When Bad Things Happen to Organized People

A couple of weeks ago, I was dining with a group of friends before we all headed to the Van Halen concert. (So shoot me..I LOVE 80's rock.) Right before we were all about to squeeze into one SUV and drive to the show, my buddy and organizing client Joe got a phone call from his burglar alarm company saying that his home alarm was going off. Since we were dining close to his house, we all rushed over to see what the deal was.

Upon arrival, we found that the would-be burglars had busted out one of Joe's french doors. Luckily, the alarm went off immediately and scared the hoodlums off before they had a chance to steal anything. We had a bunch of handy fellows along (that's them in the photo) and everybody jumped into action cleaning up the glass and securing the door.

Because Joe and I had recently finished organizing his basement, he knew immediately where to find the plywood, saw, screws, screwdriver, etc. From the time we arrived at scene of the crime to when we were en route to the concert was only about 30 minutes. Joe was so pleased that he knew right where to find everything he needed to fix the damage. And the rest of the gang was happy because we'd paid a pretty penny for those concert tickets and we didn't have to miss a minute of the show.

The moral of this story is that being organized can make a potentially chaotic situation much more manageable. Knowing where to find the tools you need in an emergency can save you stress, or even save your life. A great book about this very topic was written by my friend Judith Kolberg. The book is called "Organize for Disaster" and it's full of tips to prepare you for both natural and unnatural disasters.

And in case you were wondering, Van Halen ROCKED that night!

Sentimental Collectors

Yesterday, I was thinking about "collectors." I'm not talking about the extreme hoarding cases you may have recently seen on television. I'm referring more to the people who have a few boxes and files of sentimental old stuff that they've hung onto over the years.

People hang onto to old stuff for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it's because they believe the objects may be useful "one day." Other times, they have guilt over throwing away something that still has a little bit of life left in it (even if the person hanging onto the thing may NEVER be the one to squeeze out that last bit of life). Still others keep old unwanted gifts simply because they feel too guilty to get rid of them.

Then there are the folks that I lovingly call the "sentimental collectors." Many of my clients have boxes, chests, and drawers full of items that they keep because of the fond memories the items evoke. I totally relate to these folks because I have my own boxes of old treasures. There's the box containing the 1950's Barbie doll with the totally cool outfits that my grandmother sewed and crocheted for her. There's the high school trophies and yearbooks. Why, just last week I pulled out my senior yearbook to reminisce with an school chum I've reconnected with.

And yesterday I was reminded of my personal favorite keepsake treasures: the cards my father has given me over the years. Every Valentine's day that I can recall, I've received a card from my father, and I've kept them all. Just yesterday he emailed me a card that I printed out and have sitting on my desk. You see, I'm a 'daddy's girl' in a big way.

Turns out, dad's a sentimental collector too. I didn't realize this until I recently visited my parents in their newly renovated home. Dad, recently retired, now has his art studio in the finished attic of their house which sits right on the Cartecay river in north Georgia. While showing me around his new sanctuary, I noticed one corner wall that was covered in old cards and pictures I'd given him over the years. I had no idea that he had saved all that stuff. And now it had earned a special spot in his favorite hangout. My heart swells just thinking about it.

So, even though I'm a pretty prolific purger by nature, I understand that some stuff is just too special, too sweet, to throw away. But some people go too far in that direction. They feel that, just because the item once belonged to a loved one, it's worth keeping. The thing to remember is that many of items that people leave behind may have meant NOTHING to the previous owner. Perhaps they just hadn't gotten around to donating or throwing the darn thing away.

Don't save stuff just because it once sat in the dusty basement of a person you cared about. Save it because of the personal, warm memories you have of the item. Make sure it's earned the right to take up valuable space in your world.