“Isn’t it time for you to leave yet?” I’ve learned not to take it personally when my clients say that. And some of my favorite clients do! To do my job I must, at times, hold my clients’ feet to the fire. This comes in the form of keeping them on task and asking questions. Questions with predetermined answers that are challenged with more questions.
Me: Do you need this?
Me: How long has it been since you used it?
Client: I don’t remember.
Me: Describe for me a scenario in which you will use it.
People don’t hire me because they want things to stay the same, but that doesn’t mean they’re excited about making changes. Even with obvious benefits like finding things easily, clearing a room full of boxes, or walking into a walk-in closet, change doesn’t come easily. There are obstacles that they, and perhaps you, face in the process of change. Here are some timely tips to help you tackle the challenges and win!
TIMELY TIPS - for organizing success!
“My identity is connected to my stuff.” This is one of the hardest things for teachers. You’ve poured your life, energy, time, and money into creating and preparing teaching materials. Teaching is far more than a job. It’s who you are. And now, in retirement you have to dump it all? Well, no. How about snapping photos for a photo book, or creating a scrapbook with a few pages from your favorite units? Check with your neighborhood school, private schools, or Home School Groups to see what materials might be useful to them. Join a retired teachers Facebook group and ask for ideas. Create space for a new identity to form as you pursue your retirement goals and dreams.
Maybe you weren’t a teacher, but you’re storing books, binders, and miscellaneous paraphernalia from a former career. Keep a small portion for reference or remembrance sake, pass along resources of value, and recycle the rest. Allow your legacy to be based on the people your goods and services helped, rather than how much stuff you’ve saved to show what you did.
“I don’t want to go there.” One of my clients had lost all the members of her immediate family. As she and her husband prepared for a move, she knew she couldn’t sell the house before reducing a lot. With tears we sorted through her parents’, sister’s and her own belongings. It was a painful and dreaded process for her. As she pushed through, she cleared the clutter from her physical space, as well as her mind and emotions. After many months, we completed the job. Her house looked great and sold quickly. When we said our goodbyes she brought me to tears. “You gave me my house back,” she said. “No, you gave me my life back.” She was ready now to move on to a new and fulfilling place and purpose.
If you’re facing a daunting task, the key is giving yourself scheduled time, accountability (someone that can help you reach your goal without making it worse), and grace. Keep the things that bring you the most joyful remembrances. Bear in mind that it’s not the quantity of keepsakes that honors your loved ones. Saving fewer things that are used and displayed gives value to the items and the people they represent.
“It will never work.” You’re convinced you’ll never finish, never get it just the way you want, or never keep it that way. Recently my son-in-law was working with my 4-year-old twin granddaughters and their baby sister, rehearsing their getting-ready-for bed routine. Remembering all the steps can be overwhelming, so they use a chart with pictures. In addition, he talked with them about taking it just one step at a time, like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. Now, when it’s time for bed baby sister says, “Eat elephant!”
When learning to ski there’s a bunny hill for beginners. When learning to play the piano, you don’t sit down with the score of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Likewise, when beginning to organize don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small. Choose one flat surface, one drawer, or one shelf. Purge, organize, and create routines to keep it that way. Once you enjoy success with that area, take the next bite.
In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath say, “When you engineer early successes, what you’re really doing is engineering hope. Hope is precious to a change effort.” Whatever your organizing project is, I encourage you to start small. Succeed. Move on and keep your bites manageable. Eat elephant!
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. --Helen Keller