Outside the Box Organizing

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Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Photos
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Photos

Many people tend to dread decluttering and getting organized, even if their stuff is giving them grief. I get it. It can be overwhelming for many. And, whatever the job may be, it’s work—physical and emotional. I regularly get asked, “You do this every day?” My response, “Pretty much, and I love it.”

Aside from the joy it brings my clients and the awesome results from the fruits of our labor, I do my best to make sessions fun and personal. This means organizing outside the box.

Professional organizer and author Judith Kohlberg has taught me a lot and I love using her strategies with my own clients.  Read up on some of her tips to get excited about getting organized:

Body Doubling

Body what…? Chances are, this is something you already put into practice in some shape or form. When working out do you ride solo or bring a friend with you? Body doubling is just that, having an anchor or accountability partner alongside you to keep you on track. Many of my clients need just that!

If you aren’t in a position to hire a professional organizer, consider reaching out to a trusted friend or family member. When asking for help, it’s OK to be choosy. I tell my clients that I’m their cheerleader. There’s no room for judgment or criticizing when organizing.

A body double’s role is to provide support as well as serve as a guide for making decisions. Let them know that you are in charge but be open to a little tough love.  Sometimes we all need a little extra push to get us where we want to be.

Treasure Hunting

Yes, treasure hunting! If I walked into sessions and asked my clients to identify what was “trash” or “junk,” they would immediately be turned off. Using positive language is key.

Rather than focusing on what to get rid of, ask questions about what items of value have been misplaced. In my practice, I have unearthed money, jewelry, gift cards, family heirlooms and forgotten purchases. When decluttering, there are always lost treasures to be found!

Picking Favorites

I love this method because many items are emotionally charged and we tend to over-personalize them. I’m telling you, it’s OK to hurt your items (phony) feelings. Do you enjoy having strangers staying in your home? There have to be items that are of no value to you right now.

Our homes are also filled with acquaintances. Acquaintances are the belongings that we have less emotional attachment to and have really outworn their welcome. And then there are our friends. These items are welcome in our home and are worth taking up our space.

Give Permission

There’s a lot of guilt involved in letting go of items. It could be an unappreciated gift received, a food item that has reached expiration, or an expensive cosmetic item that didn’t work for you.

We don’t really want it (stranger danger) but we feel guilty for discarding or giving it away for many reasons—including being wasteful, hurting someone’s feelings, etc. A huge part of my job is to relieve my clients of this guilt—and it often takes me verbalizing, “I’m giving you permission to let this one go.”

If you have difficulty giving yourself permission, seek the help of your body double. If you still have some residual guilt following discard/donate, know that it will likely be short-lived. Still struggling? Read my article Pay it Forward to get you feeling good again.

*Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Photos

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Kate Wert, LLMSW, owner of Clean Slate by Kate runs a Professional Organizing business that centers on decluttering environments and the mind to enhance quality of life. She emphasizes creating a judgment-free zone and using a person-centered approach in her practice. She's a GVSU School of Social Work Graduate with experience in diverse settings including low-income housing, children's foster care, hospice, and schools. Kate is an active member with the Grand Rapids Area Hoarding Task Force and keeps in connection with local organizations to best meet the needs of those she serves. While she loves getting lost in the wilderness, she and her young son are at home residing in the City of Grand Rapids.