I was incredibly excited to be presenting K.J. McCory’s, Eco-style Your Client’s Life, at the 2009 NAPO convention. I believe that the green/sustainable movement is such a natural fit for organizers and I knew I would learn a vast amount from this veteran eco-organizer. I believe, like many of us who tout a green philosophy within our business, that we are indeed still riding the “green” wave and that our tipping point is still to be realized. When I saw that K.J. had been given the “large” conference room I assumed that many of my peers were just as interested in learning more about our green/eco organizing industry.
Sadly, I was dead wrong.
As the session started with only 25-30 in attendance, the room seemed disproportionate. Several of those attendees were from outside the United States. What seemed obvious to me, somehow seemed unobvious to the rest of the 800 or so attendees at conference.
And I’m curious to know why…and though I may not have the definitive reason, I think I have a good starting point to begin a conversation.
When you think of it, Professional Organizers have been on the front lines of “Green” concepts since the profession’s inception. After all, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle are hallmarks of the industry! Many organizers include the 3 R’s in their terminology, but have been hesitant to speak of it in “green” terms. Why? Well, it appears that asking our clients to “Go Green” can create a bevy of misunderstood notions.
“It’s hard enough for my clients to just part with their stuff, and the mere mention of adding one more guilt trip because they are not recycling may undo any success to the project”, explained one organizer. Therefore, organizers keep mum on the mention of anything “Green,” for fear that it will create more anxiety, guilt and shame – and may sabotage the entire organizing process. I totally agree; so, timing is everything. As an organizer who is also very “green” conscious, I know that part of my green enthusiasm will have to take a back seat until the appropriate moment. Sometimes that timing is immediate; sometimes it takes a few sessions to bring up. Understanding where a client is and working within a client’s abilities and expectations is what makes a successful organizer. We teach our clients that organizing is a systematic process that builds new habits, and that daily lifestyle changes occur when we feel good about what we are doing. Getting our clients to adopt a deeper level of responsibility by introducing green lifestyle changes can and does have direct global implications. This may not be the right approach for every client, but for those clients that resonate with the concept, it can bring about a greater respect for our industry.
For many organizers, adding one more tool into their kit may be too overwhelming. They may feel that they just want to stick with the basics of helping clients eliminate clutter and streamline their systems. Introducing a greener system may take additional research and investigation. I strongly believe however, as an eco-organizer, by conducting workshops and providing my peers with easy accessibility to the knowledge they need, we can begin to break down this mental barrier.
Another hurdle to get past is the misguided notion that going green costs more and complicates one’s lifestyle. The greatest resistance we face as organizers is resistance to change. We can help our clients by explaining how to eliminating the excess, not only in terms of clutter but also by eliminating excess in electrical and water usage. Our clients can wrap their heads around “what’s in it for me” a lot more than why it’s good for future generations. Approaching going green from this angle will garner a lot more interest. Professional organizers may also begin to see the “light’ for their own lifestyle changes. It’s imperative we walk the talk.
As I said before, I do not have all the reasons why more organizers are not seeking this avenue of professional organizing. I remember many years ago at the Boston conference a handful or enthusiastic organizers huddled around a tabletop topic called ”simple and sustainable.” After the session ended, these pioneering woman moved the conversation into the lobby. Out of this, a NAPO Yahoo Group emerged and from there, the NAPO ECO Special interest group was birthed. We have many more obstacles to overcome, but we are far from starting from scratch. For those of us forging this path, I hope to encourage and inspire my fellow organizers to adopt the greener path.