As part of a plan to get order in my life, I did something I never thought I’d do: I hired an organizer. I’ve been thinking about this move for a long time, starting probably 9 years ago, when my sisters and I had to clean out my parents’ house so that they could move from North Carolina to Alabama. My parents were in their late eighties at the time, and they were Depression-era folks, so they still had everything they had ever accumulated themselves or received: every bill, Christmas card, magazine, item of clothing, even every rubber band. My favorite was the closet full of dead Christmas wreaths under the stairs: just waiting to ignite. And, to top things off, you couldn’t throw out boxes en masse—because in the same box as the copy of the bill from McDonald’s for breakfast in 1976 might be a savings bond or Amelia Earhardt’s autograph.
I decided recently that, no matter what, I was not going to do that to my children. To be fair: my husband, Tom, played a large role in my coming to this decision. He bet me that, of the 20 or so boxes of old papers that might be in our attic, he could claim direct responsibility for, at the most, 2; furthermore, he bet me that I could not throw any of mine out. I bet him there were no more than 10 boxes up there, of which 3 were mine. We both got the numbers wrong, but he won the first part of the bet: we carried down 45 boxes and only 5 of them were Tom’s.
But he didn’t win the second part. I took my 40 boxes of old letters,“scrapbook” stuff waiting to be put in an album, and children’s drawings and reduced them to 6: 1 for each child, 1 for photos and 1 for stuff that I was too burned out to throw out. In the process, which took “weeks of my life” (to quote Tom), I realized I have a problem in holding onto things. The weird thing is that, although this fact might have been obvious to anyone else, it was never obvious to me, I guess if you just keep piling clutter into boxes, which you then hide in the attic, it’s hard to realize that you’re a hoarder. (I’m not sure what I was keeping all that stuff for, except perhaps a museum of our life. I can just imagine the crowds lining up for these exhibits: here, for your amusement, is every notebook that Jane kept in college, full of illegible notes; and, on your right, a selection of restaurant menus from Jane and Tom’s trip to New York in 1983.)
So I’ve been throwing things out, whenever I have the nerve to do it, which has fit well with my campaign to get in shape: lose the weight, lose the clutter. Move forward, into the future: lean and clean! But my house has remained a chaotic mess, despite my best efforts. I realize that this is partly inevitable. After all, there are 6 of us in this family, plus 3 dogs and 2 cats. But I could see that I needed professional help. So I hired Kathy Jackson.
I liked the sound of her company name: “Better World Organizing.” I was certainly looking for a better world! Kathy came and looked at our house and, I’m happy to say, was not daunted. She saw it as a fun challenge, something she could sink her teeth into, but not all at once. She recommended that we move slowly, starting with the kitchen, the hub of activity.
I’m here to say that you get what you pay for, and sometimes you need to pay for help. Starting with that first Saturday morning, where we piled everything from the kitchen into the dining room (organized by category) and then ruthlessly eliminated duplicate items (to the Goodwill or the trash bin, depending on their condition) and moving on from there into all the other areas of my house, Kathy has worked a magic that reminds me of Mary Poppins and her carpet bag. 2 rooms down, 5 or 6 (the major offenders) to go, and she is turning my house from a place that feels out-of-control and messy into a well-run ship. She is even having an effect on my children’s habits. Not only that, but the process is fun. You can feel your stress level decrease as you see your spices line up on a rack or your phone chargers get put into boxes with labels. And the kitchen no longer feels like a job that never gets completed. It gets dirty for a while now, but then everything goes back into its place, as if Mary Poppins had snapped her fingers.
The process has made me realize, once again, that the world is full of different kinds of people, and one of the biggest favors we can do ourselves is to realize our own limitations and reach out for help from someone else who is gifted in something we lack. I can tell you: it can change your life.
While I’m at it: Here is Kathy’s company information: Better World Organizing at www.betterworldorganizing.com. Here are some blogs dealing with this subject, in depth: www.orgjunkie.com, www.unclutterer.com, www.clutterdietblog. Check them out and let us know what you think! Or tell us about other ones. Thanks.