There is an aspect to this work that can be very emotional. Many clients begin their session feeling nervous, stressed, or worried about a stranger entering their space. We do our best as professional organizers to reassure we are there to help, not to judge. For some, the process goes smoothly and they are able to get into a flow of organizing (I gravitate more towards a coaching model and work side-by-side with my clients). For others, there is a moment during our session where the client becomes overwhelmed with feelings of failure, begins to judge themselves, and says "I wish I could do what you do, what is wrong with me?" This is such an important moment and can be such a turning point if handled with compassion and understanding. The way we as professional organizers respond not only determines how this person is able to maintain their space moving forward, but also determines how they feel about themselves in their own space. I began working as a professional organizer as a hobby mostly for friends and family after I left a job in community mental health. I started to see how techniques in professional organizing were similar to harm-reduction techniques I learned working in community mental health. Here are some important things to remember when working with clients who are struggling emotionally with the process of organizing:
1. Remember that change can be really hard, even if we perceive that we are “fixing” the problem. As organizers, we tend to gravitate towards routines and patterns in our own lives -- imagine another organizer coming into your home and setting up a system that works for them. This is, in some ways, what our clients experience when they start to feel overwhelmed. I always tell my clients; “I am not in the business of making you get rid of your things.” It is important to respect that the client is in charge of the process and we are there to set guidelines.
2. This work is both a gift and a curse. When clients begin to compare themselves to me and express negative thoughts about themselves, I often share my experiences in dealing with anxiety. I tell them that if I did not have professional organizing as an outlet, this “gift” would turn inwards and fixate on perfection in my own life. Just because we are organized, does not mean we are perfect. We all have our own struggles in different ways.
3. Your level of organization does not determine your value or worth as a person. This is something that took me 10 years to work through. We are often socialized to think that our achievements, our jobs, or our tasks are what determines our value as a person. It is important to remind clients that happiness is not about achieving perfection – it is about understanding what works for them, even if that seems “imperfect.” If they feel positive about their space and have a command of their belongings, that is all that matters.