by Susan Gardner
Staying in place the past year led to an examination of what “home” really means. In the initial weeks it felt like extended snow days, and social media looked like New Year’s Resolutions regarding organization. Home offices, school spaces, and limited circles of connection altered our experience of home.
I personally welcomed this. Others did not. People with brain differences, health issues, or difficult life changes felt untethered. Interruptions can be devastating for people who have difficulty with normal organizing and life management. Chaos and clutter from normal busyness can be soothing. Interruptions can reveal unsustainable practices and offer an invitation to engage in core work, first to survive and then to thrive.
Our dwelling is where this work can be learned, practiced and grounded. A cluttered closet project can focus our energy. As an organizer, I draw connections between the skills, decisions and actions that organize a closet and how those connections can be used to shift into a better-balanced future.
Here, I illustrate my shift when my life direction and home organization were becoming unsustainable:
Before: crazy busy; mentally and emotionally disorganized; kids in the house; naturally messy.
Getting ready for a dinner party was a week-long process. Between decluttering each public room, finding misplaced memos or bills that demanded immediate attention, digging out linens from a fully stacked and stuffed closet, vacuuming, dusting, pulling down table service from the highest cabinet shelves, I was a hot mess. And mind you, I have a spouse who does all the company cooking!
Even to welcome unscheduled company for coffee, an hour of ‘stash-and-dash’ was necessary as they came in amid my feigned apology for the mess.
Better: improved mental and emotional clarity; kids grew up and moved away; the cabinets are better arranged; the table’s purposes are defined and contained
Getting ready for a dinner party is a day-long process. Usually, I have the table set a full hour before the doorbell rings and am available to help my husband Bud with final preparations. My face is calm instead of flushed. And the water glasses, no longer warm from the dishwasher, do not melt the ice.
When I invite someone to drop in for coffee (pre-Covid, of course), it is a true apology when the clutter is obvious.
Measuring organization against the company-ready scale connects actions and desired outcomes. If preparing a space currently stretches over a week, what changes would decrease that time to 2 days?
Sample these tips:
- Give closets, drawers and bins room for things to breathe. Jam-packed storage requires extra steps and energy.
- Use. Don’t store. Whether essential daily or seasonally, have it readily accessed. Barriers to retrieval increase time and frustration.
- Know the worth of your things and regularly take inventory. Clear the dust collectors. Open closed boxes. Bring out the prizes.
If your efforts and outcomes remain the same, interrupt the cycle. Call a friend. Find skilled help. Breathe in confidence and breathe out disappointment. Entertain better, not perfect.
Expecting my home to be perpetually clutter free is not realistic. My natural bent is toward messiness. While I joked about my clutter and ran out of excuses for the tardiness it caused, frustration and embarrassment grew wearying.
Over several years, with professional care and guidance, growing reliance on the sincerity of friends, appreciating my ability to release guilt and receive help, energy for order increased. In our home, we became the company for which we prepared.
Christmas Eve, I brought out the silver from the linen closet, removed the neatly folded tablecloth, and took it directly to the table without having frantically run it through the dryer to de-wrinkle. With a blessing of gratitude, the family gathered, some were in Murfreesboro, some in Nashville and some in Oregon as we celebrated together in the pandemic.
As we again look forward to coffee with friends or dinner parties for twelve, I wish for you the best of company, especially your own!
Susan Gardner is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She is a member of both the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). The breadth of her work extends from basic pantry and garage organization to health challenges (brain- based and physical) to addressing relationships surrounding hoarded situations.
Contact Gardner about your organizational edges, and get more information about her upcoming virtual classes, The Dammed Clutter Retreat, The Focus Project Workshop, and The Paper Management Workshop, visit clearingthewayhome.com.