In my house, the dust bunnies are as big as cats! Ok, maybe not that big but seriously, I am overrun with dust bunnies. He doesn’t know it, but my husband and I are playing chicken to see who will cave and get the vacuum out first. After 13 days he did it, he pulled out the vacuum and I think that means I won. My grandmother used to tell my mother not to make a slave of herself; she meant to a man, but I use that axiom now to mean, to a house. I refuse to work all day only to come home and clean the house. Which means that there are times I am going to have to lower my standards because I’d rather make a nice dinner or meet a friend for lunch- go to church or spend the afternoon antiquing with my husband. It’s about priorities- Grandma was right.

Our lives are not about making everything perfect. Sometimes you have to let the little things go for the sake of the big things. A lot of people think that as a professional organizer, I must have a perfect home- not true! Here’s a list of my sins: dust bunnies, a few piles (tucked in the corners) drawers with paper to shred, bookshelves with books I’m not going to read and a basement with boxes that have been there for years. Let’s put it this way: if I wanted to move- I would have to order a dumpster in order to clear out this house. But on the other hand, my house is cleaned up enough to invite someone in for a cup of coffee at the last minute. Of course there’s a few piles in sight of the kitchen but I would not be mortified if someone came in. My level of mess is within normal and most people would understand. Of course if my mother was coming, that would be a different thing and I would launch into the big clean!

Most people live within a normal level of clutter. If you think you might have a problem, check out the hoarding scale here The warning signs are when you can no longer navigate your home safely or use your appliances the way in which they were intended. When people start to get overwhelmed by their clutter or come up against a crisis- then they may ask for help in dealing with the piles that accumulate. Thanksgiving can be one of those events that push people to tackle the issue because they know that company is coming and they want their homes “cleaned up.” Often times I’ll get a call from a family member who wants their mom/ daughter to get organized but I caution them to proceed with care. This is privacy/ lifestyle issue and you can’t force people to maintain their homes at your standards. If someone is distressed about the condition of their home and wants help, then can you proceed to assist them.

At my association meeting I heard a story of well-meaning children/ grandchildren discarding their elderly parents’ stuff when setting them up in a new apartment at assisted living. These children thought that Granny wouldn’t notice that the items on the shelf were tossed in the garbage and replaced with something else- as though they were interchangeable! That gave us professional organizers such a chill! It was so callous and disrespectful to these seniors and their possessions. Everyone has a right to make decisions about their homes and age is not a disqualifier. In general, family members often do not have the training or perspective to be judicious or effective. Do not throw out their memories with the trash- is the warning of my colleague Vicki Dellaquila.

So if you were to look at your home with fresh eyes, what would you think? Is it dusty, cluttered or a situation of level 2 hoarding? Does your home reflect you and your values or has it taken on a life of its own? If it’s within normal, enjoy or hire a housekeeper and let the dust bunnies fly. If you think it’s more than that – consider getting some help and bring your home back to order and peace. Happy organizing!