The Colander Effect. (Yes. That's A Thing.)

When my daughter was born, my mother flew across the country to be there to for her birth. It was such a relief to know that she would be there, helping to take care of things for me while I recuperated. When I let her know that I’d be discharged soon, she announced that she was ready and that I was going to be SO surprised!

That was true enough. When I arrived home, she and my son had decorated the apartment. They had arranged a lovely little party to introduce a few close friends to our new baby girl.

Then the surprise came.

Mom was so proud of how she had helped me, that I could hardly tell her how it didn't work out as she expected. She had been trying to make dinner for my son, and couldn’t find what she needed in my kitchen. This would be natural as it was her first visit to California. She assumed since she couldn’t find things, that I could use some help in the organizing department.

She helped me by rearranging everything. Everything!

It took me a while to get it back to where I could find things again, but I did. Except for my colander. I had recently been to one of those home sales parties and bought a matched set of two colanders. I found the small one. But the larger was nowhere in sight.

I did eventually find it. When I moved. It was way back in the lowest, deepest, corner cupboard. She told me later that she threw it back there because it wasn’t a real colander, obviously. Because it wasn’t a metal colander. She had once owned a diner, and all her kitchen equipment was restaurant grade, so I get it. And she did have the best of intentions.

Now that I’m a professional organizer, I see this sort of thing a bit too often. A friend with a ‘perfect’ house and a strong personality offers to fix you right up. Her home is organized exactly right and she can do the same for you! She’s so excited by the idea that she can help, that she doesn’t see the terrified look that has come across your face. She doesn't notice terror replaced by the glazed look of overwhelm. She remembers all those TV shows about home organization. You know the ones where the newly organized person is so grateful for her new incredible space. She imagines how happy you will be.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need your house to be organized in the same manner as hers. It doesn’t matter how successful she is or how precisely she places the canned goods in her pantry.

What you need is your house organized for you!

Here’s one quick example why not. We’re still in the pantry. You’ve got your paper towels stored on the top shelf and your small appliances on the bottom. You don’t need those appliances as often as you get a new roll of paper towel, so she switches their location. Except that you’re not as tall as she is. You can’t get the mixer off the top shelf without almost dropping it and smashing your elbow in the process. Sure, you need the paper towel more often than the mixer, but it’s a whole lot less dangerous to get down, right?

If you’re the person who likes to help, you might be wondering how 'help' can ever be a bad thing. Sometimes people need a little push to get them going on a project. Sometimes you can help to get the momentum going. Sometimes you just need to show them a better way. But there are a lot of details that may work for you that may not work for your neighbor. That’s okay.

Everyone’s different. It keeps us from being boring.

I’m not saying that you should never have a friend help you out. What I’m saying is that you need to be careful if you have anyone come to help (me included). Remember that you are the one who gets to decide where things finally go. Others can suggest what you may not have thought of before. You should consider these suggestions. But it’s your house, and you are the one who needs to be comfortable there. You’re in charge.

My daughter is grown now, and she has a kitchen of her own. She’s heard the story of my ‘surprise’ a thousand times. I’ve told her how this happens to unsuspecting people. She has dubbed this “The Colander Effect.” She can rest easy. I won’t be going to her house to ‘help’ her out in her kitchen unless she asks me. And I know exactly where that set of colanders is – in her cupboard, right where she wants it!