Organization and Motherhood: 5 Lessons from Working with a Professional Organizer

I have a lifelong love-hate relationship with organizing. I love organizing clothes. I hate organizing papers. I love to be organized, but it’s hard to sit still long enough to keep up with my systems. When I get stressed and overwhelmed, all attempts of organization go out the window, which ultimately leads to more stress and overwhelmedness. I can’t stand piles of clutter and I want my surfaces to be clear, but I am notorious for just tucking things away instead of actually dealing with the problem. If the kids make a mess in the playroom, I shut the door. If I don’t want to look at a pile of papers, I put it in a drawer or basket. This is fine in the short term, but it’s not a long-term solution. This so-called system allows things to build up and then the job becomes overwhelming.

So, a few months ago, I jumped at the opportunity to work with a professional organizer. I dreamed of the picture-perfect home she would help me achieve. For a minute, I forgot that I still have children at home and they clearly do not share this goal.

Before the professional organizer arrived, I was nervous, but excited. I made the appointment with enough time to clean in advance. I just couldn’t bear the thought of her seeing my house in a disorganized state even though it’s her job. After she arrived, she took a quick scan and asked me how she could help. I showed her my systems and she immediately offered some practical solutions. She also gave me a deadline and motivation to overcome procrastination and deal with some messes.

She encouraged me in my (never-ending) journey toward organization, and I also learned a few things about being a mom.

1. Recognizing differences makes us better moms.

Whatever our personal gifts are, they make us unique and help us while we raise our unique children. The organizer accurately recognized me as a visual person, and she adapted the organizing approach to suit my needs. As moms, we do the same thing. We recognize our children’s different strengths, personalities, and needs, and we adjust our parenting for them.

2. It’s OK to ask for help.

We know it takes a village, but I often put pressure on myself to do everything on my own. Just like it was OK to hire someone to re-evaluate my organizing systems, it’s OK to ask other moms for insight into parenting. “Been there, done that” moms offer a priceless support system and a different point of view. Ultimately, we will do what we think is best, but we are certainly not failing if we ask for help.

3. We focus on what is most important to us.

Our time and efforts illustrate our priorities. For years, I have set a goal to organize my entire house from top to bottom. But when it comes down to it, I just don’t want to make myself do the task. I want the result without the effort. But I do put the effort into other things—and those things are obviously my true priorities. As moms, we put our efforts into the things that are truly important with our kids. Those are our parenting priorities. And that is totally fine.

4. We can learn and change.

Parenting is the biggest on-the-job training we could ever have. And every day we learn and grow. I was so happy to learn that organization is a learned skill. It mostly consists of a series of steps and habits that ultimately lead to a change in how we live. The same is true of parenting. As moms, we are a work in progress. If there is an area we want to improve upon, we can work toward it.

5. We don’t have to clean first.

Sometimes as moms, we are guilty of “cleaning” first. But we don’t have to. It’s OK to be honest about the struggles we have and to lean on our community for support. Life is messy sometimes. We need trusted people in our lives who can help us through our messes. Authenticity comes from allowing someone else to help us when we have a hard time getting it together. And then we can do the same for them.

I’m still waiting on my perfectly organized home, but I will keep chipping away at it. Just like parenting, it’s going to be a process. My kids will be gone before I know it, so I’m going to focus on them. In the meantime, I’ll be shutting the door to the playroom.

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