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Occasionally over the years folks have asked to see “before and after” pictures of our work with clients. Though dozens of clients give us permission to take photos, we don’t.

Here are 3 reasons why we don’t use photographs to illustrate the transformation people experience when we work together:

  1. Organizing is about you. It is personal and subjective. If you can’t find what you need when you need it, or you aren’t accomplishing your goals, you’re not feeling productive, regardless of what it looks like. If you want things to be different, I can teach you a way. I’ll meet you where you are and take you where you’re ready to go. Whether you are functioning at a productive level and want to streamline your systems to achieve even greater output, or you have created piles so deep in your office that you have to work in another room - if you want to create change, my methods will help. Looking at someone else’s “before” photo might give you the wrong impression–either you are too far gone for help, or because you aren’t so far gone, you can’t benefit from additional training. Other people’s pictures aren’t relevant; organizing is about you - where you are, and what you want to achieve.
  2. Organizing skills are tools you use as part of an ongoing process. That process is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Before and after pictures imply that there is a “before” and an “after.” But really, there is only “during.” A picture taken after sessions dedicated to improving productivity doesn’t show an “end” point, just a point. We don’t organize for the sake of organizing. We organize to improve productivity in pursuit of a greater goal. You start by identifying what you really want to accomplish. Then we design systems to help you get there. Once the systems are in place, you still have work to do. It’s an ongoing process.

  3. The internal transformation is more important than external appearances. Getting organized is about improving your decision-making capacity and exercising discipline to actually make decisions. A picture doesn’t capture this internal learning. A picture only shows how things look; an “after” picture doesn’t give you insight into a client’s improvement. What matters is that the client experiences a breakthrough in their own ability to make decisions and be productive in pursuit of their goals.

We must also make an unexpected point about neatness: “Neat” and “organized” are not synonymous, though neat can often be a product of the organizing process. Deliberate decision-making results in less being kept in the first place; you won’t be keeping things you don’t need. Less stuff=neater environment. Creating a system for accessing things results in their being more clearly grouped and contained Labeled homes for things=neater environment. Although neater appearance is a common product of the organizing process, rarely is it the sole or even primary goal. The goal of organizing is to be able to find what you need when you need it so you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish. Improved decision-making is the key. An “after” picture doesn’t capture this internal transformation.

We all derive voyeuristic pleasure from seeing pictures of other people’s challenges; We're sorry to deprive you of that. Now you know more about organizing - and you wouldn’t have learned it by looking at pictures.

Still wish you could see some pictures? We concede that we can learn from each other’s experiences. That’s why there is an hour long DVD with the book “Organized to Last: Five Simple Steps to Staying Organized.” The beauty of the DVD is that you see real people working through decisions to organize their stuff. You see their struggle and transformation as the concepts click into place for them. The DVD ends not with perfectly decorated spaces, but with spaces and systems on the way to achieving just what the clients needed. And you hear their triumph: They describe how they learned the skills that will last them a lifetime, allowing them to pursue their dreams and maintain a more centered lifestyle. This, then, is the true benefit of getting organized. Just picture it!

Do you want to use this article? You can, as long as you include the credit below in its entirety:

Porter Knight is a dynamic and popular presenter, life-changing consultant, and author of the book/DVD Organized to Last: 5 Simple Steps to Staying Organized. She specializes in workplace productivity, office organizing, speaking, and training. More information at www.productivityvermont.com (802) 453-3940.