Life buries us all in occasional clutter

Monday morning I had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Franklin resident Liz Jenkins for a post I wrote for OnNashville.com, which promotes the work of Nashville’s fabulously diverse blogger community. As a professional organizer, she’s teaching a class for harried entrepreneurs (more on that in a minute). But in the course of talking about that, we got to chatting about the  different reasons so many of us need help with everything from organizing our RSS feeds to learning how to set up a kitchen pantry. Like most every behavioral issue, it’s a mixture of who we are inside and what’s happening in the world around us. Liz helps clients deal with the latter. I personally could relate to every single one of the situations she described:

The Overextended Entrepreneur: You’ve left your corporate job … and the support that goes along with it. For years (maybe decades!) you had a support team to structure your work and organize your days. A secretary maintained your calendar. A sales assistant followed up with phone calls. An office manager filed legal paperwork. A bookkeeper made sure you didn’t miss a payment. Now you’re doing it all yourself, trying to manage stacks of sticky notes and masses of email. Liz sees lots of web developers, graphic designers, marketers and others in such a position.

The Victim of Change: You’ve undergone a major life change and are suddenly faced with an onslaught of new stuff. It could literally be new things, or otherwise new challenges you haven’t needed to fit into your life until now. Liz gives an example of a client whose wife recently died and left behind several collections. He’s at a loss as to what to do with them. I recently lost a great-aunt who collected butterfly pins. She bequeathed them in her will to a cousin who then parceled them out at her funeral, which I thought was a touching tribute. Other times, people are faced with life changes involving new circumstances. Divorce is an example. Beforehand, you may have been accustomed to organizing yourself and a spouse (or being organized by your spouse). Now, you’re on your own.

The Sentimentalist: You like to hang onto scraps of your past – not in an in-need-of-therapy way … but in a way that causes clutter and possibly panic when you want to find something. You have lots of photos, journals, your grandmother’s recipe box, your kids’ schoolwork, your mother’s wedding gown, your brother’s baby shoes, maybe the notes you passed to girlfriends in the eighth grade (yes, Lisa, I still have mine!) What you don’t have is a good way to cherish all those objects. Liz tells these clients that without organization strategies, they aren’t properly respecting the stuff they love.

The Upwardly Mobile: You are super busy and constantly on the go – including in your career. When you are promoted from one job to the next, you rarely take time to reconfigure your office space. When you move from one city to another, you relegate unpacking to your kids or your husband. As a result, the bottom drawer of your desk contains thousands of business cards with your title from four jobs ago and your pantry has fish oil from two houses ago. Says Liz: “You moved to a bigger house, dropped everything and just kept going. You didn’t take the time to set up.”

The Artistic Type: You identify yourself as a “creative soul”. You seem to thrive on chaos, but Liz takes issue with that. She notes that both visual artists and writers have described a need to work “when the moment hits” – in other words, the instant they feel inspired. That’s hard to do when you can’t find the proper materials. Oil paints are all over the place. Research is in a folder whose name and location you can’t recall. “By the time you find it, the urge to create is gone,” she said.

The Gifted Mama: You have an extremely helpful mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, best friend, Bunko group, church group and coworkers. And when you get married, have a baby, or move to Mt. Juliet, ALL of them want to give you their hand-me-downs. You don’t know how to say no to all this generosity, and so you don’t. By the time you are on your second or third child, you need to rent a storage unit just to contain all the gifts.

The Easily Distracted: You have Attention Deficit Disorder or some other kind of developmental disability and, for whatever reason, organizational skills are beyond your reach. All of us will back slide, however. And when that happens, we shouldn’t write ourselves off as beyond hope.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Liz said. “I’m not, not at all.”

What about you?

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3 thoughts on “Life buries us all in occasional clutter

  1. Nailed it for me! The notes have at least been in binders for about 5 years now…I’ve got high school condensed to a single small decorative trunk…it’s all the baby stuff of Kellan’s that’s hard to let go of! And the pictures…my gosh the pictures…I really do have good intentions…just no time!

    • I had a total panic attack recently when I couldn’t find my journal from third grade! I wanted to read parts of it to Lily (who is in third grade) because I figured she could relate. Don’t know if I’ll be doing stuff like that when she’s in, oh, seventh or eighth … but I at least want the option!

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