Jan 8, 2015

I'm an Organizer, and My House is Messy!

When people learn that I'm a Professional Organizer and Time Management Coach, some times they'll respond with a sort of bright-eyed awe: "Your home must be perfect!" 

Why, yes, my house is perfect.  But it's not what they think.

I smile and say: "That depends. What is your definition of perfection?" Then they throw certain phrases around, such as "everything in its place, neat and tidy, children playing with one toy at a time, no dirty dishes in the sink, no piles of paper", etc. 

Well, I've got news to share and I'm not one bit ashamed. A good portion of my house is MESSY a good portion of the time. Sure, it frustrates me, but I've sort of temporarily made my peace with it.  Here's how and why: 

It's Not Forever
The kids are 3 and 4.  I would love for them to read quietly in a corner sometimes, but they are not those kind of kids.  They are spirited, boisterous, inventive, and man are they busy! Their games look like elaborate barricades rivaling the French Revolution, involving every item in the house that isn't nailed down. We straighten up twice a day together, so they are learning to weigh whether its worth it or not to dump the Lego bucket again. But it only takes a few minutes of play for it look like a cyclone of Dust Bowl proportions just blew through. I  can only hope it gets more manageable as they grow, and not worse!
Guest bed turned boat.  The giggling captains are buried near the stern, port side.

There's 3 of Them, 1 of Me
We have a 3000 square foot house (too much I think!) and I'm the only party interested in straightening and cleaning it, and I'm at it every day.  I used to think this isn't fair, especially since my husband finds time to relax more than me.   But the big picture is that we function well as a family unit, and each of us brings different talents to the table. Steve works full time and is an involved parent.  He also searches for recipes, cooks every single delicious dinner, and shops for it too. Those kind of trade offs make us an effective team, especially since we hire no outside services to help us. That said, I can't keep up.  It's a big house that I straighten, but I straighten it alone.

It's a Choice
art class - mixing colors
I admire people who have made it a priority for a neat, company-ready house. My mom did it, and so did my grandmother.  It was a matter of pride to do so, and I applaud these super ladies! But simply put, that kind of fastidiousness not one of MY priorities at this time. It doesn't even make the top 10! In this household, I wear every hat imaginable, including running a small business, home improvement, and homeschooling  (until they are of public school age.) It is with deliberation that I choose how best to spend my resources to get things done. So do I stress over the flour still on the floor from baking cookies with little people? Not much.  

The Day Has to End
There are times that I'm stretched so thin, I could work well into the night every night and still have things to do. However, I don't think that would be physically possible for me. Many is the evening that I fall asleep flat on my face still fully dressed at 9 p.m.  It wasn't like this when I was 25 -  I had much more energy.  Now I'm 45 and there's a limit to my output. So to keep things balanced, I have taken a page out of my husband's book, and that is: the work day ends after we put the kids to bed. It's the only way we can stay borderline sane, and it works. After we say goodnight to the kids for the umpteenth time,  I might take on something outlandishly crazy like wash my hair. And if I want to read, work on a creative project, blog or do any thing else for myself, this small window of time is when I can squeeze it in.

So getting back to the intro, what does organized look like?  What you see in magazines, on social media sites, and in books on the subject, is a picture perfect IDEAL. Some people actually live this way and are delighted to do so; some achieve it right before company arrives. In a way, I'm grateful for this crazy idea that we have to live containerized lives because it compels people to call me for my services!  However whenever I can, I encourage my clients to forget this pre-defined ideal of organized perfection.  I recommend they concentrate on getting organized enough - enough to pay bills on time, find anything quickly, get out the door with minimal effort, keep a schedule that allows them to work on their dreams, purge the old, tired, ugly stuff for new energy, etc.  I help them create a balanced life they can maintain.  

Don't let the media, or a lifestyle guru, or anyone else dictate what organized looks like. Being organized is about living with purpose. 

In my mind, living with purpose IS perfection. 

I think there will be a time in the near future when the physical chaos of our own home will shift to something more manageable.  I do believe that neat(er) spaces foster creative energy, and provide soothing and calm places of relaxation. Until then, yes, my house is messy, but none-the-less perfect!


  1. Great article. It is our job as Professional Organizers to educate the public about "Organized Reality vs Made for TV Organized." Note: PO is capitalized because we are professionals and I encourage all PO's to do this! We need to highlight the professional nature of what we do. :-)

    Clients and potential clients are often embarrassed of their situation and compare themselves to the perfection that TV portrays. One of the first things I share when giving a group presentation, facilitating a workshop, or working with a client is sharing that we are seeking Progress not Perfection and that no, in fact, I am not a minimalist, nor do I live in a model home. This takes the "less than" talk out of their heads immediately, and puts the room at ease.

  2. Amen, Sister-Friend! My husband's nickname is the Messy Prince and I swear it's his sole job to drag the outdoors inside. I try to keep my floors vacuumed and the bathrooms clean. Dusting the furniture, yeah right, next century maybe. And I have one 9 year-old daughter who can't part with anything. I'm a whiz at someone else's home but can't get out of my own way at home.

  3. Very well put!! Order can't be so rigid that it creates stress rather than calm. I like order...but, things do have a tendency to get out of order at times. But, the good thing is that as a professional organizer it only take a few minutes to put things away, because it all has a home of its own.