Inside the mind of a professional organizer: Your presence is present enough

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

When it comes to organizing our possessions throughout the year, as well as during the holiday season, the easiest piece of advice I can offer is to have less stuff.

The holidays are right around the corner, and I urge others to focus on our people, not our stuff.

The past several years have been a reminder to appreciate our loved ones and cherish every moment they are present.

We each have experienced loss at least once in our life. I know firsthand that loss is a very hard topic to address, especially during the holidays.

Sometimes the holiday season is the only time of the year we see some of our most important people.

My approach as a professional organizer is to emphasize what truly holds meaning in our lives: Our people and significant items that represent our fond memories.

How we choose to appreciate and express our love for others can vary.

Many enjoy gift giving and receiving in the form of physical objects, innings and outings (staying home or going out) or in the form of adventures on the open road or in the air.

If you ask anyone to reflect on past memories related to gifts, we typically relay fondly to experiences, not stuff.

As we mature, I believe we begin to realize and embrace the meaning of gifts. This concept is the primary focus I emphasize when working with clients because many are overwhelmed with stuff — stuff received as gifts or gifts we reward ourselves with.

This holiday season, as we evaluate purchasing gifts for others, keep this nugget of insight in mind as you determine how you’d like to display affection to those important to you.

Picture your traditions this holiday season.

Are you the primary host for gatherings?

Do you travel near and far to see your special people?

Do you rely on a video call to see your loved ones?

Does your tradition look different this year because of a gain or loss of a loved one?

Overall, how do you envision quality time spent with others?

2023 can be an opportunity for us to reshape our annual tradition of gift giving.

Instead of stressing about what we think someone would want or need, how about approaching the concept of giving with communication?

As I type this, a wonderful flashback of receiving the annual Sears catalog resurfaces. Writing my wish list was a form of communication, even if I didn’t realize it back then. Did I get everything on my wish list? No. Gifts were based on my parents’ budget and what they ultimately thought were educational- and experience-enhancing items.

Ultimately, I thank them for implementing this approach, a lifelong perspective I now share with others.

This might be the easiest form of advice you read all year: Try talking to each other. Face to face, phone, text, email, video call, letters, you name it.

I know in-person interaction isn’t feasible for everyone, but hear me out.

If your recipient(s) are able and willing to spend time together, plan an outing and visit a place that holds interest for all. Your time spent together can translate to a gift.

Grab some coffee, take a road trip, enjoy nature, visit your favorite local vendor or not-so-common destination. You might realize or learn along the way that our journey together can be the icing on the cake.

The beauty of spending time with our people is that the duration spent together can revolve around our schedules and factor out the stress added to our bank account.

Once the new year rolls in, I find clients suddenly realize they are overwhelmed with the items in their homes because they have received gifts (past and present) and held on to useless things because they feel guilty about letting things go. More often than not, the items causing our agony were gifts.

The rule of thumb is that once its yours, its yours to decide its destiny. Unfortunately, this is not a concept taught in school or even by our previous generations. It is truly a realization we need to obtain on our own.

All of our unused stuff can create an unforgiving environment, introduce stress to our relationships or cause unmanageable havoc throughout our home.

There are plenty of people in our community that would love to obtain gifts you own multiples of or truly have no interest in possessing.

When it comes to gift giving this year, and years to come, please remember, the items we gift to people we value should have meaning and purpose. Quality over quantity truly symbolize a personalized thought, individual interest or items that make our day-to-day lives easier and more enjoyable.

Jessi Bushman is a professional organizer, member of the Iowa Professional Organizers Association and owner of Organizer Jessi in Dubuque. Visit her at

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