As a professional organizer I can honestly say that generally I think that labels are a good thing. I love my label maker. I take it with me to all my client appointments. I often end up labeling files, manila folders, shelves – I have even labeled the shelves in a client’s refrigerator and freezer! I also label jars in pantries, containers, shelves, and more things around my clients’ houses. Labels most definitely can be very useful.
Labels in clothes:
I remember when we were young my mother used to sew labels in my clothes and those of my brothers and sisters. I ironed labels in my children’s clothes or if I was short on time, used a sharpie to put their initials in the coats and boots they took with them to school.
Manufacturers labels in clothes are placed inside clothes to help the purchaser know how to clean them. Logo labels are placed on the outside as a means of advertising. We all know that the alligator is a Lacoste symbol, the check mark denotes Nike, and the polo pony is Ralph Lauren to name a few.
Grocery Store Labels:
I don’t know about you, but I read labels in the grocery store. I want to know how much sugar, sodium and carbs are in the prepared foods I’m buying. And then there are people with specific food allergies. They read labels to avoid purchasing foods with ingredients which are harmful to their health.
Names as labels:
Centuries ago a person’s last name helped identify his profession. Mr. Miller, for instance, was the man who worked the mill. Then there was Mr. Carpenter, he was the wood worker. The blacksmith was known as Mr. Smith. I think you get the idea.
We have moved away from having our last name identify our profession. Although, some of my clients will identify me as their organizer. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever been identified by your profession?
What do you think about professional labels: Doctor, Lawyer, Gardener, Shoemaker, Dancer to name a few? I think they are helpful. I love being able to refer friends and clients to people whose services I can recommend whole heartedly.
These are labels that I think are great. However, there are some labels that I think are unnecessary.
I can think of several instances where labels are not needed and can be hurtful. Name calling for instance. There’s no need to assign a characteristic or quality to a person. I’m thinking about a time when I heard someone call another person ‘lazy’.
I try very hard not to label people. I try to label the quality instead and to say something like ‘it’s great that you are being so patient today’. In place of saying ‘You’re a very patient person’ because maybe that person is not always so patient!
I’ve been thinking about this topic of labeling people for several years now. You see, I have earned the designation Hoarding Specialist from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and as such I often work with people diagnosed with the Hoarding Disorder.
This disorder does not define the person. However, sometimes (because it is a mouthful to say ‘a person with the hoarding disorder’) people refer to those with the hoarding disorder as: hoarders.
This word: hoarders, carries a negative connotation with it. People picture scenes from the television shows Buried Alive and Hoarders and assume that this is what those with this disorder are like when that is usually not the case.
I admit that this is a soapbox on which I am standing. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to avoid labeling people, but I think I’m not alone.
I came across a couple of great quotes when I was looking for validation for the way I feel about labels and people.
“I have a fear of labels. If someone labels me, I have to respond – do I acknowledge it, reject it, deny it, live up to it and defy it? Labels can affect your ability to be yourself. If you’re not careful, like I wasn’t when I was young, that can take a toll on you. You find yourself conforming to everyone else’s ideas of who you are.” B.D. Wong
“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.” Martina Navratilova
I am a woman, a mom, an organizer, a teacher, a gardener, a dancer, an animal lover, a needlepointer, a reader, a thinker, a friend. I don’t want anyone of these things to define me.
Who are you? Do you want a singular label to identify you?
I hope this blog causes you to think about labels and how you apply them.
Please share your thoughts with me.
What a thought-provoking post. Many labels that get tossed around are hurtful. My daughter works in medical settings and the idea of not reducing a patient to their diagnosis (e.g. “a hoarder”) is gaining attention. We are all multi-faceted, each with our own struggles and gifts. Congratulations on getting your new certification – I think you will be a gift to clients who battle hoarding:)
I love this topic Diane! Your points are have validity and I’m sure hits home for many individuals. You’re so right when you say that labels can be hurtful, and depending on the context, they can. However, when they’re used correctly they can certainly help as well. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
Interesting thoughts! It reminds me of someoneI know who works in the field of mental health saying that a diagnosis is often used as a label, and that it shouldn’t be that way. (I agree!)
On another note, I’m happy to be introduced as a web designer, photographer, or any other label that might hint that I have certain skills. Too often, I’m called something else altogether!
Like you, I LOVE labels for things like jars, food packages, and clothing tags. I don’t even mind them for placing people in recognizeable categories like mom, daughter, organizer, or blogger. However, also like you, I DO mind label people based on their diagnosis. While the word “hoarder” is commonly used, I wil instead say that someone “exhibits hoarding behavior or tendencies.” Labels can be hurtful. And it’s always best to listen to how people describe themselves, model their language, but also check-in with them to see if they are comfortable with you using those words too. And frankly, even when labeling clients’ things or file folders, I always make sure that the language used is THEIR language and not mine.
Many thought and many ways to make good use of labels!