Minimize Conflict When Organizing with Multiple People
Organizing for multiple people is always more of a challenge for both the Professional Organizer and the clients. It requires more people-managing skills on the part of the Organizer and more patience on the part of the client.
There are several different types of situations in which multiple people may need to utilize the services of an Organizer. In some cases, people who live together, such as spouses, partners or roommates have decided together to call in an Organizer to help resolve a collective household issue. A partner or spouse may call on behalf of the other person. Sometimes it is a parent who needs help with a child's room. A business owner or office manager may need help with office procedures or want employees to address a messy office or time management skills. Multiple grown children may need help transitioning elder parents into a care facility or with cleaning out the home of a disceased family member.
Whatever the reason for calling in the help of an Organizer, it's important to remember that when multiple people are involved, the situation can easily become complicated because of the input of more than one person. There is a much higher risk of arguments, flaring tempers and hurt feelings. It's easy to take things personally. Fortunately, there are several things that you, the client, can do or become aware of before calling in an Organizer to minimize these risks.
1. Decide among you who will be the liaison to the Organizer for scheduling. This person will be responsible for checking the other people’s schedule in order to coordinate appointments with the Organizer. This should also be the person to make any phone calls to the Organizer. This prevents a situation of "too many chiefs" or problems with conflicting information coming from different people. If the Organizer needs to work exclusively with one person other than the designated liaison, that person should communicate and schedule directly with the Organizer.
2. Have a list of specific issues that need to be addressed. Usually this is pretty obvious if the Organizer is taking a tour of the house, but if the problems are more time-management oriented, try to list out all the problems you are having managing your schedule, including the things that are working as well as the things that aren't. Detail the areas in which people are clashing, whether it's opinions over how an area should be organized, or a process that isn't working between you. For example, multiple people who need to be involved in processing mail or paperwork often find they can't come up with a system that works for everybody.
3. Don't to go into working with the Organizer with any preconceived ideas of how the work will be conducted, or try to control the process. Let the Organizer guide you through the process and trust them. Remember, you have hired a professional to help you with something you have already admitted you cannot do yourself. You wouldn't tell a doctor or psychologist how to diagnose and treat an illness, so let the Organizer do their job in developing a specific plan to deal with your particular set of challenges. Even though it may not seem logical to you or seem obvious at first, there are tried and true methods that often need to be applied in a specific order for them to be most effective in the long run. Be patient.
4. Don't turn it into a blame game. This isn't about telling the Organizer all the ways in which you think the other person is responsible for the mess or disorganization. When it comes to a household with multiple people, there are ways in which every person contributes, often without even realizing it. The Organizer will be able to identify these will assign each person responsibilities for participating in the new system. It's ok to tell the Organizer the ways in which you feel something isn't working between you and another person and explain how the other person does it differently than you. But try to stay focused on what happens, rather than how you feel about it.
5. Stay out of one-on-one sessions between another person and an Organizer while they are working together unless you are invited to participate by the Organizer. In many cases, this may even include children who are working with an Organizer. The presence of a family member, especially one with whom there is conflict, can often interfere with the client's feedback to an Organizer on issues, questions, preferences, etc. It is really crucial that the Organizer have the ability to get unfiltered responses from the client in order to determine the nature of the situation and craft an effective solution tailored to that person's needs.
6. Allow the Organizer to act as a moderator during discussions involving more than one person. Be respectful of other people, allowing them to finish what they say. The Organizer will want to ask question to gain specific information and direct the conversation - allow them to do this. These are the most volatile situations because people push each other's buttons and it can easily escalate into "He/she does this," "No I don't!" type of conversations/arguments. Remember, these discussions are for one specific purpose: to let the Organizer figure out the problem and develop a solution.
7. Last but certainly not least: If you want to talk to an Organizer on behalf of someone else, make sure the other person knows about it first, even if you are planning to give an organizing session as a gift. Most people take the state of their homes very personally and an unexpected "gift" of an organizing session can easily be taken as a slur against their housekeeping abilities. The exception to this would be someone who has acknowledged their clutter problem and verbalized a desire to seek help. However, you should still talk to that person ahead of time about bringing someone in for them, since it is their home.
Following these guidelines can help avoid the tension that creates conflict and provide a more peaceful environment in which everybody can work. The results of your work together will be much more effective, quicker and have a much more lasting result.