As a professional organizer, you would assume that I am passionate about organizing. I am not. I am passionate about people. Given the choice between being at home and dealing with my own piles or going to Pleasantville and sorting out Mrs. Martin’s closet, I will chose Mrs. Martin and her closet every time. Yes, I am often amused by my own company but I know that story and that story is not always interesting to me. Being with other people and helping them sort out their stuff, gives me the opportunity to hear the story behind their stuff and that is often much more interesting than the stories I have told myself about my own stuff. As a profession, listening to people and their stories is very interesting and then very satisfying when I can help them manage the stuff that contributes to or reflects those stories.. Often they call me in to serve as a professional organizer because they have become stuck in managing their stuff. The stuff is merely the outcome of the story they have told themselves about themselves and their lives. The stuff is a physical manifestation of their internal process- their stories. So my working with my clients then becomes about the unfolding of their stories, a discovery process of both the client and myself, their audience and often their advocate. In this role, I serve a useful purpose for them and I am honored to serve in the telling of their stories and when they get stuck, the reshaping of those stories, the management of their stuff, so that we have a better outcome, a more productive, useful and graceful home. Given that I am curious by nature, a good listener and love to help people find solutions to their challenge; this all contributes to a fun and satisfying work
The story might start out about a closet and then it becomes something more. Every story unfolds in its own way, in its own time. Sometimes the stories come tumbling out in a cascade of events and other times, the stories are revealed morsel by morsel over a period of months. Mrs. Martin holds back nothing as we sort and fold the towels from her wedding 60 years ago, revealing some of the events of her young life as a wife, mother and then a divorcee twenty years later. Later in the day, I’m sorting out the papers and bills of a retired professional and she shares a moment from her earlier life in Manhattan that reveals the contrast to her quiet older years here in this retirement community. I will not hear another detail like this for another month as we focus on the task at hand and strategizing her current life to maximize efficiency and productivity of a life now restricted by the limitations of an aging mind and body.
There is also humor in my work with people and their organizing needs. One instance of this was the day I was trying to schedule a series of appointments for Mrs. Roberts She mentioned that she would like to schedule a doctor’s appointment but couldn’t remember his name. She said, “You know, the one that did the Cadillac’s in my eye!?” I then said, “Mrs. Roberts, do you realize what you just said?” and then I repeated it. Mrs. Roberts burst out laughing and I did too. I then mention that I had seen this word substitution happen before and that it was probably going to happen again and that we were going to handle it with humor and grace.
And so you see, why I like what I do for others- it can be life changing even in small ways for both of us and for that I am very grateful.