Monday, November 26, 2018

The Epic Slowdown

 I’m really not sure where I’m going with this, but I’m overdue for a posting, so here it goes.  A lot of clients end up coming to me because they just haven’t been able to adjust to a life change.  New baby, divorce, loved one on hospice, unexpected move…whatever it may be it has derailed life for them to some degree or another.  My personal nature is to always set things in order before I go forward and it’s therapeutic for me, but I can recognize it’s quite the opposite for many.  But while I could empathize with people, I don’t think I could quite fully understand how things could get so out of control for them. 

However, my dad experienced a life turn in August that impacted the whole family when a dear neighbor found him having a seizure in the backyard.  He was stable by the time the paramedics took him to the ER and one of the first things the doctor did was take his license.  Now this is a guy who spends his days running to the ends of the earth to take people wherever they need to go, taking food to people that need it, collecting rent from tenants that may or may not otherwise pay it, and making frequent repairs to all the dwellings of said tenants.  Not to mention managing his own accounting and tax office.  I knew we were gonna be in trouble. 

This guy is the worst back seat driver at his baseline and then he went and also got a concussion during this event, leaving him unable to tolerate forward motion or light.  So, while driving him to appointments with a towel draped over the visor and out the window, in giant sunglasses on the cloudiest of days, it became preferred that one drive with the flashers on while continuing 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.   No sudden stops, and really it’s just best to roll through the stop sign altogether.    Every trip takes longer than it should now and it takes three times as long to get him out the door in the first place, while he packs what I affectionately refer to as his “diaper bag.” He has to make sure he has his neck pillow, hot pack, ice pack, ibuprofen, water bottle, ear plugs, reading glasses, other glasses, sunglasses…the list goes on. 

I’ve been trying for years to get him on a better diet plan, and with this scare he jumped right on board.  I wanted to make sure I did everything possible to keep him on track.  So now we meal plan, circle the specials in the weekly ads, and grocery shop at 2-3 different stores together on Saturday mornings.  Now he drinks Kombucha everyday and sprinkles fresh-ground turmeric on everything he eats.

I would not trade any of the last 3 months for the world.  We all grew closer as a family and were forced to slow down in many different ways…flashers and all!  But even when life slows down, it still costs time.  For every meal prepped or unexpected trip to Troy Hill, something else had to get put aside.  I found myself starting to feel like I was sinking and just barely meeting every deadline.  That’s when I truly knew what it was like to feel the start of the spiral to lost control.  Ultimately, I think a lot of life depends on the choices we make and the confidence we have in them.  I chose to shift my priorities—I spent less time with friends so I could stay home with my parents, I turned down organizing jobs that required me to travel more than I wanted, I didn’t do work for the hospital on my days off…. I could feel like a failure for giving things up and spiral further out of control, but I chose to trust and believe in God’s grace that my friends would still be there, my business would still grow, and I could still be efficient with my other obligations.   So far that has remained abundantly true.

So during this month of thanks, I find myself grateful again for peace and joy in the midst of turmoil.  And I’m grateful to be humbled in my own abilities.  So to those of you out there feeling out of control, I see you, I get you, and I am here for you. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Meet Stan

I became a nurse because I like to help people.  A lot of my nursing skills carried into the world of organizing and have served me well.  However, I’ve learned over the years that my true motivator is not so much about the helping, but more about the fixing—that’s what gives me energy.  I love to solve problems and be able to get things done. I’m the girl who makes a list after I did a bunch of things just so I can cross them back off the list.  So satisfying!!  So, the more troublesome a problem becomes, the more set I get on making a solution happen. 

I had a client who broke one half of their lazy susan cabinet door.  They had tried various fixes and weren’t getting anywhere.  I thought for sure this would be no big deal, but it proved to be quite difficult.  Over the course of a year we worked together on and off in all areas of the house, and the door continued to sit in the corner while the cabinet gaped open.  Suddenly, they were ready to move and the house was getting listed, and we still had a broken door.  I visited multiple hardware stores and cabinet showrooms to no avail.   We were ready to reattach this thing with duct tape.   

I decided to take one last stab at my smalltime local hardware store.  When the rosy-cheeked, teenaged counter attendant asked if he could help me, I knew I was doomed.  I went ahead and told my story, which was overheard by Stan.  Stan, who had received a call to say his order was ready, and low and behold was not in fact there.  A wasted trip for Stan, but a goldmine for me!  Stan had an abundance of knowledge about hinges and the like, and as an organizer, sounded like he would be my worst nightmare…he demos cabinets and rarely gets rid of a piece of hardware…you know, “just in case.”  Just in case a random organizing girl gives a sob story in the hardware store and you are able to offer her exactly what you both think she needs!  Stan needed a couple hours to get home and search for said pieces, but was confident he would have them by the time I arrived.  He gave me his address…complete with hand-drawn map!  I showed up with a friend in tow, just in case Stan was a serial killer, and collected 2 different sets of hinges he thought might work.  I was doubtful, as they looked so similar to things I had already tried, but I was gonna give Stan the benefit of the doubt. 

Later that night I get a call from my newfound friend.  He’s been pondering my predicament and thought what I might actually need is a piano hinge.  “Say what, Stan?!”  A piano hinge.  Six bucks.  Found anywhere.  I picked one up the next day, threw that puppy on and boom!  Done.  Just like that.  At some point in our encounters Stan said, “this is kind of crazy, huh?”  “Maybe crazy, maybe fate, Stan, either way, I’m gonna blog about you.”  Stan doesn’t know what a blog is.

When I was working with a business coach this past year, I had to determine my core values.  I chose resourcefulness, grace and awareness—maybe more on that later.  Anyway, he was unimpressed by “resourcefulness” because it didn’t carry much emotion and didn’t seem that significant.  But to me it’s everything—it gives me the grit I need to get any job done.  Or in this case, to find a Stan to help me get the job done.   What values drive you?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Take Command of Your School Year

It’s hard to believe that “back to school” is in full effect!  Although, the stores are practically pushing their Christmas wares already, so maybe not so hard to believe at all.  Either way, this time of year makes perfect sense to talk about setting up or taking back charge of your home command center.

There are any number of pinterest boards and blog posts with drop-dead, gorgeously-zen spaces, but they all have the same basic essentials:

1.     A Central Location—like the realtors say, “location, location, location!” It’s key.  It should be in a high traffic area where the whole family passes through multiple times a day.  If you are lucky enough to have a mudroom, or a nook, or a whatever—that’s fabulous.  If you don’t, have no fear.  Functional always trumps aesthetic.  If it needs to be smack in the middle of the kitchen then there’s always a way to make it work.
2.     A File System—color-coding optional.  Individual vs whole family?—your choice.  You do need a system for “urgent” things, like the school physical, versus “reference” things, like the PTA calendar.  Also, “incoming” versus “outgoing,” like the test that needs to be returned to the teacher.  However, there is no right or wrong as long as it works for you.   Do try to eliminate paper when you can by putting electronic reminders in your phone or putting all necessary information about an event directly into your e-calendar.    
3.     A Calendar—paper or electronic? Still your choice, but essential either way.   
4.     A Board—bulletin?, magnetic?, dryerase?, peg?, combo?—all your choice.   Color-coding is an option here as well, to save time and space.  You don’t have to write a name to every task—just assign a marker/post-it/pin color to each family member and they should know at a quick glance what their tasks are. 
5.     Bins—“shred”/”recycle”/”archive”—like for the artwork you know you’ll keep or the tax documents you know you’ll need later in the year, but don’t have time to file everyday.

What is less talked about is the fact that you actually have to use and groom your command center.  Everyone in the household needs to learn its intended use and how to make it function.  When a bin is full, it needs to be emptied.  That means that “things that need to be filed” actually need to get filed every so often—whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly is up to you.  And things that are out for “reference” need to get thrown away when they become irrelevant. 

For every home command center I’ve helped to re-organize, I always find the original, well-intentioned organization beneath all the rubble.  Sometimes the system doesn’t work and you have to keep using trial and error.  Most of the time, the system is fine; you just have to actually use it and keep up with it.  So, my school-year resolution for you is to take charge and stay disciplined.  Happy commanding!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sorting Garbage...With Joy

I have a client with a very sad case right now who suffers from OCD that results in hoarding.  She convinces herself that there is writing on food wrappers and something of value in the garbage bags she saves the wrappers in.  She can’t get rid of garbage without inspecting each piece under bright lights and turning it back and forth several times.  She called for my help when she was facing eviction…again.  I go for a couple hours every week and help her let go of each piece.  Sometimes the smell hits me in the face as soon as I get to the door and I always dread going a little bit.  She is a truly delightful, well-educated woman, devastated that she is unable to overcome her mental issues and I just can’t refuse helping her.  

Today we had a real breakthrough and she let me do some of the assessing and pitching myself, rather than just watch her do it.  It might not sound like much, but it was a huge deal!  It dawned on me then that I was actually, almost, enjoying taking garbage out of one bag, looking at it, turning it, and putting in the next bag to be taken to the dumpster.  So I said to her, “You know, I’ve been working at another job in an attic all week and it is HOT.  I’ve been running up and down stairs and moving furniture and I am tired!  I am actually enjoying our time right now because I can sit here without breaking a sweat and carry on a conversation with you.”  You would have thought she just won the lottery.  The smile barely fit on her face and she was beaming with joy.  We had our most productive day yet and she ended the day with high hopes.  It is very unlikely she will avoid eviction and I know I can’t carry the burden of that, but today, two souls had a good day sorting trash together.  

I don’t know entirely why I felt compelled to share this story but I feel like someone who needs an ounce of hope right now will somehow find it here.   I started this business on a leap of faith that I felt called to make, and sometimes second-guess myself, and sometimes want to quit.  A lot of times I get inundated with calls from people very much like this woman and then I really want to quit!  But today she told me that she can see kindness and compassion in my eyes and that is why she trusts me.  I told her that is God’s love shining through me and then I remember that if He called me to this place then He will give me the strength to give my best and to find beauty in even a literally, garbage-filled day.   Choose joy today, regardless of your circumstances.  You won’t regret it. 

The Epic Slowdown

  I’m really not sure where I’m going with this, but I’m overdue for a posting, so here it goes.   A lot of clients end...