Perhaps you feel that Grandma needs some help organizing her home and reducing the clutter. You are not even sure that her home is safe.
Or maybe a friend has asked you to help her sort out the clutter at her home. She knows that you keep your place organized and neat and wants a bit of help and advice.
You might be a new professional organizer going out full of enthusiasm on a first job.
Whatever your situation, if you plan on helping others with their clutter, here are a few tips:
· Focus on the person, not the stuff. They are aware there is too much stuff in the house. Calling attention to it serves no purpose and will just stress them more. Ask what is bothering them the most. Ask how you can assist them. Ask permission before touching anything. You are a guest in their home.
· Bring some supplies. Having some supplies on hand will help move the job along. But don’t bring them into the home until you see what is needed. If you see a need then mention that you have some supplies in the car. Ask if they would like you to bring them in. Bring in only what you need. Have on hand in your car some boxes, heavy duty and clear garbage bags, post-it notes and markers. These are basic supplies. Also have at the ready a mask, hand sanitizer, and disposable gloves just in case.
· Listen to what is said and watch their body language. If you ask them how they are feeling right now and they answer, “Fine,” but their arms are wrapped around themselves tightly you should assume they are nervous or upset. Listen to them talk about why they asked you to help. Listen to them when they say they don’t like something the way it is or that they don’t want to change something. The more they talk the more you can understand how to best help them.
· Ask leading questions. If they have asked you to help them organize their closet and there are piles of clothes stacked everywhere you might ask them about the stacks. They might say that this stack is clothes they have worn once but intend to wear again and that this stack is dirty clothes, and this stack is clean clothes. You might ask if they would like help putting the clean clothes away and they might respond by saying they don’t know where to put them. This will bring you back to the overfull closet. Now you have a why for not only organizing that closet but removing enough clothes to make space for that stack on the floor.
· Give advice but then you are done. It’s not your problem nor your house. When working together you might suggest a way to fold and put clothes away or an order clothes might be hung in the closet. You might suggest that shoes rarely worn can be put in labeled boxes on a higher shelf. But if the person you are helping does not care for your suggestion you are fine with that. They know what will and will not work for them. It is their house.
· Be totally present. Keep good eye contact. Repeat or rephrase what you hear them say. Now is not the time to think about what you need to do when you get home or if you put dish soap on the grocery list. When they are explaining something to you don’t let your mind wander to a good rebuttal or other suggestion. The more problems they can solve on their own the better.
· Maintain a positive attitude. Be their cheerleader. Compliment them on their progress. Help them develop some affirmations to repeat while working. Before working with them ask them to tell you some things that are working. If it is a repeat visit, ask them what wins they have had since your last visit.
· Never care more or work more than the person you are helping. The person you are helping must buy into this project. If they physically can’t do work that you can do, then by all means do some of the heavy lifting but they must be present and making the suggestions. You will only burn yourself out if you overwork or over care.
Helping someone with their clutter is a wonderful gift. Being their rock and staying nonjudgmental can give them just the boost they need.
For more details and information on how to help others clear clutter, purchase our book Filled Up and Overflowing.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing and virtual organizing. For more of Jonda’s tips connect with her on Facebook.