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Jonda on her deck

It’s not unusual for a client on an intake session to say something like, “I have been trying to do this by myself for a long time, but I am ADHD.” Or we might hear, “My daughter-in-law says I am a hoarder. I am afraid she might be right.” Then there is the “I am a stay-at-home mom without an outside job, and I still can’t get my work done.”  Clients label themselves in this way to give us a better understanding of who they are. But it doesn’t help us as professional organizers at all. Labeling yourself or assigning a label to another person is limiting. It is not intended to be limiting but it is.

I am:







Let me introduce myself. I am Jonda Beattie. I am 77. I am overweight. I am a busy entrepreneur. I am a professional organizer, presenter, author. I am a wife, mother, grandmother. I am a reader, a traveler, a cook.

I am a composite of so many things. One characteristic does not define me. You can’t just stick a label on me and think you know me.  Don’t assume I can’t do something because of my age or weight. I am realistic about myself, know what modifications I need to make to get a job done and I enjoy life.

If we focus in on a label either for ourselves or someone else, we miss so much. Various aspects of who we are surface in different settings.

Labeling yourself can be self-fulfilling

A person may have a diagnosis of depression, ADHD, hoarding, or any other medical diagnosis or behavior which makes it difficult for them to achieve certain goals. It is smart to acknowledge this as it will affect progress but do not let it define that person. The person is not their diagnosis.

If a person believes, “I am a hoarder,” then they accept and perpetuate the myth that hoarding-like behaviors are the norm for them. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once a person is diagnosed with ADHD and believes that their condition will keep them from achieving a goal – they are right.

Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “If you believe you can do something or you can’t do something, you are right.”

If I believe that I am “old” then I could let that belief hold me back from so many exciting adventures.

Person First

When Diane Quintana and I work with our clients we look at the whole person first. We toss aside any negative label they have assigned to themselves. What does that person want to achieve? What do they believe? What are their dreams and visions?

We look for the persons’ strengths and then develop systems and solutions which play to them. Then, we celebrate each and every accomplishment no matter how big or small. If there is a disability, we look for ways that the person can achieve their goal by getting the right help or support. Our goal is to help each person achieve success.

Avoid Negative Labels

We see repeatedly how easy it is for people to let negative thoughts take over or for them to internalize someone’s thoughtless comments. People replay these negative labels in their heads, and it keeps them from becoming their best self.

Think about it. We rarely focus on the positive things someone has said to us. Instead, our tendency is to focus on the little things that are wrong. Maybe these are things we want to make right but don’t know how.

Negative Labels Affect Your Self-Esteem

Labeling yourself with a thoughtless negative remark affects your self-esteem and plays with your emotions. You may decide you ARE lazy, a slob, a hoarder, or any other negative label someone has assigned to you. Words can hurt us more than a cut because we replay these negative remarks so often that they become a truth.

The best reason to avoid labeling yourself or others is that labels are limiting. You are more than that one label. Refrain from labeling yourself with the one thing that may be difficult for you. Don’t let yourself be defined by one aspect of yourself. Instead, look at yourself and embrace your whole being.

Ask yourself, “Who am I? What are my goals? Am I letting negative thoughts and labels hold me back? Do I just need some guidance and accountability to move forward with my projects?”

If you feel you want some help achieving an organizational goal or project, join Diane and me in our Clear Space For You clutter support group.


Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.


  • Thanks Jonda this is exactly what we need. We are not labels.

  • Seana Turner says:

    This is so good, Jonda. Those negative labels can be so hard to peel off. I’ve noticed that many people are wearing labels assigned to them in childhood, labels which are not correct. It is important to not just absorb a label from someone else who may be wrong about you. Yes, we all have “areas for growth,” but that doesn’t mean we are stuck in a uni-dimensional and negative place. As you say, we are complex and rich and wonderful. It is our variety that makes humanity fascinating and fun! I learn from my clients every day, because they have strengths and talents that I do not.

    I’m on board for the “label things, not people” mindset!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you for this, Seana. You are spot on – we are not uni-dimensional. Life would be so boring if we were all alike.

  • Julie Stobbe says:

    As an organizer I try to ignore any labels a client gives themselves and replace the negative labels by “sliding in” with positive words. I don’t want them to think I am not listening to them. I like to start with a situation that is hopeful and inspiring encouraging them that the work ahead is something we can manage. After a relationship has been built I sometimes ask why they use those labels. That helps them to realize how they a speaking about themselves. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are doing it because other people have always used those words when they are describing my client.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      It’s so wise of you, Julie to establish a relationship with your client before guiding them to think about these negative labels.

  • Lisa Gessert says:

    Excellent reminder that labels misrepresent a person. Sometimes what we think about ourselves just isn’t true!

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    I try to talk to myself the way I talk to other people – I don’t label them, why do it to myself? When clients label themselves in front of me, it makes me want to hug them. They are so much more than whatever it is they’re judging themselves for!

  • Julie Bestry says:

    You’re so right about all of this, Jonda! Most labeling, particularly negative self-labeling, is dangerous. Even, sometimes, positive self-labeling can be problematic because, if that status changes (if the body is no longer strong, if the absence of spouse makes one no longer a wife), then people can feel forlorn, lost without their sense of that positive identity. (Think of when we label ourselves by our careers; what happens when we retire?)

    I think it’s a product of my upbringing (you’ve heard of PaperMommy) and of aging, but don’t think I apply any negative labels to myself. That doesn’t mean I’m not realistic. I talk a lot. Like, A LOT. I have a friend who says I’m “built of words.” When I was a kid, I heard (and was inclined to self-apply) labels about talking TOO MUCH. But then I learned the word “loquacious” and decided, that it was neutral, even potentially positive: “Tending to talk a great deal; talkative” seems like a great thing to me. What we do is not who we are, and even if it is, it’s not ALL that we are. We can embrace some attributes as our superpowers. We can remember Walt Whitman’s “I contain multitudes.”

    Thank you for reminding us of this important lesson!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Julie, I LOVE that you called yourself loquacious. I always learn so much from you and I truly appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge with the rest of us!

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