[This article originally appeared in the Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood Times]

Image courtesy of KaboomPics

Image courtesy of KaboomPics

Are you a Mary or a Kathy?

This is the question Sherwood’s Vicki Norris poses to her readers in the introduction to her book “Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good” (formerly titled “Restoring Order: Organizing Strategies to Reclaim Your Life”). Mary is drowning in a sea of overdue bills, receipts and projects. Kathy carefully schedules her time and organizes her paperwork to ensure a life of freedom from disorganization.

In this book and its follow-up, “Restoring Order to Your Home,” as well as through her role as founder and president of Restoring Order, a professional organizing firm, Norris aims to bring out the Kathy in all of us.

If leading an unorganized life is a disorder, Norris is here to tell us there is a cure.

That’s not to say the solution is a simple one. We all know how deliciously tempting and ultimately defeating it is to give ourselves over to the magazine covers promising to “Lose Five Pounds in Two Weeks Doing Six Easy Exercises!” Just like the dieting industry, the organizing world has become a mecca for quick-fix advice. Organizing shows and magazines tout familiar “Organize Your Life in Three Simple Steps!” messages that inevitably show us how to rapidly cover something up without digging for the problem within.

Think organizing is a one-time, quick-fix activity? Sorry, Norris is about to burst your bubble.

“True organizing — authentic organizing — is a change process. That’s why people resist it,” Norris says, adding: “We all avoid things that are painful.”

Organizing can be emotional and time-consuming: Debating whether to keep the small- er sizes in our closet after we’ve gained several pounds, struggling to sort through awards and memorabilia in the garage after a child goes to college, becoming overwhelmed by the paper trail that constantly runs through our homes and causes late fees and missed appointments.

And although Norris wants us to recognize how difficult and involved the process is, she also wants us to realize: “Disorganization really is a liability to your life.”

“Reclaim Your Life” is the Restoring Your Life slogan. Ready to reclaim yours?

Before heading out to buy a cartload of bins and baskets without first assessing your needs and measuring your space (a trend Norris refers to as “Product Panacea”), stop and ask yourself the following questions, which Norris says are the three biggies:

First and foremost, “Are you ready for change?”

Before tackling an organizational project, ask yourself if you’re willing to truly change — and not just for the initial system you set up, but for the maintenance that’s required to maintain it.

The answer most likely falls into one of five categories. As Norris explains, there is Situational Disorganization, in which a life event, such as the birth of a baby or a sudden empty nest, precipitates disorganization.

There’s Historical Disorganization, in which we were never taught how to be organized (Norris notes that both a mimicking of parents’ disorganization or a rebellion against a parents’ rigid organization can lead to this).

There’s Habitual Disorganization, which occurs after a buildup of bad habits.

There’s Social Disorganization, which may manifest as accumulating too many things to “keep up with the JOnseses.”

Finally, there’s Chronic Disorganization, in which someone has truly been disorganized for an entire lifetime – this more severe category occurs in only about 2 percent of the population.

Once you have a better grasp on the root of your disorganization, ask yourself, “What has not worked for me in the past?” When you recognize what this is, vow to try something different.

“I think the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” Norris says.

Recognizing that organizing will never be a one-size-fits-all endeavor, Norris and her team of consultants approach each project with the goal of personalized, customized ser- vice. This begins with an assessment in which they ask their clients: “What are your true priorities?”

Norris, who is married to electrician Trevor and whose son Nash turns 1 in November, cites an example of an overworked stay-at-home mother of three whose house has become chaotic and whose priorities may be to get back to exercising, rekindle her female friend- ships, and spend more time with her husband.

“Very often, we might put as a homework item between appointments that the clients schedule some personal time for themselves or that they schedule a date night with their spouse,” Norris says.

Me time?

Date night?

That’s right — despite its challenges, organizing can also be fun.

“I don’t want to make it sound like organizing is this awful, painful process,” Norris notes. “It’s actually a very therapeutic process. It’s enlightening.” She adds that once the initial process of discovery and change is completed, there is no need to “be stuck in a constant state of overhaul.”

Commit to the process of self-evaluating and tweaking; then enjoy the payoff.

Just don’t expect the payoff overnight.

“I have a saying on my desk and it says: ‘There’s no place in life worth going that you can get to by shortcuts,’” Norris says. We sell ourselves short when we go for the quick fix and ignore our personal styles and needs. Norris points out that someone who is very visual may find an out-of-sight, behind- closed-drawer filing system detrimental. Clueing in to personal needs and adjusting each project accordingly is what has helped elevate Restoring Order, which Norris started as a sole proprietorship in 1999, to being the only professional organizing firm in the Portland area (with a team of nine employees) today.

Norris made the decision to start an organizing firm after growing tired of working in real estate. She had her own real estate company and knew she was capable of running a business, so she thought about what had always held her interest, from the time she was little and sorting through her grandma’s purse, kitchen and collection of rain bonnets: orga- nizing.

“I was just always interested in bringing order to things,” she says, noting that as a child, she’d have friends over for slumber parties and would suggest organizing her closet as a fun activity for the girls to enjoy.

Today, Norris stresses the importance of helping her clients find peace with the present.

“It’s about living the life you want now,” she says. “Not sometime in the future, not when you finally get it perfect and it looks like Martha Stewart lives there.”

Reclaim your life: the ones you’re meant to be living right now.

Are you a Mary or a Kathy?

Apply a few Vicki Norris tips to your organizing project and, with patience and time, you’ll hardly recognize the Mary of your past.

In addition to being founder and president of Portland-based Restoring Order, Vicki Norris is regularly featured on HGTV’s Mission: Organization, KATU’s AM Northwest, and 1190 KEX radio. She contributes to magazines “Quick & Simple,” “Better Homes & Gardens” and “Real Simple.” She is the author of “Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good” and “Restoring Order to Your Home.” Information about her services and prod- ucts, as well as contact information, can be found on her Web site at www.restoringorder.

-By Kristen Forbes

Tigard Tualatin Times


See the PDF here: The Times – Get Organized 10/2007

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