Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Put a Little Service in Your Summer

Today and one more day and then it's back to work--eek!  School-system therapists have it pretty great, I know, with all the kayaking and flower planting and hanging out with the cat during June, July and August.  There's more to enjoyment than just leisure activities, though.

I'm one of those strange folks who relishes tidying up, de-cluttering, organizing--whatever you like to call the process of turning a confusing mess into a peaceful space.  It puts me in the "zone" of focused thought and I can, for an hour or two, carve order out of chaos.  It's so mentally consuming that I usually have to take a nap afterward!

Our training in ergonomics, work simplification and task analysis make us OTs ideal candidates for helping our friends and family with streamlining their living spaces.  People ask me how I learned to do it; I learned it from working in schools, clinics, home health and by reading organizing books for the last twenty-five years.  My current favorite system is described by Marie Kondo in her two books (read the first one first!)

Here's a little essay I wrote for friends about some recent experiences helping a family prepare their home for sale as they face the prospect of downsizing.  Hope it inspires a whole new "occupation" for you:

Some good friends are moving to a smaller home and I got to be part of the cavalry to help them prepare to charge ahead in a few months. It was pretty thrilling the morning we all descended on their modern, spacious house and shot questions at them from every side, “Do you want to keep this figurine?” “Is it okay to shred this bill?” For 3+ hours the couple graciously made decisions on whether to keep or “share” items they had collected and loved for years as well as many items that were quite easy to consign to the toss pile.
Returning a few days later the wife and I went through the master closet, first reviewing all her shirts and then the pants, skirts, shoes and accessories. Who knew there would be five bags of extras tucked away in her closet to share with a local thrift store? By the time we finished she could have rented out the space as an art gallery, it was so open and serene.
What made the time fly by and the downsizing go so smoothly? It all boiled down to the couple’s ability to make firm decisions about everything we presented to them. Sure, they paused for an extra heartbeat when deciding to let go of a beautiful painting of Prague, where they had visited soon after the fall of the Iron Curtain, but they were able to say good-bye and move on to the next question. They knew how much their new home would hold and there were other pictures more precious that were to be taken along; nothing to do but to let this one go.
I’ve worked with other friends and folks who have not had such an easy time with the task of downsizing or de-cluttering. One Realtor I know (not related to me…) spends quite a bit of time in his gorgeous new Audi sedan, acquainting out-of-towners with the variety of neighborhoods in Richmond and showing them homes. The leather seats are impeccable despite the frequent coffee spills of his clients and the kiddie snacks that burrow their way into every nook and cranny during long drives. He details the interior, collecting all the miscellaneous papers he finds, and washes the exterior of his car every week. With little time to sort things out and only a few hours of freedom at home during the week he simply chucks the stuffed bags into his study to sort through, when he has time. This has been his habit for about two years and there is quite the assortment of bags piled up in the corner of his room by now. They may be labeled “Francos,” “Brooks Brothers” and “Ledbury” but you’ll not discover anything new and beautiful bought from those stores inside. When I asked him why he felt it was important to keep them his answer was, “There may be something in one of them that I might need.”
People frequently ask me if I’ve ever worked with a person who is a hoarder. Yes, a couple of folks. Do you ever wonder how hoarding begins? First of all, please let me say that there is nothing wrong with having a lot of possessions. (Please see the photo of my Tupperware shrine.) If you can move about your house easily, if you can store things without having something spilling out of the closet or bureau, if the air is fresh and healthy in your home because you are able to find surfaces to vacuum and dust—then what’s the problem?
Lots of vintage stuff from the 60/s, 70's and 80's.
I think hoarding begins with the emotions of anxiety and fear: What if I need this? Won’t my loved one think I’m ungrateful if I get rid of this? Won’t I forget that memory of the day, or the person I love who gave the thing to me, if I let this go? If you swoop in and clean up the home of a hoarder they may appreciate the cleanliness and open space momentarily--maybe--but it will make them anxious and they will start up their former habits to ease the anxiety and discomfort they feel. That’s my amateur opinion of what will happen, no licensed psychologist in the room while I’m writing this!
Who is a good candidate for making their home more spacious? People who really want to, often because they are in a bind. People who are moving to a smaller home or moving so far away that taking every little thing isn’t practical. Sometimes adding a family member, like a new baby or a home-again grown child, will force parents to empty out a room and make space for the addition.
I also think that some people who have a crisis, such as a second-floor water leak or an illness that changes their ability to easily move around their home, have no choice but to remove extra furniture and other possessions. In a few extreme cases the person has to hit rock bottom before they agree to change. I truly think that unless the person receives help for their anxiety they will return to using hoarding as a means to cope with their feelings.
More than you wanted to know, right? Well, most of the people I’ve worked with are excited about how their homes feel when there is more freedom of movement, lighter air and brighter spaces and they are able to keep up the improvement. If you walked in my kitchen right now you’d think I hired a ghostwriter to compose my essays on organizing…but I like it better when it's tidy and the messy surfaces can be cleared away pretty quickly, once I’ve had a good nap.




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Celebrating the Final Days of Summer Vacation

Over the last few years my dear daughter has been gifting me with experiences instead of things.  This week we went on a 2.5 hour high ropes/zip line course at our small local zoo and it was frightening, and fantastic!

End your summer break with a blast.