One of my fall plans is to catch up on the new Showtime series Shameless. According to my sister Liz, a connoisseur of series tv, it is well worth the space on my DVR. The show is about a highly dysfunctional family displaying their crazy for everyone to see.

Ironically, I find a similar thread when it comes to organizing. It is in complete contrast to the theme of the show. In fact, if I filmed my meeting with clients for the first time I would call it Shameful. The characters of my little drama include me, the helpful organizer and my client, who is buried under a world of shame. I can’t count the number of times a client has said to me, “I know this  (insert any space in your house) is pretty bad, right?”

Prior to beginning our work, most clients issue the standard disclaimers – “I should (insert any organizing process here) my room.”  Then the “shoulds” really start flying. ‘I should be more organized for my family”, “I should never have let it get this bad”, “I should file my papers more often”, “I should make more time for this.” The worst I heard was ” I should be a better person and get more organized” The shame and guilt that travels with a lack of organized systems can be daunting. It literally weighs people down. They look sad and depressed. They feel as if they have somehow let down themselves and those around them. It can be heart wrenching to watch.


There is no quick fix for the shame. I try to relieve my clients of the burden of their emotional albatross by focusing on their other positive attributes. I praise them for their efforts to get organized. What they have tried and how some of it is working. I try to inject some positive affirmation regarding their organizing attempts. And lastly, I let them vent. Vent about the pressure they have put upon themselves to be “perfectly organized”, about their spouses judgement of their lack of organization, or about a life event that has crippled them into a state of inaction. Not to sound too Dr. Phil here, but I actually held someone’s hand while they cried about their organizing situation.

In the end, we filter through their stuff, weed out the bad and preserve the good. And the same is true about their emotional baggage: filter though the tough stuff, weed out the bad and preserve the good. The shame dissipates as they regain control of their “stuff” and their lives.

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