Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Just Jam It All into the Inbox and Yell 'F*** It' A Lot"

There is a National Association of Professional Organizers.

In the Denver area, a professional organizer makes $75/hour.

My sister, overwhelmed and anxious in the face of her stacks of belongings, uses a professional organizer. In fact, she's committed to drawing upon the inheritance from our dad's and grandmother's estates to pay this organizer until the job is done.

The thing about being overwhelmed by stacks of crap is that the feeling doesn't go away easily or for pay, necessarily. At the very least, we might need a great aunt to die in the next few years. See, my sister's garage holds her teaching materials. And she's taught for more than twenty years, at four different grade levels, in four different countries. Plus, she seriously loves her some kiddie lit.

Friends, there are milk crates and shelving units and big plastic tubs in my sister's garage. There is the intention of organization. But it ain't there yet.

In fact, we might need all remaining relations to kick off before Kirsten's garage is entirely inventoried and ordered. It would help if those relations could please get richer before they die.

Despite hiring a personal organizer, my sister has been needing further outside assistance. Cleverly, she did the math (carrying the one) and realized it would be cheaper to fly me to Denver than to pay her organizer for equivalent hours. With the plan that I'd come for a weekend and help her get organized, she bought me a ticket.

Just to double the oomph of the whole thing, though--and a clear sign of her desperation--she also booked her personal organizer for 4 hours one of the mornings of my visit. Even though we all worked with great diligence, I'm not sure my sister got her $500 worth.

And that amount doesn't even figure in the lateral filing cabinet she was instructed to get, nor the new bookshelf I told her she needed. Or the in and outboxes. Or the six new plastic tubs. Or the picture boxes.

Or the graduated metal desktop organizer.

We pretty much had to take a moment in Target and thank our dad for working so hard all his life and having the foresight to set up some paperwork that brought his leavin's to us, after he passed.

One day, Kirsten and I spent some time in the garage, going through her bins of books. She only had every Beverly Cleary book two times over. Ultimately, we got rid of four milk crates of kid books.

She only got a little teary twice during this process. Then she announced it was time to be done. We needed to watch some HGTV shows. We were people who were hunting for houses. Internationally.

The next day, the professional organizer came. She wore camouflage pants, which made me fear and respect her even more than her well-slicked hair did.

Professional Organizer is going through a divorce.

Apparently, some things can't be stored in a box with a lid, no matter how well labeled.

She had a plan for our morning. She and Kirsten set up a filing system for the new lateral filing cabinet, which Kirst and I had spent a few hours putting together the night before.

It helped that Kirsten knew where her three tools (flathead screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, hammer) were. It also helped that we had a vast repertoire of cusses.

We only broke one of the two drawers during the process.

But you hardly notice the absence of the broken drawer (the glue was still drying), do you? That's what a Vanna White flourish will do for any situation: mask and distract.

The next morning, when the organizer came, the drawer was in place. We appeared, so long as one didn't probe or test the glue, competent.

Then Professional Organizer opened the drawers and noted that they were wrong--that this shelving was made for legal-sized documents, not 8 1/2 x 11" papers.

Kirsten called a handyman. He will come next week and saw some new slots into the drawers, at which time all the bins of newly-filed papers will be put into them. Until then, the whole desk area looks a little undone. A little disorganized.

But the papers are in file folders. And everything is labeled. Almost makes a person think Professional Organizer's marriage could work out after all.

While they worked on papers, I tackled the upstairs closet, which was full of All Kinds of Everything, including a broken cuckoo clock.

Everything came out, and I followed Professional Organizer's three-step process (she went to class for this, incidentally, so the information you're about to read is probably patented and trademarked):

1) Gather together like items (such as all photos) in a heap;

2) Go through and decide what you need to keep and what you need to get rid of;

3) Deposit things you need to keep into a containment system. Get rid of the rest.

I know.

So, after jotting down a few notes on my palm, I did just that. Actually having my sister go through things and get them into a system, however, would take weeks. So I regrouped stuff, asked her a few questions (only one of which made her cry), and made it tub ready. In the future, she should go through the tubs and make further decisions or do more detailed organizing.

That's probably not going to happen. The Amazing Race might be on that day.

There's also a lot of Bejeweled Blitz to play on Facebook.

Here's the final look of the closet, when I was done.

As I worked in the closet room, which houses my sister's books, I realized her book mania was spilling over. Every shelf had stacks of books with no home, stacks that obscured the books behind. I lobbied for a new bookshelf.

Worn down, powerless, amenable, my sister agreed. Two nice young men at Target hefted the thing into the car, sideways, across the front seat. I rode in the back and called Kirsten "Jeeves."

Once home, we had to turn to Flathead, Phillips, and Hammer one more time. We didn't break anything.

Of course, a few pieces went on backwards.

WHAT? The shelf still holds books, no matter how backasswardly it was assembled. Don't get all poncey and superior on me.

The back of the shelf was supposed to be attached with forty screws.

Kirsten decided eight would do.

These guys are just waiting to bust out the flimsy back door of their new home.

There were about ten more stacks, not seen in these photos. They were at Starbucks.

The end result. Please do not comment that there appears to be an unhung clock on the chair. I don't have time to write about how Kirst won't actually put nails in her walls, which leaves all pictures (and clocks) leaning against their intended place. She's lived there 2.5 years. One step at a time, my friends. One step. at. a. time.

Another end result, despite files remaining unfiled, the garage remaining unorganized, and my sister's wallet being seriously deflated,

is that I spent time with one of the two people on the planet who will know me cradle to grave.

We ate teriyaki bowls. She took me to Whole Foods and to its inbred cousin, Sprouts. She smiled tolerantly when I squealed over the quality of the napkins at the Whole Foods gelato counter, napkins that could serve as a night-time diaper on a three-month-old. She shared candy bars with me. She showed me how to use the remote. She burned me six CD's of songs out of her Itunes. She took me two Jazzercise (which is another twelve posts in itself) and to three running trails.

She gave me a big hug at the aiport and asked when she can fly me back out, to help with the garage.



As a result of this whole trip, now I have a friend in Austin, Texas, who's planning to give me a ticket to visit her.

Seems she still has the dress she wore when she graduated from college twenty years ago. It doesn't fit.

Also, her Christmas decorations are already out.

Because they were never put away after last year.

I am delighted by her tousled state of affairs, if it means I get to see her.

And I'm considering--seriously--doing some training and starting a side career as a professional organizer. We could use the money (especially if I precede my sister in death; if I've earned some supplemental income, I'll be able to bequeath her enough to hire Professional Organizer for the twelve hours it would take to go through her stacks of sweatshirts).

Before I can start this new career, though, I'm gonna need some camouflage pants.

19 comments:

Yo is Me said...

awwwwww!!!! i love sister stories!!!!

i thought my closets were cluttered. i COULD fly you out here, but we'd end up drinking and watching DVRd shows. i hate commercials and i don't do jazzersize.

and i really am totally jealous of the book piles on the floor look. really. i think it looks much smarter that way. sure, the bookshelves look great, but "i'm too busy reading OTHER books to put shelves up" says even more than "i have a large brain."

your sister said...

I bet that Kurt can get you a deal on camoflauge pants.
I burned 8 freakin' cds (cuz you wanted all the Dixie Chicks!)
...and I also employ other people, besides the organizer, to help me with skill sets that I don't possess: the handyman (cuz with flat, philips and hammer there's only so much i can do on my own...making holes in the walls lends its self to a sense of permanency and i like to think i'll move again...); a tax preparer, a personal trainer (cuz i won't work out without someone making me...jazzercise is just fun! heh. admit it. you liked it. stop poo-pooing it. you felt young and fit and you got to dance around. what's not fun?! ...who else do i pay to help me live without burrowing into a hole of frustration? apparently, i need more people.
seriously, talk to Kurt about those pants.

Jeni said...

Things brings pictures into my mind of a day in the future when my daughters will have the pure joy of going through all of Mom's belongings! The clothes, no doubt they will pitch. The books and photos will take some time -and tears too, especially from the older girl who actually knew a few of the people in some of the old pics. Which leaves -of my treasures -my sewing patterns, large bins of fabrics and yarns and a whole raft of containers with embroidery projects, flosses and such. I already told the younger daughter what to do with the embroidery stuff -it's to be divided between my two neighbors and my bestest friends, the sisters Shirley and Kate. And, if they do something nasty -like just simply pitch all my fabrics and yarns, I'm gonna come back to haunt them for sure!
They better leave the younger girl take charge of my collection of cookbooks though as without old Mom to cook for her, she'll need a crash course in easy-fixin' foods -which is pretty much what most of my cookbooks are, by the way.
I'm wondering too if maybe your sister has genes that somehow came from my family -my mom in particular -who never saw anything she didn't think had some use, somewhere and thus she saved it! I'm a packratter too -yes, I admit it and for all the criticism my daughters try to push on me about that habit, they are a hell of a lot like me too.
So once more, you've definitely entertained me whilst I read this piece. Visions all over the place ya know.

diane said...

I just finished reading an article on living simply. The author highly recommended going to NotSoBigLife.com.
With the article was a Recipe for Simplicity, by Linda Breen Pierce. I might do a post on it.
I wish you and your sister the best of luck. xo d

flutter said...

wait, so there are like...boxes? That hold things? Things have places that they are supposed to be?

I am a total failure.

jess said...

But if you wear camouflage pants no one will be able to see your legs and you might trip.

I am good at organizing. I should be a professional organizer for cripes sake.

chelle said...

What an amazing and fun experience!

I am an organization freak. That doesn't mean I am organized at the moment ... but I want to be!

Becky Cazares said...

Sisters. Can't live with 'em (thank God!), can't live without 'em. Can't make 'em, either. Parents had to do that part. I've only got the one, but I'm sure she could use help organizing. Especially right after my book gets delivered from Half.com. What book? Oh, just my eleventy-seventh book on organizing (gonna need a new bookshelf just for the organizing-themed books!). Glad you and sis had a great time and managed to stimulate the economy in Denver. There's something just RIGHT about kids' books in milk crates. Ahhh.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Wow--$75.00 an hour. That's a wee bit more than I'll make teaching and I could so do that job. In fact the thought of doing that job makes me a bit verklempt!

lime said...

holy crap! i could do this job! i helped my hoarder stepmom (yeah, two whole rooms in her house are literally unusable, or were) to the degree she would allow it (but i did convince her to get rid of more stuff in one day than my dad has successfully managed in 25 years). my next project is bringing order to the filing system at work, which truly resembles something a blind, illiterate thalidomide victim may have designed. i'd charge far less than $75 an hour. i also have an army navy store nearby so i could get some camos.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

"It's inbred cousin, Sprouts." Jocelyn, are SO DAMN FUNNY.

Well done, helping your sister. And I applaud her for getting help. Now, Mr. D has an uncle who needs professional intervention. Whatchya got going next weekend?

Jazz said...

1) The organizer is probably divorcing because she insisted on having an organized marriage.

2) A friend once gave me the perfect organizational hint: Take a box. Fill it. Tape it shut. Don't label it. Pull it out after a year and if you don't remember what's in it, toss/give/donate it without looking what's in it. You'll never miss it. This works. Very well even.

3) Purging books is hell. Now once I read it, if I'm certain I'll not want to read it again, out it goes. The box is there, my friends are welcome to dive in, so long as they don't bring the books back. Course my problem is the new ones accumulate at a faster rate than I can read them. I'm working on it!

Pam said...

"...just jam it into the box and yell f..#!t a lot".Great title. I think my brother was all sworn out by the time he returned overseas after clearing out my father's three sheds full of broken and rusty crap.If he wasn't saying "unbelievable" every five minutes, he was saying "f..#!n unbelievable.".Father? In hospital fussing over the young nurses,resting up,popping chocolates,and picking over the food tray.Better that I guess, than him leisurely picking over the shed items while popping chocolates.

secret agent woman said...

I could do this job. I would just swoop in and force peope to get rid of 90% of their stuff. Probleem solved. They'd thank me for it some day, I think.

Chantal said...

LOL when you do you can fly up to the great white north and help me. I need it.

RE my last post. Yes, we celebrate our Remembrance day on the same day as the US celebrated Memorial day.

Dory said...

I'm wearing my camouflage pants tomorrow in your honor.

Note to self: Also on tomorrow's agenda... Use "poncy" correctly in a sentence.

P.S. My spellchecker hates the word "poncy". None of the other options are even close. So you get it misspelled.
P.P.S. I spelled misspelled correctly first go! Yay, me!

Becky Cazares said...

Since your sis reads your blog (of course - sisters have to be good for SOMETHIN'!) she might *really* be interested in my latest purchase from Half.com in the Organizing category, "SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life." Turns out it isn't so much an organizing book but a TRANSITIONS book wherein you release the old self with its clutter to make room for the new you (and probably its clutter, ha!). I'm only into chapter 2, but already I like it.
http://tinyurl.com/yek4cts

phd in yogurtry said...

This friend in Austin will pay half the ticket. Because... Twenty year old dress? Ha! How about 30 year old sleep shirt?

Patois said...

Love the thought of you all camo!

I'll never cease to be amazed at what we are willing to pay for someone else to do.