INTERACTIONS–The First Work Session

The phone call was made. The consultation has occurred. Now there are lingering concerns about what happens during the Interactions – The First Work Session with Jill Lawrence, CPO-CD® .

You can link directly to clusters of questions under each underlined link below. Then you can either scroll through to other clusters or hit “Back to Top” to return here and link again to another spot. Note that the 4 main subsections of Q & A remain on the left sidebar.

Pushiness “Will you make me get rid of things?”
Confiding “Will you talk about me to other people?”
Emotions “How do I stop if I am uncomfortable?”
Regrets “What if I regret donating something?”
Backsliding “What if I stop having sessions, backslide, and want to start up later?”
Focusing “Do you have any tips to keep me hopeful and focused?”
Success “Can you share some client success stories to pump me up?”

Pushiness: “Will you make me get rid of things?”

There will not be any bossy battles like you may have seen on a silly cable TV organizing show. If something is truly meaningful, unique, representative of a specific person or has an important memory attached to it – it should be kept and honored.

Sometimes, though, things are handed down or inherited that the recipients feel guilty about parting with – even though they don’t like the object or the memory. Jill will help ease you into making the decision that is right for you and your space.

In the Photo Diary, the client talks about her perspective on things to keep or not and Jill's responses.

Confiding: “Will you keep my confidences and not tell other people?”

A lot of Jill’s clients know each other – they refer her to friends or family. Sometimes, a mutual friend like a hairdresser provides the connection between Jill and a new client. No back stories or information are ever shared with others. A simple statement of “yes, we’re doing well and making fine progress” is the extent of what is said.

In instances where a story is non-identifiable (i.e., no names, locations or descriptions of jobs are given out), Jill will sometimes encourage a newer client by saying, “I had a client a few years back who had a similar problem to yours and we did this and this is the success that they had.” This is for the purpose of support and encouragement and is totally anonymous.

Emotions: “How do I stop if I am uncomfortable?”

Please stop and say, “I’m feeling badly right now – scared? mad? upset? – can we move to another room or I need to stop working on my dad’s stuff because it’s making me too sad – can you work on your own for a little while on the linen closet? Possibly you might take a break or we both might take a snack or meal break (Jill’ brings her own food and eating time is off-the-clock.)

Sometimes clients need to rant and rave about something for a few minutes or cry for a bit to release the tension that may come up in the process. Not everyone has a strong emotional response, but some people do and it helps to let it out and let it pass.

If the source of any of these upsetting emotions is anything that was said or done by Jill, just let her know so she can avoid doing it again or can find a better way to do it.

Sometimes a certain box of items will be set aside to either work on later or to take to a session with a therapist who can help you process the emotions that are connected with those box contents.

Regrets: “What if I regret donating something?”

This is such an interesting question because probably the vast majority of clients are worried about this beforehand. What’s interesting is that after nearly a decade and a half of work, only one person ever said she missed one thing – a dress. But when asked further, she didn’t miss it a lot – and having a closet of well-organized clothes in flattering colors and styles that actually fit was of far greater value than the minor regret over the one dress!!

Here’s an example of what the sorting process is like when organizing a clothes closet with Jill. Basic categories are gathered first (like slacks, suits, sweaters, jackets, blouses, jeans, sweats, t-shirts) before any focused downsizing occurs. So, rather than repeatedly asking you, “Do you want this, do you need this, do you use this??” with each item as it appears, you wait and look at items within a category and can compare style, quality, color, fit, condition, etc. easily.

Downsizing with Jill-of-all-Trades is not done impulsively on a whim in the midst of a “rush to judgment.” In fact, when a client gets too vigorous and quick with donating or trashing, Jill will step in to rescue items that can have a future use in the household. The overall goal is balance and thoughtful decision-making that won’t come back to haunt you!

Backsliding “What if I stop having sessions, backslide, and want to start up later?”

Most people are able to maintain the changes once the area systems are in place. This is because the storage layout with easy, open, visible access is designed to be simple and memorable. The training and the habit changes have been gradually absorbed throughout the sessions.

But yes, sometimes backsliding does occur. Here are some of the causes.

Cause 1. Crisis
Sometimes people are consumed by a crisis (health, family, work, friend, move etc.) that draws their attention away from the organizing goal and then things go awry.

Cause 2. Non-completion of Systems
Also, people are likely to backslide after a few sessions of surface clearing has taken place but before the storage systems are set up. Simply organizing the top clutter without clearing out closets and drawers and setting up specific areas for storage zones for each category is quite naturally destined for backsliding.

Cause 3. Shopping
Another reason for backsliding is shopping. A few clients who shop in stores or on QVC or eBay – or who subscribe to dozens of magazines and newsletters may find that even when organized, they can’t keep up with processing all the “incoming.”

Slowing the inflow is part of the ratio that leads to a balanced, organized life. Jill recommends the following mantra –

“I am no longer in the Import Business, I am in the Export Business!!”

Fixing Backsliding
Dealing with the anxiety that comes up at the thought of stopping the shopping or the magazines can be helped through cognitive-behavioral therapy or clutter support groups. For information on these helpful aids, check out the Resources section. Yoga and meditation have also given support for people trying to find relief.

But, if backsliding happens, please call or email Jill-of-all-Trades. Please don’t be embarrassed if time has elapsed between sessions and things are in a tangle. Just take a breath and let it go. Sometimes backsliding happens.

Learning about the root causes of the problem in each situation and practicing habit changes helps to maintain the progress.

Focusing: “Do you have any tips to keep me on the path to the organized life?”

Are you already feeling uncomfortable in your so-called “Comfort Zone”of clutter? Has it stopped feeling safe and protective, and now seems more like it’s suffocating you?

Can you release rebellion and welcome some structure into your life in order to be free of constant stress? Structure is not the enemy of freedom. Imagine a dancer with no spine, or ink with no pen...

Yes, emotions will be a part of the process of breaking out of the shell of clutter and stretching and getting free. You may alternatively feel fear, elation, anger, or pride. Take time to notice the fear or self-blame and just breathe deeply and let it slide through you and then re-focus on your goal.

A great goal and vision is far more powerful than momentary fears and will win every time if you let it.

A “Mantra” for Balancing –
“I give up my attachment to frantic adrenaline rushes. I willingly embrace peace and calm as the centers of my life.”

A “Mantra” for Refocusing –
“My clutter does not bring me joy.
My treasures do.
Decluttering uncovers my treasures (both material and social) to bring me joy.”

Remember –
The organizing process is not about loss. It’s about finding and welcoming missing and precious “old friends” that have been hidden under layers for many years.

Some “friends” are photos, clothes, jewelry, art, mementos.
Other “ friends” are human and animal – now there’s time for them!!

Success “Can you share some client success testimonials to pump me up?”

Here are some Client Success Stories. You can do this too!!

“Dear Jill,
It is almost impossible to articulate my feelings. Without being dramatic – I feel you can’t put a price on what you are doing – because you are saving my life! In so doing – it probably will enhance – if not save – my son and my parents lives, as well.

Your professionalism, integrity, graciousness, kindness and competency is rare in this day and age. You obviously are doing something with a passion and truly have a gift and truly want to help and teach a person to help themselves.

I truly feel blessed I “found” you! You are real; you are brilliant; you are great! When I “grow up” – I would like to be just like you!!!”
R.H., mom and caretaker of parents, Ballston, Virginia

“Hi Jill,
Here’s a rundown of what I accomplished on my list after you left according to our plan:
Albums and books moved downstairs, partitioned shelves moved upstairs and music from on top of the piano placed on shelves...Red couch and large coffee table moved into office (fabulous – might keep coffee table after all!). Cleaning people did all floors, dusting, windows, bathrooms, kitchen, vacuumed furniture. I took slipcovers to be laundered; have researched, but not settled on new toilets. I have an antique guy coming to look at all the little tables and some other pieces that need to be repaired/appraised. I’ve assembled things that need to be framed and have a call into a framer...Off to get the girls.”

L.S., newly divorced mom of 2 and craftsperson, Cabin John, Maryland

“In the old days, all my papers went into a black hole. Now, with the color-coded file pocket system we set up a couple of years ago, getting my expenses together at tax time was a piece of cake. Because we built a foundation, I was able to find everything in spite of starting at the last possible moment!”
P.I., graphic artist, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

“Hey Jill,
Well, some months have gone by and I wanted to let you know how I’m doing. I got my real estate license and
I got a new job in April. It’s the perfect job. After breaking up with my boyfriend, I started meditating and working with a personal trainer. I am tuned in on physical, mental and emotional levels. I lost 25 pounds and the gym picked me to do my extreme workout on YouTube!”
L.P., twenty-something new real estate agent, Alexandria, Virginia


I was working along and thought of you because I was doing some research for a partner, and using some Jill Lawrence tricks as I was organizing the articles for him! I’ve continued to maintain a pretty orderly house, and can now touch my toes in forward bend in yoga!

Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated all of your time, patience, help, and positive energy. Things in my house are pretty much under control at the moment, which I’m hoping to maintain. Thanks so much. I’m also happy to serve as a reference if you ever need that. Take care,”
L.B., non-profit activist attorney, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC

“I’m such a good little student. Here I am a 44-year-old guy and I’m a new convert to organizing. I’m hooked. My new hobby in life is organization. Instead of going to a spa, I go to Office Depot to pick out organizing stuff because it’s fun. I actually have the ability to absorb your gift!”
L.Z., international foundation director, Dupont East, Washington, DC

“We were just sitting here praising you. It’s amazing the peace and serenity that order promotes. Even the cats are happier. It’s just really wonderful the freedom and the peace as a result of your intervention. I can put my hands on everything. I can just breathe. I’m dancing in the kitchen!”
L.C and M.E., consultant and international banking executive, Mid City, Washington, DC


On Results of Organizing Work:
“I was delighted with everything we did and you know, I haven’t missed a thing!”
S.Z., government manager, Washington, DC

On a Description of Jill’s Work Process:
“Jill arrives with tables, folders, collapsible trash “thing” and a myriad of organizing tools, like a whirlwind (she does LOVE colorful outfits) and with a constant stream of energy attacks disorganization like a miracle drug attacks cancer.”

“She works with you to develop a system that works for your lifestyle and organizing ‘disabilities.’ She also has a talent for quickly assessing closets, drawers, etc. and making quick, insightful and simple suggestions that improve accessibility and organization.”
M.P., IT Biotech management, Glover Park, Washington, DC



















On Building a Trust Relationship with Jill:
“It’s wonderful to find a non-judgmental person I can talk to and trust – someone who’s not a psychiatrist or in a support group. With you I feel very comfortable to talk about anxiety. This kind of trust helps the real healing take place.”
M.E, banking management, NE, Washington, DC


On Mental Health Improvement from Organizing:
“Because of lack of structure, I have not been able to find personal documents or pay bills in a timely manner for years. I suffered for too long in my personal life, buying many how-to books and working with a therapist on not beating myself up for being so disorganized. Your 2008 organizing service creating a home office and custom file system was for my mental health and I hope with the help of my doctor and my tax accountant to be able to claim it as a medical expense. I have an appointment with another doctor who prescribes Ritalin and an antidepressant to me and we are going to discuss how, with your help, I no longer feel hopeless and lost. I couldn’t have done it without you!”
L.R., contracts negotiator, Tenleytown, Washington, DC

On a Confessional with no Penance:
“It’s like a confessional – but with no penance – and plenty of earthly rewards!!”
C.T., corporate management, Arlington, Virginia










On Staying on Track but not being Perfect:
“I’m doing very well with my clothes. I’ve gotten into a pattern of draping them over a chair at night and then hanging them up the next morning at the same time I am fetching my new wardrobe for the day. I was so happy to be free of the chaos that I’ve been able to keep up with the systems you’ve initiated, for the most part. The most helpful invention of yours is the closet with the shelves that Nelson made. I am keeping up with putting my purchases away in all the easy to use, topless, plastic bins. What a wonderful system I have there!

I do have a few items (not clothes) on the floor of my bedroom, but they’re limited to the corner and I will get around to them at some point. I also have the table you donated for my bedroom covered with papers, but they’re not very high and they’re neatly stacked. I can find what I need. I’m not perfect, but I am able to get to what I need which is really the point anyway. Onward and upward!”
...Thanks so much for all the wonderful help you are, Jill! I miss working with you.”

E.H., government personnel, Alexandria, Virginia









On Getting Focused to Stay Focused:
“My room is still neat and orderly, which is a huge accomplishment. I’ve discovered that I can do much more focused work-at-home sessions in my bedroom (in my big chair) now that I really like being in my room. It feels so good to know I can feel proud of, not ashamed of my room when my friend comes to stay this week.”
S.R., hospice manager, Gaithersburg, Maryland