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In the News

Mind/Balance Makeover

Dorothy Foltz-Gray, Health 2005


Reader: Martha Alderson

Her issue: A divorcee struggles to clear away the remains of a painful past and unpack her new life

Digging out: Overwhelmed and out of sorts, Alderson knew she needed help. Progress was easier once she had someone holding her accountable.

Occupation: Financial Planner

Family: Divorced, no children

Problem: Four years ago, Alderson, now 45, ended her marriage, moved into a new house and launched a new career. But she was so busy establishing herself that she never quite managed to unpack. In her office, “even my mousepad was on top of a stack of paper,” she says. ”It was time to quit beating myself up and get some help.”



Jeanne K. Smith, professional organizer


Set up systems that help you.

Smith told Alderson that tacking the piles of paper in her office would unburden her immediately. The two filled a gigantic recycling bin with paper. They didn’t touch Alderson’s divorce papers, though. “My sense was that if we could get the rest cleaned up, she could deal with the more emotional stuff.: They also discussed how to organize what remained – that is, they talked storage furniture. “She’s the queen of office supplies,” Smith says, “but she has no place to put them. So she can never find them, and she goes and buys more.: Smith also suggested that her client set up a system for her mail, instead of stacking it on the dining room table. “Organization is a process, not a destination,” Smith says. "Using 15 minutes a day to put things away saves time in the long run.”


What she did

“When Jeanne said to me ‘Clutter is a delayed decision,’ it took a place in my heart,” Alderson says. To help her stop delaying, they set up a mail sorting system by her back door: one box for waste, one for recycling, one for shredding. Now the bulk of her mail never makes it past the door. She moved excess office supplies into a new cabinet in the garage, freeing her office bookcases for books that were stacked in the living room. Other moves were more significant: She consolidated her divorce papers into a small box and banished it to the garage. “I thought, ‘The divorce can come out of the filing cabinet,’” Alderson says. “I don’t need to look at it anymore.”


The study that once represented Alderson’s chaos has become an inviting place. “Now I bring the debris from other parts of the house to deal with it there. I’ve created this positive momentum.”puzzle piece