- Do you have permission? This might seem obvious, but you must ask permission before starting a project and potentially overturning someone's world. I suggest doing this in advance of when you would actually like to start the work. Give them time to process and agree rather than accept and regret. Remember, it is their stuff and should be treated respectfully, no matter how much you disagree with some of their decisions. Offering assistance should come from a loving place, not one that is judgmental or pushy...that is not the way to be helpful!
- Do you have time? I am referring to a large scale project here, not a closet. Generally sorting a room will take many, many hours. (I have spent up to 16 hours to clear a chronically disorganized living room in the home of a highly motivated client.) Be prepared to put in the time for the long haul, not creating more chaos and then running out of time. The area should be left safe and more orderly than when you started, as well as come with a plan of when you will return.
- Do you have the tools you will need? Be prepared with PPE (gloves, masks), bags, boxes, painters tape/labels, sharpies, and a notebook. There is nothing worse than stopping progress because you do not have the tools needed to move forward.
- Do you have a plan? It is not helpful to put everything in bags or boxes and move it out of the space to just empty it. It will take time to sort and many of my chronically disorganized clients need to see everything sorted before determining what they can purge. Be realistic with the project you would like to help with and then follow through.
This is a project Life Organized resolved after a helper started a much too ambitions project! In the City of Madison, anything over 6 bags is considered a Household Cleanup and it can be piled outside the bin. Under 6 bags need to be put in the bin over the next couple of weeks, or make friends with your neighbors ;-) Cardboard can be bundled.
I will often see the remnants of attempts made by friends and family to help my clients with organizing projects. While I think this is a wonderful offer, I urge them to reconsider jumping in to anything too quickly. The reality is that more harm can be done than good (depending on the person). This may happen if the person is not prepared to tackle the project, feels rushed, does not have the space to adequately work on the project, and can not keep the project organized. So ask yourself a few questions before jumping in to any spontaneous "helpful" organizing sessions...
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