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Debbie Stanley on Organizing
Debbie Stanley is the owner of Red Letter Day in Detroit, MI, a professional organizing company that helps both situationally and chronically disorganized individuals gain control of their clutter. President of the Michigan chapter of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), Stanley is the author of Organize Your Home in No Time and Organize Your Personal Finances in No Time. Stanley shares her thoughts on getting organized.
What’s the benefit of making your life more organized?
It gives you time to actually have a life. Being organized allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive. You can relax, because you know your life is on track and under control.
What are the typical questions your clients ask during the first 30 days of getting organized?
The most common question is, “Am I chronically disorganized?” Other questions tend to be more task-oriented, such as, “Which containers are the most durable?” or “What type of planner do you recommend most?”
How do you help someone who is chronically disorganized?
I use a coaching model, versus a makeover model. For people who are chronically disorganized, a makeover isn’t going to help them; they need systems that are customized for them. It’s not enough to simply help them put things away, because they won’t maintain the order.
I help clients figure out whether they prefer things visible or out of sight. Then, we build a system based on this preference, to the extent possible. A filing system for a “stuff out” person might consist of a dozen inclined, standing file racks with file folders in them. An “out of sight” person will have things put away, each shelf labeled so these items can be remembered.
What’s your advice for people who are situationally, as opposed to chronically, disorganized?
Think about the times in your life when you’ve been organized. Identify what was working then and return to that—literally or in spirit—with modifications for your current life. If you’re situationally disorganized, it’s just allotting the time to get yourself organized.
What feelings and emotions do people have when they begin the organizing process?
There are a lot of them. Some people feel hopeful, but if they’ve had a lot of failures, it’s a guarded optimism. Chronically disorganized people feel shameful, overwhelmed, frightened and threatened.
What are some of the things people should look at to determine what part of their life needs the most help?
I would say to start with what’s bothering you the most. What do you lose a lot? What do you lose time over? What seems to take longer than it should? Look at what’s irritating about your life’s current functioning, and you can see what you need to fix.
How feasible is it for a person to get organized in 30 days?
For situationally disorganized people, it’s absolutely feasible, because it’s just a matter of returning to an organized state. For chronically disorganized people, it’s not as easy, because they’ve been like this all their lives. I think it’s more of a year or so plan. However, you can see a great improvement in the first 30 days.
If you do nothing else, what are the three most important things to do during the first 30 days of getting organized?
1. Stop blaming yourself. Notice all the negative things you think or say to yourself and stop them. Give yourself a break and some credit for trying.
2. Make sure that this change is going to be good for you; sometimes people change to avoid other things, and that’s not good.
3. Plan your attack. Before you jump in and rearrange a room, first plan how you’re going to do it.
If a person can only organize one part of his or her life, what should that part be?
I’d say paperwork, because it’s something that can get away from you very quickly; and there can be severe consequences for not managing your bank account, paying bills, filing taxes and so on.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I always tell my clients that awareness of anything is half the battle. If you’re aware there’s a change afoot, it’ll be easier, because you’re prepared.
The best thing about change is…
What is the best change you have ever made?
I would say starting my organizing business, because it has given me the opportunity to help people directly, in a way that no other job ever did.
For more information on Debbie Stanley, visit www.rldpo.com.