This is a photo of my mom holding me on a visit to her family. I was a sickly baby who nearly died right after I was born and my mom was told to keep me warm. As you can see she took those words to heart! I'm guessing this was September or October and no one wears a snow suit during those months but there I am all bundled up against the Fall breezes. Ironically I'm always cold and have trouble staying warm. Can it stem from those days? Just kidding ...
My mother figures prominently in many of my books because she was indeed the first Zen Organizer. Her mantra was 'There is a place for everything and everything should be in its place so the next time you need it or want it you will be able to find it.' Mom couldn't stand wasting time looking for an item. She did have a funny quirk I never understood. The public spaces were always pristine and perfect. We had no piles in the Brooklyn brownstone of my childhood. But in drawers and in closets it was a free for all and my mother explained it this way: "Why should I care what it looks like? No one is going to see it but me." I felt those personal spaces were just as important because order there was a way to express healthy self-love and high self-esteem. After I became a professional organizer I was even more convinced this is the truth and I urge all of my clients to create order and peace in every nook & cranny of their environments.
My mother never procrastinated. Once a task was on her To Do list she was on it like white on rice. She made me tackle homework assignments the second I got them. She assured me I'd be grateful to have free time later on. Feeling last minute pressure was as big a waste of time to her as searching for lost keys. My mother was the queen of categories and realized their power. She was more sentimental than I am and saved a lot of things I would toss in a heartbeat. In fact I did toss most of what she saved after she died. What was I going to do with all of my notebooks from grammar school? I was her only child, an accident and a 'late in life' baby. Whatever I touched was sacred to her and remembering her desire to hold on helps me counsel parents not to repeat her mistake. What would you think of a 40 year old adult who wanted to haul out his or her first grade notebooks for you to see? You get the idea. Her talents and her failings in the world of organizing made me a better teacher and organizer.
Looking at old photos is an amazing experience because you have a chance to view people from a fresh perspective. My mother wanted a different kind of child and I was hurt by her inability to love me for me not for the person she hoped to create. When you want a doctor or a lawyer and your only child announces she wants to be an actress and a singer there's a divide that must be healed. My mom died not long after I left college and we never had time to heal but I look at this photo and all I can feel is how much I love her. I miss those big Lebanese hands wrapped around me giving me a bear hug. I had no clue she was preparing me for my life's work. Thanks, Mom. I hope you know how grateful I am. You were indeed the first Zen Organizer!