Inside the mind of a professional organizer: Saluting women

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

The idea of stepping into another woman’s shoes is easier said than done.

For example, I’m a single, self-employed woman, sharing a home with a self-sufficient parent.

My personal life and experience is unique, just like yours.

As women, we shouldn’t compare our lifestyle to others, but instead, offer empathy and compassion.

Where we started, where we are now and where we are going is a vision we like to think we have control of. But life has an interesting way of leading us down a different path — one many of us cannot anticipate.

If you are an avid reader of my columns, you likely have gathered by now that organization keeps me afloat and is my primary sense of control as I navigate my life, one day at a time.

Planning for the future, and the inevitable, provides me with clarity and peace, as I and those around me age.

I absolutely love visiting and learning about women who lead a different lifestyle than I do. Why? Every conversation reveals a fresh perspective.

When we only surround ourselves with women who are in the same boat as us, we’re talking and acting in the only way we know how.

The Dalai Lama said it best: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

Sometimes, it feels as if we are on a hamster wheel and getting nowhere, doing the same things and getting the same results. A narrow outlook prevents us from moving forward and lessens our ability to adapt.

Jump off the wheel and try a new approach.

Women tend to carry the responsibility of maintaining the home, family and workplace, as well as the expectation to keep up with the social demands for ourselves and others.

People maintain a schedule and household easier and more efficiently when organizational systems are in place — more specifically, routines, responsibilities and communication to stay on top of what’s happening.

When our tribe works as a team, our challenges are easier to manage.

Here are some ongoing topics to dominate our day-to-day:

Calendar and event management

• How do you track appointments, meetings and social gatherings?

• Are you using technology to make date tracking easier, or do you prefer to write events on a paper calendar?

• How do you document repeat dates, such as birthdays, anniversaries and milestones?

• Are you managing a calendar for yourself, or are you responsible for others as well?

Household maintenance

• Do you maintain a house-related file for any extra expenses/repairs made to your home?

• Do you retain paperwork related to materials, goods and electronics used in your home, but not related to the structure? These items likely will go when you leave your residence.

• Do you keep track of the frequency you change air filters, services provided to maintain the upkeep of yard, snow removal or cleaning related expenses?

• Do you rely on Post-it notes to refresh your memory when it comes to step-by-step instructions for infrequent actions?

Vehicles and recreational items

• Do you maintain a file related to insurance, upkeep, storage, summer and winter fees?

• Are you able to review bills easily, allowing you to verify premium costs and confirm the policy coverage is meeting your needs?

• Have you considered your fee schedule for policy premiums? Do you pay monthly, every six months or annually? How could rearranging your payment frequency affect your overall budget and availability of funds?

Mail: Paper and electronic

• Is mail opened/processed on a daily basis, or does unopened paper and files build up, causing late payments, overdrafts, finance charges and possibly disconnected services?

• Do you have automatic withdrawal, or do you prefer to write a physical check/process bill payment online with your financial institution?

• Do you have someone assisting you with the bill paying process, causing a delay?

• What is your system to file processed payments?

• On an annual basis, are you creating a space for the new year, while keeping past papers for reference or tax related purposes?

• Do you use your billing information to understand your overall budget and spending reality?

Of course, these categories are just the tip of the iceberg related to our daily in/out.

When we make the effort to collaborate with other women, we easily can learn new methods and share positive feedback and resources to make our day-to-day easier to manage.

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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