Hello my neat and tidy readers,
This week’s story is of pure inspiration, serendipity, and not a little sympathetic resonance. And believe it or not, it all started with a blog.
I arrived promptly at our meeting time of 5:30 PM for a consultation with a potential new client. The information I had gathered up to that point was that of a woman who was in need of help taking some tasks off of her plate. As per usual, having no idea what to expect, I pulled up to her house in my trusty white Kia Sportage. I Put my car in park. Set the alarm (beep beep). Closed my eyes to take in the warmth of the evening sun and instantly a surge of love and bliss almost bowled me over.
Keys and phone in bag.
New client forms in hand.
I really need to get my car washed.
Ok. I’m ready.
I could hear her music from the street. I knocked on the door and she answered with a side pony of tousled strawberry blonde hair and in what looked to be her workout gear. Very trim and fit, her petite and muscular frame was the epitome of health and vitality. Her home, absolutely stunning. I can usually tell when an artist lives in the house because it looks, well, like a piece of art. Linear and minimalist decor, exquisite color palette and everything in a well calculated station. To all you messy artists, I said usually. Seeing her home left me wondering why she had me there at all.
Then came the typical cup of coffee, (but this time it was homemade vitamin water that she had made with frozen blueberries, lime and mint and it was oh-so-yummy) followed up by a friendly introduction and a tour of her home. She showed me the main floor which consisted of the living room, her office, the kitchen, laundry room and a bed and bath.
Up the stairs we went.
Often I find that people can be very guarded when it comes to putting their homes and lives in order, and many times they like to vet the person that they’ll be sharing their intimate details with. I find these meetings to be especially exhilarating, and I love sharing my philosophy with new people.
As she lead me along, it was clear that she was very trusting. She held nothing back as she expressed her dissatisfaction for the minimal storage in her lofted bedroom. I of course saw nothing but perfection. Vaulted ceilings, butterfly café lights strewn above her bed and her artwork on the walls. One of them was an astute drawing of Jim Morrison. To me It was clear she desired freedom. Internal freedom.
At the beginning of the consultation, I sensed almost immediately the desperate situation of my possible future client. She was a lovely young woman, and very sweet, but I could literally see a phantom heaviness that she seemed to carry and her tone of voice said that she was emotionally numb. It was evident in her face and shoulders that she was carrying burdens far too heavy for anyone to bear alone.
I followed her out to the backyard where she had a very bohemian setup of a loveseat, throw rug, an old chest, which looked like it belonged on a pirate ship and some happy plants along with two cats parading in and out of the back door.
We then sat down and talked about her goals for herself:
-Help me get my calendar in order.
-I need help checking emails to stay on top of them.
-Maybe help me pull some weeds too.
-I used to cook a lot so maybe I need to get back into that.
-I used to do a lot of things….
As our conversation continued, she really opened up to me. She slowly explained that she had experienced some serious trauma in her life and her past had been hard to shake.
I listened intently.
I cannot reveal the tragedies of her life, for I told her I wouldn’t. She listed the details of the horrors she had experienced at the ripe old age of 29 and I could see she was somewhat ready to take the first steps toward setting things aright. She also made it clear she wanted to hire someone that didn’t know her, someone that would hold her accountable to checking things off of her to-do list and to basically help get her confidence back. She thought that maybe I could help.
To say the least, it was very humbling.
We then talked some more about life and what it is that makes us happy and sad. She’s traveled the world and her eyes lit up like sparklers on the 4th of July when she spoke of her time in Italy. The lover she found there. Her writing. She now has a hard time getting out of bed and suffers from PTSD.
“I think I have to start over from when I was a kid and re-learn everything.”
This is the part of the consultation where I like to interject my spiritual take on organizing when its appropriateness is made clear. After listening to her words of “I feel hopeless and helpless” and seeing the look on her face of pure fear and uncertainty, I felt it time to to share with her some profound words that my mentor has taught me, words that have delivered me from many of my own light and dark moments.
"Don't attach yourself to the outcome.”
Which is to say, it doesn't matter what you accomplish so long as you're developing self-love and are remaining present, in the moment. Self-love means you're doing the things for your own self-approval and recognition and no one else's. If the dishes are dirty in the sink, and the laundry is on the couch unfolded, which is also a current description of my home, it doesn't mean that you're a failure.
It means that you're human.
She had the idea, as do many of us, that if everything is perfect and in order on the outside, then everything will be perfect and in order on the inside, and let’s face it, this is rarely the case. She admitted that keeping things in their place was her therapy and it gave her a sense of control. But this method had yet to exonerate her from the depths of hell she described so clearly. She was in fact a prisoner to her own thoughts.
I then explained to her that it had been my experience that true peace can only be realized in the moment, when you don't let the end result dictate your emotions or your present state of being.
She paused for several seconds and it was like a whirlwind came by and took a wisp of her angst.
"Wow," she said.
"Freedom," I said.
Our conversation went on for quite a while, and by this point we had been about as vulnerable as two strangers can possibly be with each other. I shared with her my own struggles and my own setbacks along the path, she shared more of herself as well, and I caught sight of a lovely smile slowly spreading across her face. And before I knew it, even those tensed shoulders started to relax and that smile had spread to my own face, and we were chatting like a couple of old friends, just catching up.
She told me of her love for the book The Alchemist, as she flipped through it she showed me her notes in the margin of nearly every page. Most of her hesitancy had left, and a comfortability had taken its place. My consultations are normally 30 minutes long and an hour at the maximum. I looked at my phone and 2 hours had passed.
As we both transitioned from our chairs, she moved to sit on top of the deck railing as if to view things from a higher vantage point. She told me that she didn't want to compare her accomplishments with others anymore. She said that it always leaves her feeling empty and like a failure. I told her, the only person that I ever compare myself with is who I was yesterday and that I try to ride the waves of my experiences like a surfer.
Stay on top. Know you will eventually fall and you need to. Have to. But stay under for too long and it might take your life.
She loved that.
We made our arrangements to meet later, where we’d share the liberating task of organizing her material life, and removing one more burden from those weary shoulders. She called our meeting fortuitous and I left her with a hug and when we parted I told her she was beautiful. And that was the truth.
Geez. I guess I never knew how meaningful a blog could be.
I walked towards my car and closed my eyes once more to feel the glow and strength of the sun setting behind the Rocky Mountains.
It truly is a reflection of us all.
Our meeting ironically happened during Pride Fest. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a day for lovers of all kinds to celebrate each other and as I drove through Denver on my way home, I regarded all the hand-holding and the freedom-ringing these lovers displayed. The skipping along in every kind of costume and color as if to convey to the neigh sayers “eff you, I’ll love who I wanna love and I’ll live for me” reminded me of myself and I have a tiny suspicion that my client is about to feel that way too, very soon.
Happy Tidying, Everyone!
I think Spring cleaning is a worldwide phenomenon. In the last month I've received several calls about people wanting to get organized or to help with packing because they're moving out of their old homes or are moving into a new one. There is something to be said for this fortuitous season and I believe it's about cleaning up the death that Winter has left behind. I’ve noticed not only are people wanting to get organized in their homes but in their relationships as well. Everyone I've spoken with in the last few weeks has gone through a break up or emotional transition of some sort and none of them seem to be remorseful! They actually seem to be excited to move into the new season with a strong sense of optimism and desire to be organized and that's why I love Spring! Fresh starts, new beginnings and new inspirations to live life.
For myself, I have to end my relationship with all of the dust bunnies and unused items laying around the house that have accumulated over the last several months. This is truly a feeling of being cleansed from the inside out. Sometimes this is difficult when you are stuck in a rut of not knowing what to do. What I do to purge a subject in my life, i.e. clothing, kitchen items, garage, icky emotions, etc., and I say “subject”, because we often have items of the same subject stored in different places in the house, is I pull everything out for that particular subject and sort by category.
The kitchen is my most favorite to organize regularly because items get lost and food expires and when new food comes in there always seems to be less and less room. I take everything out of cupboards and drawers purging old food and wipe off what's staying. I use the dining room table and put like items together. Once you've done this, your kitchen will look worse than when you started, but it is necessary so that you may take an inventory of your items and then put them in the proper place. This project will probably take you all day or over the course of a weekend so I tend to only do it twice a year. Or if you're pressed for time, do it in sections, i.e. pantry and food cupboards then in the next session tackle the food storage, match lids to containers. I do, however, recommend that if you can’t do the entire kitchen in one session, then I would wait until you can.
Firstly, If you're having trouble getting started, try to do a visualization of how you'd like for your kitchen to look and if you don't know then try to imagine how you want your kitchen to feel. I like to look on Pinterest or Apartment Therapy websites to give me inspiration and then I just get started. Turn on your favorite music, illicit some help from a friend, pour a glass of wine or do whatever you need to to accomplish your goal. If you find yourself hemming and hawing about making decisions, you'll never get started. So just start!
Front-facing things on the shelves or buying lazy susans really helps to display what you have. You can purchase organizing containers to help store things more efficiently, and if you're on a budget, I recommend going to the thrift store or to discount stores like TJ Maxx. I don't typically recommend buying anything prior to your purge unless it's something small like drawer organizers or shelf risers. If you do purchase thing prior to tidying, you may end up buying things you don't need and then returning them may prove to be challenging. As you go through your items you'll get a sense of what you really use and what you don't. Taste buds change and for my family, the infamous baking items like sprinkles and frosting get stored and end up in the very back of the cabinet never to be seen again until the following year and by then they've expired. So for now, we make our own frosting if we even use it at all, and the sprinkles get thrown out after holiday baking.
My kitchen is rather small and cooking for my family is easy because I tend to only buy what we use for that particular week. I have spices but not too many and I have a few canned goods but other than that I don't store packaged items simply because I don't have the room. This doesn't work for all families but for example, we have a few bags of granola, and for breakfast my family usually eats fruit, sausage and toast or cereal. On weekends I'll make pancakes or french toast which all require minimally packaged ingredients. This is also a good time to evaluate your eating habits, and if you want to lose weight or have more energy, limiting processed or packaged food is a great place to start.
Ok. You've done it. You've separated the what-you're-keeping and the what-you're-pitching. When you notice there are several bags of expired food that are headed for the trash, don't panic! This is a good exercise in really seeing what is important to keep and how to be more efficient with grocery shopping lists and meal planning. You’ll also save money by doing this because you won’t be throwing away unused food. Bonus!
Now everything is organized, wiped off and ready to be put back. I like to put messy items, such as coconut oil and honey, in little dishes to sit on in my shelves so they don't get sticky or oily. I also like to keep baking items in baskets or trays so that when we do bake, I can pull it down, find the items I need, and then easily put it back when we are finished. Above my stove are the items I use for dinners such as pasta, oatmeal and canned beans. Above the toaster is the coconut oil, honey and things we don't use very often. The dishes go to the right and left of the sink to make it easy to put them back (I don't have a dishwasher, but if you have one, your dishes should be right above or as close as possible to the dishwasher.)
I deep clean the fridge twice a year as well. If you are a busy household you might need to do it more often, but I try to wipe out the fruit and veggie drawer as they empty, and I wipe shelves clean with a vinegar and water solution just before my trip to the grocery store. Little ones love to help clean so their job can be pulling everything out of the fridge door, wiping them off, and putting them back. If you have no extra hands to help, then wipe as you go, for this will make it more manageable. The oven needs a little cookie sheet on the bottom shelf to catch crumbs, vinegar and baking soda are wonderful for cleaning the spots caked with grease.
On a side note, you must schedule room for tidying your home on a regular basis. If you let it pile up, you will feel overwhelmed. I once had a colleague tell me that even in high school her Sunday evening ritual was to put everything back in order so that she could feel at ease about starting the new week.
Now, if you've taken the time to survey, purge and clean your entire kitchen, you should feel a sense of accomplishment. If you still have the infamous kitchen junk drawer or the under-the-sink cleaning items in disarray, you might still feel a twinge of disorder inside of yourself, but once it is completed, freedom should be the dominant emotion and who doesn't want to feel more of that?
Happy Tidying Everyone!