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What My Clients Teach Me

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 137

These articles are a collection of real-life experiences I've had working as a Professional Organizer. Of course their names and personally identifying information have been changed to ensure confidentiality. The articles are anecdotal and intended for new or prospective Organizers. It is my hope that readers will benefit from my observations and insights and learn about situations they might anticipate in the work that they do with clients. For those Organizers who have been working for a period of time already, I hope that you find these anecdotes to be a way to reflect upon similar experiences you've had with your clients. Perhaps they will affirm that you are on a similar track or even inspire some new ideas.

My former careers include teaching and public school administration. Having this background experience continues to be valuable in contributing to my ability to observe clients' behaviors, and to break down larger projects into manageable tasks. Yet, as a lifelong learner I never fail to marvel at the many things my clients teach me. In fact, by observing what they say, what they don't say, and what they do I continue to become a better Organizer! I knew from the start of Outside In Organizer and Makeovers in 2010 I would want to write a book or journal about my experiences. These "stories" will focus on various aspects of working directly with clients. Occasionally, there will be insights about being a business owner and sole proprietor that also come from these experiences. Each chapter will address a theme or an issue generally observed in more than one client or situation. Join me as we meet some of my clients and the lessons they teach me as I help them organize various aspects of their lives.

Timing Is Everything. Background: Marnie lives with her husband and at least one of their two adult children at any given time. She and her husband own their home in an affluent community. Currently they have a cat and a dog. The client and her husband are both retired. Marnie hired me to work with her on getting rid of clutter throughout the main house and in the garage.


- No clear filing system is maintained.

- Items that represent informational or sentimental value are stored but not necessarily used or displayed.

- Accumulation of items that are perceived to be useful for other purposes.

Working with Marnie teaches me many things, particularly how I can help her by allowing her time to focus and make decisions. She needs time to get ready to work and to make decisions about keeping or letting go of items. At the beginning of each session before we can actually begin our work Marnie needs at least fifteen minutes to get focused on what we are going to do during the next two hours. She has difficulty with focus and concentration, sustaining attention during the session, setting goals and priorities, and with following through with the work in between sessions. At the end of each session we clarify what we are going to work on the next time however when I arrive and remind her of what we agreed to work on, Marnie needs to move around from room to room, talking about the family, heat her tea, and sometimes asking me personal questions. Admittedly she struggles with throwing a variety of items away and tends to try to repurpose them rather than discard or donate them. This includes items such as magazines, newspapers, mail, plastic bags, clothing that is stained or in disrepair, and buttons. She also keeps many sentimental items such as photos, children's old school work, and husband's publications in boxes and file folders.

My role involves:

1. Helping the client identify her goal(s) for each session as well as the long term goals.2. Reminding the client why she hired me, in order to help her stay focused on her long term vision. 3. Minimizing distractions to help the client get started, as well as to sustain her attention and follow through during each session. 4. Accountability for follow through.5. Establishing boundaries or rules to help stay on task during the sessions and to minimize relapse in between sessions.

Allowing this client time to ready herself reduces her stress. She benefits greatly from clear directions such as, "Let's stay here and continue working in this room. You can return those items to the other room when we finish." When asked to decide if she needs to keep an item she will often say maybe and suggests a way it might be used or needed later. Coaching questions such as, "When was the last time you needed or used it?" can be helpful. More often we get better results when we establish boundaries such as agreeing on the amount of magazines that will fit in a specific basket, and no more than that. Marnie agrees to discard an item before putting a new one into the basket. Even with this type of "rule" Marnie needs to be allowed time to make the decision and will state, "I'm thinking."

Marnie continues to make good progress in all areas of the house and maintains more organized spaces throughout the house. She makes decisions more quickly, works independently in between our sessions, and donates more items. Marnie will benefit from follow up sessions to minimize relapse since she's had disorganized behaviors for a long time.

Summary: It is essential to identify the skills, training and experience that you, as the professional, need to ensure the client's success. Utilizing a variety of strategies that support the client's strengths and learning preferences is helpful. In this case going a little slower (allowing time) ultimately got us to organize a little faster! "Thanks Marnie!"

Source: EzineArticles
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