“You have to listen to that individual; what do they want from their lives? Not everyone needs to have the classic 1950s perfect little house, but they need help, they need that extra eye and they need someone who will listen to them.”—Excerpt from appearance on KCUR radio, The Walt Bodine Show, March 2008
When you look around your house, what do you see? And possibly more important, what do you want to see?
Think about that for a moment.
Our vision of how our home should look cannot be dictated by the sleek uncluttered homes we see depicted on magazine covers or in television shows. Instead, we must make our decisions on how we want our home to look and feel, according to our own needs and desires.
That said, we also can, and should, strive for a home in which we can easily find whatever we need. If you are not paying bills on time because you can’t find the paperwork or your checkbook, if you have a pantry filled to capacity yet can’t find that jar of pickles you bought yesterday, then you probably need a little more organizing in your life!
I’m going to explain to you how easy it is to lose yourself in clutter, what you can do to regain control of your possessions, and how you can live a more organized life.
I will be walking you through this process one step at a time. Whether you have hours to commit to organizing, or just a few minutes out of each day, I can help you get organized and stay that way.
But before we begin, here is a little back story on how I began doing what I do…
An Accidental Beginning
I began a cleaning business, C’s Cleaning Services, in October 2005. After nearly two decades in offices, working clerical and customer service jobs, I was ready for a change. And if that meant scrubbing toilets instead of a dull-gray cubicle, then I was in.
As the years passed, I gave birth to my second child, outsourced most of my cleanings to employees and handled the consults and scheduling.
“Speak to your strengths. If you believe you can do it and you want it bad enough—jump in. Just jump in and do it.”—My response to a caller’s question on how to get started as a professional organizer
The first organizing client I ever had was an ‘accidental client.’ They called me to schedule a cleaning consult through my housecleaning business and I arrived at the appointed time to find myself faced with an apartment filled to the brim with clutter—there was no room for a cleaning crew to come in and clean, no surface or piece of furniture that was clear and ready to be dusted, no floor that showed except for narrow pathways that led from one room to another.
I walked away from that consult after telling them that I was sorry, but that my staff simply couldn’t provide cleaning service to them without some serious de-cluttering first. As I drove home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that house and how I really wanted to help them. I thought about the organizing business I was planning to open in another year and had that lightbulb moment—why not now? What was I waiting for? It seemed as if I had just received a personal invitation!
Two weeks later, I started 25th Hour Organizing. Sitting together with my mother and a friend, we talked about what we wanted to do and who we wanted to help. We made the bold promise to add an extra hour to our clients’ day— “Because 24 Just Isn’t Enough.” Later that same year, I began teaching the “Let’s Get Organized” classes in order to reach out to more of the population in the Kansas City Metropolitan area.
It was the feedback from those classes and the personal requests from my clients and class participants that spurred me to write this book. There is only so much information I could give in a two-hour class, so I began putting together a handout that would fill in for all of the organizing tips we couldn’t touch on in class.
That handout grew into the book you now hold in your hands. Whether you have purchased this book while attending my class, off my website or elsewhere, I think you will find it to be a valuable tool in getting you started in your organizing quest.
My First Hoarding Client
It was the summer of 2008 when I stood in a client’s house and surveyed one of the worst cases of hoarding that I had ever seen. Plastic milk crates filled with books and papers teetered their way to within inches of the ceiling. A hodgepodge of furniture groaning under the weight of papers and books filled the rooms. Pathways, narrow and winding, were the only access to a tiny spot in the living room, a small section of kitchen, and one of the bedrooms. I was told that the entire upstairs was filled with stuff and could not be navigated. I couldn’t imagine that it could be worse than the main level, but it most certainly was.
My client and her husband both suffered from OCD and both were hoarders. Even as I coaxed them to donate and trash items in the house in an effort to bring their clutter under control, packages would arrive daily, stacking up, unopened, anywhere they could find room.
This client’s hoarding tendencies had been building for a while, long before they reached out and asked for help. By the time they did, she was suffering from some rather serious health issues that were exacerbated by the intense level of clutter in her home.
Where do you start when faced with that level of clutter and mess?
The work is more complicated and time-consuming than a simple run-of-the-mill clutter situation, but you have to start somewhere.
You have to really understand something before you are able to teach it. I believe that it often helps if you are able to stand in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel. Perhaps, because I had been organizing and breaking down the process step-by-step nearly my entire life, it came naturally for me to start an organizing business. After all, I had been organizing since I was young, by making a game out of that ‘un-fun’ task of cleaning my room. Later, I came to love the look of my books, neatly arranged on my bookcase, alternately by author, title or size.
My Own Struggles
“There is a folder of digital pictures on my computer labeled ‘weeds’. Weird, but true. We have a big yard and every time a weed pops up I want to pull it and my husband says it’s a flower. So we wait. It ends up being a weed; I take a picture of it and keep it in the folder so that next year we don’t have the same argument.”—Excerpt from a “Let’s Get Organized” class at the Christian Legacy Church Women’s Retreat—March 2008
I have mentioned in my classes that I am a bibliophile (a book lover) and it is true. When a problem comes up, I figure a book can fix it. One of my lifelong dreams was to have a home library, a special room filled with wall-to-wall books where I can sit and read. I love the feel of books, the texture of their pages beneath my fingers and even the smell of ink and paper. I got that wish in 2013 when we moved out of our small suburban house and into a sprawling Victorian with its own upstairs library.
When shopping, I tend to buy in multiples (shirts in each color offered, for example) and I dread running out of any particular grocery item (such as chicken or hamburger), that I use regularly. I purchase some items almost obsessively: nail clippers, lip balm, pens, even scissors. If the end of civilization came tomorrow, I would probably have enough lip balm to last me five years!
I had long suspected I was born with the ‘collecting gene.’ I became certain of that fact one day as I stared at my filled-to-capacity bookshelves and embroidery floss collection (did I mention that I have every color and shade that DMC manufactures?). Perhaps one of the reasons that I enjoy working with compulsive hoarders so much is because I recognize the symptoms of OCD and compulsive hoarding in myself. I have found myself collecting, letting clutter build up on my desk or kitchen counters in years past. Inevitably I put my foot down and get back on track and clean up the mess. But I understand how painful it can be to let things go at first, and I feel my clients’ pain and empathize as I watch them struggle to let their possessions go. I see how difficult it can be for them to stay calm and focused during our organizing sessions.
I believe that with understanding comes empathy, and with empathy can come a resolve to make things better, any way we can. I believe, too, in each individual I work with—each of them has the capacity for infinite growth and change. Often it sits quietly, waiting for the right key to unlock that potential—and that is where I come in.
A few years back I ran across some goal-defining exercises I had written in several different journals. The recurring themes were the same. I wanted to:
Write creatively (fiction and non-fiction)
I found that these dreams and goals dated back fifteen years or more. I realized, as I was preparing this book for publication, that I am finally living my dreams. By writing, teaching community education classes and occasionally working with organizing clients—I am actively engaged in speaking to my strengths.
That’s an important thing to do—speak to your strengths. Build and expand on your good habits, exploit your abilities and push yourself to do something more with your life each and every day. It will make you an effective person and eventually a very happy individual. Belief in ourselves, in our endless potential, is what makes us special. It also makes us stronger.
Despite the prevalence of clutter in so many of our lives, it is often considered to be a sign of inadequacy or shame for many people. I don’t believe it is a sign of weakness or laziness or some personal lack in my clients—we all have times when life becomes overwhelming and clutter builds up.
However, I understand my clients’ needs for confidentiality and I have done my best to honor that need throughout this book. It is out of respect for each of the people I have worked with that all client names have been changed to protect their privacy. However, their individual stories, and unique situations remain intact.
Are You Ready?
So are you? Are you really ready for a change? You see, it isn’t enough to say, “I need to change.” You have to really want change before it will happen. You also need to have the tools for change. This book provides that and more.
I have divided this book into four sections:
Section 1—Before We Begin Organizing
Section 2—Get Organized
Section 3—Stay Organized
I will show you how to prepare for organizing every area of your home. I will also take you room-by-room and give you tips on how each space is organized on an individual basis. Once you are organized, I will provide ideas for lifestyle changes, simple little alterations in your routine that will ensure you stay organized for months and years to come. The last section will guide you towards important resources that will help you along your organizing journey.
Please remember that becoming organized and staying that way, takes time and effort. But you can do it. If you are ready to change your life, and watch a good deal of the stress and frustration from the clutter in your life melt away, then read on.
Learn how to get organized today - quickly and easily - by clicking the links below!
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