Expert’s pre-Pesach tips on wrangling ‘stuff’

Expert’s pre-Pesach tips on wrangling ‘stuff’

Professional organizer helps clients handle stress and clutter

Stacey Agin Murray, showing off her one of her favorite organizational tools, a label-maker, will speak at the Queen Esther Tea at the Union Y on Sunday.
Stacey Agin Murray, showing off her one of her favorite organizational tools, a label-maker, will speak at the Queen Esther Tea at the Union Y on Sunday.

With Passover just weeks away, professional organizer Stacey Agin Murray reckons it’s not too soon to start preparations. She advises starting early, delegating whenever possible, and leaving time for last-minute glitches.

Murray, the featured speaker at the second annual Queen Esther Tea on Sunday morning, March 7, at the YM-YWHA of Union County, will talk about how to “Organize Your Space…Organize Your Life.” The event is hosted by the Women’s Campaign of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey.

With a three-year-old son and another baby due in May, Murray, who lives in Fair Lawn, is sharply aware of the importance of order. Luckily for her, she has been into tidying since she was a youngster making do with a tiny bedroom. Added to that came experience as a graphic designer and an elementary school teacher, followed by eight years as a professional organizer. She is the author of columns, a blog, and a book of advice for the disorganized.

While order comes easily to her, she insists she is “patient, compassionate, and unjudgmental” toward those who are chaos-prone.

“It’s my job to understand the needs of people who seek my help,” she wrote to NJJN in response to e-mailed questions. “I ask them questions, listen to their answers, and work with them to create individualized solutions to their organizing challenges.”

Some, she said, are “situationally disorganized”; an event — like divorce or the death of a spouse — has turned their life upside down, and they just need a hand getting back on their feet. Others grew up with no training in how to organize.

“The past few decades have produced an incredible and oftentimes unmanageable amount of material goods in our country — levels never seen by our parents and grandparents,” she said. “At some point around the 1980s, ‘stuff’ became a status symbol. Having more ‘stuff’ or the ability to buy more ‘stuff’ was seen as a good thing. We built bigger houses to store our ‘stuff.’ Now, instead of leisure time many people have to spend time managing their ‘stuff.’”

Guilt and sentimentality are part of the problem, she said, and not only for Jews. “People inherit houses full of items from relatives and they don’t know what to do with it all. They feel guilty about getting rid of it, so they keep most of it and try to incorporate it into their homes or pay a monthly fee for a storage unit.” Gifts add to clutter too, she added.

A number of her clients are older people, who grew up during the Great Depression. “Many of them still live with what’s referred to as a ‘Depression Mentality’ despite the fact that we live in a society where we can access almost any material goods we want 24/7. These people fear that they will never have enough. They often feel that they need to hold on to what they own because ‘times could get tough again,’” she said.

Junk mail, kids’ stuff, and lack of free time all add to the problem. “Clutter is ‘delayed decisions,’” Murray said. “Every time we don’t make a decision about a piece of paper, or a toy, or whether to keep or toss something, we are creating clutter in our homes.”

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