Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not Everything Needs To Be Perfect

Let me say (write...) that again:

Not Everything Needs To Be Perfect.

Ideally, everything in your home will have a home of its own ("a place for everything, and everything in its place yadda yadda yadda"), but the goal of this whole thing is not to have your home look like OCD City.  Really.  The cans in your pantry do not all need to be facing the same direction (although it's lovely when they are, it's also kind of scary), and the towels don't all need to line up on the towel bar.  You don't live at Pottery Barn.  Your home is not a movie set.  You are not Gary and Elaine.

Your home should be your soft spot to land.  It should be your sanctuary from the rest of this prickly world.  You should be able to pull your car into the garage, walk into your kitchen (mudroom, whatever), put down your bag, sort your mail on an empty flat surface, feed whoever in your home is hungry, and then chill out for a little while before bed.

Think about it.  What would that be like?  Because it's possible.  That could be what many (not all, because I'm not a freaking magician) of your evenings are like.  Not perfect.  Just... easy.  Well, easiER, at least.

This is about being able to sit in any chair in your house.  It's about eating at a table, or at least being able to choose to eat standing up in the kitchen instead of it being the only reasonable place it can happen.  It's about having a clean towel next to your shower, and clean sheets on everybody's bed.  It's about having people over to watch the Oscars or the Super Bowl or just dinner (or the Tonys, which are next week!!!) and not spending two solid days clearing a trail from the couch to the TV to the bathroom.  It's about having a general idea of where just about anything in your house is.

It's not an impossible dream (♪♫to dreeeeeeeeeeeeam the impossible dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeam♪♫).  It's a reasonable expectation.  Really.  It is.  It's doable.  I promise (or as Boo says, "Pinky swear!").  It may take some time to get there, though.  You may not know where or how to start.  You're not alone.  A lot of people don't know where to start.  Hell, when I was first keeping my own house, it was a disaster.  I alphabetized my movies (it's always been lurking just below the surface...) but there was not a clean plate to be found.

The idea of hiring a Professional Organizer seems quite lofty, yes?  It does.  Hoi, polloi, aren't we fancy and helpless, not being able to clean our house?  Don't think about it like that.  One of my clients said it so perfectly:  "It's like you're a personal trainer for my house".  You know how you go to a gym (or, like me, you may have friends who go to a gym) and there's a person standing next to you, cheering or coaching or somehow encouraging you to continue?  She (or Hot Muscle-y He?) guides you through new routines, correcting your form, making sure you don't take on too much, pushing you to keep going?

That's me.  That's what I am able to do.  And to be crass and talk (if only briefly) about money, I'm likely within your budget.

So there it is.  When someone asks for an explanation of what I do (and they have a few minutes...) that's what I tell them.  I'm not going to swoop in and make your life perfect.  But I can help you Get A Grip (get it? makes sense now, doesn't it?) on it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Using my words

We spent most of Boo's second year of life encouraging her to use her words.  She would become frustrated about something and would get all stompy and arm-swingy.  "Use your words; tell me what's going on and I can help you fix it."

Of course now that she's got the vocabulary of a 45 year old truck driver, we spend a lot of time telling her to hush.  I digress.

Using your words is powerful, because it means that you're able to identify and articulate what's going on in your head.  I know that when I don't have a forum--like a blog, or even a group of real life people (fancy that!)--I tend to lose focus.  There's nothing being said, so there's nothing to be done.  I've always sought outlets for expressing what's on my mind.  In the immortal words of Hedley Lamarr, "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives."  Ditto, Hedy ("That's Hedley").

The flip side to this coin is when I have something to say about something important, but nobody is listening.  It's a given that not everybody is going to care what someone thinks all the time, but there are instances in which it's necessary to pay attention to what the stakeholders are thinking.  That really bothers me about my job--nobody ever asked me what I thought about it, or gave me a say in the matter. It just happened.  It was just decided that henceforth, I would be over there, doing that other thing.  My skillset, my background, my plans, my goals, none of that mattered.  I've spent a lot of time in the past year devising responses to the questions and conversation that I feel should have included me.

Not having a say really pissed me off.  I spent a lot of time and energy being pissed off, too.  I cared a lot about them not caring.  I was like that crazy chick in Fatal Attraction (YIKES SCARY ALEX) and I was all "well I'm not going to be ignored!" and that's quite possibly the least productive approach I could have taken.

Turns out, I was going to be ignored.  I'm likely still going to be ignored for as long as I'm there.  It's probably to my benefit if they do, as they tend to manage like seagulls.  If they're ignoring me, at least they're not screwing my stuff up even more.

Which leads me back to my topic of using my words.  My voice is powerful.  I'm funny as hell (ask anyone).  When I am at my best, I have a way of bringing the people around me to their best as well.  I am one hell of a counselor because I know how to lead a conversation toward a solution without being all bossy and Lucy Van Pelt about it (five cents, please).

Why is this relevant to organizing?  Because organization is a solution.  It's not the singular end-all, be-all solution to every problem, but sometimes just clearing a path through the chaos helps.  And I can help with that.  Clearing that path is like finding your own voice amid all the static.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Out of the (very very organized) closet.

I have previously alluded to the day I would inform my father (with whom I have a solid, albeit occasionally tricky) relationship about this whole Get A Grip thing.  That day? was Friday.

It needed to happen, because the next day we were all going to a party, and people would be there who knew about Get A Grip, and I could not run the risk of him finding out from someone besides me.  People were going to talk about it.  Lots of people know about it, but it was time for my father to know the truth about my life and how I was spending my time.

It was time to come out of the closet to my folks.

It started as most of our visits do.  "So," my stepmom asked,  "What's new?"  I took a deep breath and I told them that we needed to have a conversation about work.  Dad asked if I was having problems with work again?

"No, not again.  It's ongoing.  It's not going to get better, I don't think."  I went on to describe the environment, which isn't a bad environment, necessarily, it's just not the right place for me.  I'm not my true self at work, and the stress of it is causing problems in other areas of my life.  I'm not happy, and I deserve to be.  So a few months ago, I started exploring my options.  Experimenting, if you will, with alternatives to the mainstream life I was leading.  And I have discovered a new path that really is putting some joy back into my life.

It was my father's worst-case scenario for my career choices.  One of his children wanting to leave the fold and be something else?  And leave a pension and benefits?  Our people don't work for ourselves.  We are hard workers, yes, but we work for somebody. Not "clients", and by the way, what sort of people will you be dealing with?  Who doesn't know how to clean a house?  Who will hire you?  Your friends?  What happens when you run out of friends?  You might as well be a goddamn insurance salesman.

Le sigh.

Trying to explain internet marketing to my father is like..... trying to explain internet marketing to my father.  He is of the generation that still writes a check at the grocery store, and prefers to do business in person, face to face.  The internet is for email and tracking down classic cars and evidently people also put dirty pictures on it (such a funny story, the day my father became aware of this phenomenon), but to depend on it for your livelihood?  Does not compute (HA! Compute. That's a joke, son.).

In the end, and as it stands now, he's supportive of this new alternative lifestyle I'm trying to put together.  I'm pretty sure he thinks it's just a phase, and I'll grow out of it, but he's on board.  He's got my back unconditionally, as ever. He knows that I'm not going to do anything that puts our ability to keep a roof over our heads at risk. He wants me to be happy, and he knows that when I stand my ground on a big decision that I know he doesn't like, I mean business.

This is me, out of my very organized closet, standing my ground.  I mean business.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I'll be your tour guide today...

I'm fairly certain that we all have a role to play during our time on earth.  Some are leaders.  Some are followers.  I?  I am The Directions Lady.  If there is a group of 50 people around me, I'm the one that a total stranger will approach and ask how to get somewhere.

Great moments in my history of giving directions include:
  • Once, while riding in the car with Mr. Incredible, an impossibly hot gentleman in a sports car I couldn't even identify in the lane next to me made the universal gesture for "please roll down your window".  I did, and he asked me "Do you know how to get to Paradise?"  Now, there is a street in town called Paradise Road, and we were headed in the opposite direction from there.  And the answer that I very nearly gave him ("Honey, you better believe I do know the way...." etc) could have changed the entire course of my life (um, sorry babe).  Wisdom prevailed and I pointed him in the appropriate direction. We'll never know if HotStuff McHorsepower reached Paradise, or what he found when he arrived.  Alas.
  • I have been to New York City for a total of 72 hours in my life.  On the third day, before I caught the train to DC (that sounds so very cosmopolitan, yes?) I was roaming the streets, soaking it all in.  Now, I'm not widely traveled, but being from where I'm from, I know what tourists look like, and I endeavor not to look like that.  I blend.  I decide to take a rest in Bryant Park (best public restrooms on the planet, btw) when a group of tourists (fanny packs, knee socks, maps and all) approached me.  I could hear the (likely self-appointed) leader say "She looks like she's from here, let's ask her."  I look like I'm from New York?  Really?  Made my day.  As a bonus, she was asking where something was and gave the intersection.  If you know your numbers, you can navigate Manhattan.  She's welcome.
I don't know what it is that make total strangers think I know what I'm talking about.  I just go with it.  If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find it (whipping out my phone to google something as they stand there with their phone in hand makes me feel smug beneath my altruism, truth be told).  I like it when I'm able to give legitimate help to someone who asks for it.  Professionally, I've been at my most successful when I'm in a role that includes sitting down with someone to work toward a solution.  Not every question has a black and white answer (although directions generally do...) and I've been told that I have a knack for finding the best path.

Evidently I'm approachable.  I've been told countless times that I remind people of someone they know--a relative or a roommate or some good friend from long ago.  So when people are lost (even little kids, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy) they come to the first familiar face they see, and that's me.  I'm cool with that.  Even though I'm not really a people person, it's important to me to be helpful when I can.

What's your hidden talent?  It may be so hidden that you don't even see it, but others might.  Are you a Directions Lady too?  Or can you accurately estimate how many people are in a crowd of thousands?  I have a friend who's a Bringer of Truth, and that's a valuable person to have in your circle.  Whatever it is, cultivate it.  Helping people find the right path is what led me to professional organizing, and since I started heading in this direction, things have just felt right.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Business and Miscellany

This has been a landmark week in Get A Grip World.  I officially exist as a limited liability corporation.  I spent some time pondering what the name of my empire will be (I sometimes think in terms of Oprah...).  I wanted it to have significance, and to evoke a sense of expectation and curiosity.

I am Galore LTD.  Isn't that fabulous?  What's better than galore?  There's never a galore quantity of something bad (unless it's being described sarcastically, and I get that, because I speak sarcasm).  Galore means there's more to come so you better keep your fork.  A synonym for "galore" is "a-go-go" and I don't think it gets more awesome than that.  Galore is abundance.  Galore is having enough to share.

Galore is also my favorite album by The Cure.  I mean, I know it's a greatest hits compilation, but it's SO great!  Just Like Heaven?  Possibly the best song ever written.  I remember being at a party in the early 90s, and they played this song and EVERYBODY sang along and it was just joyous.  That right there?  Total galore.

ANYWAY.  I've always loved the idea of galore, and when it occurred to me that Galore could be to me like Harpo is to Oprah (again, I think big), I knew it was right.  It felt right.  I didn't even have to ask if it was stupid (do you ever do that? have what you think is a great idea and then tell someone about it with the qualifier "is that stupid?" Me too.) because it fit.  So there we are.  Galore.

In other news, I have a newsletter that is getting rave reviews!  You can sign up for it over there---> in the sidebar, up at the very top.  It's weekly, so you don't have to worry about suddenly getting a million emails from me.  It's utterly spam-free.  It's readable in five minutes or less, and it has links to fabulous things that you won't find here.  It's the Friday Huddle-Up, and I'd love it if you gave it a spin.  No pressure.  Well, not much pressure.  You can always unsubscribe and I won't hold it against you (for long...).

Here's to Galore!  Cheers!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stuff I love and with which I cannot part.

I talk a pretty good game.  I make a pretty big deal about how I'm not a collector, and that if I don't use it, it's OUTTA here.  Right?  Yeah.  Well, I have my Achilles heels just like everyone else.  I'd like to share the Top Five Things I Will Keep Forever.

1.  Books.  Oh, the day I discovered was the best day in the history of ever.  I looooooooooooove me some books.  I love good books and trashy books  and shameful books (that last one is the hottest three bucks you'll ever spend, and Gideon Cross makes Christian Grey look like an underachiever).  My current favorite genre is biography/memoir.  I love reading people's stories.  From Jack Benny to the delightfully sordid complete collection of Kitty Kelley tomes that I keep close at hand, there is nothing more fascinating to me than the lives of real people.  So the 7-foot bookshelf next to my side of the bed that is busting at the seams?  The three more just like it downstairs?   Let's just assume they will be all full for the rest of my life.  I'm resisting the siren call of the e-reader, but the space-saver in me sees its appeal.  I fear I've passed this trait on to Boo, and I'm not one bit sorry :).  She takes so many books to bed with her that she falls asleep on top of them.  Parenting victory, there.

2.  Boo's Artwork From School.  I never thought I'd be That Mom.  I don't keep stuff.  Bits of paper and non-specific artistic renderings of nothing in particular?  Good heavens, why would I keep that?  Well I'll tell ya.  If my daughter made it, it is precious.  And for this reason, I have a bin that contains every.single.piece. of art that she has made at school since she was 3 months old.  It's probably some subconscious working mom guilt manifesting itself because these were created when she was not in my care, or some such twaddle.  Whatever.  If she stuck a piece of glitter to a paper plate next to a googly eye, you better believe that it's in that bin.

3.  Shoes.  Oh good heavens.  I'm a shoe girl.  When I find a pair of shoes that makes me happy I must have them.  I must wear them down to nubs until they are mere shadows of their former fabulous selves.  I must have them resoled.  And then I wear them down to nubs again.  And then I keep them because I can't possibly get rid of something that has been with me through such joys and wonderful memories.  I have shoes that people remember more than they remember me.  And that's fine.

4.  Greeting Cards.  Shocking, I know.  You'd think this would be a no-brainer for me.  But the occasions on which we are given cards are so fleeting, and cards are so intentional.  In the age of email and texts and Skype where it's so easy to just reach out wherever you are whenever the whim hits you, the act of going to the card aisle (or a stationery store *swoon*)  to pick out a card that reminds you of the recipient has such weight for me.  I have a friend who sends me just the most amazing cards.  They're perfect.  They're SO funny or touching and just perfect for our friendship.  We've been friends since Fall 1991 Sorority Rush (go Gamma Phi!) and I have every card she's ever sent me.  They are the story of our friendship and I treasure them.

5.  Random Useless Artifacts That Strike Me As Ridiculous.  I have a copy of our local power company's safety guide from the 1950s when the Nevada Test Site was doing above-ground testing.  It talks about how nuclear energy is our friend, but hiding under a desk will protect us.  Last year, we had a required exorcism all-staff retreat, and 200 people were given a 75-page, single-sided handout, and no more than five pages of it applied to anybody.  Stuff like this?  Priceless.  It reminds me of who I don't want to be, what I don't want to do, and to keep perspective about who I DO want to be.  I don't want to take myself too seriously, because when you do that, the people around you wait until you leave and then they laugh at you.  Not with you.  AT you.

We've all heard the stories about people who can move across the country and everything they own fits in their cars.  That's never been my goal. I can't imagine having this as my living room.

There's not enough going on in there to stimulate even the most boring conversation. There's no sign of anyone ever having passed through that space.  When the stars align, our homes are a reflection of who we are.  Not who we want people to think we are, or who we hope we are, or even who we used to be.  When you walk into the house of someone who knows who they are, it just flows.  You know where to put your purse, you sit down in a chair that is in just the right spot. and it just feels right.  That's my decorating style, and I hope it can be yours as well.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


I saw this article in the New York Times today and it resonated.  This paragraph in particular really struck me as relevant to what I'm doing:

"WE’VE put a self-perpetuating cycle in motion. The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us. And, the more we rely on the market, the more hooked we become on its promises: Do you need a tidier closet? A nicer family picture album? Elderly parents who are truly well cared for? Children who have an edge in school, on tests, in college and beyond? If we can afford the services involved, many if not most of us are prone to say, sure, why not?"

I love me some New York Times, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Gray Lady is missing the freaking point.  We live in a society of more.  We want to have more, to do more, to know more, to be more.  Women are raised hearing some BS about "having it all" and we spend a whole lotta time and effort getting it all and then maintaining it all so we can continue to have it all because evidently we're supposed to do it all as well.

Man, I'm tired.  I can't maintain this mythical "all".  I can do "some" very well. I'm also very good at handling "none", truth be told. But I can only half-ass "all" until I'm blue in the face, and then I need help. And what Mr/Ms (hard to say, really) Arlie Russell Hochschild doesn't seem to realize as s/he writes this think piece is that right now when so many of us have obligations and expectations placed upon us by powers beyond our control, we still need to hold it together well enough to get through to the weekend where we can crack open a beer and collapse in front of whatever remains on the Netflix suggestions that hasn't been usurped by a pre-schooler's endless tolerance for Kipper and Phineas & Ferb.  And we want to collapse in a fairly clean house.

I have a lady who comes in twice a month to clean the house (I'm suddenly working about a job and a half, and dammit I still need to have a clean house).  This "outsourcing" is a splurge for us, because it's not like we have money shooting out of our asses growing on our trees.  And we pick up after ourselves and wipe off the counters and clean the toilets even though we have this help happening.  Having a cleaning lady (ohhhh so posh we are) is a choice we made because that is the sort of help we need right now.  

So this Mr/Ms Arlie Russell Hochschild to blast some judgement about people who realize that they are unable to do it all but still would like to have all of it done just grinds my gears.  How dare s/he!  I can't even comprehend how s/he thought it would be appropriate to put "caring for elderly parents" with having a tidy closet.  Really?  So his/her (good lord how annoying is this androgynous name...) aging mother (or father, because who can tell?) (yes I'm getting huffy about this person) didn't or won't get the best care s/he's able to provide, just out of some principle of "why pay for what you can do for yourself"?

Oh, OK.  It must be nice (HI I'M PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE NOW) to not need to ask for or pay for help.  Ever.  At all.  Rock on, Jeanne d'Arc, with your martyred self.  The rest of us out in the real world have learned that it's OK to seek assistance when it's just too much to deal with.  Even if that means we have to cut back somewhere to make the help accessible.  It's worth it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What's my motivation?

I think the hardest part about making a change is remaining positive about where you are while being excited about where you want to go.  This week has been a big one for Get A Grip, while I'm stoked to be taking big steps to make this happen, it's so easy to get negative about my actual, income-providing job.  I do realize that I'm fortunate to even have a job at all, and it's not a bad gig.  Not really.  I've been with the organization for over 10 years, and it has led me in some very surprising directions.  I'm grateful for all of the professional and personal opportunities that I've gotten from working there.  Hell, I was introduced to Mr. Incredible and some of our dearest friends because of a co-worker from my first assignment.  Working there has been an amazing foundation for the rest of my professional development.  Seriously.  Not even being a little sarcastic there.

But sometimes, it's just time to go.  Regardless of how the last year has played out, I've reached the point where I'm ready to move on.  I could go on and on about how the environment has changed, and how the people in charge are doing it wrong blah blah blah.  But it's no longer about them and their environment.  It's about me and my environment.  My primary motivator is based upon the environment in which I want to be.

I've touched on this a couple of months ago and a couple of months before that.  My dream job revolves around being in charge of my own time. That's where this began. I have always been more of a "work until the work is done and then figure out how you can go home" kinda girl.  And that's not a popular approach to work in the modern office.  In the bigger picture, the work is never done.  There is always one more batch of forms to process.  So I get why the expectation of  8:00-on-the-dot until 5:00-on-the-dot is in place.  I honestly feel like I'm in a place where that expectation no longer needs to apply to me.  So much more of my life could happen during those hours.

The scariest thing about all of this is the realization that if this happens, it will be up to me to fill those hours.  Full disclosure:  I've developed some rather, um, lackadaisical work habits in the past year.  It would be easy to point fingers and say "It's their fault!  Upheaval!  Half-assed training!  Scorn and disregard!" but I have to own this one.  I spent so much time being pissed off that I let it affect my own diligence.  I hate that.  I need to get back to how I was so long ago, when I didn't take "mental health" days at least once a week and I had a good deal of pride in my work.  I had control over how I reacted to things at work, and I reacted poorly.

One of my most significant anxieties about this whole thing stems from when I think about the day I tell my dad that I'm going to quit my job.  It's not going to happen anytime in the immediate future (unless we hit Megabucks and then SEE ya!) but when it does, I'll be giving up a pretty good benefits package, including a pension.  I'm already vested, but if I could stay for 30 years (omg kill me....) I'd get a decent retirement.  My dad is of the opinion that the only way to win, and winning is important, is to outlast the sonsabitches.  I can't do that.  I can't be the wife and mother and friend and person that I need to be if I spend all my energy outlasting the sonsabitches. I don't need his permission to proceed, but things are a lot easier when he doesn't make that Dad Face that means he's puckering up to give some advice (not telling me what to do just advice and suggestions so don't take it like he's being bossy he's just trying to help) every time I see him.

Dammit, I just want to enjoy my time.  I want to be able to incorporate new choices into my life, and it's hard to do that right now.  The environment I create for myself and my family needs to be one that works for all of us.  It's like any other system or process that I have (and I have so damn many...) in that it needs to flow in such a manner that it doesn't get in the way of what we want to do.

Does that make sense?