When I started my professional organizing business, Simplified Living Solutions, it was because I wanted to help people – never because I was looking for a get rich quick scheme. I am so strongly pulled towards helping people, especially hurting people, that it can sometimes be a curse. When I first started my business, I helped so many people for free those first few years even though they never asked or expected for it to be free! I just felt compelled to do it free. It’s a problem I have.
After a couple of years of taking vacation days to help people free, not sleeping, etc, I started to realize the toll it was taking on me to help people “free”. I began realizing that it really wasn’t free at all. To them, it was free. But to me, all of this free work was taking a real toll on me. I could feel resentment building. I could see my weight and stress level increasing. I was an absent parent for my children when they needed me because I was off helping others FREE.
I’ve worked hard on this particular issue of mine for many years now. It’s still very challenging for me not to help everyone free but I’m getting better. The people that call a professional organizer are usually people that are hurting for one reason or another; a death in the family, overwhelmed with stress from the chaos of their lives, going through a divorce, after a move, marital friction – you get the point. So for me it’s so difficult not to just want to fix it all for them FREE. I have people that work for me now and so that makes it a little easier because it creates a bit of a buffer between the client and I so I’m not inclined to impulsively say “I’ll help you free!”. (I’m a bit impulsive at times thanks to my “professionally undiagnosed but I know I have it” ADHD.)
Back in October a young Mom called for help. She told me her 2 1/2 year old daughter was starting chemo that week and she wanted to get her house decluttered and organized so she could get it cleaned and sterilized for her. My heart shattered into a million pieces as I listened to her story. As a Mom, I could immediately feel and understand the pain she must be going through. The minute I heard her story I wanted to rush over and fix everything for her. But I didn’t. The minute I walked into her home for our initial meeting and saw her little bald headed baby girl, I wanted to fix it all for her immediately. And of course for free. But I didn’t. I had to fight back tears as I spoke with her and watched her interact with her daughter. I scheduled a day for myself and another team member to work with her. We accomplished a lot in the time we were there, but certainly not everything she needed.
I hated leaving that day. I hated collecting payment from her for our services. I cried when I left. I looked at my other team member, tears streaming down my face and said “how do you charge someone like that?”. But I charged her. I realize this is a struggle that many professions face on a regular basis. When your income is based strictly on a service where you help people, it’s difficult not to let your heart get in the way. This particular client couldn’t afford to have us come back even though she needed the help. Again, fighting my own “do it free” issue, I didn’t succumb to my heart screaming to get back in her house and fix it all free. It felt unnatural not to, but I didn’t.
Today I found out through an odd series of events that this particular client is ready to humble herself and ask for help for free. The minute I heard she was asking for this I wanted to run over to her house and fix everything for her. Guess what? I’m going to. Being a professional organizer is my ministry. Yes, it’s now my full time source of income as well but by golly, she needs me and I want to help!