It started like this.
A month ago, I was huddled at my kitchen table, shoving aside stacks of mail to find a clear place for my coffee cup when the advertisement from a home cleaning service slid into view. And there it was, like a beacon of light, someone else can come and clean my house.
All I need is some, or any, organization before this cleaning team can go to work. No problem, I can totally organize my space to make room for the cleaning team. Nooooo, problem.
I really have no idea how to organize. I did research, a lot of research, which adds up to a lot of time not actually shifting mess.
I tried the ’10 minutes a day’ organizing technique. Ten minutes is both a really long and really short amount of time when doing something you don’t want to do and also aren’t any good at. It’s also just enough time to uncover a good book and get distracted. It’s just enough time to find and replace the vacuum cleaner bag but not enough time to actually vacuum.
I tried the ‘throw out one bag of trash a day’ technique. This one seemed like it might work if given enough time. My attention span isn’t long enough to do this job so very slowly. I kind of want to toss more than one bag at a time but feel like it’s breaking the rules. And, if I break the rules then I might not actually follow through. So, I’d better just not do it at all. I know, I know. This makes no sense.
I tried ignoring the mess in hopes it would get bored and leave on its own. Nope, it just invited its buddies in for a sleep-over.
I tried one last desperate technique. I decided to hire a professional organizer. I was startled at the depth of shame I felt admitting I just couldn’t do this on my own. I was embarrassed at calling for help. I tried to tell myself that if everyone knew how to do this, there’d be no advice sites, or books, or even professionals to hire. So, there must be some other clueless people like me out there. But, I still felt deeply ashamed at needing help.
There are just some skills that everyone else seems to have mastered: understanding fashion, knowing what to say in conversation, how to invest in stock, and handling daily clutter. The truth is, I don’t really understand any of that stuff. I fake it with wildly varying degrees of skill. It occurs to me, suddenly, that maybe everyone else is just faking it too, only better and with way more success.
I chose a friendly-looking professional organizer and make plans for her to come and help dig me out. As the day approaches for our appointment, I decide to cancel about 6 times. Each time I manage stop myself; it would have been bad manners. The day finally approaches and she arrives on time. She doesn’t seem nervous at all.
I picture the famous image from ‘The Exorcist’ of the priest arriving to tackle a demon.
‘Oh Lady’, I think, ‘you don’t know what’s waiting for you.’
She walked right in with me and didn’t blink once, I watched. She just kept chatting pleasantly and hung up her bag on the back of a chair, found a spot for her energy drink, and turned to me with a smile. “What’s first?”
As if I’d know. But,“Let’s do the kitchen cabinets first.” I suggest.
And we did. We emptied each cabinet and talked about vacations, and family, and back pain. I threw out 3 big bags of trash and filled one whole bag with donations. We rearranged and organized the cabinets and all the drawers and then it was time for her to go.
The time flew by; my kitchen looked bigger.
The next day, I looked around the kitchen and decided to clear off the top of the refrigerator, former home of assorted corn chip bags, lunch boxes, tin baking pans, and boxes of cereal. I scrubbed it.
What have I become?
The next day, I re-rearranged the already rearranged cabinets to make better use of available space. I was thinking words like ‘make better use of available space’.
I don’t recognize myself.
Two days later, I found myself wandering through the aisles of containers with a speculative look on my face. I found my label maker and replaced the batteries; I knew where the batteries were. Did you know there are clutter-buster shows on Amazon Prime.
There was a long evening spent cleaning out and organizing my pantry. My label-maker works, by the way.
Is this what happens when you finally ask for help? You learn how to do things?
It could be that seeing the difference we made in just one morning of work, cleared enough space to show me what I could do next. Suddenly the whole of my cluttered house doesn’t seem as overwhelming. It’s just a series of problem areas. Did she help change the way I see or how I think. Or both. Probably both.
Did you know there are fashion consultants and entire websites to help you know what to say in conversation? There are articles and books to help understand everything from the stock market to modern history to animation.
It turns out that everyone has permission to ask for help. Who knew? I didn’t.
Which brings me to my office. I do need help with that. I can’t see what to do in there. But I can see that it’s OK to ask for help.