Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Feelings You're Feeling - part 2 to Sandy Survivors and all survivors of tragedy

The feelings you’re feeling

As people outside of the affected areas of Sandy move further and further away from the event, you are still reeling with emotion. I thought it was the beginning of the end of the world when Katrina hit. I had evacuated to my sister’s home. She lives in the country and has a lot of land. Most people would think I would have felt safe and peaceful. I felt alone and desperate. I remember a couple of days after the storm, a man came to my sister’s home and was talking about how the state of Alabama was going to experience a black out because something important that we needed to power the state had been damaged by the storm. I remember my sister kept looking at me. I know now that she was more worried about the fact that I was hearing this than if it might really happen. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was going to pass out. I had to keep telling myself not to lose consciousness. My sister did the best thing she could do which was to take me upstairs and call someone she knew who was involved with the power company. He reassured me that this was just a rumor. My world and everything in it was crashing down on me.

Please know that whatever you are feeling is normal. No matter how you feel, its ok and after a while you will start to feel better but there is a grieving process. Each person who went through this horrific storm experienced something different. Each person was in a different place in their life and has a different way of dealing with emotions and what’s happening to them.

I was in a very fragile state. I was fragile right when it happened and for a very long time to come. I had just given birth 8 weeks prior and my precious little girl had pretty severe reflux. Her reflux had already caused a good deal of concern and stress. I probably had some level of post partum and didn’t even realize it. In addition, I had just found out that my 2 year old had been involved in an incident at daycare where one of the teachers and the school cook had locked her in a closet. When the storm hit we were in the middle of an investigation into what happened. I have never discussed that incident with anyone. I share it with you now because I know some of you aren’t just going through the storm. For some of you, there is a storm within a storm. I fought my way out and so can you. We all have a choice and the choice is right now. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself or you can pull your sad self up and fight.

In the days and weeks after the storm, I felt more and more sad. I had a hard time connecting with my baby. I had no patience. I remember my 2 year old needing to take a nap and I couldn’t get her to fall asleep. I was so tired and she was crying. I yelled at her to go to sleep as loud as I could. Her eyes flew open wide. She had never heard me yell. I fell to my knees next her bed and laid my head next to her and cried. I remember her putting her tiny hand on my head and patting me. I wanted to have a nervous breakdown, I thought anything would be better than feeling all of the feelings I was having.

I knew right then that my kids needed me to be strong. I knew that I had to make this better for them not for me. I prayed for strength and answers. I preach to my employees now that you have to fake it till you make it. I don’t mean be fake; I mean fake the feelings you want to have. Force yourself to fake feeling strong and happy and the more you fake it, the more you believe it and the more it becomes reality.

I did just what I’m telling you and it worked. It worked when I fought with an unprepared and untrained insurance adjuster at my lost home, it worked when I fought to get my mortgage company to write a letter stating I was legally required to pay off my mortgage with insurance funds so that we didn’t lose eligibility for an SBA loan, and it worked when I fought to put my life back together over the next year.

Later this week I will post about my experience with insurance companies and what you need to know to protect yourself. My prayers are with you as you recover and rebuild. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Surviving the Storm: The first of many letters to those who braved Hurricane Sandy

 As many of you know I lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. I lived near the 17th Street canal breech and lost my home and everything I owned during this devastating storm. We had over 10ft of water in our home for close to 20 days. My oldest daughter was 2 and I had just given birth to our second daughter 8 weeks prior to us evacuating. This blog post is NOT about me but about how what I experienced may be able to help YOU. I do feel however that you need a little of my back story. My husband and I are from New Orleans and the home we were living in during the storm was built in 1942. The home was 2000sqft plus a small guest house and had never flooded. My husband is a Veterinarian and I had owned my Professional Organizing business for 2 years. We were young professionals with not a lot of extra money because we were just starting our family. I watched the news as Sandy approached the Northeast in disbelief and sadness. Mother Nature is powerful and her path can leave unparalleled destruction. It brought me back to where I was 7 years ago. I can tell you that the memories of Katrina are still hard. I can tell you that you have a long road to travel and that some days you are going to feel like giving up. I can also tell you that with the right help and surrounded by support, it will get better.

 Right now you are in survival mode. You are focused on your most basic needs and that’s fine. During this time one of my clients gave me the best piece of advice; take any and all help that is offered to you. In the months to come you will be fighting very hard to be paid by the insurance company for your damages. You may have lost income due to time off work or damages to your own business. Whether money seems like a big deal right now or not, in time it could be a different story if you aren’t careful. Help and resources from the government are hard to get but I will have a blog devoted especially to that in the days to come. Right now, don’t turn away ANY help.

I felt like I was an educated working woman and I didn’t need a handout, but I was wrong. My client informed me that even I was eligible for a one time food stamp card and that I should also look to food banks to help stock my pantry. This battle can be long and whatever money you do have could dwindle as the process to rebuild your life goes on, so save what you can by taking advantage of help that is offered. I received food stamps as well as help from a church for food. It was also nice to make the connection at the church because they were also a good resource for other items we needed. I received a check from the Red Cross and a small check for help with expenses from our insurance company. You are now your own boss, the new company; your life!You are responsible for researching, making calls, and being an advocate for rebuilding your life! Make sure you have a binder for your new company and that you keep EVERYTHING you receive and send out , basically anything pertaining to the storm in this one binder. You will need to refer to the information in this binder for a long time to come.

 For now, don’t forget to call everyone you owe money to. Let them know that you have been through a devastating storm and need to see what assistance they can provide. They may allow you to skip several car payments, reduce your monthly note for a period of time, etc. Call all of the utility and service companies for your home and cancel service if your home is destroyed. I remember calling the water company to cancel service and the lady on the phone said they couldn’t cancel my service! WHAT?? She told me that since my home was currently under 10ft of water, they couldn’t turn off the meter so I would be responsible for minimal charges that would still accrue. I am not kidding you! I told her that she was going to note the account that I called to cancel and that I suggested they get on some scuba gear and swim down to my meter and turn the damn thing off because after the hell I had been through and since I was struggling just to breathe she better not send me a bill for water! I was on fire. I collected all of the information and her name. And guess what!? The water company sent bills to my old home, but they were returned by the post office because no home stood where they were sending the bills and then 2 years later they tried to make a claim on our credit. I went to my binder, pulled my information to send to the credit bureau and the claim was removed. I was so glad to have collected the right information and to have kept it organized.

Another tip is to get a copy of your mortgage papers and your insurance papers and read them well. You will now learn the difference between flood and homeowners and the process will be painful for some of you. As for your mortgage papers, if you receive a check from your insurance company make sure know your rights before you pay off anything including your mortgage. I almost lost eligibility for help through SBA because I paid insurance money to my mortgage company!! I’ll post on that topic as well. I think what I have realized is that I could write for weeks even months on the things you need to know about surviving the storm.

You are not a victim of Hurricane Sandy, you are a survivor.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Milestone for Mommy

Earlier this week my 2nd grader asked if she could have a friend spend the night. I was so excited for her as this would be her first sleepover! I talked with the parents of the other little girl and made the arrangements to pick them up from school on Friday. Then my baby girl, who is five, came into my room with her beautiful eyes all sad and puffy and asked if she could have a sleepover too. Now I would have no problem with her having a sleepover too but at 5 I really didn't think there were many kids who would successfully sleep out. I told my baby that she could have a friend come home with us and be picked up at 9. So essentially she would have a half sleepover. She thought this was great.
Fast forward to Friday. I somehow had 10 kids and 8 parents at my home for dinner and to get to know each other. All of the kids minus one was to leave with their parents. At some point my baby had her little friend ask if Ava(my baby) could spend the night. I laughed and said, "Oh sure, she can go home with you". A moment that now I will never forget. My baby, who I know can't live a moment without her mommy, looked at me and said, "YES!". She ran to get pajamas and started asking the mom of her friend if they could leave. I'm steadily laughing and assuring the mom that they won't make it out of the driveway.
30 minutes later, my older child Marcelle, is crying because Ava is leaving, how could she leave us, I can't be without her, mommy don't let her go, basically acting the way I thought my baby would be.
Marcelle proceeds to the mother of the child Ava is leaving with and with big crocodile tears tells her, "Please don't take my Ava, what if your house isn't safe?". At this point the family is leaving and Ava starts to cry. I knew it! I was right and she wouldn't make it out of the driveway. But through her tears Ava tells me, "I'm going to miss you but I really want to go." I comforted her and told her that I could not go and she would have to sleep there all night without mommy. Ava cried harder and I thought she wasn't even getting in their car. And then Ava hugged me and said, "I'll miss you." and then she got in the car! And then they pulled out of the driveway! And then they left my street! And they didn't turn around!!
I felt my heart sink. I felt like I was going to faint. Was she really sleeping out?? She's just a baby!! What the hell was I thinking????
My husband began to laugh looking at me. He said not to worry. He was sure as soon as they get in bed we would get a call. All through my sleepless night I waited for that call. I prayed for that call. But the call never came. I cried several times through the night. And this morning she is still there!!
I just can't believe it. How did this happen? She is my baby. She is A baby. How can she be doing big girl things?
All I could think during the night was how fast this day came. I thought about all the times I have had to travel out of town for work and she has had to say goodbye to ME. I love my children. But like most people I let life get in the way of enjoying them as much as I would like to. And father time, well he doesn't stop to wait for anyone. But I'm grateful he paused time last night and gave me the chance to see that this ride is going fast and that nothing is as important as these babies. He also gave me a glimpse into what my sister is feeling now that her oldest has just left for college.
As for me,I will never underestimate little Ava again. I should have known better as she has been shocking and surprising us since conception. "Hey Ava, mommy's coming to get you!!"
Even if I have to wake that family up since it's only 6am!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cookies, candy, and pie! Oh my!

I have been told that weight loss and getting organized can go hand in hand. Well I am already organized but I need to drop a stubborn 10 pounds. I am a petite 5'4" and 128 lbs. I am happiest at 120 lbs. Now I realize I am in no way fat but I need to drop the extra pounds and get fit. I have noticed that over the past few years as I have approached my mid 30's, things are changing. I don't want to hear all of that BS about "oh wait till you're my age". It's starting now and just like everyone else, it has snuck up like a snake in the grass.
I just want to be fit and feel good. Not to mention that my friends; chocolate ice cream, oreo cakester, and cheese puffs, are very bad influences!
So about 5 weeks ago I started working out. I dusted off my treadmill and placed it at the foot of my bed. For days I would stare at it while sharing a late night rendezvous with my food friends. I would think about getting on it and laugh. Then I learned of an upcoming event where I would want to look my best and that meant getting on the treadmill. The first time on it, I barely made my 20 minute goal at 3mph. I started out every other day and would dread the day that I had to get on it.
I told my food friends (ice cream, cookie, and cheese puff) that we had to part ways, and I met with a trainer. And then I made the ultimate commitment to get healthy and shed a few pounds; I told my boyfriend, Starbucks, that we had to stop seeing each other. It was a tough break up but it was necessary.
I upped my treadmill time to everyday and increased my speed to 3.5 and 2 weeks later, you know what? I didn't lose a freakin pound!
2 years ago I could think about losing weight and drop 5 lbs!
So I spent a few days feeling sorry for myself and then I got up and got on the treadmill for 35min. and 3.7mph! I will not give up! This will not defeat me.
So to you out there who are trying to get organized on your own; don't let the disorganization get you down.
You may work hard for awhile trying to get rid of the clutter without too many results, but just keep trying and you will lose the clutter and gain control of your life!
As for me; my next weigh in is Tuesday. Wish me luck:)

Monday, May 3, 2010

I have mentioned before that my life is crazy. I don't mean crazy bad. I mean crazy busy, crazy fun, crazy funny too. There is never a dull moment and just when I think things are getting settled, more crazy comes a knockin'. Lately I have been tested. There are a couple of things I really want and like having in my life and I am in jeopardy of losing them. It has been a rough few months and through it all I have tried to keep my head up and push through. Yesterday before church I broke down and cried, feeling overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel. I pulled myself together, left my husband and sick baby at home and my older daughter and I went to church. While there I got some strength and remembered the saying, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going". So I'm picking myself up and moving forward. And it's hard. Sometimes when we feel beat up and pushed down, getting up is the last thing we want to do. What I really want is to crawl in bed, pull the covers up, and veg out. But as I told my sister last night, I have to get up and get out of the way or continue to get kicked.
So many of you are reaching out to me in the same way for help with organizing. You are busy men and women with your own crazy life and the disorganization is kicking you when you are down. I can help you get up and get out of the way. One of the things that I hear all the time is, "I should be able to do this on my own". That is like nails down a chalkboard to me. Your life is busy and you have tons to do. When exactly is your life going to stop moving forward in order for you to clear up your back log? Answer: it won't. You are going to do it on your own, you just need help clearing the back log. I come in while you keep up with your normal routine and get rid of the excess, create easy to use and maintain systems, and then it's all up to you.
Another thing people want to know is, "if I'm not working side by side with you then how can I learn to be organized"? Well, I'm like Mr Miogi (who knows how he spells it) from the Karate Kid. You know; wax on wax off. This is of course for those of you with normal disorganization and problems that relate. Now for those with Chronic disorganization or hoarding we offer a different approach. You will learn through the simple techniques, through the repeat questions, and other techniques I have created over the years that have worked so well for so many. I have clients that I worked with over 5 years ago tell me how much their life has changed so I know the process works.
But first, get up off the floor for Christ's sake and ask for help!
I did:)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Organizing the Organized

When someone decides to become an organizer, it's usually because they have been gifted with the talent of being super organized all of their life or they have learned the skill after battling disorganization and want to teach others. Either way, for those of us in this profession, it's definately a passion. This is no different with me. I am one of those people who has been organized since birth and I have the gift of being able to walk into a space and see the finished product. I see life as it could be. I am crazy about what I do and if I couldn't do this everyday I would go crazy!
There is a downside to being an organizer and especially one that is borderline OCD. I tend to overorganize myself. This is a terrible habit. I see and hear about all of the latest and greatest organizing trends and products and I get soo excited. I go into a client's home and do somehting new and great and suddenly I want to redo my pantry! This can be very time consuming and a little pointless. Organizing is an on-going process and you need to stay on top of your systems with purging and making sure that new items have a good system. I am all about that process, but I can really take that to the next level.
I asked my project manager and good friend Patty to come over and help me tweak my kitchen and pantry. (I may post pics so you can see how it looked when she got there). These 2 spaces are more organized than even other professional in my field would ever think of doing. But the tweak took 4 hours! Patty and I laughed through most of the process. We call this kind of project a "next level project". It's not necessary but oh my gosh is it awesome.
Recently we found out about the possibility of several people who would be looking through my house at all of my systems. I began to break my house into 21 projects and start attacking each room. Why?? Like I said I'm a a little crazy!! I love to organize and I want them to see the next level project. I want to lead by example.
I was reminded by my sister this morning that if they wanted to look through my house at this very moment, it would look more organized than probably anything they had ever seen. Isn't she so sweet!! I know she thought that would make me get rid of my list but umm. . . no.
I don't advocate this for my clients, but I do have some clients who come to me strictly for the next level type project. So. . . I help all kinds:)
Well, I must go. Time to close the store and get home to work on the project #4, the playroom!
Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Opportunity Cost

Today is Valentine's Day. As a gift to me I am giving myself some downtime. In that downtime I have decided to write.

This week I have 2 organizing projects going on. Actually most weeks we have 2 projects going on at the same time. This takes some planning, dedication, and organization from my organizers. I have a Project Manager that has been with me for over 3 years. Her name is Patty and she is amazing. What I love most about Patty is her ability to see through all of the chaos and come up with a plan for the client and for her team that is both efficient and easy to implement. I never have to worry when I have Patty running a project. My clients are truly lucky when she steps into their house.

When anyone is doing a project or running a business they have to have things or people in place that give them that sense of peace. Patty lessens my stress at work. The systems I have in place at home lessen my stress there. I have very little down time. I have 2 small children with a full plate of activities, a husband with his own very full career, and a business with many employees to keep organized. Can you imagine on how many levels my organization exists?

I am never perfect. I am always striving to be my best. I know that without being organized I cannot be my best and I cannot give my family what they deserve either. So I have color coded calendars and a pantry that looks better than grocery store shopping, and closets that allow me to dress in style every morning. It's also why it's important to surround myself with positive and capable people.

For a business owner, the right staff, can make or break you. I am looking to hire a new organizer right now. I have a stack of resumes and a very clear opinion of what I am looking for. Anyone who becomes and Amanda becomes family. That is scary and such an important decision.

All of these decisions are mine. I choose to be organized, to hire the right people, and to do what's right. I could at any point, give up, admit defeat, or not do what I need to do.
My clients and each of you have the same choices. Sometimes making those choices means bringing in capable people to help. I can't do it all. If I didn't have Patty, I couldn't grow and develop my business to the same level that she provides me. The same goes for all of the other people who help me. I made the decision a long time ago to hire someone to come in on a weekly basis and clean my house. I made that decision by using opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the only thing I really took away from my economics class in college!! But it was enough to impact my life.

Opportunity cost is the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. We use opportunity cost on an almost constant basis without even realizing it. For me the opportunity cost of paying someone to come into my home and clean it far outweighed the cost of having to do it on top of my already crazy schedule. It's important for us to stop sometimes and think about what the opportunity cost is for the decision you are making at that moment. Every decision comes with one.

Oh and by the way I can't stand the show Clean House. I don't agree with their methods and the way they make fun of their clients for ratings. It's not the way I would hope that real organizers go about helping people get organized. It's certainly not how we do it! Can't change the channel fast enough when it comes on! OK. Thanks!

See you later!!