Are You Organized for the Unexpected?

posted by Andrea | 02/18/2013

Working as a professional organizer for many years, I’m sure you can imagine some of the “sights” I’ve seen!

While I never disclose personal information or names of any of my clients, I most definitely have many, many stories to share of extreme hoarders, shopping addicts, and even a few downright lazy slobs.

Of course, I had many fabulous clients that hired me once or twice a year just to help with bigger projects or to get another perspective on their spaces. These were the fun clients — however, they were NOT the majority.

I was always suprirsed by how the majority of my clients lived in complete chaos, under piles and piles of clutter, with no rhyme or reason to anything. And I have a feeling (based on how popular organizing books and TV shows are) that there a millions of homes across the country that would also shock my socks off and make my jaw drop after walking through the front door.

There are many other homes that might look nice and neat from the front door, but open any drawer, any closet, any cabinet, and you’ll find mass amounts of stuff just shoved inside.

I’m not saying this to judge or belittle these people, I’m saying this because it’s the truth — and I’ve seen it!

If you live in a cluttered, disorganized home, you might be thinking “who cares, it’s none of your business what MY house looks like”.

But I’d beg to differ. 

As you’ll read below, there are many situations where someone might need to step in and run your home, pay your bills, care for your children, or manage your life… and if your home is out of control and completely unorganized, there’s a good chance the people who are trying to help won’t be able to.

Are You Organized for the Unexpected?

Email from a loyal reader who says it better than I could: 

A few years ago, the father of a dear friend died unexpectedly. In attempts to bless this family, several of us decided to clean my friend’s home while she was out of town for the visitation, funeral, etc. We opened the front door and it was like a tornado, and not just a tornado that had happened in the 24 hours since her dad died and they left town, but really just a way of life.

I literally picked up 27 loads of laundry off the floor between the upstairs and downstairs, there was no way of knowing what was clean and what was dirty, so I washed, dried and folded all of it. Someone else cleaned the bathrooms, two others did the kids’ rooms, some did the kitchen, etc. We were there for 3 hours with 10 people and it was just starting to look “picked up”, but not spotless or deep cleaned (I took all the laundry home and brought it back later.)

More recently, my daughter and I went over to babysit for a family that has a newborn in critical condition and 4 other children at home. We took them a meal, but we had to move things on the counter and in the refrigerator just to fit anything in. The house was a disaster — and again, not a disaster that just happened, but a permanent disaster. They had a filing cabinet with every drawer labeled “STUFF” and the mailman had to bring the mail to the door because their box was stuffed full and no one could find the key to open their box. There was a Social Security card in the mail for their brand new baby, which they were waiting for to sign up for Medicaid!

Why am I saying all this?

Because you never know when your life is going to change and someone else will have to take over paying bills, getting your mail, watching your kids, doing your laundry, making your meals, or living in your house.

These two experiences have made me more aware of how being a disorganized slob doesn’t just affect you,  but so many others as well — especially when no one can figure out your system or find ANYTHING in your house.

I just think that sometimes we live self-absorbed lives and think, “Who cares, it is my mess.” But in reality, as I have personally seen several times, it DOES affect others and is something to consider in the way we keep our homes.

Can any of you relate?  

I know I can!

Last month, I shared how we keep all our important paperwork organized “just in case” something would ever happen to Dave and I. I feel so much better knowing that it would be relatively easy for someone else to come in and run our home and finances if the situation ever arose.  I also feel confident that since we work hard to keep our home relatively organized at all times, anyone would be able to find almost anything they needed to keep things running “as normal”.

If you can’t say the same thing about your home, it might be time to get to work.

It’s not going to happen over night, and you most definitely don’t need to keep things perfectly organized all the time. Just neat and organized enough that someone else could find the things they need to run your home, life, finances, kitchen, etc. in the event of an unexpected illness, death, or anything else that prevents you from handling these tasks on your own.

Plus, wouldn’t it just be nice to live, eat, work, play, and sleep in a more organized home?

Have you ever had a similar experience?

photo source

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51 comments

  1. Jen

    02/18/2013

    I have! Years ago, a friend and I “surprised” another friend by cleaning her home when she was out of town on a family emergency. The state of the home was appalling but we were happy to help.

    Unfortunately, our friend wasn’t nearly as happy to be helped! She was mortified and embarrassed that we had entered her home and “helped her”. She felt we put things where she couldn’t find them and didn’t appreciate our attempts to help.

    While I think this is a fabulous idea, I think we also have to be careful about who and how we try to help. For some people, there are other things that might be more helpful and not jeopardize a friendship in the process?!

    I have helped other friends who have been humbled and grateful but it doesn’t always work out that way.

    [Reply]

    Kimberly Reply:

    Jen, Great point……I know years ago when my children were little I would have also been mortified if someone had tried to clean my home.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jen (and Kimberly) I totally agree — but the point of this post is not whether or not your friends would appreciate you cleaning their home, it’s if YOUR home is neat and organized enough so that your friends wouldn’t have to come in and spend hours cleaning. They could simply “pick up where you left off” and continue running your home, your family, your kitchen, etc. Friendships would not be jeopardized if the homes were somewhat neat in the first place :)

    [Reply]

  2. Jen @ BigBinder

    02/18/2013

    There have been so many awful weather events this past year and I have found myself wondering what would happen if it that happened to US? Would we be able to find our insurance papers, important pictures, etc quickly if our home were damaged by a storm? It definitely motivated me to get stuff from the “to be filed” bin into the actual files! I would NEVER be able to find something that had been sitting in a random pile of papers somewhere if water and wind whipped through my house.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Agreed! Sometimes I think, “what would I grab first if our house caught fire?” And then I think about how easily it would be to grab those things! Our important documents would be very easy to grab, but probably not some of our memorabilia!

    [Reply]

  3. Jennifer

    02/18/2013

    A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and a small group of friends made dinner and some other things to help them out so they didn’t have to worry about cooking for a while. When we entered their home the living room looked lived in – no big deal but when we stepped into the kitchen it was the worse thing I have ever seen. She commented “please don’t judge me”. Of course I didn’t but was heart broken because I know she was terribly embarrassed and I can relate. Not to that extent but there are times when my own home has not been or still is not what I would like it to be.

    I am def on a mission now to make sure my home is from here on out. Thanks for this post and the last one – already working on my binder to organize all my personal stuff.

    [Reply]

  4. Kimberly

    02/18/2013

    This is exactly what I’ve been trying to accomplish during the past 10 years. If something were to happen to me or my husband, someone would be able to come in and take over and we wouldn’t be embarrassed about the state of our home or our affairs.

    I just got my 2 duo organizers the other day and I’ve spent most of the weekend getting our important papers organized. I had a conversation with our oldest son and daughter about where everything was if there was an emergency.

    I think MOST people do live in chaos and disorganization and it’s just not worth the stress and headache. Great post!!

    [Reply]

  5. Debby

    02/18/2013

    Great post. This has always been my fear and motivator. My house gets messy but not long term. I always remember my best friends mom telling us when we first started out with our own apartments after college… “Your house should always be ready for someone unexpected to knock on the door and you are not embarassed by how it looks.” Now my house doesn’t always look like that. I have two very sloppy teenage daughters and a husband that doesn’t get bothered by messes. I am teaching them to clean as you go and implementing systems that work. It’s a work in progress, but it is coming along.

    I started reading your post when I googled organizing files. I was doing that for the exact reason of this post. A system that was organized and anyone would be able to figure out. I love your ideas and processes. In the short time that I have been reading your blog, my home has improved with the tips that I have taken from you.

    On a quick note on this subject, my dad was a hoarder of car items. When he passed away quickly from cancer, my mother, my husband, and I were left to clean out a 2 1/2 car garage of cars and parts that literally went from floor to ceiling with a small walk through. There were vehicles under the stuff. He never parted with these things because he thought they were worth so much. Let me tell you, whatever it was worth in terms of cash, wasn’t worth what he left his family to deal with in the wake of his sudden passing. We sold things for what we could. I worry about the same thing with my in laws. They won’t get rid of any paperwork. It is in envelopes in ever corner of their home that you can imagine. I know that someday it will be my husband and I cleaning all that out. And we will have to go through it piece by piece. I don’t want to ever leave that burden to my children while they are mourning from their loss. I want my legacy to be that I was organized and made that time for them as easy as possible. KEEP UP THE GREAT POSTS!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Debby — you sound exactly like some of my organizing clients. I worked with many children of “hoarder” parents who kept everything because they thought it would be worth something. It took their children weeks and months (and a lot of financial resources too) in order to get through everything. Often, they just threw everything in dumpsters because they didn’t want to deal with it!

    Sounds like you handled the situation as well as possible!

    [Reply]

  6. Jenn

    02/18/2013

    I 100% agree that it is important to try to have things orderly, especially for situations like this.

    However, I do not think it is wise to just invite yourself into someone’s home and clean it for them unless you discussed it with them. Just as Jen said, the person might get upset, embarrassed or frustrated because orderly to you is not what orderly to her is (we all have different systems of organization that work for us).

    It is one thing to sit with a girlfriend, or even be at her house with her and offer a helping hand–that way, you can do it together, she can be a part of the process (and learn from it!) but also provide valuable input as to what makes sense to her. What we feel is helpful might be taken as patronizing (even if you don’t mean it) – and your friendship is more important, I think.

    That said, I am trying to better-organize my home despite the best efforts of my fiance. =P Alas, we have a tiny apartment (that we have honestly outgrown–but we are saving up for a down payment for a house, so it will have to do!)

    [Reply]

  7. Jen

    02/18/2013

    There is apparently a Jen party in the comments section here. :)

    Every time I watch Hoarders I find myself folding a load of laundry or cleaning out a drawer. My house, while definitely “lived in,” is no where NEAR anything like those homes…and yet, just seeing those conditions make me itch to clean something.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I was thinking the same thing… SO many “Jens”!

    [Reply]

    Jenn Reply:

    Yes, Hoarders makes me crazy. So does Clean House. It simultaneously makes me want to improve AND makes me feel better about the current state of things.

    [Reply]

    Debby Reply:

    LOL I always end up cleaning something after watching “Hoarders”.

    [Reply]

  8. susie

    02/18/2013

    I used to think that i wanted the house picked up in case someone stoped by, but not very often would I get unexpected company. Then I realized that I like my house clean and organized for me! I am much more calm if my house is clean… so now I clean and pretend to go to starbucks at my own house! I have become much more content at home now. And it does not take any more work. I have gotten lots of hints from you, Andrea! I unload my dishes in the morning, run it everynight and try to keep my counters and floors clean. Thanks for all your posts!

    [Reply]

  9. Roberta Lott

    02/18/2013

    This is exactly why I am doing a whole house purge and getting our affairs in order. We are not spring chickens any more and I would like to be prepared should something happen, God forbid. I have all our important papers in a hard sided case, neatly organized, and once I finish, that box will include CDs with photos that can be used. I do not want anyone going through my photos, so it’s really a selfish act, but I hope will be appreciated should the time come. I have had to leave home in an emergency, when my husband had a stroke out of town, half way across the country, so I know it can happen. I try to keep my pet supplies stocked so that would not be a problem, either.

    [Reply]

    Roberta Lott Reply:

    I also have our finances organized so anyone could come in and pay the bills or know where things are filed should they need them. My file cabinet and files are neatly labeled. Even my husband could work the system and he has never written a check or paid a bill in all our thirty years together.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You must be organized if even your husband could manage without you! :)

    [Reply]

    Roberta Lott Reply:

    Well, I don’t know how well he would manage, but at least he could find things if he needs them. After cleaning off his work laptop this morning, I can tell you the man is a walking mess. There are files everywhere, not even in any kind of logical folders. How does that happen? :) Drives me crazy.

    [Reply]

  10. Sheila

    02/18/2013

    In my circle of friends we have no secrets… We all know one of our friends( maid of honor at all of our weddings and a total people person) first request of us all… If she’s dies before we do we are to go directly to her house and clean it before all the people( that might be judgmental ) come over to help haha! That and make sure they don’t put orange lipstick on her at the funeral home :) that’s what comes after being friends for 30 plus years… It’s a beautiful thing!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is awesome Sheila! You are lucky to have such a great group of friends!

    [Reply]

  11. Deb

    02/18/2013

    Some cases are an illness or emergency, not just someone voluntarily going to “help.” The point is that you are about 2.5 seconds from an emergency where someone, either family or friends could have to jump into your shoes and either keep the house running or at minimum find important documents or even just decent clothing for your children/spouse to wear to a funeral. We normally don’t get a warning when life is going to take a desperate turn and one way that we can be good stewards of our possessions and bless those around us is to be at least minimally clean and organized.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Deb. I really like your point about “being good stewards of our possessions”.

    [Reply]

  12. Lisa

    02/18/2013

    I just learned this the hard way. My mom came to visit for the weekend and I was organized enough to get through the weekend only (meals planned, groceries purchased, enough clean clothes for the weekend but laundry would have to be done Monday, etc). Well, Sunday morning, just hours before she was supposed to leave, I ended up going to the ER and needed emergency surgery for appendicitis!! Luckily she was able to take time off work and stay with my two kids while I was in the hospital.

    I felt bad that I left my mom to do laundry, grocery shop (they ate sandwiches the first night because they weren’t sure how old the food in the fridge was!) and take care of the details for my son’s preschool valentine party that I was supposed to help with.

    It wasn’t too bad. And I did learn all my habits from my mother! But it could have been better.

    [Reply]

  13. Lee Cockrum

    02/18/2013

    I know that you have said this post is not intended to be judgemental, but there is a bit of “holier than thou” in the post as well as some of the comments. My house is definitely on the messier side. I’d love for it to be different, but life gets in the way. I have struggled with depression over my infertility, and some days getting to work and then getting dinner made for us when I get home is what I am capable of. I spent many years in people’s homes as a home health physical therapist, and I learned quickly that I was there to provide a service, not to judge their lifestyle. People are often dealing with things that are not apparent to you. We are all very different.

    Andrea, although you made sure all of your paperwork is in order because you want up be sure that someone can take over if needed, the underlying state of your home is what it is for you, not for others. You do what you do because of your own internal makeup and drives. You make clear many times in your posts that your house decorating, setup etc is what appeals to you, it may or may not be what is typical for others. The reality is that you are somewhat of a statistical outlier when it comes to the level of organization etc that you desire. I guess what I am trying to say is that although there are some of us on the opposite side of the spectrum than you, most average people are going to fall somewhere in the middle.

    [Reply]

  14. Thea

    02/18/2013

    This post seems a little out of character for your blog. Although I understand what you are trying to say, and agree for the most part, I feel like it’s not a black or white issue. I am constantly organizing, cleaning, and working on systems to help my house run smoothly. If someone absolutely needed to, they could find what they need in our house – even though it would mean more cleaning than just picking up the days messes when they got to our house.

    I think especially in my stage of life – with 4 young boys under the age of 5. I do what I can to keep things organized and picked up, but it’s almost impossible when I have 8 little hands that are cleaning out bins as I try to put things in. For me – and I know it’s different for everyone – I can’t get stressed about small organizing projects that need to be done. Our house has an open door. if someone wanted to come in and clean, I wouldn’t stop them…but I would feel judged if they told me i should have been better organized before they came over. Most days I choose sitting on the floor playing with my boys or doing an activity for them over an organizing project. I can’t take this stuff to heaven with me anyways. In the end, it would be nice to live in a magazing perfect organized home, but there’s grace, right?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Thea — but I think you really missed the point of this post.
    The point is that you should NOT stop living your daily life and you should NOT try to achieve a perfect magazine-worthy home. I would never, ever suggest that on my blog — nor do I try to achieve that in my own home/life. The point is that you SHOULD keep your home relatively clutter free so you can enjoy living in your home AND so that someone else could come in and run your home in the case of an unexpected death or illness.
    Your last phrase (I can’t take this stuff to heave with me anyway) is exactly what I’m trying to get at. What’s the point of having a house filled with clutter as you can’t take it with you anyway? Wouldn’t it just be so much nicer to get rid of all the stuff NOW, so you can enjoy living in a less cluttered home and have the peace of mind that even in your absence, someone else could take care of your home and family?
    It sounds like you are doing pretty well at balancing your home and family — and I’m sure you have nothing to be concerned about. Small organizing projects would not prohibit someone else from running your home — it’s the over-all totally trashed homes that I’m talking about, and it definitely doesn’t sound like you fit in that category :)

    [Reply]

  15. Michele

    02/18/2013

    Some people are on medication that makes it really hard to think straight. And organizing is way too stressful.

    I used to be extremely organized and was obsessed with a clean house. That was before medication. Now I am turning into my mother. And it is not because I don’t care or I am not trying. It’s literally impossible.

    I don’t have money for furniture and bookcases and filing cabinets. I shop at the dollar store and have hundreds of baskets. But, when you don’t have anywhere to put these baskets you are still disorganized.

    I hate my house and the way it looks. Home improvements are taking forever. I feel stuck. I have already thrown away everything non-useful and that helped. But there is still a lot of stuff to do and I desperately need help. There is way too many choices in organizing and what will work for me and my mess. I don’t know. I can’t think.

    [Reply]

  16. Natalia

    02/18/2013

    That is my nightmare and my motivator, at the same time! It didn’t happen yet, but what if? What if i’ll be in the hospital and my sister-in-law will have to come into my house and find dust bunnies under bed, crumbs behind the stove and dusty socks between the washer and dryer!!! (Dishes in the sink and folded laundry not put away would be somehow ok…)

    I’m the type of person that has the file cabinets and closets all clean and organized, but my half-way done projects are sitting out, staring at me. For example, 2 weeks ago I pulled out my printed pictures to sort and organize. I have 5 picture boxes sitting on my dinning room table, still!!! I could hide them away, but I don’t want to give up on finishing the project, and I have other priorities right now… Like organizing 2 huge events, while keeping my weekly meetings for children’s club running, and also working full time… For each of those large projects I have boxes with materials, papers and manuals on the floor in my office!!! This is my challenge! What to do with “work in process”??

    Anyways, I went to a memorial service this week-end, and half-way thru the service I wanted to run home and clean, declutter and organize. The person that died was so meticulosly organized (even had a garden hose mounted on the garage walls, so the car doors would never touch the walls!!!, and a “Menu list” with all his music, categorized and alphabetized!!!). What an inspiration! Then, I remembered that he visited our house several months before he died. I think my house looked ok, but now I wonder if he was mentally alphabetizing my CD’s… I wondered if I shocked him THAT much!

    I hope the “unexpected” will not happen soon. If it does, my relatives will probably manage to find everything needed, but not as easily as opening one manual and having everything listed step-by-step, in one simple place. I’m working on creating the “How to run my household” manual/binder. Hopefully I’ll have it done before our mission trip over seas, this summer!

    Thanks for one more nudge to get there!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Natalia, you sound like you’re extremely organized! However, I hope you don’t take this post out of context…
    I’m most definitely not trying to make anyone feel self-conscious about their homes (or worry about crumbs behind the stove!) I’m simply trying to encourage and motivate others to keep their homes neat and organized ENOUGH so that if something unexpected happened, it wouldn’t take an entire team of people to weed through the stuff in your home just to find your washing machine or your filing cabinet.
    From your comment, it sounds like you definitely have your ducks in a row so I wouldn’t stress out too much :)

    [Reply]

    Natalia Reply:

    Thank you, Andrea! I feel so much better now!!! :)

    [Reply]

  17. Carrie

    02/18/2013

    Keeping a house clean and organized is a skill that doesn’t come easily to some (Me included!). I grew up in a cluttered, untidy home. When I got married, keeping house did not come naturally for me. I would have been mortified if someone had entered my house to clean it (and probably angry).

    Over 21 years, through lots of learning and trial and error I have finally gained the skills that allow me to keep my house in a reasonable state (most of the time). I didn’t keep an untidy house because I wanted to be unprepared for an emergency. I just didn’t know what I was doing. Even now, someone else would still have trouble figuring out my paper-work because it’s organized to suit me.

    [Reply]

  18. Jaclyn

    02/18/2013

    Ah just as I was about to sit down and relax for a few minutes and blog…i read this! GRR now i feel convicted about the basket of unsorted mail so I sorted it and then came back. I might not have time to blog today but that is ok! I have crossed a task off my list that has been there for about 2 weeks! Thanks for the encouragement!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well sorry to disrupt your blogging time Jaclyn! But I’m sure it feels great to have one more thing crossed off your list :)

    [Reply]

  19. Elizabeth

    02/18/2013

    I appreciate the encouragement you give on your blog.
    I, as some above stated, have quite a bit of organizing to do. Six children and 11+ years of homeschooling, added to my book-loving, paper-piling personality doesn’t exactly equal a stress-free, well-organized home.
    We have made good strides since the beginning of the year, letting go of lots of school-related books and paper, either through donations or the dumpster (we gave our trash man a tip ;).
    I have come to the realization that I don’t have to own everything that I may need someday, because that causes today to be unorganized and uninviting.

    Also, I would absolutely not appreciate someone “helping” me clean my house when I was out of town. Meal ministry and babysitting help would be a blessing, but cleaning…not so much. Just my .02.

    [Reply]

  20. Kim

    02/18/2013

    Great post! I have had the unexpected happen and family members and friends have had to come in help clean and care for my children. My house wasn’t bad, but it could have been better. I have been following your blog for over a year now and should the unexpected happen again, things would be in much better order thats for sure!

    [Reply]

  21. Caroline

    02/18/2013

    I wanted to preface by saying that I spent my day sorting through files. The system we’ve been using the past couple years just isn’t working anymore and I finally had a few days to tackle this project!

    [Reply]

  22. Kim

    02/19/2013

    We are teaching our kids all the time, so living in total chaos will be their normal and it’ll be hard for them to grow up without the added stress of never keeping track of anything. We have to teach our kids how to clean and pick up and care for their things. That said, my house is never clean enough but it is neat enough most of the time. Even my kids rooms. They each have their own laundry basket and when it’s full I do their laundry and they help put the clothes away, my 5 year old even helps start the laundry and fold it. Everything is a balance and it’s hard with 2 little kids and jobs, but I want them to have the best upbringing that I possibly can give them, in all areas of life.

    [Reply]

  23. Cindy

    02/19/2013

    Totally my fear and I am not prepared. I work full time but daddy stays at home while son goes to JK and daughter does toddler daycare 2 days a week. Which means they’re at home when I’m not… making a big mess. I can’t keep up with them at home and I need a week off work to even take a crack. I’m totally defeated because I’m the only one who cares. I’m working on getting my husband to understand we need to organize but he needs a whoopin! Do you offer that service? LOL

    [Reply]

    Brenda Reply:

    Does your husband do anything while he’s home? Do anything to help the house–clean or tidy-up, not watch tv, I mean. I have one of those hsbands who thinks that his days off are his to do whatever he wants. I constantly have to ask him to try to minimize the mess the kids make, even if he’s not going to clean it up. I feel your pain, it is a chore to work and try to keep things neat at home. Good Luck!

    When we had our son, some friends came over and cleaned our house (kitchen, living room and baths). It was nice and very appreciated. Just one thing to those who offer this service to their friends & family– think about where you put stuff ‘away.’ I had candles stashed in the cereal cupboard and all sorts of odd stuff in wierd places…. also, my mom was grateful too, she had planned to comeover the next day and help me clean.

    ps- I totally understood the point of your post. :~)

    [Reply]

    Cindy Reply:

    Well… he tidies up. But does not clean. Know what I mean? He’s great for groceries and cooking so I just do my best. :)
    If I give him a list of chores he does them so I’ve got that! And I don’t mean to come here and blab about him, I feel bad but I just feel I could use a back catcher at home more than I have. “Days off” Hahahaha! Mine thinks that’s what weekends are for too.

    [Reply]

  24. Becky

    02/19/2013

    I’ve been reading for a while and have found much that is helpful. I am often inspired to work a little harder to declutter and keep things in order and I’ve seen and used quite a few recipes (really love the veggie bake – yum!).

    There was something about the tone of this post that seems different to me, though. You have said it’s because a reader is just not understanding the post, but I don’t think that’s it. I read this before there were any comments and I said to my husband, “I really don’t like this one today. It’s a little much.” Maybe it was the use of the word “lazy.” I understand that you weren’t calling people with messy houses lazy, but there was just something about the tone of this one. I just think that, if multiple people are feeling this way about the post, maybe they’re on to something.

    Like Brenda, I totally understood the point of your post, too. And, I don’t think it’s that I’m feeling guilty or judged in this arena because I’m pretty sure I’m organized enough for someone to step in (love that automated billing and bulk shopping). I really am not trying to pile on, just point out that there may be more to the story than misunderstanding what you wrote.

    [Reply]

  25. Jane

    02/19/2013

    I’ve been following this blog for years. I didn’t notice a “tone”. Thanks for the post.

    [Reply]

  26. Megan C.

    02/19/2013

    I thought this was a great post. Sometimes people need to hear the truth directly and realize they need to get their act together.

    A elderly friend of mine passed away in December and listed me as his executor in his will. I cared for him until two years ago when we moved away. Thankfully, when I went back to his home, it was pretty-much how I had left it which made it easy for me to take care of his estate.

    None of us knows how long we will live. I, personally, would much rather have things in order for my own sake as well as whoever may have to take over where I leave off someday. Whenever there is a mess, someone, someday will have to go through it all and clean it up.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Megan — my mom is actually in the same situation as you (with one of her elderly relatives). This relative is extremely organized though, which is making it SO much easier for my mom.

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  27. Caitlin

    02/20/2013

    I have to agree with Becky that while I usually enjoy this blog very much, this post (and many of the comments) felt extremely judgmental. I agree that it is important to have your life in order enough for people to take care of the basics if you are incapacitated and understand that that was the point of the post. However, it also seemed to imply that if you are messy and disorganized and your friends come over to help and are overwhelmed, you are being selfish and inconsiderate toward them. That did not sit right with me at all. If you are going over to help a friend in a crisis, especially without being asked, how can you complain that she made it more difficult for you because of the way she lives her life?

    And the use of the word “lazy slob” was judgmental. Clutter and messiness can be the result of laziness, but there is also an emotional or even mental component to it for many people. Would their lives be easier or even of a better quality if they were more organized. Most likely yes. But scaring or shaming them into doing it isn’t going to work. And I definitely felt a tone of shaming in this post and the comments. And you said it yourself that many of your clients were extreme hoarders or shopping addicts. They are behaving in certain ways, not because they are lazy or extravagant. Rather, they are trying to fulfill a need in their life. Their method of coping might not be healthy or helpful, but they came to you for help with it. I would be mortified if someone I hired spoke of me in that way, even if in the vaguest terms.

    Again, I enjoy your blog, but felt the need to comment about this. As someone who struggles with clutter and works daily to overcome it, I read your blog for tips and inspiration. I will admit that I personally felt judged. And I fully understood the purpose of your post. I hope that you will consider the comments of those who were concerned by some aspects of this post. I believe you care about your clients and readers, and hope you will understand my point of view. Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Lee Cockrum Reply:

    I think you articulated what I was feeling better than I was able to do a few comments back. This is the only post that I have read in all the time I have been reading that made me feel as if this is not the blog for me. I am hoping that it is just a one time aberration, and I can get back to appreciating the recipes and implementing the ideas that work for me. Thanks so much for your comment.

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    Lisa Reply:

    A couple of things here:

    Please note that Andrea said “even a FEW downright lazy slobs”. She was not stating that everyone who has a messy house is a lazy slob. I agree with Andrea…there are some lazy slobs out there. I also agree with you that there are some people who have mental and emotional problems, and are coping in unhealthy ways (shopping, clutter-collecting, etc.). However, please remember that these people are still responsible for their actions.

    My father-in-law freely admits that he is a clutter-collector (he can’t throw anything away and will pick things out of the trash that we throw away for him), and says he “can’t help it.” But in the end, he is being selfish, because when he dies, guess who “gets to” sort through all his stuff? Am I being judgmental? I guess so. I’m judging that he is selfish as evidenced by his actions.

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    Lisa the Farm Lady Reply:

    Well spoken, Lisa!
    I never got anything “judgmental” from this post. Why is it that as soon as a blogger gets right down to the root of something and speaks the truth, there are super-oversensitive people who immediately comment that the post is judgmental?
    We’ve lived in our new house now for 4 years-myself, my hubby, and two teenage boys.
    I made the excuse EVERY DAY that because we live in the country (mud/dirt) have 4 dogs and lots of farm animals (fur and stinky) and because I worked outside the home till recently with an hour-long commute each way, that it was simply not possible for me to keep our house clean and get it organized.
    Well, I agree with Andrea here. I was acting like a lazy slob and on top of it all, I was blaming our surroundings and my loved ones (I know she didn’t say that, that’s just me sayin’) for the fact that our house was dirty and disorganized.
    Since I have found this blog, it has given me not only super-easy to implement cleaning and organizing ideas, but it’s also given me that extra prod in the bee-hind to stop making excuses and just take small steps cleaning and then getting everything into place. I can’t believe how far I’ve gotten in the 2 weeks since I started reading this blog!
    People need to be more open-minded and be willing to see/read another person’s point of view. Not immediately jump on things written in a post in a negative, over-sensitive way.
    Because doing so would be, you know, judgmental.

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  28. Cindy

    02/20/2013

    To follow up, last night WE tackled the unnecessary foot tall pile of papers on our kitchen counter! 1 purge down, 99 to go. I thank you for the prod! :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay — so glad you both got in on the organizing action! I’m sure it felt great to cross one project off your list! Progress… not perfection (keep reminding yourself of that).

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