Michelle Smithpeter of Pretty Practical Spaces shares one of her clients experience in using a professional organizer. You can connect with Michelle and Pretty Practical Spaces at http://www.prettypracticalspaces.com or michelle@prettypracticalspaces.com

If all the seconds, minutes and hours I have spent looking for my glasses, keys, phone, credit card, purse and anything else that doesn’t come attached were combined, enough time would have accumulated for me to actually accomplish something, like start a small business, write a novel or, dare I say, organize my house?

Any reluctance to marry again is not that I don’t want to live with someone else. It may not be fair to ask someone else to live with me.

I can never get out of the driveway in one motion. There’s always the “go back” thing for my sunglasses, the dog leash or the birthday card I just signed.

My whole life I have not known where to put anything. A Birkman personality test confirmed it. I officially have no inner structure.

It’s a family thing. My mother was not exactly Martha Stewart, but I am worse. My little brother is even worse, but he’s male, so less is expected.

I sought counseling. OK, I brought it up to my hairstylist, Brittany. Brittany has an artful way of relating her personality quirks, which frees me to make my own confessions.

Here’s the latest.

I get home from work to Annie, the anxious Yorkie/Poodle overwrought with the delight of my presence. Knowing her walk is coming, she follows my every step. I root around for the house key, venture into a pile of shoes for my walking shoes. One is on the floor. Where is the other? I never have to look for Annie, who follows me like a human/dog synchronized act. If only my stuff followed me like that. The leash? Oh yeah, it’s in the car from a weekend walk, along with the doggie bags. Annie finds the other shoe and drops it at the front door out of self-interest.

Finally. Ready now.

Oh, my phone? Where is that? Ah, I’ll just leave it wherever I put it.

Here’s something you need to know: My front door automatically locks when it shuts. Here’s something else you need to know. There is a locked gate between my front door and the outside world, with a small alcove in the middle.

So, I open the door. Annie runs out and up to the gate.

Cue the wind gust.

The door slams shut with the key still in the door on the other side.

Annie and I are locked outside, between the door and the gate.

Why didn’t I bring my cell phone?

This story has three varied endings, which “work out.” That’s because it’s happened three times. One upside to my condition is my well-honed ability to get myself out of jams. Here’s a synopsis of the protocol.

Step 1: Scream. (People do walk by my house.)

Step 2: Some stranger walking his/her dog arrives with a cell phone.

Step 3: Since I don’t know anyone’s phone number, I call a restaurant my son-in-law owns and get them to call him. Before I thought of that, I called the locksmith. But he was kind enough to let me off the hook once I reached my son-in-law.

In between: Zen pose. Pray. Pet confused dog.

Thankfully, the weather has always been mild. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom.

Let’s just say Annie and I have done quite a bit of self-imposed jail time between my front door and gate.

Brittany listens and clips in syncopation. My hair is looking better and better as I relate this story. Brittany expresses her own habit of dropping things to the floor in the creative process, but without seeming nearly as unhappy with herself. Brittany says she knows she will never change. She just accepts it.

What? I have spent the last six decades planning to change. When I get married, when I have kids, when I quit work, when I go back to work, when the kids are older, when the kids move out. I have spent decades in a perpetual mindset of procrastination.

One day later, I brought this up to my “worse” brother, Buddy, the least likely person to have the answer. But the following six words came from his mouth. “Matt’s wife is a professional organizer.”

Matt? Your best friend from high school? That kid actually grew up and got married? Then, I felt the following words come from my mouth.

“Give her my phone number.”

Within two days I had a perky text that felt like a jury summons. “Hi Cindy, are you ready to begin organizing your spaces? Would you like me come to your house Saturday?”

It sounded so immediate. Without feeling it at all, I said, “Let’s get started.”

Michelle Smithpeter forced me to notice that I had three pieces of furniture in my closet, along with files, memorabilia, picture frames and AC filters.

“Your closet is where you dress. Only what you wear should be in it.”

We set some things on the street with the words “free” taped to them. They vanished. There was suddenly more room in my closet and in my brain.

I think I worked with Michelle one full Saturday. The rest of a two-month period, Michelle worked around my schedule and texted me pictures and asked me to make decisions. Michelle was on a roll. She lost 3 pounds the first week.

I knew my life was different toward the end when our helper Ronaldo needed slightly shorter screws for the paper towel holder. I remembered that there was now a bin in my garage labeled SCREWS. I went to the bin, pulled it out, and there were two slightly smaller screws that were just perfect.

A wonderful, relaxed feeling of relief entered my soul. I have not changed, but my life has, with the help of other people.

What a relief.

(Photo: Aimee McCrory)


Cindy Gabriel was born into journalism. Her parents met on their college newspaper staff, then took her to work with them while running her great-grandfather’s small town newspaper in Rosenberg, Texas. It never occurred to her that going to work was anything but fun. The sound of the printing press, the smell of fresh ink, mixed with iron shavings from the typesetter, stale coffee and flattened cigarettes on the floor are etched into her earliest memories. Cindy’s first job in journalism would be as a wire service reporter. This would lead to radio news jobs for KIKK, KTRH and KQUE. Finally, she would become a local TV news reporter for the CBS affiliate, KHOU TV-Channel 11, followed by a stint as producer of the nationally syndicated Dr. Red Duke Health Reports. More recently, Cindy has worked for city and county government handling media-related communication involving the relocation of evacuees from New Orleans to Houston following Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike and Harvey recovery efforts. The highlight of this was her production of a light-hearted video for homesick New Orleans evacuees on finding a job in Houston. The video, which opened with a little riff on The Wizard of Oz in the backdrop of downtown Houston, then appeared as the front-page lead story in the Sunday, New York Times.

Michelle Smithpeter’s Bio:

Michelle Smithpeter of Pretty Practical Spaces helps you make your spaces BOTH Pretty AND Practical:
Home Staging for Living!
Home Organizing-Space Planning-Closets & Kitchens
Curb Appeal projects.

She is a member in the following organizations:
National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professions
Faithful Organizers®
The Organizing Specialists Network
The Association of Change Management Professionals

Pretty Practical Spaces® serves clients in the greater Houston area, including Conroe & Montgomery, Texas.