My journey to bring a sense of calm to our chaotic lives
one drawer, cabinet and closet at a time... among other things!
I always say that I was born with a weird gene that not only wants, but needs everything in my life to have a place and purpose. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that I grew up in a bedroom the size of a postage stamp. Well, that’s not entirely true but it was very small. That being said, I remember my closet, tiny as it was, actually had somewhat of an organizational system (as in two rods and a set of narrow shelves on one side that were actually deep enough to store a significant amount of stuff) even though it is highly unlikely the builder realized that is what they did when it was originally built in the 1950s.
I was six when we moved into that home in 1969 and after sharing a room with my older sister since birth I couldn’t wait to have my own space. Seriously, I rearranged my “stuff” all the time and my parents never felt the need to stifle my desire for exhibiting my executive functioning and organizing skills.
I will, though, always adapt my energy and intensity to align with a client.
Sometimes, though, it just isn’t enough and that’s ok.
The organizer-client relationship can be a very emotional and personal one so I am fortunate to know a few other incredible organizers and will pass any client along to one that will be a better fit. Nothing about this process is cookie cutter and I have to approach every project as a unique experience.
Suffice it to say, I adapted to any living space/situation pretty easily throughout my childhood and into adulthood including…
...living in a cabin with 10 or 12 girls every summer at camp who really didn’t care about leaving wet towels under their bed and wondering what that moldy smell could be a few days later
...sharing a dorm room at college with a freshman roommate that was, dare I say, a mess
...and sleeping in the middle of a living room on a futon in a quintessential 400 sq ft L-shaped NYC studio with a wall that was intended to separate my space from my roommate’s and give us each a little sense of privacy but, trust me, it did not block out any of the “conversations” between her and her boyfriend at 1 am.
Yep, they all had their challenges yet, dare I say, were still somewhat entertaining for me. Challenging if my cabin, dorm or apartment mates didn’t feel the need to maintain order, but entertaining because I was more than capable of creating proper storage solutions for any space and happy to share my “expertise” if you could call it that back then.
I don’t remember the first time I shopped at The Container Store, but it should come as no surprise that it's every professional organizer’s nirvana. And I don’t say that because I am being paid to say it (because I’m not)...I say it because I really do feel calm and at peace wandering the aisles looking for items that help create, you guessed it, calm and peace. And you need to feel calm and at peace when tackling any organizing pain point because there is no doubt that internal clutter creates even more external clutter and keeps going around and around in a chaotic circle until you make the conscious decision to truly let go of the physical and emotional attachment to a certain item. That is my mantra and while I may not have invented it nor claim to be a therapist that is truly entitled to preach it, I cannot stress it enough when working with a client.
My clients run the gamut from simple closet reorganization projects to helping extreme hoarders peel back all of the layers figuratively and literally. It is not a pretty job by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe it is a job I do well with an incredible amount of energy, passion and, most importantly, empathy because for many people this is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
The World Health Organization announced a few years ago that hoarding is, in fact, a mental illness and should be treated as such. U.S. insurance companies do tend to cover therapy and treatments for anyone with a mental illness or cognitive issue, however, they rarely will cover the hazard waste cleanup, junk removal or any other tasks that a professional organizer would perform and/or coordinate.
It is frustrating to say the least but it is why I always try my best to offer my services at reduced prices, sometimes pro bono, for those that absolutely need my help but cannot afford it. I wish I could hand out organizing sessions like Oprah used to hand out cars to an entire audience, but I really do give what and how I can whenever I can.
It is one of the reasons that I started to offer FREE 30 minute virtual consultations when COVID hit in March 2020 and we were all suddenly at home 24/7 for a few months with nowhere to go or hide from all of the “stuff” in our homes, some of it as a result of pandemic hoarding. But, let’s be honest...pandemic or no pandemic, the average American buys a significant amount of stuff on impulse and then has no clue where or how to organize/store it all.
Bottom line, we all really do have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much stuff that took us years to accumulate so do not expect that it will only take a few hours to purge what no longer serves a purpose in your life. Grabbing a garbage bag along with a few boxes or bins to sort what you want to keep, donate or toss really is the easy part even if it does feel physically and mentally draining. Maintaining good systems and habits for the rest of your life is much harder unless you are really committed to the process.
This is never a one and done thing...it is a life maintenance plan just like Weight Watchers. There are plenty of organizers that post Before and After photos on Instagram and Pinterest that will make your jaw drop in awe, but whether or not it will be sustainable for any client always remains to be seen. I promise, though, if you hire #TeamIJS for any project, we will do everything in our power to make sure that you have all of the tools and resources you need to keep those organizing pain points from ever flaring up again.
Here’s to less chaos and more calm,