Welcome Sally Wagner of Organized Peace.
Sally is a Professional Organizer and we are delighted that she has taken the time to provide us with her suggestions on how to assist a love one with re-organizing their home after the loss of a family member. Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences in the comment section below.
And here is our interview with Sally Wagner…
After the loss of a loved one, people often don’t know where to start when going through their belongings. What suggestions do you have on where to begin?
This is definitely a task that should be done with someone at your side. Until a person has gone through the effort of releasing no longer needed items, it is hard to understand the emotions tied to them. This is where we can really help. A professional organizer can step you through the sorting process with sensitivity and empathy, while guiding you to completion.
Rearranging your life, including your home, after the loss of a spouse, parent or child is very emotional. What are 2 or 3 strategies you can suggest to help ease someone into this process of giving away clothing and other items of the deceased?
- Evaluate the environment for the volume of things to be taken into consideration
- Determine what items can quickly be released – given to a family member, donated or tossed
- Evaluate the sensitive items and decide where they will go, or if certain items will just have to wait
- Set a future date to complete paperwork or decisions, if needed
- Put special items in a special place for memories
All of us have attachments to our “stuff”, what are some of the strategies you have used to assist your clients with easing through the process of letting go of the items in their home that they no longer need?
During the sorting process, many people will come to the conclusion that all of the items are not needed. This is based on asking specific questions about what the item would be used for and how long it has been getting dusted.
Discuss the “real” value of items – furniture, clothing, old papers – 30 years of magazines usually have no value (comic books are another story)
Confirm that it is normal to have some attachment to stuff, but it might feel good to know that someone who really needed the donation could be found.
Date any boxes or items to see if they are touched in the next 6 to 12 months. If not, reevaluate the “need”.
Why should you work with a professional organizer? How does your service differ from just having family and friends help with reorganizing a home after the loss of a loved one?
The professional organizer will be able to work with you without the emotional attachment. Of course this will be acknowledged, but having someone else manage the “plan” can be very helpful. Friends and Family are great resources during the time of loss. Frequently they are a welcome support in this process, but the professional organizer can lay out a plan, make appointments and provide a focus to getting this difficult job done.
Where do you recommend that people donate their extra home items and clothing?
I usually ask if they have specific organizations they would like to support, such as churches and family centers, or I recommend one that I use in the area. Usually I will take the items with me, to avoid second decisions and having to re-think the same things. Most people will feel a sense of relief for every box or bag they have sent off to help someone else. And although it probably won’t seem important at the time, I will send along the tax deductible receipt.
How can your services benefit an elderly family member that is moving into a retirement home or someone that has lost a loved one?
Frequently the family does not live in the same area or has difficulty taking extensive time off of work. Also, elderly family members may feel they are being “pushed” to make the move for another person’s gain. Having a professional organizer as the 3rd party coordinating the move, takes some of the pressure off of the well intended family members. The professional organizer can act as the mediator to accomplish the goals without all of the emotion.
I usually let elderly people know that I will be like their secretary or assistant for a short period of time. This terminology lets them know that I respect their authority in the situation and plan to work hard to make them as comfortable as possible.
What about you stands out from other professional organizers?
I clearly understand the issues and emotions about “stuff”. Most people have a lot to sort out because they have become overwhelmed by papers and things. They don’t know where to start. It is beautiful to have a complete clean and organized environment, but that takes time. And the time it takes is different for everyone. What makes me stand out from other professional organizers is my large family experience, business expertise and emotional background. I work with people to find a process that is right for them. By demonstrating how even one closet, box or drawer cleaned out can happen, people begin to open up and move in a positive direction.
About Sally Wagner & Organized Peace
After 30 years in high tech, I wanted to take all the skills collected throughout my life and provide a service that would guide people to a more comfortable life. Between positions, I planned to get all kinds of things done, but it only happened if a friend, sisters, brothers or parents came by to help. I wondered if other people felt the same way and they did. Having a schedule to do the project made all the difference in the world. We got it done, and then we went to lunch. Now that’s a plan!
There is huge satisfaction in a job well done and I frequently cheer with clients when we look at what has been accomplished.
Sally Wagner work’s predominantly in the Northern Virginia area and is available by appointment. If you are looking for a unique gift for a loved one, Sally also offers Gift Certificates throughout the year.