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When a simple task causes anxiety

Updated: May 30, 2023

Some people might assume that when you are a professional organizer, you have your whole life perfectly organized and everything runs smoothly all the time.  No problems, no panic, no stress, no anxiety....  I have had clients say that they are "terrified" to begin organizing their space, or that they are "scared" or "nervous".  I assure them that it will be fine and wonder what it would feel like to have these responses to just the thought of getting organized, because I LOVE to everything!  .....Well almost everything...  

My mother-in-law's 80th birthday was coming up and my sister-in-law and her husband wanted to create a video presentation and printed photo book commemorating her life. I myself have put together photo books and enjoyed the process of taking a year's worth of digital pictures of my daughter's senior year and making a pretty awesome photo book, if I say so my self.  I had no problem finding all those recent pictures neatly stored on my computer, and I had all the time in the world to leisurely complete the books, just waiting on her graduation pictures to finalize the book.  I enjoyed the experience and I felt proud of the results. No problems, no panic, no stress, no anxiety.

Things didn't go as smoothly when my sister-in-law asked for some pictures of my 3 adult daughters with my mother-in-law when the girls were newborns and other pictures of them with Grandma as they each grew up. Ummmmm.... These are not pictures recently stored on my computer over the past 365 days or so.  Some of these are actual printed photos, dating back over 25 years, that I took out of their old magnetic photo albums and organized into photo boxes several years ago; not too bad cause they are organized.  However, there were hundreds, if not thousands of digital photos scattered across "who knows where they are" external hard drives, flash drives, folders, clouds, rainbows....whatever.....because old computers become obsolete or some glitch makes you back up all your data and store it somewhere and then have to wipe your computer clean and reinstall programs. They were spread all over my digital world and not easy for me to find quickly, easily or possibly not even at all. Enter problem, panic, stress and anxiety.

I can organize just about anything, but when it comes to my computer....I feel it coming; a certain level of anxiety and frustration. That feeling that you can't do it, that you can't find it, that you look stupid, all that rolled into one big "problem ball" filled with panic, stress and anxiety. If it's really bad, you lose your cool, negative thoughts can cross your brain, you might shed some tears, you feel frustrated, you feel physical discomfort, and mental feel it all. It's horrible, it can come on fast, and I felt it.

Luckly, I was able to find enough snap shots to scan into my computer and some more here and there hiding on my computer, but please don't ask me for any more...  After I put away my photo boxes, sent the last email attachment to my sister-in-law, and I calmed down, I realized that I too had felt "nervous", "scared" and yes "terrified" that I would fail the task, I mercifully just completed, for fear of being seen as a failure, unorganized and just a hot mess when it comes to my digital information.  I just experienced how some of my clients feel when they face their own "problem ball".

I am a firm believer that there is a silver lining in everything that happens, and there are many silver linings from this story.  I gained a level of accomplishment that I did indeed find all the "long lost" photographs that I needed. I identified something that was shoved waaaay back in my brain as something that I always wanted to tackle, but have always put off, and I can use it as a learning opportunity.  I can also relate feeling panic, anxiety and stress to how some of my customers feel when they decide to let me help them face their own daunting  projects.   The biggest silver lining is that I can remind you that no one is perfect, everyone has their "one thing" that makes them feel anxious, and it's okay.  You can work through it.  Ask for help at whatever level you need help.  Don't be ashamed. Don't hid it. Face it and you'll feel better when you come out the other side. Just remember, that one "simple task" is not simple for all but you can do it, I can do it, we all can do it.

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