March 4, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Reflections on Sheltering in Place—I’m Back!

I’m back—back at work in homes where clients’ feel comfortable having me present with mask, gloves and proper social distancing. I’m back to being excited about my day knowing that I am making positive changes in my clients’ lives. I’m back to juggling my calendar and prioritizing my time.

I spent the past three months on the phone, calling family, friends, colleagues and clients. Some of my calls were to people I have not spoken to in over 15 years. Their names were still in my database, and I remembered positive things about them, so I called. We chatted, laughed and reminisced. I am grateful for the free time to be able to make these calls.

I started with a database of 1800 names and when I was done I removed over 900 names that were cluttering my phone, preventing me from connecting with Bluetooth quickly when I start my car and need to make a call right away. Some of the contacts I had no interest in reaching out to, could not remember who they were or had a flash of negative vibes that I did not want to connect to. They were deleted. I only made it to the Ws. Now that I am back to work, the likelihood of my getting through W-Z is slim.

What is the point of all this chatter? Things changed, and so did my focus. While sheltering in place I felt a strong desire to get back in touch by phone as well as participate in Zoom calls for morning minyan, educational or networking meetings and social calls. With no purpose to get up for, I made a point of creating purpose. I filled my days with pleasant conversation along with home organizing projects and daily walks.

And speaking of home organizing projects—Don and I accomplished a lot. Together we sorted, de-cluttered and organized the laundry room, linen closet, basement, work bench, bathroom storage and Jason’s room. We had a junk hauler remove old furniture, and we are shopping online for new window treatments in three rooms.

I hear the same feedback from everyone I speak to. Having been forced to stay home these past few months has compelled us to deal with tasks that we have been meaning to get to, as well as acknowledging our frustration with our unwanted stuff.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I always ask clients, “Do you want this mess to be your legacy?”

Last week I worked in a home where the owner died last year. It took seven trucks, a crew of six from the junk hauler along with me to clean out the house.

All the decisions about her stuff that should have been hers became mine to make. The dishes, glassware, linens, clothing, shoes, photos, decorative items, record albums, cassettes, letters and postcards…all tossed. I found checkbooks from an old family business from 1950 through 1970. I found keys to cars that were long gone. And the tons of chemicals and paint in the garage, some of them in cans that sounded like they turned to solids after years of sitting there.

We hold on for comfort while we surround ourselves with visual chaos. Once that visual chaos is gone, it opens our world to space that we did not know we had. It’s not an invitation to fill it with more stuff. Now is the time to enjoy the clarity of no clutter and feel free of being responsible or feeling guilty that we have not taken better care of it or should have used it more.

As Don and I worked on our many projects together, there were moments when Don said to me, “Eileen, really? You want to keep this? WHY???” I get it, it’s hard to part with our sentimental stuff. When I walk into my laundry room, it feels so much bigger and brighter even though we did not paint. Our basement appears more inviting. The linen closet and bathroom storage is visually pleasing and accessible.

It’s not too late for you to begin your organizing journey.

Happy Organizing!


Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer and a proud member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). Eileen is listed in the resource directory for the Hoarding Disorder Resource and Training Group. Eileen may be reached at 973-303-3236 or [email protected].

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