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Aug 28

Confessions From A Professional Organizer

by Michelle Santaferraro

The tables have turned, now it is my time to move.  I am downsizing.  Yes, the organizer is downsizing. What does that really look like honestly?

Moving is not for the faint of heart.

We had weeks to get ready for this move, and we had done some things ahead of time–like clean out crawl spaces and purge some closets–but not the kind of purge that should have been done for such a mammoth event as this. In weeks previous, I had been happily working with clients on their moves. It felt so easy, mainly because I had no attachment to their stuff.

When moving day was less than 2 weeks away, the obvious became inevitable…it must be faced. That fateful moment came on a Saturday morning when all the conditions just could not be put off any longer, but the reality made me want to flee. So, on the morning when I needed to be productive and focused, I delayed the start by going for a run.

On the way out the door, my husband who was already starting to pack the garage, was busy throwing things into a large black trash can.  I walked by a trash can that was filling up quickly and said without even a hesitation, “You’re not throwing my stuff away, right?”

He assured me that he was simply reviewing garden and household repair items, but I drove away with a tight stomach, wondering what he was really putting in that trash bag.

Not Ready for the Clean Sweep!

Now, I know from professional experience what a “Clean Sweep” feels like.  Maybe you have heard of the cable show that forces people to make decisions about everything they own, and justify the reason for keeping each belonging before bringing it back into the house. I, however, had not had time to emotionally disconnect from some of the items that I own. Many of my own clients have felt the same, that they needed time to ‘think’ about releasing items. Sometimes it’s not so much what the item is, but the association that it has with a memory or an event. Regardless, this act of purging is draining.

Upon my return from the run, the inevitable stared me right in the face. It was time to ‘deal’.  I grabbed a chocolate bar and headed out to the garage.  Chocolate for breakfast is a completely acceptable staple in this transition, so don’t judge me.

In this move, I can hear Barbara Hemphill’s voice in my head, “What will you know tomorrow that you don’t know today?”

Barbara is a fellow organizing colleague who encourages her clients that if tomorrow will not reveal new information in order to help you make the decision on an item you are unsure about keeping, then you need to face the facts that you are postponing the decision. I needed to decide right away what to keep or toss, yet I found myself putting some things in a pile that I had titled – ‘maybe’. The age old question was being rehearsed in my head: What if someone else could use this? As an organizer, I get tripped up by this one especially because I know about so many non-profits and associations that can always use things.  But, this time, time was not on my side, and I had no energy to do anything else.

Through this process, I found out that I am completely distractible, asBarbara Stoker calls it, zig zag organizing. Here are a few tips I am trying out to stay sane and on-track:

1. Gather, Categorize & Pack Together – Gather similar items you need to pack in one space. Place them on a table where you are comfortable. If you begin to contort your body early in the day, you get drained much faster. Pack them together, so they stay together in the move.

2. Turn up the Jams – Put on music to help you stay focused.

3.  Don’t be Afraid to Ask – Get the help you need and learn to ask for it.  This is the most difficult for me. I think I can do everything myself, but I simply cannot. I had a fellow organizer come to my aid who helped me stay focused and asked me the hard questions.

4. Manage Expectations & Delegate – Huddle with family members who are directly involved with the move in the morning so that you can talk through expectations for the day.  Identify what is the focus of your day for packing and what is their focus.  Who is calling vendors and who is simply making deliveries?

Moving is daunting. You need to pull in reinforcements and decide what you are going to do and what you will delegate.  Understand that some of the exhaustion comes in part from what you are leaving and the grief that goes along with that.  It’s healthy to identify what you are ‘losing’ in leaving one residence behind.  Both excitement and anxiety lie in what you are moving on to, the new and the unknown. Embracing a new location brings new routines, and as shared in The Power of Habit by Duhigg, to have a large part of your day bring new experiences is very draining.

Posted in Life Balance