on their own. The system has to work for THEM when you leave.

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

Jill- Yes, yes, and yes!!! Client-centered. Client-focused.

September 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, just fabulous! I'm validated that I utilize most of these key ingredients for my successful organizing "recipe," but seeing these bullet points compiled all in one place is such a great reinforcer! Thank you for paying attention to the details of what we do, and reminding us of our boundaries.I also agree with others that #7 is so very important, as well as challenging. We must remember to be the "guide" and not the ruler.

September 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Nancy- I always enjoy hearing your "voice" in our conversations. Great to hear that you found the collection validating. Number 7 seems to be the one that resonates with many several of you. And you're right that it's not always easy to do because being that "expert" can be so seductive. But, it doesn't always serve our clients' best interests. Sometimes being the expert means being quiet enough to allow the client's voice to emerge.

September 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great points Linda. I Agree with all of them!

October 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Braun,CPO

Hi Cynthia-

Thanks so much. I appreciate the positive feedback. Are there any additional "ingredients" you have? Feel free to add to the list.

October 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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