When Organizing Becomes Very Personal

Posted on: September 10th, 2016 by Jana Hartwell | No Comments

When Organizing Becomes Very Personal

A year ago today (Aug. 26, 2015), my 90-year old father died of congestive heart failure. My six siblings and I found out about his death, two days later. We had just received a copy of his very first completed Will just 5 days before. I was named Executor. Organizing, for me, had just become very personal.

2015-06-03-18-51-37Survived by my father was his sweet, almost 89-yr-old wife of the past 33 years; I was also asked to become her Power of Attorney & Guardian. Our StepMom suffered from a recently broken pelvis, dementia and other chronic health problems. Just a week before my Dad died, she had also lost her last remaining sibling. Just two years before, her twin sister died and her brother-in-law (my father’s best friend) passed a few months before that. My StepMom was traumatized, fragile, vulnerable and quite confused.

The past year, my life as I knew it changed dramatically. Instead of thoroughly enjoying my successful, full-time business helping others reduce clutter, get organized and be more productive, I focused almost solely on managing a very complicated probate situation.

Since my Dad and StepMom resided in Nashville, TN for the past 30 years, it was necessary for me (and sometimes another sibling) to fly back there at least six times within seven months in order to clear out their home. And yes… they were hoarders! Tidy hoarders (except for one room), but nevertheless, “savers”. Many vital documents were mixed with old Publisher’s Clearinghouse mailings, letters from family or friends, newsletters from various associations, boxes of receipts and bank statements dating back more than 30 years and many other random, sentimental items. Few of their papers were organized so when all was said and done, I must have sorted through over 200 full boxes of just papers. This excludes the many rooms of other household items to be classified and dealt with.

After clearing out their home, it had to be prepared for sale. Once their home was sold, a rental home in Florida needed to be cleared out and sold as well. This home had been rented for the past 10 years by some Level 5 hoarders who also collected many animals. Imagine that mess and add to it thousands of fleas and roaches. The renters skipped town, leaving many of their furnishings and left us with a very expensive clean-out project.

Needless to say… for the past year, I have been quite busy with some very high-level organizing responsibilities. But not for you, my clients. For my family; my deceased father; my abandoned, now almost 90-yr-old StepMom. As a result, my business has been neglected, which means many of you have been neglected! For this I apologize and deeply regret.

My monthly writings to you have also been put on the back-burner. Many other things and people in my life have been pushed aside. Because of an intense focus on managing estate duties, even areas of my home had become neglected and yes, disorganized! Most importantly, I have neglected caring for myself as well as I should have. Especially core physical fitness.

I’m writing you to confess. To let you know that I, too, know what it is like to feel completely and utterly overwhelmed. To feel alone sometimes with my clutter (mental, emotional and physical). To walk into a room that beckons me to tend to the project there, turn around, walk away and sometimes even crawl into bed with fatigue caused by depression. These are real byproducts of grief.

Grief, depression and clutter are bedfellows. One often causes and/or accelerates the others. Sometimes it may feel you might never crawl out of the dark hole. But you will. If you reach out and ask for help. Admit that you cannot do it all alone, all the time. Admit that sometimes you just need another human (and God) to be your strength when you can’t find it within.

So get in touch with me, especially if you can relate to what I’ve written today. I’ve been there. I’m crawling out and can feel the warm sunshine on my hopeful face. And there is always hope.

My joy is in helping others with the natural gifts and earned skills I possess. And I know that helping others is integral to my healing. For the benefit of us both, I invite you to invite me back into your space again. Or forward this to a friend you believe can benefit from some sensible organizing solutions.