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Overwhelm is a catchy word that we throw around often. How do we save ourselves from this emotionally negative situation and crawl out to create the organized, productive life we dream of having?

Listen to the following podcast as Andrea is interviewed by Life Coach, Speaker and Author Christina Eanes. Andrea gives some tips and understanding of where overwhelm comes from and how to overcome it.

Simone* glanced into the box that I opened in the kitchen. She ruffled through a couple of things, peeling back a thin layer of its contents and threw her hands up and exclaimed: “All this can go!” Prior to her frustrated declaration, our team of organizers had been helping her for several hours to unpack and organize a two-bedroom apartment. This project came months after her move-in as she prepared for a new life after a divorce, an out-of-state relocation, job change, and down-size from living in a 5-bedroom home for many years with her ex-husband. Although she had let go of a lot of things before her move, she didn’t realize how much more she needed to continue to let go of in order to live in the modern, minimal way she was hoping for in this new chapter of her life.

Earlier in the appointment, Simone had expressed she didn’t want much from the 15-20 boxes in the kitchen but she really wanted her Waterford crystal glasses. After her fatigue-induced expression that all in the box she lightly glanced inside of could be discarded or donated, I noticed some wrapped contents at the bottom of the box. Instead of being elated she was purging with ease, I realized she was a bit tired from all the decision making and alas, we still had not found the Waterford glasses.

Perhaps she was making a hasty decision? I encouraged her to look more thoroughly at the box before she made her final decision to donate its entire contents. She followed my advice and lo and behold! As you might have already guessed, her Waterford glasses were wrapped and beautifully preserved at the bottom of a box full of unwanted kitchen items. We unwrapped them and placed them on the counter and marked the box for donation pick up for 123 Junk to haul away.

It’s often heard that people are fearful of hiring professional organizers because they think we “make them throw their things away”. While working with professional organizers is often varied as seeing a doctor, (two doctors may prescribe two very different things for the same symptoms), I am optimistic to say that most professional organizers won’t make you feel obligated to get rid of treasured items just so your home can look picture perfect. Most of the time, our goal is to help you function well in your space and if possible for you, to love the space you’re using. How do we go about coaching you to the right conclusion for you?

If I dumped a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle on the table and walked away with the box, how successful would you be at putting it together? I dare say, it’s virtually impossible. You wouldn’t be sure if I had dumped two 500-piece puzzles together let alone what picture you’re endeavoring to put together. So it goes with organizing a space.

We need to know what the picture on the box looks like before we even touch the pieces (or belongings). How do we know what the picture of the space should look like when we’re done? We ask our clients. During a consultation and continuously throughout the process, we ask questions to define what the goals are. Whether they initially have a vision or they just want to “blow up” all the things in the room that have accumulated over time (actual words from past clients), ultimately our clients know how they’d like the room to function when we’re done the organizing. Crafting? Relaxing? Exercise room? What’s the function and even better, what’s the feel of the room or space once it’s organized?

After seeing the “picture on the box”, so to speak, we can then help our clients make decisions on what stays, what goes, and where things live; and if we are creating the vision they had at the outset. We keep our clients on track to look at the forest while they might only see trees. So instead of arbitrarily making people get rid of things, we can perhaps push them to find their treasured items that they desire to keep and like Simone we help keep the Waterford glasses.

When tackling an overwhelming decluttering project here are some tips to add to your success:

  • Set a defined time limit (2-4 hours is usually a healthy limit)

  • Have a helpful, non-judgmental accountability partner (it limits procrastination and helps you stay on track)

  • Set aside time to take donation away or have a date for donation pick up (when you immediately take away the “not keeps” you’ll see progress faster). Green Drop, for free scheduled pick-ups or the Bungii app for more on-demand jobs but for a small fee.

  • Set aside time for bulk trash pick up, we like to use the Takl app for quick and small loads of junk removal and 123 Junk for large hauls.

  • Put like items together until you have completed the editing of items you no longer will be using. (Don’t worry about where things will live until you’ve gathered all the same items together)

*Name has been changed for confidentiality