Decluttering for the Next Stage – A Client Experience

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What do you do when you are ready for the next stage of life, but need help getting there?

Moving on to a new phase in life can be hard. No, let me change that – For most people it’s extremely hard. Even if it’s a happy “new phase”, like a new home or addition to the family (baby or puppy). With change comes upheaval. You have to adapt schedules and routines and reimagine parts of your life. When I started organizing I didn’t realize that I’d be part of the support people need when moving to the next stage of life.

Sometimes making a change requires getting support.

It may take a while to get yourself moving to the next stage. Have you wanted to look for a new job for a while? Or maybe you’ve wanted to move, but just can’t find the motivation to get out and look for a new place. This is often the case when people hire a coach, to help them move on. Sometimes the Basic Organization organizers find themselves in a “coaching role” when a client is ready to move to the next stage in life but needs some support to do so.

Today I’d like to tell you the story of how we helped one client move on to the next stage in her life. I’ll tell you now, it’s not all about organizing.

The Beginning

At our first meeting, I found “Jane” to be a delightful, motivated, and focused individual. This is not always the case with organizing clients. Jane showed me her detailed, written plan of what she wanted to do. I think if someone can get to the point of a written plan they don’t need the help of an organizer. I learned so much from Jane. She knew when she wanted to work (around her work schedule) and she knew where she wanted to start (in the storage room). Jane wanted to review and declutter her entire house, but like a lot of our clients, she wanted to see how it went. I understand. If you’ve never hired a professional organizer, it is not easy to give over to the process right away.

Jane had spent the pandemic working from home. I think having this extra time in the space had her rethinking how she was using it. Jane had become a widow 5 years earlier.  Since then she had not made big changes in her home. Spending all this extra time had her re-examining how she wanted to live in the space – for herself and no one else.

The assessment went stunningly well. I toured the home with her. She showed me every room. We talked about what she wanted to do in each space. I asked Jane about her goals in each room. How she wants to use the space in the future is important to have a good outcome with an organizing project. Most of the house was lovely, albeit a bit cluttered. The exceptions (in my opinion) were her kitchen and her storage room.  Jane wanted to start in her storage room. Awesome! In my experience, your storage room is a great place to start, because when your storage space is disorganized, pockets of clutter grow in your living spaces.

We scheduled 4 days to declutter and organize the storage room. I can hear you say “WOW! 4 days!”. Let me tell you, this storage room was big and had a lifetime of items inside. The biggest challenge (I knew from experience) was going to be Jane’s deceased husband’s things. His things took up about half the space. Also included in the storage room were a few of her adult daughter’s things, holiday decor, the laundry room, and some storage for cleaning and kitchen items. The typical storage room really. Jane’s daughter came home for the first two scheduled appointments to help out. We scheduled 3 organizers for the first 4 appointments.

When your storage space is disorganized, pockets of clutter grow in your living spaces. Click To Tweet

We always try to use the materials that our clients already own while organizing a space. Jane had all the shelving and storage bins that were needed to complete this space, so she didn’t have to purchase anything to get started.

The Middle

I was lucky enough to be part of the team for the first appointment. As the story goes, we spent most of the first two days sorting through what was in the storage room. Jane had a lot of items that she wanted to sell. So as we worked, we separated those items out, into another room and took photos so we could post them on her neighborhood Facebook sell page.

Jane chose a lot of items to go to the curb. GO TO THE CURB means “good for someone else” items that the client does want any longer, but is willing to give away for free. These items are usually not good enough to donate, like well-used furniture or a pile of wood. We posted these immediately on the Facebook marketplace for free, each day that we were there and by the end of the day (always) everything was gone, saving Jane a junk removal fee. Jane also identified what was trash, which was bag up to go out in her regular pickup. We also loaded our cars with donations each day. This alleviates Jane from taking multiple trips to her local charity drop-off location or making an appointment for a pickup.

Jane and her daughter made quick decisions on items . . . until they didn’t. We learn that Jane had lost a child many years ago when we uncovered some items that had memories attached to their lost loved one.  At times like these, we give the client space. Things tend to slow down and we step well into a supporting role. These are emotional times for clients and we want to honor their emotions and wishes. Jane and her daughter worked through these memories at their pace and did the hard work making decisions on what the Next Stage was for these things. We were honored to help them through the process.

Moving on, we tackled the storage room and left Jane with an organized, half-empty space. Now she can find and move easily get to what she needs. Jane can also now re-imagine and use the empty space for something that supports her present-day interests.

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The End

Jane was so happy with her newly organized storage room, that she made more appointments to tackle other spaces in her home. Next came the kitchen reorganization. Jane sorted and let go of many items that no longer fit her present-day lifestyle since she’s now living alone and does cook those big meals that she used to. Eventually, we worked in her office, linen closet, and bedroom.

Oh and by the way, we were quite successful in selling many items for Jane on Facebook, so she recouped a bit of our fee as well.

If you are in need of help to rethink your space for your current lifestyle please contact us.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.

16 Comments

  1. Kim Tremblay on October 18, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Hi Janet,
    What a great job you all did and what a positive experience for all of you. I am currently cleaning out my parents home and it is taking many weeks for (4 of us) to get everything out. We are almost at the point of being able to clean. It is so great when people can downsize their years of belongings while they are younger and well. Thanks for this great post and Congratulations on this job.

    • Janet Schiesl on October 18, 2021 at 11:57 am

      Thanks Kim. Sounds like you have done a great job cleaning out your parent’s home. It’s so much harder when emotions are involved.

  2. Linda Samuels on October 18, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Bravo! This is a beautiful story of how you and your team helped Jane in this transition time. And clearly, she loved your support because she’s going to continue working with you. No surprise, but still so wonderful. Even when a client has a plan, the support and energy that an organizer can bring are palpable.

    • Janet Schiesl on October 18, 2021 at 11:56 am

      Yes. I agree. Having a team of organizers on the job changes the dynamic completely.

  3. Seana Turner on October 18, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Way to go team Janet (and friends!). This is one of those times when it is such a privilege to come alongside in an overwhelming situation and provided support, encouragement, focus, expertise, and whatever else is needed. Sorting accumulated belongings takes time, plain and simple, so I’m not at all surprised by the “4 days” estimate. Going through a room like this all by yourself is rough, and can be quite sad. It means everything to have others be there with whom you can talk, share, and otherwise bounce thoughts around.

    I’m so happy for your client and wish her well in her next stage!

    • Janet Schiesl on October 18, 2021 at 11:55 am

      Thanks Seana. We loved working on this project.

  4. Stacey Agin Murray on October 18, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Kudos to you and your team for assisting ‘Jane’ through the easy and more challenging parts of the project! I, too didn’t realize early on in my career how as a Professional Organizer, we support clients through transitions. I tell people all the time that organizing is not all about the bins and the boxes–it’s also about getting people that are ‘stuck’ to get ‘unstuck’ and move forward. Great job!

    • Janet Schiesl on October 18, 2021 at 11:54 am

      Thanks Stacey. That’s one part of our work that I really love.

  5. Sabrina Quairoli on October 18, 2021 at 11:37 am

    What an excellent service you are giving to others! I am a fan of curb FREE items when decluttering. It does go, especially when you are a part of a larger community, and you have a Facebook Group. After moving my daughter into her rental, we had items left from my mother-in-law’s home after she passed. We assembled them and shared them on the development Facebook Group, and they were gone by the end of the day. YAY.

    • Janet Schiesl on October 18, 2021 at 11:53 am

      Yes, Facebook offers a great service.

  6. Katherine Macey on October 18, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    What a great experience for you all. I’m so glad you were able to be there for Jane during such a tough time.

    • Janet Schiesl on October 19, 2021 at 7:20 am

      A lot of our clients are dealing with life changes. It’s great to be able to help them through it.

  7. Lucy Kelly on October 18, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    It’s always so interesting to see how a project can unfold – as your story shows, the only rule is expect the unexpected. Congratulations on the wonderful outcome!

    • Janet Schiesl on October 19, 2021 at 7:19 am

      Thank you Lucy. We loved the outcome.

  8. Julie Bestry on October 20, 2021 at 2:49 am

    Not only did you do a remarkable job for Jane, but you have explained the process so well that I imagine anyone reading can see themselves in this kind of methodical, open-minded, nurturing environment. It sounds like this was an ideal experience for your team, and a fulfilling one for the client.

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