My Mother Should Fire Me

My mother should at least think about firing me as her organizer…though not as her daughter. In many ways, I am a great daughter. I help my mother in any way I can. I try to help her simplify so she can remember things better, and I live by some of her rules, like making my bed every day.

My mother won’t let the family hire any in-home help beyond the every other week cleaning lady. Her house, her life, her rules. I respect that. So when I visit I gather like items and organize them in homes that work for her, I get rid of old food, and when we are out shopping I remind her of the things she already has plenty of.

So why should she think about firing me? Because I can’t be neutral like I can with clients. I get frustrated and even a little angry, and I know that it shows. I question and judge her choices. I know in my professional organizer brain that her aging mind and body are really struggling, but my daughter brain and heart just want her to be her previously organized self…or at least maintain things I do for her.

My mother should think about firing me because even though I am helping her in some ways, we spend time together having fun, and the no-charge price is great, the stress it puts on our relationship may not be worth it. I often see people turn to family and friends for help de-cluttering and organizing. Sometimes it works great. More often than not, it fails. It is hard enough to help another person make decisions and work at a pace and style that might not match our own. When you add in all the emotions involved in a family or friend relationship, everything gets more complicated.

So what do you do if you are in a situation like mine where your family member won’t accept outside help or if you are the one trying to decide whether to use the help of family or friends?
1. Look for a good match of personalities. If the helper is likely to express judgment, work at the wrong pace for you, or has their own agenda, look for a skilled professional organizer.
2. Keep planting seeds about the value of using an outside person. Every now and again I tell my mother how having a paid person means she can have someone help her on a regular basis.
3. Respect a person’s right to choose what is best for them. When there are risks of falls, fires, or other health problems you may have to go against their wishes to maintain safety.

Unless and until my mother decides to allow someone else to help or her safety is a factor, I will do my best to make helping her fun, to look for opportunities to learn more about her, and to keep my emotions in check. If I am truly trying to help her, it is not about me.

Are you trying to help a family member? What do you do to make it work?


7 Reasons to Hire An Organizer

We don’t hesitate to hire someone to fix a leaky faucet, help sell a house, or teach us to play an instrument. But there are other common tasks that still seem to carry a stigma when you don’t do them yourself. How do you feel about people who don’t do their own grocery shopping, laundry, or organizing? If you can’t de-clutter or organize your own stuff, does that make you stupid or lazy or filthy rich? If you are disorganized does it mean there is something wrong with you? If I can’t change the oil in my car, does it mean I am flawed? Of course it doesn’t!

Personally, I think everyone should weigh time, money, and enjoyment factors to determine which chores they do themselves and which they hire someone else to help. Here are 5 reasons hiring an organizer might not be such a bad thing.

1. The organizer has no attachment to your stuff, making it easier to help you make decisions about what stays and what goes. Breaking through the indecision will move you forward in less time.

2. No one is good at everything. I am not mechanically inclined, and if I had not married someone who is, I would have to pay a lot more people to do things for me. An organizer can simply help you get a project done, or teach you organizing skills you can use on your next project,

3. Working with an organizer saves you time and frustration. I could probably learn how to change the oil in my car, but I don’t want to invest my time in that. I recognize how long it would take me to learn the skill and how frustrated I am likely to become. For me, it is worth it to pay someone to do it, do it right, and do it quickly. Even if you are skilled at organizing, working side by side with an organizer gets the job done in less time than it would take you alone.

4. Hiring an organizer means you have scheduled the time to work on organizing, making it far more likely to happen with someone counting on you to be there. And if you thrive on an accountability system, you can ask for homework to do in between sessions.

5. Because you pay for the service, you devote your attention and energy to the task at hand. You won’t pay to have an organizer at your house and then spend time watching TV or talking about your favorite recipes because you are paying for the organizer’s time.

6. An organizer can help you get unstuck. You may want to maximize closet space but not know how, or want to donate an item but not sure where, or set up a process for incoming paper but you are paralyzed by uncertainty. An organizer brings the expertise of creating efficiencies, the knowledge of resources you can use, and a variety of tools to help you get more organized.

7. Hiring an organizer might actually save you money. Being organized means no late fees, an end to buying things you already own but can’t find, throwing out expired food less often, and sometimes even finding un-cashed checks!

Recognize your strengths. Accept your weaknesses. Remember that there was a time not too long ago when hiring someone to clean your house seemed like an invitation for people to judge how you spent your time and money. How long will it be before hiring an organizer to help move, downsize, set up paper and electronic information management systems, or organize a room will be commonplace?