I became a professional organizer when I started reSPACEd 11 years ago. Essentially, my job is to help clients create change in their life and physical space, but surprisingly, this job has created change in MY LIFE too, in ways that I didn’t expect. Walking into strangers’ homes every day and pairing up with them side-by-side to work on projects teaches you a lot about people, so most of these changes in my life are the result of what I have learned from my clients. Here are 5 ways I changed my life since becoming a pro organizer:
I don’t let my husband climb up ladders to work on our house anymore.
Why: I worked with not one, but two clients whose husbands died after falling off ladders no more than 15′ off the ground, one at their house and the other at a job site. One husband was only in his early 40s and left behind two little kids and the most grief-stricken woman I have ever worked with. I worked with the wife to sort through their home office and try to make sense of all of the papers related to his finances and various businesses he left behind. It was a huge, difficult task, compounded by intense emotions. This wasn’t the only change in my life after working with these two clients.
I made sure my husband and I learned ALL of each other’s passwords, bank acct numbers and all the details of our home finances.
Why: Mostly because of the story above and seeing how difficult it was in some cases for the widows to access their husbands’ accounts to shut them down. My husband and I each made spreadsheets of current passwords and accounts, plus instructions about what to do with those accounts in the event one of us dies. The spreadsheets are in a file in my filing cabinet called “Technology.” We also made sure we each had the password to the other’s digital password keepers, since that gets updated more frequently than the spreadsheet.
I stopped buying my son toys when it wasn’t his birthday, Christmas or Easter.
Why: I saw how burdened other families were by the constant influx of new toys, and how anxious it made kids when they were told to “clean up your room” when they literally had 500 items to put away. I also saw how much more kids valued clean, open space in their playroom over umpteen toys. So as a way of de-stressing our house, family and lives, we decided to limit new toys to just Nathan’s birthday, Christmas and Easter. Interestingly, Nathan never complained about not having enough toys after we instituted this rule back when he was 3 or 4. It was the right decision for our family.
I created an emergency supplies kit for our family.
Why: I was hired by 3 separate families to create emergency supply kits for them, which meant I had to research what kinds of emergencies to prepare for in the Portland area. I read about earthquakes, fires and catastrophic rain, all of which made me think I should be preparing my OWN family too. I found a simple chart that kept the process from being too overwhelming by having me buy just 2-3 things each week to add to my emergency stockpile. My emergency stockpile isn’t as big or as impressive as some of the ones my clients have. For example, I don’t have a generator. But my family won’t starve or die of thirst in the event of a natural disaster.
I started having more patience with everyone in my life. You never know who is fighting a secret battle.
Why: Working with strangers in their homes and going through their things is a strangely intimate thing. You learn a lot about their secrets, their fears, and their struggles. I found that again and again, even my most successful and wealthy clients (and I would guess this is true for the wider population in general) had some sort of area of major shame or struggle in their life. It’s an honor to be trusted enough for clients to share their particular difficulties with me. But it also slowly started changing my thinking about people around me. I started giving others the benefit of the doubt more. That man who is super grumpy? Maybe that’s how he’s masking his anxiety about some situation. That woman who is perpetually late or forgetful? Maybe that’s because she’s using all her existing coping skills on some major problem in her life right now, and it’s all she can do to make it out the door at all. I just started seeing all these additional explanations for people’s behavior, instead of assuming the worst.
Those are the major ways I can think of how becoming a professional organizer has changed my life, but I bet there are many other little habits or mindset changes that have changed for me too, if I really start to dig deep in my life. I would love to hear from other professional organizers about this topic. How has becoming a pro organizer changed your life?
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