two tall stacks of paperwork and files

Body doubling

Do you get overwhelmed when you try to declutter and organize yourself, yet find yourself effortlessly sorting, purging and categorizing when someone helps you? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Why can’t you just do it yourself?

Take advantage of a body double

The body double isn’t there to tell you how to do anything, you just need them there to keep you on track. Their presence keeps you anchored to the task.

They quietly work on pre-sorting for you, collecting all the black sweaters together or sorting the canned dog food into stew or ground meat.

Just having that person there means you get things done. You’re efficient, you process things, you make decisions. You stay off your phone and on task.

Hire an organizer to do the grunt work, the parts that have you crying with boredom.  If you have ADHD, you know it really is almost insurmountably boring and difficult for you to get moving on dull tasks like handling paperwork. But, ADHD or not, everyone eventually runs into a situation where they need a certain piece of paper right now, where not having it will scuttle a deal, lose you the loan, sour your boss or worse.

Have your body double sort the paper into categories. Broad at first; medical, school, house. Then ask them to drill down further, looking for themes; immunization records, leases, anything that has ‘Cigna’ on it. If you can give them an idea of what you’re looking for, it’s simple for an organizer to make a customized set of piles for you to go through.

Yes, that’ll still be very tedious for you to go through those papers. But your organizer will have removed (with your consent, of course) a lot of what made those piles of papers seem so daunting. The junk mail will be gone, the grocery flyers, the old newspapers. Expired coupons, old shopping lists, grocery receipts.

And then more body doubling comes in as they sit with you while you decide what happens to each piece of paper. Together you’ll corral the stuff that doesn’t need to be on display all the time. And you’ll get to choose from a whole range of options for storing and having easy access to the paperwork you need more immediately.

And yes, you could have done it yourself. But you haven’t and you won’t. It was too boring and too difficult to get started so let someone help you and it’ll get done. Side effects include the feeling of extreme competency, and the removal of the anxiety that somewhere in those papers there’s an eviction notice or a huge tax bill you just haven’t discovered yet.

READ MORE >>> Decluttering motivation

READ MORE >>> How to stop organizing overwhelm

by Lucy Kelly


white stacked papers on table

How to handle your paperwork

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11 comments

  1. Body doubling is one of the most effective ways to help someone when they are stuck. I love how you describe the many ways that organizers can help clients as a body double when they are physically present. And when I worked in-person pre-pandemic, this was often something I did. However, now I’m only offering virtual organizing. And amazingly, even without being in my clients’ physical space, there are sessions where I can still be an effective body double. The anchoring and focus part is the key to body doubling. And that can work virtually too.

  2. “And yes, you could have done it yourself. But you haven’t and you won’t.” This realization is absolutely key. And, like the others, I have clients who don’t do their tasks unless they have a body double (usually moi) to keep them focused. Powerful, dramatic, robust — all of these words reflect the magic inherent in body doubling!

  3. I have had one client that I have worked with for years and he only does certain tedious desk work when I am there. I am his answer to getting it done.
    I have other clients who work like crazy the day we have an appointment and then continue to work with me at their side as a body double during our session.
    One client said that he was so glad that the term body-doubling was formed – so much better that baby-sitter.

  4. My main business is doing body doubling with my clients. I agree, it helps focus them on the papers and stuff at hand and get things done much quicker with four hands instead of two. Whether it is with my home organizing clients, or my small business clients, having a meeting makes them more productive. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. This is such a cool and surprisingly powerful concept. I have one client who does nothing when I’m not there, but as soon as I walk in the door she gets to work. She definitely can do it, but as you say, she just doesn’t. So I show up and can sometimes work on another project, and off to the races we go!

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