14 Feb 2023 UPDATE: Look! KC and Alison together on a podcast episode: Gentle Organizing with Alison Lush. (It’s KC’s podcast, with Alison as her guest, and this episode was posted on Oct. 17, 2022, two weeks after my blog post was originally published, but I just found out about it today.) Also, KC has a new TEDx Talk and Alison has introduced a new SMART START bundle.
Do you feel ashamed of your clutter?
Do you sometimes struggle to keep up with basic care tasks such as cleaning house, preparing meals, and doing laundry? You aren’t alone! Many people do, including those with ADHD, depression, and chronic illness.
To friends who are (only half-jokingly) worried about me seeing their homes and judging them I say: “I don’t care what your house looks like unless you are paying me to care!” This is meant for, and usually gets, a laugh.
But seriously, if I’m visiting your home it’s to see you, not your clutter. To clients who have asked (and paid) for my help I say: “I don’t see your clutter as something to be judged. I was an engineer before I was an organizer, and I just see it as a challenge; a problem to be solved.” Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to see how systems can be established or improved.
One person’s treasures can seem like clutter to the next person, and everyone has their own level of comfort with stuff. The problem is not how much stuff you have, or what kinds of things you have, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether or not I like your things. The issue is this: How do you feel in your space? If you are uncomfortable, how would you rather feel? (If you can articulate it, and visualize it, you’re off to a good start!) Are you able to use the rooms as intended (i.e. kitchens for cooking, bedrooms for sleeping, bathrooms for bathing)? Are you overwhelmed and distracted by your stuff? Are you embarrassed by the way you keep house? Is it a healthy, safe environment? Is it hard enough sometimes just to care for yourself (and your family, if you have one), much less to declutter, and organize, and make things pretty?
What is your problem?
Sometimes your thoughts are the problem. (“I can’t do it. I never learned how. I am a big fat loser. I don’t deserve nice things.”) And sometimes it’s a mechanical issue. (The laundry bin has a lid, and clothes end up on top and on the ground instead of inside.) I can’t help you solve the problem if I can’t see it from your perspective. If we don’t work together from where you are in terms of your thoughts and physical abilities, and work towards meeting your goals and standards (not someone else’s, and not mine), we haven’t really solved the problem, have we?
As a non-judgmental problem-solver, I have written in the past about the differences (and overlap) between organized, clean, and tidy in How clean does your house really need to be? and I’ve offered a framework for thinking through basic home care issues in my blog series Six organizing systems everyone needs. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a little faith in yourself (Always Believe in Yourself and Do you think it will work? Why not try it?), and other times a therapist needs to be involved in the process.
But I’ve never been qualified to work with those who struggle the most. (Are You a Hoarder?)
Now, as a retired organizer who still wants to help where I can, allow me to introduce you to two experts I admire, KC Davis and Alison Lush.
KC Davis, LPC
KC Davis is a licensed therapist who became a TikTok sensation while she was home dealing with a toddler, a newborn, and postpartum depression during the Covid lockdown. (Her husband is supportive, but also works a lot.) She shares her wisdom with others who sometimes struggle to care for themselves, their homes, and their families. In fact, she calls it Struggle Care.
(Don’t worry, if you’re not on TikTok yet, she’s on multiple other social media platforms as well.)
As KC frequently says: Care tasks are morally neutral. Everyone is worthy of self-care.
This podcast episode serves as a good introduction to KC, as well as (it was to me) an introduction to the Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris. Ooh! I see another episode I want to listen to: Best of the Archives: How to Create an Exercise Habit Without Driving Yourself Nuts, with Kelly McGonigal. (I heard her speak at a NAPO conference once.)
Just because you struggle doesn’t make you bad or lazy. In fact, KC doesn’t believe in laziness. Who’s to say you’re not just prioritizing something else? She thinks all cases of laziness are just motivation issues (Why don’t you feel like doing it?) or task initiation issues (What’s in the way of doing it?). Like I say, they’re problems to be solved, or challenges to be met, not moral failings. And does it really even need to be done? Does it need to be done the way you always thought, or were told, it should be done? Maybe what you are doing works for you and doesn’t need to be fixed at all? Or maybe the way you do it just needs to be tweaked a little?
Here are some places where you can find KC Davis: Website (Struggle Care), TikTok (@domesticblisters), Book (How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing), 5 Things Tidying Method (3:49 min. video), Twitter (@KCDavisSays), Instagram (@strugglecare), Facebook (Struggle Care).
Alison Lush, CPO
Alison is (among other things) a former president of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD), the premier resource for chronic disorganization (as mentioned in my blog post Are You a Hoarder?). She is also one of my favorite TikTok-ing organizing colleagues! Imagine my delight when I noticed Alison and KC interacting with one another on TikTok! (I forget which of them discovered the other first. It doesn’t matter. They are a great match.) Here’s an example of Alison duetting one of KC’s TikToks. And KC lists Alison as an organizing resource on her website.)
I love Alison’s warmth, humor, and personality. Her tips are compassionate and practical. I knew her pre-TikTok, and now I love her little bite-sized organizing tips, including the clarity of her explanations of why something is difficult and what you can consider doing about it. She often uses herself as an example. (Decluttering is an ongoing care task that organizers must perform, too, if they don’t want their spaces to fill up with things and become uncomfortable.)
Here are some places where you can find Alison Lush: Website (virtual services, classes, accountability groups), TikTok (@alisonlush_enough), Twitter (@alisonmarielush), Courses (some free, some paid), Instagram (alisonlushpro.organizer), Facebook (Alison Lush certified professional organizer).
The bottom line:
If you struggle to take care of things, that doesn’t make you a bad person, or lazy. You are worthy of self-care, the kind of care that makes you feel healthy, safe, comfortable, and happy. And if you need a little support, or inspiration, with a touch of humor, follow Alison and KC.
Are you familiar with Alison Lush and/or KC Davis?
Do you agree that care tasks are, and should be considered, morally neutral?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Do know someone who struggles?
Please share this blog post with them!
- Copyright 2023 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
- Hazel is an author, genealogist, and retired home and office organizer.
- What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy
- Go With the Flow! (The Clutter Flow Chart Workbook)
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I’m a big fan of Alison’s, but do not know KC. Sounds like she has so much wisdom to share. I haven’t leaned into the TicTok platform, but am happy to hear about how well Alison (and am guessing KC) are doing.
It sounds like they are both helping normalize challenges and offer doable solutions to get activated. Fantastic!
I know a lot of folks reading this post are not into TikTok. Maybe my next post will be about how I use it, and why I like it!
I know Alison, but not KC. It was great learning more about both of them here.
Have to admit I’m not a TikTok user. I’m probably dating myself. However, in the spirit of your beautiful post, I’m not judging myself.
The phrase “Care tasks are morally neutral” is just so POWERFUL. I can see this clearly across so many professions, and it is actually freeing for both the care giver and care recipient. Helping isn’t about judging.
I had a client today who has accumulated a significant amount of clothing (rooms full), and she was just so relieved after our first session (tears). We had a big hug and celebrated both the progress we had made, and the shame-free spirit in which we worked. A win/win!!
Hi Seana! Yes, it’s a win-win to not be judgmental of a client. And, if we can also be non-judgmental of ourselves, we can get on with things and accomplish much more of what we want to. (She says to herself.)
Like Linda and Seana, I’ve known Alison for years, KC is new to me, and I haven’t yet ventured onto TikTok, but I always appreciate the resources you find and share!
Thank you, Janet!
I know and respect Alison but only became familiar with KC through her book. I was struck immediately when I read in the early pages of her book about care tasks (such a better term than “chores”) and how they are morally neutral. While I have always believed that, it has been a revelation to share with clients. Thank you for this excellent post!
Thanks, Julie! I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve recommended it based on all her other stuff! I do agree that “care tasks” sounds better than “chores”!
Thanks Hazel, for amplifying this powerful and positive message.
I began following KC Davis at the start of the pandemic. She built her own platform in part on the foundation of her professional education and training, and in part from her exploration of how to pull her own self up.
I have always been struck by KC’s eloquence.
When I interviewed her for ICD about a year ago and I asked her how she makes her videos, she told us they are unscripted and largely unedited. That is something.
KC is sharing a message that many of us in helping professions have been saying for years, but her voice and her platform are quite EFFECTIVE.
We are fortunate to have such a powerful and engaged ally!
That IS something, and KC is great. But we are also fortunate to have YOUR voice in the mix!
I have some favorite TikTok accounts I like to follow. I know of Allison but KC is new to me. I’ll have to check out some of her videos. Thanks, Hazel.
P.S. I’d like to add that I’m sure people also follow you for support, the sort that is practical with helpful resources and a side of humor. You are appreciated.
Aw, thanks, Deb! 🙂 KC talks about a number of topics and has organized a bunch of them into playlists. @domesticblisters Check it out!
I like your reframing clutter as a challenge instead of a problem! Helping clients feel comfortable letting us into their homes is important, and I think using terminology like this is an effective way to reduce the stress.