Looking at the downloads from my coaching program with Deborah Hurwitz (productivityforperfectionists.com) from a year ago, I am amazed at how far I have come. I knew I had accomplished some goals in my writing, but I also tackled the seemingly infinite piles on my desk. I am now down to one pile of financial papers, and I reduce that by a little each day. Everything else that I hope to do is on a list except a few urgent things on sticky notes on my computer. I have been so much more content since I whittled all these things down into one brain dump, and I am beginning to see myself as someone who can keep her desk clear for more than two weeks. That was usually the maximum when my husband was alive. He would help me clear off my desk, and it would stay fairly neat, but gradually things would creep back on it, and pretty soon it would look as if we had never done anything to it. Once, I was bemoaning the fact that I was so disorganized, and he asked me why I didn't just embrace my disorganized nature and let him keep things on an even keel. I can remember feeling so free after he said that, but a few years later when he got sick, I realized the fatal flaw in that reasoning. Since I had been planning to go first, I didn't think there was a problem, but when it became apparent that that was not the way it was going to roll out, I realized that there were going to have to be some major changes.
I was helped by outside circumstances which seemed devastating at the time. A few months after he died, I came home to a water heater pouring gallons of water into what had been my husband's office. I called a plumber and it took him nearly half an hour to get here and shut off the water. I was so flustered that I had forgotten we had a shut off valve for the house. By the time the water was turned off, it had gotten into the bedroom off the office, the laundry room, half bath and family room. We had huge noisy fans in the house for a week, asbestos testing, dry wall damage, furniture piled up in supposedly dry areas, and a paper nightmare of files with not only my husband's legal work, but my parents' paperwork from the last 15 years they lived with us.
Fortunately, the woman who had been my interior decorator had also helped us with overseeing the reconstruction work in an earlier flood, and I called her to see if she could help me with this one. Although she had recently been in the hospital, she came down, driving an hour and a half each way. She knew exactly what to do and helped me deal with the reconstruction people and then started asking me what I wanted to do with the parts of the house that had been flooded. She suggested I turn what had been my husband's office into my office, and then suggested that I turn my greeting card hobby into a business. Since my husband's office was the one place in my house where I felt sad after he died because all I could see was his empty desk, this seemed like a great place to start, and I now have a beautiful office with lilac and purple walls, no vertical blinds (she told me lawyers always like things like that), and a beautiful view of my yard and garden. She laid down wood laminate flooring in my new office and the family room, where the water had ruined the old carpet, tile in the entry to my office and the laundry room and half bath, painted the bedroom off my office a sunny yellow and installed a beautiful mural that reminds me of the place in Laguna Beach where my husband and I often spent our anniversaries. She helped me get rid of most of my husband's and parents' papers, either by recycling or shredding, brought the file cabinets all into my office and helped me set up my business and now helps me run it. But the most important thing she did during the nine months when we were doing all that reconstruction and reorganizing was just being here, usually 5 days a week, and keeping me busy, so that at a time when I would have been sinking into a morass of loneliness, I had decisions to make, work to do, and a dear friend who has become so close we call each other twins. The flood washed her up on the shore of my life at a time when I most needed her, and when I set decluttering goals I know she will be delighted, because she has an inner sense of order like Wes did and helps me not stray too far down the path of disorganization.