Never has the title and lyrics of Broadway musical been more appropriate than those above from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” which just celebrated it’s 75th anniversary this past April. March definitely came in and went out like a lion with COVID19, followed by an April that definitely was not a happy one as the death tolls continued to rise around the world. And then we entered May with some degree of hope, but got it severely taken away as the tragic death of George Floyd caused yet another reason to use the word “unprecendented” in practically every sentence over the past few weeks of protests.
So now, here we are, it’s June and the “doubting Thomases” worst fear has become our reality. Summer is technically around the corner and while it may smell like summer as flowers are bustin’ out all over, we all know this is not going to feel like a normal summer.
I joined the ranks of the unemployed 3 months ago when a temporary contract job ended and I obviously didn’t have the option to try to seek out more home organizing clients due to social distancing and stay at home orders. And in the middle of everything, I had to move, something I don’t recommend but circumstances were what they were when a housemate isn’t handling something like the COVID19 situation well and I had no choice but to temporarily relocate elsewhere.
Suffice it to say, it hasn’t been easy but I have been trying like everyone else to keep my you know what together. And while I certainly cannot begin to claim I know what it feels like to be black, I am a human being with great compassion and want so desperately to see our country united as opposed to divided over the issue of systemic racism. But following every possible thing that is happening 24/7 is not only impossible, it is extremely detrimental to our physical and mental health.
I want to be sensitive to those who are suffering whether from the loss of a loved one due to COVID19 or at the hands of police brutality, I want to be more educated and I want to do what I can that will have a positive impact. But I also need to make sure that I have food, clothing and shelter for my own survival or I will be of no use to anyone else. If I don’t remain in self-preservation mode to some degree every day, I might as well curl up into a ball, binge watch more Netflix series and hope I win the lottery so I will be able to support myself.
But that’s not me.
I need to be working.
I need to be productive.
I need to feel like I have a purpose.
I need to live.
And if anyone thinks that those are white privilege statements I promise that is not the case. I’m fully aware that I am a white woman who has had incredible advantages in life, but I am also aware that I was raised to know and understand that privilege doesn’t make me better than anyone else. I understand the role chaos plays in our society and humanity and I embrace change whether it is through purging a closet or ending inequality.
Yesterday was the first time since social distancing began in March that I was able to walk into a client’s home. And while there are associated risks with the re-opening of businesses. especially for those providing personal services like professional organizing, I am fortunate to have clients that have been practicing proper guidelines and are ready to reduce the amount of the physical chaos and clutter in their homes.
I realize that the chaos that comes from an unorganized pantry doesn’t begin to compare to the chaos that is swirling around all of us as we are trying to re-enter life with the uncertainty of COVID19 still hanging heavily on our minds only to be compounded by the unrest happening with the protests nationwide. But anyone that thinks that doesn’t affect our ability to function and keep a sense of order in our lives is, dare I say, crazy.
I had been helping these particular clients slowly go through their home, room by room, before lockdown. Both the husband and wife have demanding jobs and add two young children needing even more attention than ever before? Time and energy are definitely in short supply and they acknowledge maintaining a clutter-free home just isn’t one of their strong suits. But they still want to try and they want to lead by example to the best of their ability and show their kids how important it is to reducing stress to prevent creating more chaos. Therefore, they are willing to pay a professional like me to get them to a place where they can maintain it themselves.
So I arrived yesterday with my mask, gloves, wipes, sanitizer, etc. and immediately attacked two areas in the kitchen that had been significant pain points for them for a long time. What they didn’t realize was that once you peel back one or two layers of the proverbial onion, there are still many more ready to be revealed. They truly thought it was just about one corner cabinet where they kept all of their spices and teas. As I pulled everything out, though, and onto the kitchen counter to sort and purge what was no longer wanted or needed (translation…expired/long past its shelf life), it was obvious that none of the items belonged in the corner cabinet. Things had gotten “lost in space” and it simply didn’t make sense to put everything back from whence it came.
The sorting and purging begins.
In the end, I had moved the contents of 4 different cabinets and several drawers around and completely reorganized the pantry. I hadn’t planned on spending almost 4 hours putting the pieces of this particular puzzle together but it was definitely worth it…minus spilling a bag of black beans all over the floor. If there is a lesson to learn it is don’t ever leave opened bags of dried beans, rice, pasta, whatever in your pantry. Either put them in a Ziploc bag or a container. Otherwise, you will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to keep your clients’ dogs from eating raw beans while cleaning up unless, of course, you have a Roomba and you let it loose to do it’s thing. Apparently they have one but I was not aware until I heard a noise come from another room getting louder and louder. Then, as I was sweeping the beans into the dust pan…there it was…in all it’s glory…the Roomba grabbing the last few.
The 5 second rule definitely does not apply to this situation.
Meanwhile, the spices are all contained in temporary bins until the couple decides which of 4 different spice organizing systems they want to buy. And their tea collection has been condensed to Ziplocs to eliminate the boxes that always take up way too much cabinet real estate. But at least, for now, they will be able to see everything…or so the theory goes. And, yes, I did have to use a cardboard box that had previously contained several boxes of Godiva chocolate pudding mix…desperate times call for desperate measures???
And the after.
As I was leaving their 9 year old son asked where I had moved the cereal and when I showed him his response was “I will make sure to remember because I doubt my parents will.” Some may interpret that as an insult but I know this kid well enough now that he said it out of love and support for his mother and father trying to keep it all together.
To everyone out there trying to keep it all together, just know you are not alone. If you are struggling with anything in life right now, please get professional help. May was Mental Health Awareness Month and if ever there was a time when we all need to be aware of our mental health this is it.
I was honored to have the opportunity to speak about the effects of these uncertain times on people’s ability to stay focused and maintain peace in their lives, or at least in their homes, thanks to Eliot Andre of Connected Roots, a therapist here in Colorado, but with a nationwide audience via his regular interviews with related professionals. Never did I ever think I would appear on camera wearing a cap that says “Hot Mess Just Doing My Best” in the midst of a pandemic but there I was worrying about how many grey hairs would still show. Yeah, I am not proud of that thought/concern but, we all have our self-centered moments. I can avoid ones like that if I just leave my video off…trust me, I’ve done it.
While we were attempting to focus on how COVID19 was impacting executive functioning skills, I do believe the information and ideas provided can be implemented regardless of the social climate so feel free to check it out by clicking here. And if you have any questions or want a free virtual consultation, by all means send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I did dozens of Zoom calls, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger video chats and when that type of technology failed (which it did a lot because of the high volume of people using the Internet at any given time) reverted to using my cell phone and asking for photos. It may not have been the same as being there in person but, at the very least I gave them an extra set of eyes to see and ears to hear about how their internal clutter was spilling over and becoming external clutter.
Anyway, I realize putting this out into cyberspace makes it very apparent which side of the fence I am currently standing on with respect to the handling of COVID19 and the protesting. And, as a result, there may be people that decide they don’t want to hire me for any “day job” or organizing gig on the side, but based on the number of inquiries I have received in the past few weeks for people needing my services, I have renewed my faith in humanity to some degree and am so grateful that I can feel useful again. It’s not something I want to do full time anymore but at least I have the ability to keep busy, earn more money than unemployment provides and do something that even in a very small way is helping people.
So what have been my biggest takeaways from recent events? Patience, tolerance and compassion may be the most important tools we need to have in our tool box for life. I truly hope we can all remember to “hammer” that into our brains permanently, once and for all, and just #begoodtopeople. You may not be able to help a friend move into her new apartment like I did last week to pay it forward for those that helped move my stuff for me in my absence last month, but at the very least, call a friend or a family member who may be struggling with everything bustin’ out all over and just listen to what they truly need right now.