April 30th, 2015
The Help was a critically acclaimed movie, but one that I never saw. For good reason. See, in my experience organizing homes on the historic St. Charles Avenue, the premise still rings true.
I don’t mean the race issue, although there are still so many racial divides. I simply mean that the notion of being The Help, or rather having people whom you consider The Help is something that the upper class in New Orleans still clings to.
At the time, I was still dating the rock star’s stage manager. So my need for money was non-existent. I had the exact home, car and lifestyle I wanted. I didn’t need to hold a job. I worked as a contractor organizing homes so I could get out of my own home and so that I could meet people. It didn’t hurt that I absolutely love to organize.
However, in New Orleans, organizing homes classifies you as The Help and the social distinction this draws between you and your clients can sometimes become overwhelmingly clear.
One thing I have always tried to explain to people who don’t understand how a mansion with it’s large full time staff could become disorganized and in a state of disarray, is that the more people who are constantly in a home and using the items in a home, the easier it can become to misplace something.
The scissors are always my classic example. Scissors are something that everyone needs at one time or another. If you live alone, you may misplace the scissors and need to run through your mind to find the last time you would have used them. You may spend significant time searching. If you have a family of four, this searching could literally quadruple.
But now imagine you have a family of four, a maid, a butler, a cook, a maintenance man, and a gardener. All of whom may use the scissors at one point or another. When you can’t find the scissors, where do you even start to look?
In a mansion with a staff, it is even more important to have a place for everything and everything in its place. I am a professional organizer and a I have a semi-photographic memory. That means I remember where things are. Even in mansions.
So when I heard my client’s mother searching frantically for her grandson’s tablet, I knew exactly where it was. I has seen his mother plug it in to the docking station at the table in the kitchen. I came up the stairs to the third floor, peeked my head into the room and politely told her it was downstairs in the kitchen.
She immediately snapped, “It was plugged in right here. There was no need to move it.”
“I’m not sure why it was moved, ma’am, you’re daughter moved it.” Was my curt reply.
“You better not have touched it. I’m watching you.”
If your faith in humanity can disappear in an instant. That was my breaking point. To this day, I will never understand why some people think they are higher than others. Especially when they are so ignorant of the true situation. However, I think these experiences have all made me a better person and at the very least have taught me to treat others with respect and dignity, no matter who they are :)
I literally did her a favor and she threatened me. Wow. To top it all off, I owned the newer version of the tablet her grandson had. What on Earth would I want with his? It was a clear lesson that you never know who you are talking to or what their situation is, so you should never assume.
However, the situation that caused me to quit my day job as a professional organizer, happened in another mansion across town. I was organizing the fancy napkins, the paper kind that were only used for special occasions. One had been bent in half and I had removed it from the pile knowing that my client would not want this one to be accidentally given to one of her guests. A few minutes later, my bottle of water spilled and I grabbed the napkin to quickly wipe it up. The maid instantly grabbed my arm.
She pointed to the camera in the ceiling and said “You can only use paper towels to clean up spills, not napkins. Be careful, they watch the tapes.”
I saw her later as I was coming out of the bathroom. She greeted me with a grim face. “That bathroom is for guests only, you are not allowed to use it. The bathroom we are allowed to use is out in the garage.”
That was the moment I knew. The Help still exists in New Orleans.
Have you ever had a moment when you realized you aren’t perfect? Well this happens to me all of the time. My flaws are constantly shown to me and I am constantly working to improve them bit by bit. Often times, my flaws are pointed out when I try to point out the flaws of others.
Have you ever heard the saying “When you point a finger, there are three more pointing back at you”?
Well, that is how I feel about my post from this morning. It was inspired while watching a movie that is set in a mansion in New Orleans. The characters came up the stairs to the second story, into the bedroom across from the grand staircase and I was instantly thrown back into the iPad incident of so many years ago.
I literally paused the movie and typed out my rant – that was last night. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to post twice in one day, so I saved it for the morning. The main emotion I felt while writing was anger. The thing is, I want to feel happy while writing, so even while I was writing it, it didn’t feel “right”. I posted it this morning, still viewing the blog as a place where I can share myself and who I am. But ultimately, I want to be happy and I want to share the happy things. At the very least, I want to share the lessons learned.
So, why bring up the post from this morning? Because boy have I learned lessons from it. Today the message of my post was that you never know who you are speaking to, so you should always treat everyone with dignity and respect. I made the mistake of complaining about things to the wrong people today. In both cases, they were people who have often also done the thing I was complaining about, and they reminded me of that fact. Ouch.
No one wins when we point fingers. Today I’ve learned more than ever that I want to constantly focus on the solution instead of the problem.
Here are 4 things I’ve done today that I had recently complained about someone else doing:
1. Didn’t realize who I was talking to (twice) and inadvertently offended the person
2. Sent a calendar invite and immediately updated it
3. Sent an email off too quickly, requiring an immediate follow up email
4. Replied to an email from someone about one topic regarding a completely different topic
For me, the bottom line is solutions. It is okay to be upset about something that happened and to voice the concern, but the focus should be on the solution. Hopefully, if I can focus on the solutions more, I will find myself doing more of them ☺
So, the solutions from the above list:
1. Treat everyone with dignity and respect
2 and 3. Focus on the task at hand and take time to double check everything before you send it.
4. When starting a new discussion thread, start a new email chain