NOTE: this is actually a picture of my house when we moved bedrooms around this summer!
Working as a professional organizer for many years, I’m sure you can imagine some of the sights I’ve seen!
While I’d never disclose personal information, I can definitely tell you that I have seen my share of extreme hoarders, shopping addicts, perfectionists whose homes are in disarray because they can’t do anything perfectly enough, and busy families who continually put things off until “later” — without any knowledge or plan as to when “later” might be!
I was always surprised by how the majority of my clients lived in complete chaos, under piles and piles of clutter, with no rhyme or reason to anything. Even the homes that looked nice and neat from the front door often had so much stuff shoved in drawers, closets, and cabinets to keep it out of sight that it took forever to find anything they needed.
I’m not saying this to judge or belittle these people, I’m saying this because it’s the truth — I’ve seen it over and over again with my own 2 eyes, and I doubt my past organizing clients are the only disorganized people in the world!
Clutter and disorganization are huge issues in today’s society… and while it might seem that the clutter inside YOUR OWN home is YOUR OWN business (nothing for others to be concerned with) I’m sharing today’s post because there are too many situations when the clutter in YOUR home becomes someone else’s problem.
As you’ll read below, there are many unfortunate (and often unexpected) situations when 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 completely disorganized, there’s a good chance the people who are trying to help won’t be able to.
Are YOU Organized for the Unexpected?
The following is an email from a reader that I originally shared in February of 2013, but want to share again.
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 babysat 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 disorganized 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.
Something to think about for sure!
Based on a recent conversation with friends AND the fact that many of us are getting organized for the New Year and compiling our paperwork and other important documents for tax season, I thought it was important to re-share this email from 5 years ago.
The “older” I get and the more children I have, the more crucial it feels for me to be organized “just in case” something unexpected happens to me, to Dave, to our children, to our house, etc. etc.
No, I do not live in fear of the “what-ifs”, I don’t constantly expect something bad to happen to me or to my family, and I don’t let worry or anxiety get the best of me. But I DO try to be prepared, just in case something unexpected does happen.
The intent of this post is NOT to scare you or make you feel unprepared, but rather to encourage you to honestly evaluate your life and your home… and consider what you could do NOW to help alleviate some of the stress that too often accompanies unexpected events in life.
Personally, I feel so much better knowing 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 keep our home relatively organized, anyone would be able to find almost anything they needed to keep things running “as normal” (Nora could probably even do much of it herself!)
The most important thing for me has always been to have our important papers organized and in one place — financial information, Will, Trust, and Power of Attorney information, usernames and passwords, important contact people and numbers, medical information for the kids, etc. etc.
Several years ago, I shared how we store and organize our family’s important paperwork “just in case” something would ever happen to Dave or to me. This single binder of information has given me so much peace of mind, and it has actually come in handy several times already.
If you want to do just ONE thing, I would highly recommend creating your own binder of important information (you can even use my free template to get started!)
Of course, my main motivation to keep my home neat and orderly is simply my own satisfaction and comfort. However, there are definitely times when I’m in the middle of a mini organizing project and I think to myself, “would this make sense if someone else had to run my home?”
Like I mentioned above, I do NOT live my life wondering and worrying about all the bad things that could potentially happen, but it is comforting to know I’m as prepared as I can be IF something unexpected were to happen.
And in the event that nothing unexpected ever happens to us, we will simply enjoy living a more organized life in a more organized home!