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An organizing colleague submitted the following question:

What do you do when the client strongly recommends that you clean around the clutter, and they’ll “deal with it” themselves, or COMPLETELY steer around it. I find that my business has turned around because my clients are all in need of both cleaning AND organizing, and I can’t do both at the same time. One or the other, right?

Personally, I refer all cleaning duties to professionals that own house cleaning services; I know of several organizers who do both the cleaning and organizing. I also know of several house cleaning services that call themselves organizers and bundle both services.

In many circumstances, the reason Professional Organizers are hired is because of postponed decisions regarding our clients’ possessions.

May I suggest you establish rules with your clients before you begin working together. For example, during any session the client is permitted only 4 (or whatever number suits you) ‘passes.’ Meaning, he/she can say, “I’ll deal with that later” only four times during any one 3-hour session. I recently negotiated with a client that anytime he said, “Let me work on that later, after you leave” we would say OK on the condition that we backtrack and deal with the previously “later” box/bag/container. This forced him to prioritize exactly what he was willing to deal with later. It was slow and painful but he did it. Note: this client was NOT a hoarder.

A lot of hoarders are overly optimistic about their “homework” and I encourage only those with enough stamina to take on any tiny tasks or homework projects. For the most part, I encourage them to finish the task with me present and enjoy their “off hours” doing something other than organizing/sorting/purging.

Sparkleizer and Home Organization Expert Crystal Dreisbach agrees. Here’s what she has to say on the subject:

As for clients who say “I’ll deal with that later”, I gently remind them that such a mindset contributes greatly to their disorganized lifestyle and got them in their current predicament. On a positive note, I also tell them that a very small habit change has the potential to really help them.

I encourage them to identify the discrete action that would be required for them to “deal with it later”, usually probing for more information as needed. For example, the item in question might be a box of miscellaneous junk. I ask probing questions to identify the action required, and I find that they actually need to sort through that box and decide which items to keep and which to give to a donation center. I then encourage them to write this on the box itself – preferably by affixing a brightly colored sticky note to the box which indicates exactly what action they need to take to “deal with” that box. Finally, I assign this task as homework to them, and I follow up.

I believe this exercise – identifying the discrete task and having it as homework – causes a very subtle mental shift for them in their minds and can help change poor habits. It establishes a tangible action step that can be taken rather than an amorphous, overwhelming future responsibility to “deal with it later”. I think the latter is exactly what causes procrastination and feelings of being overwhelmed which so often plague the disorganized.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

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From Hoarding to Hope. Understanding People Who Hoard and How to Help Them

From Hoarding to Hope - Details

From Hoarding to Hope: Understanding People Who Hoard and How to Help Them

142 pages; English. ISBN: 1506148352