Catering to our Strengths

"Catering to our strengths" by Lisa Hess (

Image credit: (2013), CC0/PD

My dad loves sharing his magazines with me. If I asked him to, I’m sure he’d just recycle them instead of handing them off to me to add to my already burgeoning collection but, text-junkie that I am, I can’t resist a pile of free reading material.

Some of the magazines make the cut, some don’t, and some surprise me. The May issue of Money magazine, for example, had several articles that captured my attention. One of them, in the front section of the magazine, featured Sonia Lewis, a.k.a. the Student Loan Doctor. Sonia is not a doctor. In fact, according to the article by Kaitlin Mulhere, “Lewis is not a student loan or financial aid professional and she has no formal training in financial planning.”

I can identify quite a bit with Sonia Lewis. Like Lewis who, according to Mulhere’s article in Money, went from self-proclaimed “Overdraft Queen” to Student Loan Doctor, my expertise in organizing comes from personal experience and immersing myself in books, articles and information about organization that fits me. I’m not a professional organizer (though I did take an online professional organization course one summer), a decorator or even a visual artist.

What I am, however, matters more. I’m a wife and working, empty-nesting mom who juggles responsibilities on multiple fronts. I’m a former school counselor and psychology instructor who believes in human potential. I’m a five-foot-tall stubborn Jersey girl (redundant, perhaps) who eschews one-size-fits-all anything. (C’mon. I’m 60″ tall. Am I really supposed to believe the same anything will fit both me and Michelle Obama?)

Some days, impostor syndrome hits me hard. Although I write about organization, I’m still an organizational work-in-progress. My home is not perfect. Some days, my I need to see it/drop and run styles win the battle and I collapse on the sofa, determined that tomorrow I will tackle the piles.

But all of this has taught me that the most important organizational principles have nothing to do with organizational strategies. Instead, they have to do with accepting ourselves, embracing our styles and rejecting perfection as anything but an ephemeral state. Once we have the confidence to reject one-size-fits-all approaches, we’re free to explore our options and tap into our latent creativity so we can not only overcome our organizational obstacles, but also press them into service. Or, to quote the infamous Ms. Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

As an adjunct professor, I’m a big fan of degrees and courses of study. But, as an instructor of psychology, I’m also profoundly aware of concepts like grit and resilience and a big believer in the power of confidence and a sense of humor. And, so far, I haven’t found the instructions for either of those inside a book or magazine, hand-me-down or otherwise.

So, maybe I’m not a professional organizer. Maybe what I am is proof that if I can find organizational solutions, so can you, even if we walk different paths with different detours and different styles.

All it takes is a little faith, a little perseverance and a little style.

Copyright 2019 Lisa Hess


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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