Sometimes a home looks tidy and the issues the client has identified are hidden out of sight – classic examples being the loft, a room filled to the brim with stuff or a number of off-sight storage boxes that have taken all the overflow from that household. In other cases, the home we walk into may have filled up after an emotional event and dealing with it has become too much of an effort for the client and they have just about given up on sorting it out until they found out there are professionals out there who can help them.
On the far end of the spectrum we find people who live in such disarray that it is hard to imagine anyone even living in that space. This is often – but not always! – the case with hoarders or those who have fallen on hard times. Beware of ‘aspiring hoarders’: this is what I call people who have hoarding tendencies but have – so far – managed to maintain a balance between collecting and cluttering up the place completely.
And then there are those who simply don’t know any better: they may never have learned that a home needs maintenance, maybe they grew up in a household where those skills were non-existent or neglected, or they were in the lucky position that someone else has taken care of the dishes and laundry. Even if we try to err on the side of caution, on some occasions, however, the reason is a totally different one. This is something of a dirty word in the decluttering and organising world, but it nevertheless has to be spoken on occasion: ‘some people are just lazy’.
I know, it’s controversial to say this and it’s absolutely opposite to the ‘all carrot, no stick’ approach we try to bring to the table when working with clients. Let’s be honest, our job is to gently steer our clients in what goes for the right direction for that particular person, with as much cajoling, reasoning, practical suggestions and loving support we can muster up. And in most cases this will work, of course. But ultimately, this is ‘all carrot, no stick’. It feels uncomfortable to even mention the ‘stick’ in a blog like this one, but it’s important to keep in mind that we are also there to teach our clients certain behaviours and help them change their habits.
When we think of teaching children we all know the expression ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’, and why wouldn’t this approach apply to adults as well – if not even more so? Our clients call because they find themselves in a spot of trouble, and that means that part of the job is to teach them to stay out of trouble in the future, right? Those who are aware of their lack of household skills may just be aching to learn how to organise their lives and homes better and improve their situation with the help of a professional organiser.
Coming back to those clients I would call ‘lazy’, these are people who choose not to apply any skills they may have, letting things go from bad to worse. The ‘all carrot, no stick’ approach will not work for them at all. This is the kind of client who would be thrilled to have everything sorted out but then quickly falls back into their old habits and end up in the same old mess in no time flat.
Which habits are those? Here are a couple of signals that make my alarms go off on a first visit (it’s not unusual that potential clients clean a little more thoroughly leading up to my visit because they feel they have to put their best foot forward, so seeing these things may indicate a deeper issue from the outset):
Don’t get me wrong, there are other indicators, of course, and any of the above may just be a temporary lapse of attention. If some of those (and others on top) show up in the same household, my red lights start blinking and I take note that a level of ‘stick’ may need to be used at some point.
How does this work in practice? Obviously I cannot be the schoolmaster and hand out assignments as I go along – that clearly wouldn’t go down well at all, and it would be counterproductive to the decluttering process! However, giving bad marks and offering suggestions while gauging if they are accepted is a good indicator to how things will progress, if the client is willing to change certain bad habits.
There are certain standards of hygiene and organisation that are simply necessary to ensure health and wellbeing of anyone living anywhere. Letting things slip for a day or two is excusable, of course, and I have been guilty of that myself – everyone had times and situations when we let things slide for a while, but we usually pick up good habits again. It’s a tough call to point out levels of laziness with a client, and it has to be done in the right circumstances, at the right moment and when the client is in a mindset to take in the lesson that is being taught.
But it HAS to happen, or any effort is doomed from the start. The overarching lesson is this one, though: if a client manages to change just a couple of habits and alleviate the level of disorder and bad home hygiene one just a handful of levels, it will greatly improve their quality of life and wellness at home. If lessons such as these are not given and received, a decluttering or organising session is ultimately pointless.
Sad as it may sound, sometimes we have to walk away from clients who see us as nothing more than cleaning personnel or removal services. There are more suitable companies to deal with those aspects of our no-longer-clients’ homes.
Now that this is out of the way, let’s see how YOU are doing on this account. Answer the following questions carefully, don’t rush, but think about them properly!
If you have any doubts about any one thing being in the way of you feeling good in your own home, it may be time to address one thing at a time and start changing some habits going forward…
Why not leave a comment? I would greatly appreciate your opinion on this subject: is there value in addressing the issue of “laziness” with clients or would you say it’s counterproductive?
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.