What IS the problem?

As an organizer, I get a lot of questions about how I start a job. And although every single job is unique, and I personalize my approach to each client, I always start with a dialogue that goes something like this...

(NOTE: these are very simplified examples of conversations with real clients)

Client: "I am really unorganized."

Me: "Why is that a problem?" Client: "Because I can never find what I need." Me: "Why is THAT a problem?"

Client: "Because I am late to events a lot, and sometimes even late paying my bills."

Possible solutions: a bill paying and filing system, identify a "drop-zone," a to-do list

Client: "My house is a total mess."

Me: "Why is that a problem?" Client: "Because people stop over and there's stuff all over the place. It's so messy."

Me: "Why is THAT a problem?"

Client: "Because I am embarrassed and uncomfortable, in my own house!"

Possible solutions: a deep clean, identify a "drop zone," create a new "tidy up" schedule

Client: "My in-laws have TONS of stuff they won't get rid of."

Me: "Why is that a problem."

Client: "Because they have so much they don't even use or need."

Me: "Why is THAT a problem?"

Client: "Because someday I am going to have to deal with all of it!"

Possible solutions: This is where this really gets tricky, and I'll share my thoughts on this later...

It may sound strange coming from an organizer, but having STUFF isn't a problem in and of itself. Most people incorrectly assume that an organizer wants to enter their home, get rid of everything, and rearrange and redecorate in pretty, labelled containers. There are some companies that do this (I've done this!), and many clients who want it, but it rarely solves the problem, and the problem is the first thing that needs to be identified.

Often the problem is not easy to identify. It takes introspection, lots of questions, and sometimes a talk about values, priorities, and lifestyles.

Additionally, the solution isn't always easily identified. Take the third example, above. I have several friends and acquaintances who are struggling with just this thing. They have an elderly relative who has accumulated a lot of belongings. It isn't causing their relative a health or safety concern, and they are financially secure. However, my friends have talked, reasoned, explained, maybe even begged that person to start going through their stuff. Why? Because there WILL be a problem for THEM down the line. I understand the difficulty this presents. The tricky part is that sometimes there is nothing that CAN be done. In this case, I suggest they continue having conversations, share resources, talk about their concerns, or offer to arrange a free consultation with an organizer (I do this!). These are some of the hardest scenarios, and they cause a lot of stress and strife for the people involved.

Organizing isn't a one-size-fits all thing. Sometimes identifying the problems and solutions to an organizing problem isn't easy. By finding the right person to help you guide you through the process, you are taking the first step in the right direction.

Have a wonderful week!