Before and After Photos

Most professional organizers post before and after photos. I don’t.

I think before and after photos are misleading. Those NAPO colleagues who post them, well-intentioned though they may be, inadvertently position organizing as a one-time event.

But the stuff in our lives is constantly flowing and ebbing. And our needs constantly change.

  • Do you have a functional daily maintenance strategy?
  • Do you update your organization to keep up with current conditions?

These two aspects of space maintenance are the most overlooked (and resisted) aspects of living an organized life. In my experience, regular but modest effort works best. When I’m “too busy” or “too tired” to put things away for more than a few days at a time, it’s a clue that I’m overcommitted.

When I see a “before” photo of a messy space, I wonder:

  • How long did it take to get that way?
  • How long has that disarray persisted?
  • How functional is that space?

Visual mess can be deceptive: if items can be located quickly and safely, it’s organized. My living room looked terrible when we unpacked the car from our last road trip. But we got it all put away within two hours. It’s a different story when a room has had the same mess for two decades.

When I see an “after” photo of a pristine space, I wonder:

  • What’s behind the photographer?
  • Did stuff get stashed elsewhere “just for now”?
  • What’s inside the drawers and cabinets? Are they user friendly?
  • After the picture was taken, how long did the space stay pristine?
  • What’s the plan to maintain the space?
  • What’s the plan to rearrange the space as needs change?

If I organize a space for you, it might last a day or week. If I help you set a up a system, it might work for a year or two. If together we identify techniques and strategies that enable you to update your own systems when needed, your investment will keep paying dividends for life.