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“Organization is not what you see in glossy magazines or on TV, despite the messages perpetrated therein it is not mastered by color-coordinated containers, prepackaged filing systems or someone coming in to do a “clean-sweep” on our clutter, just so we can go out and buy more stuff and have somewhere to put it. It‘s not about products or quick fixes. Organization is about living simply, paying attention to our actions, making conscious choices. Simplifying our lives, restoring balance and meaning, feeling connected. …These are the core of being organized. This sense of connection and meaning is what we hunger for and mistakenly try to fill with things.”

Definition by Claire Josefine - Spiritual Art of Being Organized

The Big Why ~ Organizers move from back door to front door

I figured out early in life what makes people happy. Give them a space that feels good to be in, is orderly so they are not frustrated trying to find stuff, and get them to figure out what’s important to them. I thought growing up that Interior design best suited these innate abilities, but I was proved wrong when I pursued a degree. What I didn’t realize then was that a new industry called “Professional Organizers” was about to be birthed, but that I would be in my mid-life when it came knocking at my door. When I heard the knock, I recognized it immediately and became a member of the National Association for Professional Organizers (NAPO).

The industry of professional organizing is truly unique. Organizers deal with the most intimate of life’s details. In my early organizing experiences, I began to witness my client’s consumer habits and a shifting mindset that was invading their struggles. Our society measures the health of our economy by how much we spend, and generally believes that more is better.  Yet it’s important to understand that it’s not about the amount of stuff – but the quality of the stuff and how it relates to our lives – that really matters. Clutter robs and steals all life from a room and those who occupy it. Clutter robs you of peace-of-mind. When you are constantly thinking about what to do with the stuff, it keeps you from thinking thoughts that can bring joy.  I also believe that it robs you of the blessings God wants to bring into your life.

In one of my defining moments as a professional organizer, I was called upon to help a 9/11 widow take care of her late husband’s personal effects. I knew that managing the emotions of this particular client would be difficult, but my hope was to maneuver his stuff sufficiently to allow her to move on with her life. Discarding and donating his items, however, was more involved than I could have imagined. Among the hats, record albums, tools, sports memorabilia, fireman articles and clothes, lived an incredible tie to memories.

Together, we ensured that the items that held the fondest memories received honor and respect, without relegating her home to be merely a memorabilia storage bin. We decided to create several shadow boxes to display the most prized artifacts, allowing her to hold onto that which mattered most – his memory – and giving her the ability to heal the trauma and to let go of all the other stuff.

Organization is truly transformative. When we take our clients out of the “stuff” mindset and help them see their possessions in relation to their life as a whole, then they can finally identify the things they want and need to hold on to. Early on in my sessions, I ask my clients to visualize themselves with their stuff. Every response illustrates them in the middle and the stuff surrounding them. No wonder they feel like they are suffocating, drowning or paralyzed by their clutter. With eyes still closed I ask them to move the stuff from around them to now on either side of them, like a road. They are now in the middle of that road and the stuff represents their lives of yesterday. Ahead of them is a clear road free of distractions and the weight the clutter has piled on them. They can either decide to keep the stuff with them; tying them down, or they can begin to lighten their load on their path. When they begin to see that they have a choice on their life’s journey, they are more wiling to understand their true relationship with stuff. It forces one to look not at the quantity at one’s stuff but at the quality of one’s relationship and one’s life. For me, that is the goal I want my clients to chase and for me that is true organization.

Our homes directly represent our lives – and if we let stuff get in the way, our health and our happiness suffers for it. The power of stuff is one we need to respect. If we give the power over to the stuff, then the stuff or clutter owns us. Our stuff becomes nothing more than clutter but if we can control it, we can change our lives, our communities – even our world – for the better.

 

 

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Dear Amy-

We are happy to write you about Eileen Koff.

Both of us are musicians and teachers; Dorothea Cook is a violinist who teaches in the Community Music Programs at Stony Brook University, at the Knox School, and has a private violin teaching studio; Peter Winkler is a composer and professor in the music department at Stony Brook.

We live in an old house filled with the residue of many years of family life. We had read many books about organizing, but we really needed the hands-on experience of working with a wise and thoughtful professional to turn our good intentions into reality.

We met Eileen Koff at an open house at Innovative Nutrition, the health store in Setauket, and quickly decided that she was what we had been looking for.

Eileen doesn't do your organizing for you. She is a teacher, and a very good one.

One of her important lessons is that it's not just about organizing things. We are learning from her that to be organized, you have to understand yourself, your values, what you love, and what your true priorities are. Sorting all that out isn't always easy, and it can require some serious soul-searching.

The organizing process involves both tangible and intangible things; it involves time-management as well as decisions about what to throw out, what to keep, and where things go.

Like all good teachers, Eileen can sometimes makes you a bit uncomfortable, as she challenges your old habits and ways of doing things. But as she says, it takes the eyes of a stranger to help you see your surroundings as they truly are.

The transformation of our house will not happen overnight, but Eileen is teaching us skills that we will be using for many years to come. Best,

-- Dorothea Cook and Peter Winkler