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Many people I talk to have never heard of professional organizing. If they have, they often associate it with getting rid of clutter, filing papers, or bringing order into the chaos of closets, kitchens, and basements.

It can indeed be all these things, but organizing can be so much more. Below are examples of projects I have worked on over the years. Hopefully, they’ll show you how many different ways WholeLife Organizing can help people in varied situations and life circumstances. The names of some clients have been fictionalized to preserve confidentiality. Situations are authentic.

After Illness and Death

While her husband struggled with cancer for nearly a year, Julia was barely able to manage much more than caring for him and showing up for work. After her husband died Julia was faced with mountains of unopened mail, dozens of household projects waiting to be handled, writing thank you notes to the hundreds of people who attended the funeral, as well as taking over matters related to her husband’s business, which had accumulated for over a year.

Over the course of almost two years we sorted through and handled large baskets full of business and household files, medical bills and insurance forms, notices from collection agencies and the IRS bills waiting to be paid. We dealt with estate, tax, legal and other financial matters. Julia created poster-size to-do lists and together we methodically addressed each item slowly and surely. Today she is able to keep up with current projects on her own.

After the Fire

Linda and Ned had a fire in their 5-bedroom home. While the fire did not fully destroy much of their home or belongings, the smoke damage was severe, and they had to vacate and completely empty their home so it could be repaired. In the process, they had to go through every item they owned (including those belonging to four children who were still storing things at the house) and decide what to keep, clean, or claim.

The project consisted of helping them figure out how to make these decisions in short periods of time. In the process, we had to itemize everything necessary for filing claims with the insurance company and find ways of disposing of what needed to be discarded. I helped with the research necessary for submitting claims, preparing other accounting paperwork, organizing two moves as they went from one temporary home to another. Given my preference to find “good homes” for anything that can possibly be recycled or reused in some fashion, I was able to donate several very large bags of pillows, blankets, and towels to a local veterinary clinic that desperately needed such items for recently rescued dogs. I’m now firmly convinced of the value of creating an inventory of one’s belongings.

Better Late Than Never

Bob had not filed taxes in 7 years. He was convinced he was due only refunds, so did not feel concerned about accumulating penalties. He was also in the habit – when company was coming – of putting whatever was “out” into a box and throwing the box into one room in his house.

He was ready to change his habits so he could feel better about himself and create a more pleasing environment for his fiancée, who was considering living with him. He wanted to start by filing his taxes, which meant going through all the boxes that had accumulated in his room (at least 30) and patiently sorting through them to gather the relevant materials. He was finally able to file his taxes and got almost $12,000 in refunds – and we created a viable system to use for future tax years!

Blessing the Garden

Elizabeth and Robert were planning to sell their house and move to another part of the state. She hired me to help her pack her most precious belongings and get the house ready to show. Her realtor wanted her to remove all the personal touches so a prospective client could come into a more neutral, still pleasing environment.

Elizabeth was very sad about leaving the house in which she had lived for 22 years. I suggested we create a ritual of letting go. During the ritual we walked all around her yard and one by one she acknowledged every plant in the garden, all that had given her joy over the years in the space around her. As a result of the ritual she felt ready to move. Three days later the house sold.

Losing Sleep

Michael is a successful, high-level executive in one of this country's top financial services companies. He wanted help because he was waking up in the middle of the night, remembering something he was supposed to have done that day which he didn't do. He was realizing how quickly he was losing control over many aspects of his work life and was concerned about how he was disappointing his colleagues and employees. He needed help with managing his time, tasks, billing, email, delegating, and the like.

We did an initial assessment during which I evaluated all his "systems." I sent him a report of our session, including an analysis and recommendations. He was immediately able to implement two significant improvements in his routine. He created an "out box" into which he would put everything he wanted to give to his assistant. We also created a protocol that would help him with his billing and tracking of reimbursable expenses. Seemingly simple but effective solutions are often hard to discover when you’re in the thick of things.

Selling the Store

A local restaurant and grocery store owner was ready to sell her business and move out of the area. She didn’t know how to do this. She hired me to help her figure it out. I helped her clarify the steps she needed to take; found someone to do a valuation; prepared her books and financial records for prospective buyers; wrote a prospectus; served as a sounding board for various issues that came up throughout the process and facilitated brainstorming meetings. She was able to sell the store to ideal new owners.