Things I Say When Organizing

 

I love working with clients, mostly because I enjoy being with and helping people. I love hearing stories, laughing over memories and seeing progress unfold.

While every situation is unique, I’ve noticed over time that there are some phrases I use repeatedly. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work with me, here are a few things you might hear me say.

 

“I specialize in motivation”

Many people struggle to get started on projects, even ones they really want to do. This applies to various endeavors, including dieting, exercising and organizing. People will say, “I know that I need to tackle this mess, but I just can’t seem to make myself do it.” My response to this is, “No problem!” I will make sure we get started and stay focused. Paying someone money, and then having her show up at your door, is a very effective way to make change happen.

By the way, if you ever need a little extra motivation, I highly recommend this adorable video:

 

“Talk to me about this.”

Most people assume I will come in and tell them to get rid of everything. That is completely false. I fully understand that most people have good reasons for why they have various items in their space. In order to decide what to keep and what to shed, it can be helpful to talk it through. Conversation yields discovery, which fosters wise decision-making. For instance, a piece of plastic that looks like trash may actually be a key piece of a child’s toy. Or an old newspaper may have a story about a family member and therefore needs to be saved. Often, a client is actually ready to let a possession go, but just needs to “relive the story” of it one more time. I have learned so much from these precious times, and consider it a privilege to be invited into the memory.

 

“Why are you keeping this?”

This is a question I ask all the time. Frequently, when discussing belongings, clients tell me what various objects are (e.g. their function) or where they came from (e.g. their provenance). Both of these pieces of information are helpful, yet neither helps me know what to do with them. Understanding why something is being kept is critical in helping to identify where it should go. For example,

If you are keeping an item because you ….             Then it should be …

… feel guilty to get rid of it                                       … donated, trashed, recycled or sold

… use it frequently                                                    … stored in an easy to access location

… might need it someday                                         … clearly labeled and stored remotely

… believe it has monetary value                              … possibly appraised and stored safely

… enjoy the memories it holds                                … stored with memorabilia or displayed

… want to give it someone else                               … shipped/delivered to the recipient

… plan on fixing/repairing it                                     … assessed and repaired

… don’t own it (e.g. it is my husband’s)                  … reviewed by the owner for a decision

 

“I give you permission”

Often, clients have a nagging urge to get rid of something, and yet are reluctant to do so. They may feel guilty, insecure or fearful. It may sound funny, but it is perfectly normal to ask, “Do I need to keep this?” In some cases, the advice of a professional (e.g. a lawyer, doctor or accountant) may be needed to answer that question. However, in many cases, it is helpful simply to have another person confirm an inner desire to finally move something along. Organizing, like so many other pursuits, is often easier when we do it with another person.

 

“The fun was in the making”

A common scenario in a household with children is a plethora of artistic creations. Pottery, artwork, sewing projects, sticker art, sand structures and model kits are frequently made in the home or come back from parties, school and activities. Often, we feel pressure to keep and/or display these pieces. When an object is new, that is a good idea. I typically suggest clients designate a “gallery” where the latest Lego kit or bedazzled picture frame can live. However, after a reasonable time has passed (which depends on the individual), it is usually okay to let them go. [Note: you can always take a photograph of a special piece for posterity!] For many projects, the joy of creativity is more in the “construction” phase than in the display phase, and it is healthy to let children know that they don’t need to keep the object in order to remember the fun.

 

“I love that idea!”

While I am the professional, hired to bring in ideas and solutions, I often find that clients have terrific ideas of their own. When talking about where or how to store something, it is very common for a client to come up with the winning idea. I love when this happens, because it builds a client’s confidence to see that he/she can organize. I love smart solutions, regardless of where they come from.

 

“I affirm you”

Everyone needs affirmation, especially when trying to move forward in a new, challenging or stressful area. I am a firm believer that a little encouragement goes a long way. When clients tell me about steps they have taken or freeing decisions they have made, I am known to say, “I affirm you!” Knowing that someone else understands and celebrates with us makes the victory all the sweeter.

 

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Have you ever hired a professional organizer? What phrases did he/she use?

 

 

 

25 thoughts on “Things I Say When Organizing”

  1. Definitely great conversation starters for all those organizing. I love that you don’t just go into a client’s home thinking you need to purge all, but that you actually want to to help the client just decide what to keep keep and what to get rid. Because I believe both are essential in cleaning and organizing, too.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Currently August 2017My Profile

  2. Great post, Seana! I love to say this question to my organizing and admin clients: “Why are you keeping this?” It’s so easy to keep digital files on computers which over time will slow down any system. Revisiting everything in your life and streamlining it is so important to really find the right life path for you.

    1. I need those things – affirmation, understanding and listening – with many aspects of my life. We all have areas where someone else can come alongside and make a big difference. The “helping” aspect of this profession is my favorite part!

  3. My favorite quote of yours is “The fun is in the making.” You shared that at one of our NAPO-CT meetings and I’d never heard it before, but it resonated with me. I’ve been referencing your phrase when working with my own clients and I keep it in mind myself with my own child. And the tip about taking photos of the artwork is a good one!

    1. Glad to hear that phrase “stuck” with you. It’s freeing I think. We don’t have to keep every little thing. I can attest that my adult girls really don’t care about the items they made when they were children. Perhaps one or two very special items, but other than that, they tell me to pitch them.

  4. Great educational piece, Seana! One of the issues I ran into when I was an organizer was clients who expected me to just throw stuff out – they actually wanted me to do that, and took exception to me wanting to explore whether or not they should keep it.

    1. That’s a tough one, Janet. I want the clients to be a part of the decision making process. I don’t mind being given a rubric for things that can get tossed, but that rarely happens. More often, I make a pile of objects that I guess can go and then let them look through it. Very hard when someone wants you to make decisions on his/her behalf, and I think sets an organizer up for sticky liability.

    1. I hope some people who have never worked with an organizer will be able to see that we aren’t scary and it is a very positive experience!

  5. I haven’t.. yet.. but it’s my dream! So maybe you’ll come over?? And what will you say?

    I love this post because I once published a list of things I say as a professional photographer. Some are hilarious, actually.

    1. I bet what you say as a photographer is funnier than what I say as an organizer! But yes, when you work closely with people, you do have some pretty funny conversations:) I would come over, but you have Cassidy… I don’t think you need me. Maybe someday we can meet just for fun!

    1. Yes, you do NOT need to keep every little thing. Now having two adult daughters has helped me realize that they really don’t want that stuff. They have the memory in their heart/mind of the fun of creating, and that is enough!

    1. Glad to know my thoughts are on target, Marcia. I think all of us gravitate toward these answers when looking at our stuff. “Why” really is the key question when figuring out what to do with it all.

  6. Great list Seana! I love the statement, “I give you permission.” I think so many times people living in chaos just want someone to affirm that it’s okay to let go. They are ready and willing to let go, they just need to hear those words! THanks for sharing 🙂

    1. To me it is sort of like when I want to buy a piece of clothing or pick a paint color. It just helps to have someone affirm that I am making a good choice. Thanks for YOUR positive feedback, Liana!

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