Every Wednesday for the past several months I have invited one of our many It's Just Stuff partners to write a blog about what is on their mind as it relates to the services we provide, but this Wednesday I am "hijacking" the blog to share some incredible stories that we collected during May from dozens of people that entered our Mental Health Awareness Month Giveaway and announce all of the winners of the various prizes including the Grand Prize, a decluttering and home organizing makeover from #TeamIJS.
As I mentioned in this past Sunday's blog I was overwhelmed reading the short but so incredibly compelling reasons why each individual needs our help. And I wish more than anything I could award them all the Grand Prize but it would truly require the entire summer of volunteering and unfortunately, that is not a sustainable business model.
That said, I am going to continue to do everything in my power to advocate on behalf of the following finalists as well as anyone else in the Denver/Boulder/Ft Collins community to get the necessary sponsorships and grants that would enable us to schedule regular pro bono projects moving forward. If you or your company would like to discuss sponsorship opportunities please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We know it's a huge "ask" these days but I firmly believe that this is a necessity for far too many people who simply need to get a much better handle on their internal and external clutter. I also believe there would be less physical aliments and mental anguish if we helped everyone struggling with executive functioning in the U.S. and reduce the burden it creates for our healthcare and social services systems. Yes, I know, that makes me sound like a liberal snowflake but I am totally ok with that.
Speaking of moving forward, that is our theme for this month and I cannot think of a better definition for "moving on" than the chance to clear out the clutter that may be swirling around you or someone you know to achieve a sense of calm. Please remember that not everyone has the ability to know how to contain and maintain their “stuff”. Disparaging them is not helpful. If there is one lesson we should have all learned this past year it is to really be kind to others and not criticize someone because they can’t do what you think should be common sense. We all know that nobody is perfect and yet we expect perfection. One of my favorite quotes hits that nail on the head…
Before I announce the winners I want to thank all of our partners that generously offered various prizes for this giveaway one more time. It goes without saying that I am so grateful to have these amazing humans support my efforts and I hope you will consider checking out their websites and contacting them about their products and/or services. It takes a village to get through this crazy thing we call life and I am truly blessed to be part of an incredible one overflowing with kind, giving, caring people.
Big shoutout and thanks to...
Cindy Goldrich of PTS Coaching
Free access to an upcoming Calm and Connected workshop, value $490
Brook Borup of My Clone Solution
5 hours of virtual admin tasks, value $275
Noah Goldstein of Heartseed Health
1-hour acupuncture treatment, value $120
Mitten Lowe of Journey To Wellness
Wellness gift box including herbal tea, 2 essential oils and a lip balm, value $99
Lisa Shanken, Certified Health, Executive Functioning and Exercise Coach
30-minute in-person consult, value $75
Arezou Zafrashan, Call Emmy
3 hours of light cleaning and laundry (wash/dry/fold), value $90
With regard to the finalists, I actually called each one yesterday after getting home from a client to do what was supposed to be 5-10 minute interviews. I didn’t think anyone was fabricating a story but just wanted to hear the emotion in their voice as opposed to their written words, words that I can honestly say do not even begin to show off the layers of emotions they are all feeling. After 8 significantly longer than anticipated and heartwrenching conversations, I spent the better part of last night trying to decide who would receive the Grand Prize and went to bed without making a final decision.
I woke up around 5 am this morning after having a dream about my mother and grandmother and I have to say, they more or less made the decision for me. I’m certain it was because I was thinking about the very last call that I had that lasted almost an hour with a woman who had nominated her parents. Her father was just diagnosed with cancer less than a month ago and if you know me you know that I lost both my mother and grandmother to cancer. Therefore, I know how devasting it is to lose someone to it and be left to deal with all of their “stuff”.
The stories that follow will move you on some level. I would say “congratulations” to all of the finalists but that is definitely not the right word when you read what they are all facing. Instead, I will extend my best wishes to each one and from the bottom of my heart want to thank them for their courage in coming forward in this manner.
So without further adieu, here is the story that has been chosen for the Grand Prize…
“I am nominating my parents for the grand prize. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in early May. They have been married almost 49 years but are overwhelmed in terms of clutter. The basement is full of way way way too much stuff and a mom who will soon be left with no way to clear. Simply put, it is daunting. We’re dealing with the reality of a fast, painful, and unexplained terminal illness. My mom has always been a keeper, my dad was the cleaner, but in the span of a few weeks he cannot do anything anymore. She needs help desperately. It borders on serious hoarder status. We’ve been so overwhelmed with his rapid decline and do not expect him to last the summer.
The following are the other finalists that will each get one of the remaining prizes but there is one additional prize not listed. It was supposed to be 5 hours of virtual coaching from me but I have decided instead to offer 5 hours of in-person decluttering and organizing help. None of these entries would benefit from virtual assistance so it just made sense to revise the prize. The recipient was actually nominated by a friend. Suffice it to say, we all need friends like this. Here’s the story…
“I would like to nominate my friend who is a single mom that moved to Boulder a decade ago with her infant son. She was able to graduate from college while raising her child on her own but has been suffering from a debilitating health condition that causes served pain making physical tasks extremely difficult. She has a very kind heart and does all she can to help others. She has lived in the same unit for 8 years and has accumulated a lot of items many that are broken and needing to be replaced. She has expressed to me that as a child they had to move constantly with very little stability and because of that she feels an attachment to taking everything in and not able to clear things out emotionally or physically because of the physical inability. They are also without a working vehicle.I have provided some help with rides and clearing the back porch but I am also a single mother of 3 and grandmother of 1 and I have limited resources.”
And here are the remaining finalists' stories...
“In the last few years, I've lost most of my family, my home I grew up in and my husband was killed in an accident. I finally had something go right and was able to move into a house. I had friends help me. My whole garage is still full of things that need to be unpacked and organized, but I am disabled and can't get the heavy boxes up the garage stairs and into my house. No one will help me so I'm kind of stuck. I would really appreciate the help and it would be so much better to have my car in my garage instead of having to bring myself and my groceries up the steep slope of my driveway.”
“I spent 3 years caring for my two grandchildren in California, 12 hrs./day, 5 days/wk. During that time, I rented to a family who stored all of my possessions in my garage and storage area (even though they weren't supposed to). So I returned to a mess since nothing was organized whatsoever. (They also did so much damage to my home that I had to take them to small claims court.) I'm 72 years old and it's been very difficult for me to organize a lifetime's worth of "stuff" by myself and I'm retired, on a limited income, so can't really afford to hire help either. I used to travel a lot so have quite a collection of "souvenirs", as well as many items from the years of garage and estate sales I used to frequent. This disorganization has begun to affect both my mental and physical health, the former because I'm beginning to feel like a "hoarder" and also can't find things I still need, and the latter because I keep trying to organize it myself but don't have the strength to do so adequately. I actually seem to have "lost" my mother's and grandmother's diamond wedding and engagement rings, as well as my own. I realize that I'll probably need to sell my home at some point in the not-too-distant future, so I'd be incredibly appreciative of any help you could provide.”
“I am 63 years old and live alone. I have a clutter/hoarding issue that is keeping me isolated and overwhelmed. I honestly do not even know where to begin and I get more depressed and anxious by my lack of being able to make any real progress. Part of the problem is I’m physically unable and have nowhere to put the things I need to get rid of. I am not an organized person by nature and really need help.”
“I am a life-long depressive who has always had problems with (or, is it a rebellion against?) organization. For most of my adult life, I have maintained an acceptably messy environment that many would consider unacceptable. It started sliding to less acceptably messy. Then, I was with someone who behaved as though he was in love with me. It seemed like the healthiest relationship in my life until he told me that he didn't love me and didn't want to keep seeing each other before he moved out of the country. That was 11 years ago. Total emotional tailspin for over a year. I progressively stopped relating with my space until there were boxes and trash throughout my house and I had a massive mouse infestation this year. I have been unemployed for over 5 years so I had to liquidate an obscene amount of retirement money to pay for full remediation firm that also deals with crime and suicide scenes. They didn't throw everything away but did fill two large dumpsters. Everything went into random drawers and closets and bags and boxes. In the months since I haven't been able to face putting things in order after the initial enthusiasm. And the order that occurred from radically less stuff has been sliding.”
“My 91-year-old mother recently died and there are a few items that she left for me. I have no interest in keeping some of the items since I won't use or wear the items. Some items such as lamps were purchased at a high-end gallery. I have no idea what and how to sell some of the items that have a lot of meaning. There are other items such as her favorite Christmas tree which is also a high-end piece and it meant so much to her. It is something that I won't use. I'm really trying to work on some of these belongings because at this point my mom is no longer attached to them. I'm ready to move these items. I just don't know how to approach it without guilt.”
“I run a nonprofit in Boulder that provides peer support and navigation services along with street outreach. My house can become extremely cluttered as a result. I also have very limited time as am currently in school full-time and contribute to a variety of community boards and panels. It would be most helpful to lose some of the things I do not need and be better organized in my personal space.”
On behalf of #TeamIJS, this giveaway has been an honor and privilege to provide and I look forward to sharing the transformations at some point later this summer. If they can inspire one person to take some steps no matter how small toward their own transformation it is all that I can ask for.
COCTC aka Chief of Chaos To Calm