Self-Care for Professional Organizers during the Holiday Season

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Young woman wearing Santa hat smiling

When friends find out you have your own business, they often make comments like “You’re lucky. You can set your own hours.” Or “That’s great – you can take time off whenever you want to.” But although it’s true that your schedule is more flexible than others, it’s not without its challenges, is it?

That’s especially true during the holiday season, when there’s probably a lot more going on in your personal life than the rest of the year. But where most of your friends with regular jobs can plan to do their shopping, baking, socializing and other activities around their work schedule, it’s probably more challenging for you.

For one thing, many people don’t realize they need a professional organizer until it gets down to the crunch. Perhaps they’ve realized they need to declutter before entertaining guests, or maybe they need to clear out the old toys from their kids’ bedrooms and/or playroom before Santa drops another bagful down the chimney.

It’s very hard to say “no” to these clients. After all, you started this business because you sincerely love to help people get organized. And let’s face it, it’s hard to turn away potential income at any time, but especially when you know there will be days you’re not  working, and your own expenses are probably higher than usual right now. But how can you meet the organizing needs of your clients and the financial needs of your family and your business, and still have time for your own holiday activities?

Why not apply the same strategies you teach your clients all year round?

  1. Assess your priorities. Are there things you do simply because they’re tradition, or because someone else expects you to do them? Can any of them be eliminated?
  2. Delegate. If certain tasks are necessary to your holiday celebrations, do you have to be the one to do them? Can your spouse or children help? Can you buy a dessert instead of making your own?
  3. Establish a schedule. If you need time off for holiday preparations, special events, or even just to relax and enjoy your family, make it happen. Whether you close down your business for a week or two, or simply reduce the number of clients hours you’ll book, make a plan, and stick to it.

If these last few days before Christmas find you scrambling about and longing for the days when you had a fixed schedule, it may be too late to get out of the commitments you’ve already made, but you do have the power to say “no” to anything else that comes up. Your clients will respect you for practicing what you preach!

How do you handle the holidays in your business?

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Nancy Borg Nancy Borg on December 20, 2011 at 10:27 am

    So true Janet! The irony of it all is that I DID start my biz because I LOVE what I do and am passionate about organizing, but since then, I have less and less time to organize my own home and my busy life! It’s hard to turn away the clients, but I’m now realizing that sometimes “I” have to come first and make my life a priority.

  2. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 20, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I get it, Nancy! It’s like me not having time to keep my own website up to date!

  3. Moreen Torpy Moreen Torpy on December 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Yes, I’m with both of you and the challenge of keeping our own “stuff” organized while doing that with clients. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of putting things away when finished using them, but I get what Janet is saying about website updates too. Somehow, we often seem to be our lowest priorities.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      That might be a trait that’s common to women in general – looking after the needs of others at the expense of our own.

  4. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on December 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Excellent points, Janet. It always comes back to the same basics we teach our clients. Thanks for the reminders.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 21, 2011 at 6:05 am

      And isn’t it better to set a shining example than to say “Do as I say, not as I do”?

  5. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on December 3, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for the reminder, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 3, 2012 at 10:52 am

      And thank you, Hazel, for your excellent post giving us permission to not send out cards if it adds to the stress of the season.

  6. Avatar Jill Robson on December 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    So true Janet. I’m glad for your post. I have been feeling guilty about not putting 100 percent into my new business right now, then i read your article. Thanks

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Guilt can be a terrible thing to cope with – I’m so glad I was able to help rid some of yours! 🙂

  7. Avatar Stacey Agin Murray on December 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I love your line about purging old toys before Santa drops ‘another bagful down the chimney.’ I work with a lot of moms and remind them of this before the holidays. WIth two little kids at home, I ‘practice what I preach’ and do it in my own house, too!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      The nice thing about purging the toys BEFORE Christmas, is that donating those that are still in good condition may help brighten the holiday for someone else’s children!

  8. Avatar Valerie on December 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Wow…I’m so glad to know it’s not just me! This is my first year in this business and when things started to slow down in October, I took on a part-time seasonal job, figuring that I wouldn’t get many clients until January. Boy was I surprised! Now I’m struggling to keep up with clients, my part-time job commitment and the normal everyday chores and kid stuff, much less preparing for Christmas! And my blog, Facebook page and newsletter have all suffered as a result. I’ve finally stopped booking any new client appointments until after the holidays, and most people seem okay with that so far. I’ve already got the first half of January almost booked, which is a great way to start the new year!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 4, 2012 at 6:08 am

      One of the challenges of running your own business is trying to predict those seasonal fluctuations. It sounds like you’re handling it well! And telling new clients you’re booking a month in advance reinforces the message that you must awfully good at what you do to be in such high demand!

  9. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on December 12, 2015 at 8:12 am

    I see I’ve commented before. And I still think this is great advice. Also, though, if you’ve been in business for a while and have found that in your market things actually slow down during the holidays, all you have to do is announce well in advance that you are taking time off. Potential clients who are the least bit respectful of you will ask when you are available, and you (if you have respect for yourself) will tell them when that is, even if it’s after the holidays and they were hoping for sooner. I say there are no organizing emergencies. Just as in the corporate world I used to say, as a planner, there are no planning emergencies. “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Substitute “organizing” for “planning”. I would never say that to a client, but it does help me to respect my own boundaries.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      That reminds me of this cartoon my Dad had over his desk (he had his own appliance service business for over 30 years) :

      That being said, he was (and still is) a softy, and if a good customer called him on December 24 because they just realized their oven didn’t work, he’d be there and do what he could to make sure they could cook their turkey. December 25, not a chance.

  10. Avatar Seana Turner on December 12, 2015 at 8:32 am

    I very much agree that clients will actually respect you when you show control of your schedule and priorities. I don’t even think I would trust an organizer who seems frazzled! Part of what we offer is the confidence that even frenetic time periods can be managed.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 12, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      There’s much value in leading by example!

  11. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on December 12, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Great reminder! As POs, we love to help, but we forget to help ourselves. Years ago, when I was organizing with clients everyday, I injuried myself and had to cut back. You don’t want to get this far in not taking care of yourself. Learn from my mistake. Since my business has changed to helping small businesses, it is light in December and I can get my tasks done and enjoy the holiday prior to January.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 12, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      I look forward to the holiday slowdown as well, but sometimes it doesn’t happen! Last year I decided to tell clients I was officially shutting down between Christmas and New Year’s, but this year I’m going to go with the flow.

  12. Avatar Hilda Rodgers on December 12, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Great reminder Janet! I can’t believe how many calls I get from people in December, wanting to get organized before the holidays. I try to take the 2 weeks off that my kids are off, but make a few exceptions sometimes. I normally try to get as much of my own Christmas to-do’s done as early as possible, but I’m definitely running behind this year. Thanks for the reminder to take care of myself this month 🙂

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 13, 2015 at 6:29 am

      There are a lot of things that can be done ahead of time, so being on top of those is a great way to make sure you have time for any client requests that come up. And if none come up, the worst that could happen is a little unexpected downtime!

  13. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on December 12, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    This was a helpful post, Janet. I appreciate the reminders, especially the one about assessing priorities. I’ve given myself permission not to schedule as many clients this time of year, realizing that with a 3 1/2 year old at home that I’ll never get this time back with him! Holidays are magical through the eyes of a child and sometimes work just needs to take a backseat. Ah, the beauty of running your own business!

  14. Avatar Janet Barclay on December 13, 2015 at 6:32 am

    That’s a wonderful age, and I’m happy you’re able to block this time to enjoy it with him.

  15. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on December 5, 2016 at 6:56 am

    When our daughters were in school, I made my work schedule mirror their vacation schedule. So if they were off during the holiday break, I generally would be too. Now it’s a different ball game. They don’t live here and are no longer in school. I’m more likely to work during this season rather than take several weeks off. However, I do take some time to enjoy the holidays, spend time with family, and gear up for the new year. I’m also available for my clients too. It’s a good balance.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 5, 2016 at 8:50 am

      I find it’s a nice time to work on things that are hard to fit in during the rest of the year, such as website updates.

  16. Avatar Jill Robson on December 5, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I usually try and scale right back while my son is off school over the Christmas holiday, he is 15 and too soon he will be independent enough he will be doing his own thing. This time is important.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 6, 2016 at 6:09 am

      I don’t blame you one bit. The years go by so fast and before you know it you’ll be planning your Christmas activities around his availability.

  17. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on December 5, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks for looking out for us, Janet! I get all my shopping done by Halloween and mail my cards in November. Getting everything done early allows me to focus on my clients and I don’t feel stressed. Having a plan is key!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 6, 2016 at 6:11 am

      That’s amazing, Sarah! I like getting my shopping done before the stores get too busy, but it doesn’t usually happen that way.

  18. Avatar Autumn Leopold on December 5, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    I’m seriously thinking I will close business for the holidays and return when my son goes back to school. It will just be too much to try to get any work done while he is home on Christmas vacation! Plus it will give me time to catch up on reading and classes which can me learn more for my clients.

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