Archive for 'Life Management'

Mar 03

Like many people around the world, I have been caught up in the lives and loves of the inhabitants of Downton Abbey. This Masterpiece Theatre series is based on the fictitious Crawley family and their staff in early twentieth century England. The series is beautiful, showing the English countryside at its lush green best, gorgeous Highclere Castle with its stunning furnishings and art, and the Crawley family with their extravagant wardrobes and social lives. The upstairs inhabitants of Downton sparkle and shine in their finery, supported visibly by their large staff.

There is a complicated relationship between the family and those who tend to them. Like the Highclere staff, professional organizers get to know our clients intimately, often learning secrets that we keep confidential, and finding treasures that have both financial and sentimental value in our work. Lady’s maid Anna is a great model of discretion – she notices, helps where she can, but never gossips about the family. She is a great professional organizer!

As a professional organizer, and especially because I specialize in working with families, I have been fascinated with the family management that is depicted on the show. First of course, is the inescapable fact that many, many people make the huge (more than 200 rooms!) house work for the family. By my calculations, 7 to 10 family members generate the “work” of the house. With 50 to 80 bedrooms, they have room for many, many house guests, so let’s assume that they can have as many as 100 overnight guests. Imagine what kind of planning that would take! The staff consists of 15 named characters, and we see glimpses of more – all with their jobs to do. I love housekeeper Mrs. Hughes’ family management centre in her office, and that she is actually shown working on accounts and lists. Likewise, cook Mrs. Patmore is shown doing the work behind the cooking as well as actually cooking – taking inventory of the pantry, ordering food, planning menus and managing the timing so that everything is ready when it should be. Butler Mr. Carson also has his own office, and we see him consulting with the Earl of Grantham on wine lists, staffing issues and more. I have noticed that each of these people know exactly what their roles and responsibilities are – an excellent lesson in family management, no matter who is doing the work! For those of us who do not have staff to help us with our cooking, cleaning, and even dressing, it is nice to see some of the “invisible” work recognized. That invisible work can be very time consuming, and its successful completion is important to the final product, whether that be a house party, a special event wardrobe that is pulled together flawlessly, or getting family members to their various activities fed, on time, and wearing the appropriate clothing.

And remember – one can’t live an “upstairs” life if one doesn’t have adequate “downstairs” support. (Just imagine that in Lady Mary’s voice in your head!)

May 11

Organization has attracted a lot of attention over the past several years, with TV shows and books presenting us with a zen-like image of how an organized space “should” look.  But organizing is not about how something looks – that’s decorating.  Organizing is about how things work!  Getting and staying organized should make your life easier, not be just another chore to add to the never-ending to do lists we all carry around in our heads, scribbled in our day planners and on odd bits of papers.

I am a formerly disorganized person.  Ten years ago I made a new year’s resolution, as thousands, maybe millions of people do each year, to “get organized”.  I had no idea how that resolution would change my life, and the life of my family.

Do things look different at our house? – sure!  There is less clutter lying about, especially paper.  Does our home look like a magazine layout – not most of the time!  But, we can find what we need, pay our bills on time, and here’s the most important thing: we have time to enjoy one another’s company in a space that is comfortable.

I embrace the concept of “organized enough”.   Organized enough to put a healthy meal on the table several nights a week, and have all 4 of us (plus any stray teenagers who happen to be hanging around) sit and enjoy it together.  Organized enough to have company over without apologizing for the state of our home.  Organized enough to run my business and still read novels in my garden.

I recommend that people find their own “organized enough” based on their own lifestyles and make some realistic organizing goals.  If they are the right fit, you will be much more likely to reach and maintain them!