This past fall when Facebook became too political for me, I backed off of it and joined Instagram. Instagram, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the app, enables users to take pictures and share them. It was much more fun to look at pictures of my friends and family than political rants. While on Instagram, I poked around a bit and found out I could also follow people I didn’t know, but with whom I shared similar interests.
I was particularly attracted to photos from professional organizers in other areas of the country. I looked at the gorgeously stacked and fully labeled pantries, color coded play areas, funky arts and crafts containers, and beautifully beribboned linens storage. While I enjoyed the pictures, I found myself feeling rather ambivalent.
Wait! I’m a professional organizer! What was this about? I decided to have a good sit down with myself to find out what exactly was going on.
The great part of this introspection time was that I realized I take pleasure in working with all of different people on all of of the decluttering and organizing activities that are part of my profession. On any given day, I could be working with a single person, a family, a couple, or a retired person or that I might be emptying a house for someone who is readying it for sale, or helping someone organize what they already have, or decluttering when there is just too much stuff to even start the organizing process. Yes, every job is different. Every client unique. Love all of it!
But, I also had an “Aha” moment. I became fully aware that my favorite part of this profession is helping people declutter. When I first meet with a new client, there is a marked difference between the one who needs to reorganize what they have and the one who can’t enjoy their home because they have too many things lying around. My potential organizing clients talk more casually about the work they are requesting. But, I can hear the stress behind the words my potential decluttering clients speak in our first conversation.
The good thing is that once decluttering clients realize that I’m not the least bit judgmental and that I have more than likely seen far worse than whatever they’re showing me, they trust me. I bring a lighthearted approach to otherwise overwhelming tasks and circumstances, and they let their guard down. They start talking more about the way the clutter makes them feel and the restrained looks on their faces give in to what they’re really feeling: usually smothered in their clutter.
The best part is that they quickly understand that I’m only there to help them. In any way I can. That I’m willing to work on their schedule, not bothered by whether they make decisions quickly or not. I’m their cleaning buddy who is also there to help them make smart decisions and work in a productive, orderly manner.
As we declutter their home, working room by room, donating no-longer-needed items, and making new storage decisions, their demeanor visibly relaxes. They smile more. They find themselves working on little projects in between our meetings and are excited to show me what they’ve accomplished. They become proud of their home again. That’s key for them.
When we’re finally done a de-cluttering job, my clients are very different people. They’re more engaged in life. Why? Because they are more confident. They usually find extra time to enjoy activities they had stopped appreciating when their clutter began to weigh them down.
This! This is the part of my job that I love! I relish in helping my clients “find” their home – and themselves again. Watching them change as their house changes brings me such great pleasure. I love knowing they are walking in their front door each day with smiles on their faces. Do some of them call me back every month or every few months to help them bring their home back to order? Sure! Some clients find it hard to change habits. But, it’s all good. They’re happy to have me back and we’re happy to be working together again.
So, back to Instagram and my disinterest in all of the pictures of perfect organization, pretty containers and gorgeous pantries. I realized that, while that part of my profession is fun, it’s not the real “heart” work. There’s not much of a transformation in the client when we’ve completed jobs like that. Yes, they love their new space – and so do I. Looking at things in such perfect order is fun.
But, the faces of the clients who have worried they won’t be able to accomplish the job, who’ve slaved through their clutter and braved the decisions of donating or throwing out unneeded items with me? Those are the faces I see and the joy my heart feels when I close my eyes at night.
I see the client who was able to free herself of the many reams of sheet music now available on her iPad. I see the client who made the liberating decision to donate her former husband’s clothing. Or the client who finally admitted to himself and his wife that he was ready to say goodbye to his enormous compact disc collection and recycle two crates of old music magazines in their attic.
Sometimes it’s as simple as letting someone like Lighten Up in. Other times it’s as simple as gradually letting go. Often the most progress is made when a client allows a satisfying combination of both.