Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Five days of sorting a large estate.

In my last blog, I spoke about the first steps of getting my dearly departed mom's estate ready. Trash and the obviously valuable were the things that my siblings helped sort. Now I was left alone to sort through thousands of pieces of paper and objects. My goal: to sort the stuff to sell, and stuff to keep.

I stayed up one night sorting boxes. It was a fantastic experience. I made a box for each of my siblings, plus other boxes for things like correspondence, photos, business, high priority, and low priority. I sat in the living room surrounded by these boxes, and I went through the history of my family and my life. I was so glad to have this job. Many would be overwhelmed, but for some reason it is my nature to be able to have huge seemingly impossible jobs, and feel excited and stimulated. It's just a gift--others have equally valuable gifts.

I just could not stop sorting, seeing box after box of stuff emptied and put into places where they could be useful. Of course since this was my own history, I stopped and read stuff--but if I was doing someone else's sorting, it would take less time. But the process would be the same. Sort so the people can then sort it themselves. I don't throw away anything--I even put advertisement and seeming junk mail into a low priority category. (That is, unless someone wants me to throw away stuff and tells me specifically what to throw away.)

My siblings came back on Friday, and I was so thrilled to show them the results of my work. I even took a video of their reaction (I have got to find that!) At first my brother was disappointed--there was a bunch of trash out in the driveway--I had actually uncovered a whole dumpster load of more obvious trash. (He had seen the driveway be all clear and clean when he left). But walking through the door, his mouth dropped open and he was so happy to see that the whole place was ready for an estate sale, the place was clean and even good smelling. My sisters were excited and pleased as well!

And that night, after a nice dinner together--the first we had shared all together in about 25 years--I sat them down with their boxes. It was like Christmas--they looked through and found letters and cards from them and to them, special photos, report cards, child hood art, and more. I had left out the most special and precious things,and we all looked at them together. I felt so close to them, and they felt so thankful for my hard and caring work.

Then we tacked together cleaning out my mom's room, which my sister wanted to save til last. I let her be in charge, but offered gentle suggestions, and it all went well. A lot of tears were shed, and we grieved her passing as we had done throughout the whole time we had been working together. And we also celebrated that she was free from all this stuff, and the pain she had felt in her last days.

I feel so deeply fulfilled and joyful that I had these skills to offer to my siblings, and to my mom. She saved those things, hoping that they would be useful, and they were. Sadly, some were spoiled because of the water damage--but so many precious things were there--like my master tapes for my music tapes. Thanks, Mom, for being a great packrat! And thank you, dear reader, for letting me share this very meaningful time. Perhaps you know someone who might need help like this--I would be honored to offer this service to someone in need.

Organizing the impossible: my mom's estate

Today I mentioned to my dear friend, Martha, that I was looking for organizing jobs. She mentioned that she read an article about a woman who made a living helping elderly organize their possessions for when they were going into a nursing home. I hope and pray that some day the trend of people being able to stay in their own neighborhoods and get care is going to take hold big time (and that the Community Gatherings will help do that!). But as long as there is such a need, then I would love to help people do that.

I had almost forgotten that over a year ago, when my mom died, I flew out to San Diego, California, to help my siblings clean up and organize her belongings. There was a lot to do! My mom was so much loved, and I felt so touched by the kind things that people said about her. She collected a lot of things because (like me) she thought they might be useful to someone, or she might be able to sell it at the flea market. (I was so glad she saved a bunch of stuff I was glad to have--like letters from when I traveled in Asia)

So there was about 40 years of accumlated stuff to sort through and decide what to do with it all. I felt so grateful that I could join my brother and two sisters, and their spouses and friends, to work together on a huge job. I let my older sister take the lead and supported her in mainly getting rid of the stuff that needed to go in the dumpsters (We used 3 of the largest dumpsters they had to drop off--they were huge!) That is what I call picking the lowest hanging fruit first--it was easy to decide what the trash was because things were obviously mildewed or wet or damaged. There had been water damage in two bedrooms and a large family room.

I was happy that my organizational skills were utilized during that time because I could clearly see the order which needed to happen. I saw that things were going to be bottle necked if I didn't intervene, and fortunately I did so with enough tact that all went smoothly. After all, I wasn't the professional organizing consultant--I was part of the family. But even if I was being paid to do the work, I still honor a clients needs. Even if what they want does not seem efficient or logical, I will only gently make suggestions, and then let them go.

In a sensitive time like helping someone order a beloveds possessions--someone who has died or will be going to a nursing home--I am happy that I have my nineteen years experience of practicing non-violent communication. I have learned the profound impact that empathic listening has on people. Tears and grief will come up during this sorting process-and this certainly happened with my family. Anger came up, too. I feel grateful that my practice in Non-violent Communication (as taught by Marshall Rosenberg) came in handy for conflict resolution as well as grieving. I had a lot of unresolved issues with my siblings, and we had reconciliation which was so beautiful.

After 3 days of both clearing the house of trash (at times there were ten people working!), plus getting ready for the memorial service--most of the trash was cleared out. Also, my older sister decided what were the things that needed to be given away or saved. So after the memorial service, my siblings left for their distant homes (except for one who lived near by), and I was left alone for 6 days to get it ready for an estate sale. Here I was, all by my lonesome, in a five bedroom, three bathroom, two large common rooms, and literally thousands of knick knacks and decorations--plus box upon box of stuff which filled closets and rooms.

The first thing I did was take a day off. I couldn't believe it--I had a car and I was in Southern California (where I used to live). Well, that is another whole adventure there! I'll finish this blog on the next blog.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

My client (and friend) said my organizing job was a amazing!

It seemed like a miracle! In a mere 4 hours of working together with Dorothy (name changed--I keep my clients confidential for their privacy unless I get permission), we transformed a cluttered backroom into a completely cleared area that is ready to be a craft room and more organized storage area. This was really important to her because of several reasons. First, she was tired of having all the clutter draining her life energy--and the dust was affecting her negatively, too. She could hardly even go into the room without having a reaction.

Second, she really needed this area cleared because she and her partner are putting a house up for sale, and they need to get all the stuff out so it can be cleaned and put on the market. This space, and a space we ended up clearing out in the storage shed, will be big enough to put all the stuff. Plus we put a table in the room for crafts--and now the table at the house can be brought in to replace the other table.

It was really great to see the transformation. One of my strengths is being able to take things off people's hands. My husband and I have a homestead in the country (an eco-village in the making) and we can use a lot of stuff in our resource yard, and our building projects. So I was happy to take a lot of stuff off of her hands, at no charge! A win-win situation.

I also was able to support her when she got emotional and overwhelmed. At one point she was crying. I am so glad I have skills in non-violent communication--so I was able to just be present and offer some empathic listening. She was able to move through the difficult time and continue to work on the project.

I felt so pleased when her whole family trooped in after a busy day of errands and soccor games and such--and they viewed our handiwork. They were happy. I got some great hugs and words of encouragement. I felt really satisfied to contribute to their well being.

I hope that you will give me a chance to help you organize your life!