I received a message in Instagram from a daughter who asks for help… not for herself, but for her mom.
We hear more of stories about parents who go the extra mile to meet their children’s needs, than about children who do it for their parents. This particular daughter’s message intrigued, amazed, and moved me in many ways because I felt this daughter’s love and concern from where I was reading it even when I didn’t know at first where she was messaging from. What came after the exchange of messages was not just another #NeatProject. Little did we know that we were on an exciting journey!
The message of asking for help came with a special request – if we could do ambush decluttering. I denied the request simply because I cannot hope to proceed with a project without first consulting the owner of the things. You see, as a professional organizer, my job is not about putting things together for Instagrammable posts. Every project begins with understanding the needs and priorities of the client, so the daughter understood that I needed to talk to her mom.
When I finally met her mom, I felt anxiety and discomfort which is all too familiar for a mother: it’s why we don’t want even the tiniest mosquito touching our child’s skin, it’s why we want our child’s school uniform to be ironed the way we iron clothes. This kind of protection we have for our kids extend to our homes and to our things. Come to think of it: the mom and I were not talking about sorting things from a small grocery bag. We were talking about going to deal with piles and piles of clothes, bags, shoes, and wallets that lie in the family room, bedroom, bathroom, and even in the bathtub.
Take note: The mom knows where to find her stuff. She has this built-in system in her head that creates “order in chaos” that I believe many can relate with.
I am pretty sure you’d get hesitant too at the thought of strangers touching your personal things. I assured her two things: that I am just going to sort her things out, and that I am not going to throw anything away. I understand that even an old receipt is attached to a particular memory… I respect people’s decision to keep things because these came from a particular time in their lives.
I also explained that the sorting and the going through of her things is a process. It’s not going to happen fast and it’s not going to be easy, but once we start doing it, then it will be easier to breathe, decide, and let things go. Slowly but surely, it can be done.
When we did the ocular, I noticed how the mom was slowly letting go, opening up, and embracing the idea of change. There were still traces of discomfort in her, for these are A LOT of things. Some of her prized possessions could be lost! It’s probably her daughter’s eagerness, effort, and initiative to ignite change that pushed her on.
The mom left for the US and we were allowed to fix her things. The thing is, we started sorting a few days before she arrives from the US. So to top the time pressure that we are dealing with, we are faced with lots of things and zero storage! (Can you imagine?)
The temporary fix is to move all the sorted things to the daughter’s room.
On a side – and very important – note about the daughter’s room: I noticed that this room was untouched prior to it being the holding room for the sorted things. The mom kept it clean and orderly so never mind if the family room and other rooms were filled to the brim – she has to keep this room free from all the stuff. So I assumed (I am not a licensed psychiatrist) that all the shopping and accumulating of things came from her being an empty nester. When I saw this detail, it’s like seeing the puzzle pieces slowly painting a picture in front of me.
On the third and the last day of sorting, behold –
– we saw this much money from paper bills we found in bags, paper bags, and envelopes. Seeing and finding all these made me understand deeper the anxiety she had the first time we met. She knew she had these paper bills in her bags and she was hesitant to let other people “discover” this side of her.
This mom is very sociable and hands-on with her business. I understand how she has to attend to bigger and far more important things so she has less time to attend to smaller details such as collecting change from her bag.
I met her again yesterday, and she said she was satisfied with how the room looks like now. Amazing how an Instagram message started this change, and how the turn of events allowed us to achieve the breathing space the daughter and I wanted for the mom. More importantly, we all were part of a journey to witness the mom’s humility to accept the state of things as they are, and willingness to leave behind what has always been.
We are nearing the closing of this project, and what I really love about it is the mother agreed to be part of the process. In the end, if she wants to bring back most of her things inside her bedroom, in the family room or elsewhere, I let her be. The decision making is all hers. I am here to help and suggest where to place her things so that she can put more emphasis on the value of her things, no matter how big or small her collection is.
I am excited to see how this project will close, simply because I got involved in the journey of opening something fragile, but turned out to be beautiful – as beautiful as a mother-daughter relationship.
To those who are asking where the items are, I promise to show them to you in a future blog post. In the meantime, let me reiterate that the sorted things are in the holding room, eagerly waiting to see their new home.
Good night, Neatropolis! Leaving you with some BTS shot of the holding room where we were sorting a lot of things for this project.