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I had just turned 25 in 2002 when my dear Grandma Syd died. She was almost 93. Instead of moving to Queens, I moved into Grandma’s apartment in the East Village of Manhattan to help my family empty her legacy and prepare the apartment to sell.

The time came to submit the papers to the Co-op Board (a group of people who run the building) and the original deed was needed. Grandma was very organized, and the deed had been easily located. My mother instructed me to leave it on the breakfront near the front door for my aunt to collect, and I did so. When my aunt arrived hours later, the deed had disappeared.

To this day, we have theories about what happened- maybe the caretaker accidentally took it out with the trash, a workman mistakenly picked it up, etc. We have no idea. All we knew was, this one old piece of paper, kept in perfect condition for 35 years was gone…to the tune of nearly $40,000, the penalty for not having the original deed. $40,000!!!! Can you believe that? We couldn’t. We searched and searched, but no luck. In the end, what could we do but accept the loss and move on?

Grandma SydEven now, when I think of Grandma and her wonderful life and apartment, it is a bit tainted with the memory of this bizarre loss. If I had been more organized…if only I had done a better job…my family wouldn’t have suffered this financial and emotional loss. I know the range of emotions that imperfect organization can elicit. I get it. We’re only human, and we can lead ourselves into tough places that lodge in our memories. That January I became a Reorganizer. It was the beginning of a path of understanding- of good intentions gone wrong, of misplaced things, of not blaming others when it seems like the only answer…of learning to be more careful, communicate, and plan ahead.

I’ve come to my organizing skills through a lifetime of mistakes. The goal of my upcoming class is to share what I’ve learned the hard way these 12.5 years, finding the clarity through the clutter. I’m teaching this class because I always wanted to take it. Come join me if you need help.

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