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With or Without You, part 1

My clients often express surprise and delight at how easy it is for them to find things after our sessions. They imagined that I’d come in and throw away things or put them in weird places that would never occur to them. They’re slightly shocked by how logical everything turns out to be.

The reason for this, and also the reason I insist on a client working side by side with me, is that I don’t apply my logic to the situations so much as figure out what is logical for the client. Although I’ve heard many times, “I just want someone to come in and do it for me,” that is a recipe for disaster.

Unlike bookkeeping, which you can gratefully hand off to a professional without learning it yourself, organizing never really sticks unless you explore the possibilities, track the way you think about your papers and possessions, and let the logical conclusion for where things belong reveal itself.

One of the reasons clients want a fairy organizer to wave a magic wand and establish order is that they often believe that the process will be one or several of the following: sweaty, sad, difficult, exhausting, spider-filled, mousy, embarrassing, boring, a failure, a success (leaving an empty feeling), and on and on. Yes, there is always a little of all of that. But for the most part, I’ve observed incredible lightness, joy, gratitude, disbelief in how sensible and almost easy the process is.

Caveat: The experience just described is that of clients for whom a transition like having a baby, starting a new business, moving or getting a divorce has caused temporary overwhelm and disorganization. Chronically disorganized people and those suffering from a hoarding problem have a much harder time, due to the psychological reasons behind their circumstances. There is hope, but the road is longer, rockier, and takes tremendous buy-in on the part of the client.

Having someone by your side, pacing you through the process and keeping you on track is one of the main reasons organization with a professional seems so much easier than expected. A pro’s knowledge of a wide variety of solutions, options, containers and gadgets is also a big boon. Part of the ease is that the client doesn’t have to research all that stuff for himself and, hopefully, can relax and trust the expert.

The client has a lot to say about what happens, though, and this is where the session moves through the frustration and pain to joy and even fun. A good organizer will ask questions every step of the way to be sure about how the client thinks, works, moves, learns. A good client will turn off the cell phone, silence the home phone and not check e-mail during the session, so that their focus is entirely on the process.

Like losing weight or learning a language, no one can do it for you, but expert help can make the process much, much easier and more enjoyable. If you do want to go it alone — or need to, for financial reasons — check out my column in two weeks for tips on how to make it as painless as possible.