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Decrease Clutter and Decrease Stress - Arrange For a Helper

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Expert Author Meggin McIntosh

Some tasks are better done alone - and other tasks, jobs, and projects need the assistance of others.  Getting REALLY serious about decluttering (especially if it has been neglected or procrastinated) is an excellent time to access others' help.  Getting help can involve hiring a professional organizer or enlisting the help of a friend, family member, or colleague.  Let's look at these two options. 

If you really want to get serious about clearing out your clutter and moving to a less stressful life - and doing so quickly, professionally, and with a minimum of emotion, then you are wise to hire a professional organizer.  If this is the choice you make, be sure to check out the qualifications and experience of your professional organizer.  Make sure that person's expertise is complementary to your needs. Ask as many questions as you need to so that you are getting the answers and information you need.  You should also expect the organizer to ask you a lot of questions.  It's not unusual for an organizer to ask the potential client MORE questions than the client asks of the organizer.  If you call an organizer and he/she doesn't ask you any questions, that's a red flag.   The real professional organizers know how to find out what you need and want vs. just foisting something on you that they have to sell.

Even if you decide not to hire a professional organizer, hire SOMEONE and make it clear what you expect of him or her.  For example, do you want her hauling out the recycling? Do you want him taking things to the shredder? Do you want her to make sure you have plenty of water and snacks so you can keep up your energy? Do you want him to keep bringing piles from around the room over to your desk? Do you want her typing on the computer while you call out the names of files?  There are all sorts of possibilities and the better the two of you can come to some agreement, the smoother will go the day - and the more satisfactory will be the outcome of your joint efforts. 

Teenagers, college students, or neighbors could all be possibilities as helpers. Be careful about asking a friend only because your friend may or may not 'push you' and you may feel uncomfortable asking a friend to do certain tasks - as if you're imposing. That's why hiring a young person is really great - they want to earn the money! Oh, and from what I've heard from some of my friends who have teenagers living in their house - hiring your own kids may or may not be the greatest idea, depending on their attitude. So don't assume that the best help lives in your house!  On the other hand, here is a story that a professor (who also manages a lab) emailed me about her experience:

My 15 and 19 year-old daughters made labels for my boxes and I have hired the 19-year old, my college student/daughter to help me de-clutter a lab.  Although I took your warning about hiring one's child seriously, it is currently working out - she knows me so well! Also I printed out the document on ridding one's space of clutter and asked her to read it. Much to my surprise, she read the document and is following the advice to the letter. The kids had great fun making the labels and even shredded the edges of the "Shred" lab. They made fun of me in the "...But I might category" as they see this as my most serious weakness. The problem I am dealing with is that I have become a full-time administrator and as a result of a move, I have let my lab space become cluttered with detritus from teaching and research. I am now trying to de-clutter so that I can once again have student researchers work productively in the space.

So, don't delay.  Get someone to help you, either by accessing a professional organizer (National Association of Professional Organizers - or write down the name of someone you know who would be happy to help you with this project.  Then give that person a 

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(c) 2009 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph.D. of Productivity"(tm). Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do. Sound interesting? It is!

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