Balanced Living

Work Life Harmony...it's more than a balancing act

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Or so the song goes.

How often do we hear people say, "My life is crazy busy right now?!" To me, it's a badge of honor that comes with a price. What if we focus upon giving ourselves permission to let some things go, and commit instead to nurture harmony within our hearts and within our lives? Could this shift in thinking pave the way to a more peaceful sense of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays? I say, "Yes!"

Less-Stress Organizing Solutions Blog

This season, I've decided to lessen my grip on balance and redirect my energies toward harmony.

What do I mean by this?!  Do you remember the movie, "One Fine Day?" It is a story of a single mom (Michelle Pfeffier) in New York City who has trouble letting anyone help her. There is a scene where the protagonist (George Clooney) offers assistance which she flatly refuses saying, "I've got all these little balls up in the air and if someone catches one of them for me I will probably drop them all." 

I can certainly relate to her statement. The thought of a milion balls crashing around me is overwhelming. Yet, if I don't delegate, prioritize, and share the load, they will fall despite my best efforts. There are not enough hours in the day, as Michelle's character also learned.

By definition, balance is a point between two opposing forces. Balls up, must come down, and this juggling takes constant effort. Harmony, on the other hand, takes a slight detour on a gentler path. Finding a pleasing arrangement of parts, or harmony, requires attention to the details, a vision for the bigger picture, and a willingness to edit. Ask anyone who has been a part of a vocal group. 

Moving past balance to the place of harmony allows us to be completely present and immersed in whatever we are doing whether it is a work project, a meeting, watching a movie, or ice skating by the sea. All deserve our full and undivided attention. 

Just as you declutter and purge stuff you no longer use or need, your schedules and task lists require the same refresh. This is a good time of year to make space in your days to savor and slow down, to be selective when saying yes to social gatherings and festivities, and to leave time for the unexpected. 

Here's what I will keep on my list: self-care and daily activities that provide stress reduction and health benefits, connection to the people I cherish, conversations with stake holders before making decisions, current work commitments, and, a few weekend days for merriment for its own sake. I already feel better with this plan.

This weekend began a little rough. I was fighting a virus. Yet, it turned out to be the perfect time to put my "holiday harmony" plan into action. I worked from home, rested and took a few breaks; and, when I felt a little burst of energy, I made space for a few of my favorite holiday traditions, lights and decorating the Christmas trees. 

A few little trees near my kitchen.

A few little trees near my kitchen.

I expect to find that my quest for harmony will lead to more joy and less stress this year. It is my wish for you as well.

Happiest holidays!

Plan B...How to ride the ebb and flow of life

Riding the ebb and flow of life requires that we let go of unrealistic expectations and perfectionism and embrace Plan B.

I did not have the perfect, happy new year that I eagerly anticipated. In the past 10 days, I have lost a dear brother-in-law, and had a thug come to my home and threaten harm to me and my family. Yes, this really happened! How dare he intrude upon my grief and threaten my nest.

Not much that the police can do until the thug is more specific with his threats. I know his name, but not exactly when or how he plans to hurt me. I guess even criminals need to show SMART goals to be taken seriously by the police. 

That would be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. But to add insult to injury, I have experienced technical challenges with a brand new computer, and the wi-fi connection in my home which made simple things that I take for granted, more difficult.

And, it all happened in the space of a few days.

This challenging first week of 2017 has been a good reminder to appreciate what is working in my life, to count my many blessings, to remember my priorities, and to dig deeply to find joy. 

Enter Plan B and letting good enough be good enough which is better than constantly judging and worrying. Right?!

If you set one intention for the new year, let it be permission to enjoy good enough. I promise there is more joy in good enough than in chasing elusive perfectionism.

You may find, as I have, that there is enough of you to go around to meet the deadlines that are truly most important to you, to spend time with those you hold dearest, and to keep and have what is really most needed and useful to you. 

It also leaves cushion in your days for the unexpected. Life is messy and there will be curves ahead, no matter how carefully you plan and strategize. Travel is cancelled due to weather, computers crash, clients cancel due to illness, budgets change with health challenges.  

I have learned that when I am not solely dependent upon a specific outcome to the detriment of all else, I channel the arts of resilience and resourcefulness allowing the creative side of my brain to shine.

Kaleidoscope Inn, Nipomo California

Kaleidoscope Inn, Nipomo California

I feel more joyful when perfectionism is not a driving force in my life and I tend to savor my time and efforts by allowing myself to become more fully present in whatever I am doing. It doesn't mean that I don't strive for excellence. I do. Nor does it mean that I don't feel irritable or impatient when Plan A goes awry. I just don't let these glitches completely ruin my day, at least not for long. This week has certainly tested my peace of mind and resilience.  

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that you throw out your planners or lose sight of your goals. Planning is a must. We all know the benefits of writing our goals, scheduling appointments, making lists, breaking projects into tasks and then doing one piece at a time. 

I am just suggesting that when the unexpected curve-balls of life hurdle straight at your head, set down your carefully detailed plan, focus upon your breathing and do one thing that is within your control. And when you finish that, repeat. 

This is what I have done the past few days, and it has made all the difference. I am still grieving and will spend as much time with family as I can. I have made my family and home as safe as possible. I have worked with tech support to fix my computer. And along the way, I have remembered what is important to me, have let others lend a hand, and have prayed more than I have in a long time. I still retain my sense of humor and have taken a little time out for myself, despite feeling the walls close around me.

Plan B is working just fine. 

 

 

 

 

Living With Less...Consider The Cost of Keeping your Stuff

Declutter -  Less-Stress Organizing Solutions

There is value to becoming organized. No doubt! There is a sense of calm, order, and control attached to managing your spaces and to managing how you spend your time. But it DOES take time to find the sweet spot that is just right for you. Organizing is personal.

All of my clients want to get organized.  Most of them accept that there will be disruptions and discomfort during the process. Some of them willingly reduce and remove the stuff that is no longer useful, the stuff that is unnecessary, and the stuff that they no longer love or want in their lives. They are ready for the benefits that come with reducing, sharing, decluttering, and organizing.  

The benefits of living with less in a calm, orderly environment are appealing. Yet some of us are stuck? The process IS uncomfortable, and sometimes costly. Believe me, I can personally relate to reluctantly digging in my heels. Getting to the point of having less comes with angst. We ask our selves, "What if I need it someday? What if I eventually remember what this thing fits and then I no longer have it? What if this thing is worth money and I give it away? What if I could have sold it at a garage sale? What if my kids want it someday? What if I move? What if, what if, what if...?"

What if I told you that there is a cost for keeping your stuff? Small, over crowded spaces are more difficult to clean, limit freedom of movement, and feel stagnant. Upsizing to bigger housing is an expensive option. Storage units are sometimes necessary and useful, but they cost money and are not as easily accessible as having things at your fingertips.

Time spent looking for things buried behind the other stuff that we don't use very often is time that could have been spent doing something else. Keeping every surface covered requires frequent movement of stuff when you begin simple daily activities such as food prep, mail sorting, and bill paying. 

Formal dining rooms become collection rooms, and guest rooms become large, full closets for the overflow of life until we need to use them for their intended purposes and then you know what happens next?! Frantic movement of the stuff to another room. It is endless, it is time consuming, and, it is exhausting!

And yet, we keep things because these items represent hard work, sentimental moments, difficult decisions, and a different space and time in our lives that may no longer exist. And, we are busy! We may feel rushed in our day to day lives, dropping things where we land rather than put them in the same place every day. Time spent searching for keys and wallets is a common theme.

And, as useful as technology can be, there is inherent risk when we spend more time managing our devices than the time we spend connecting to the people around us.

One of the most common complaints that I hear is regarding the inordinate amount of time looking for that one important email that is buried under 6000+ advertisements. Rather than take the time to clear the unwanted, un-needed, and unloved messages that bombard us, and unsubscribe to the messaging that is no longer relevant, we complain and we stress about the ever-growing inbox. 

And, finally, the stress attached to managing too much stuff and too full a calendar eats away at our health and well being. And, to me, that is too high a cost for keeping "stuff."

Creative solutions to these challenges and obstacles are abundant. Feeling motivated and eager to do the work takes energy, patience, and perseverance. Sometimes it takes outside help and sometimes we can do it ourselves. But, we always need to feel confident that we are in charge of the decisions.

I have seen first hand the lightness of being that results from having less both in my experience as an organizer and in my personal life. I have watched an ill client jump up and dance around her garage and tell me how freeing it is to finally let go of the weight of boxes stagnating in her garage. I have listened to a voicemail that moved me to tears from a client who donated her excess to a food bank. She witnessed first hand the most basic of needs right here in our own community and was humbly motivated to do more. 

I remember a point in my own life when I decided that I was going to "fit" into my home. I have moved many times in my life, and became comfortable with keeping things for someday. Although masterful at organizing my stuff, I asked myself the tough questions, "Do I need it, use, it, love it?" I have been in the same house now for 15 years. And, yes, I may have a move in my future. But for now, having less has brought a new level of peacefulness to my life that I cherish. I look around and marvel at the open spaces and the coziness of it all.

There is still more that I will remove, but as I tell friends and clients, the process is like peeling an onion. We take it a layer at a time, wipe away the tears that sometimes result, and then let it sit until we are ready to peel again.

Eventually, we get to the sweet center and wonder what and why we were waiting because we are so happy to be there.

  

Minimalism...when all else fails, Kiss! Keep it simple, sweetheart!

One of the most interesting and relevant buzzwords of the day is "minimalism." And, it is frequently misunderstood, ill conceived, and too quickly dismissed.

The very thought of living with eight plates and four white shirts, for example, has absolutely no appeal to me; and, yet this is a choice that some people make and it suits them. I would not feel joyful, nor would it be practical for me to live so sparingly. Yet, it is just what some people need and want. And THAT is really at the heart of minimalism, choosing to live with what YOU truly need, want, and love.

And, if this is true, then minimalism is not a tick in the box or a "thing to do," but rather a lifestyle of "living with intention" that will evolve and grow to suit you personally.

In the spirit of minimalism, I offer a short list of guidelines for setting down a path of intentional living. 

 

 

Keep what you “love & need”

 

Integrate your “wants” based upon your  space, time, budget & priorities

 

Share, sell, or discard the remainder

 

Sort & organize your spaces & schedules

 

When the work of redefining your spaces and belongings is done, you are left with a sense of order, harmony, joy, and peacefulness. At least, that has been my experience. You are free to move on to the work of living and being truly present in the world. Beginning a more intentional life is just a kiss away.

Personal Organizer

 

Best regards as you ponder if this choice suits you!

Jennifer xox

 

Vacation Mentality...simply clearing a path to enjoy your daily travels

Have you ever wished that everyday could be a vacation day? What if that that sense of calm and relaxation could become more of a daily experience? I know I would say, "Yes, please!"

A recent conversation with a customer had me thinking about vacation mentality. She fell in love with a dress at the store where I work part-time. I could see it in her eyes! When I offered to take it to the fitting room, she declined the offer saying that she would buy it in a heartbeat if she was shopping for vacation because it was "truly the perfect dress." Cut, color, quality, comfort were all 10 out of 10. 

She continued to say that she would never spend that much money on herself for everyday use even though she admitted that she could picture herself wearing it for different events and activities and could see the styling options that made it a versatile garment. 

I couldn't stop thinking about this. Some of my favorite outfits and go to pieces in my wardrobe are garments that I have chosen for vacations and travel. They are comfortable, fit well, are versatile, and are a breeze to launder. And, yes!  I do wear them frequently! The cost per wear makes them the best values in my closet! Even the plaid rain boots that I bought for a trip to Ireland, although rarely worn in southern California, add a little whimsy on those rare wet days. 

This train of thought led me to ask myself, "What if we approached daily life from a vacation mentality?"

Hear me out. I'm not suggesting that we stop working or cleaning or preparing food at home. But what if we were to streamline our decisions as if we were packing and planning for travel? Would this be the start of a shift toward more enjoyment in daily living by living with a little less.

Del Mar Beach, California

Del Mar Beach, California

I propose that we test out my theory with a three practical steps that will clear the path to finding more joy and contentment in your daily routine. 

1. Clear the clutter in your handbags, briefcases, backpacks, cars, trunks, night stands and keep only what you really need and use in those places. These are hot spots that grow if untended and can weigh you down and spoil the ease of movement that is otherwise possible. Think back to the last time you traveled. Carry just what you need.

As for me, my car console looks something like this: sunscreen, phone charging cable, a non-perishable snack, water bottles, a book, and a few quarters for the rare parking meter that still requires your pocket change.

My handbag ritual looks like this: I remove receipts and take them to my desk, add one lipstick to suit the mood of the day, sunglasses, a small Emory board, cell phone, wallet, Advil, and an epi pen (bee stings).  Years of schlepping too much has led to neck strain and I am proud to say that I have finally learned my lesson. I now carry a smaller, light weight bag and love the freedom this allows.

All summer long I keep beach chairs, towels, sunscreen, a sunhat, and flip flops in the trunk of my car for impromptu stops at the beach. Yes! I live minutes away from the ocean and have found a favorite stretch of sand where I sit and listen to the waves even if only for 30 minutes.

2. Review and purge your clothing. There are many books and articles explaining the benefits of a limited, capsule wardrobe.  I personally like clothes and costuming too much to limit myself solely to 20 or so garments. Although if I'm being completely honest, I wear the same 20 pieces mixed and matched 80% of the time. I suspect this is true for most of us.

Wear colors that look good on you and make you feel like a million bucks! Keep pieces that work well together and give you options for styling. Remove the items that no longer fit, that are worn and damaged, that you no longer like, that you haven't worn for a year or more, and move seasonal clothing to garment bags or to the sides of your closet making your "capsule" more accessible.

When you have a few minutes and the inclination, play a little with accessorizing so that when you are rushing off to an event, you can leave with confidence knowing that you look put together. Those predetermined, go-to outfits are a God-send on tightly scheduled days.

Once you clear the clutter from your closet, notice what is missing to complete outfits and if it's in your budget, go shopping for those pieces, just like you would if you were preparing to leave on holiday. You will be less distracted by things you do not need with a clear agenda for shopping. Vacation mentality!

3. Savor what is special to you by using it every day. Keep only what you truly love, that you need and use, and that makes you happy whether they are photographs, seashells collected from a special trip, your expansive collection of books (I get it), or what ever "sparks joy" for you.

Do you still use your chipped old dishes and keep your favorites for company? Why not use your favorites everyday to make every meal special?

Why not take your coffee in your favorite travel mug to your favorite park or beach and savor a few minutes rather than rush off to the next task? Isn't that what we do on vacation?! This simple pause in the day can be just the mental rest that you need.

Removing the unnecessary leaves you with what you do need, want, and love, front and center and visible in your life. Just like when you go on vacation, you are free to cherish the day and get on with whatever you have planned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simplifying...a little sage advice on the path to Less Stress, and More joy

There is much talk about living simple, clutter free lives.  "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," by Marie Kondo has sold more than 2 million copies and is an international best seller. This tells me that people are hungry for something different in their lives. Something simpler, less stressful, and more joyful. 

Yet, the path to simple has obstacles that we are often reluctant to face. In honor of National Simplify Your Life Week, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on moving toward a simpler life. 

Know that simplifying your life is NOT always easy. As I sit here impatiently searching for the perfect words to inspire you, I find myself falling into old patterns of self judgement and self doubt, negative  thinking (mental clutter) that I discourage in my family, friends and clients. 

Yet here I sit, berating myself  because I haven't written a new blog post for a few months.  I actually felt momentary shame about this. After all, I am an organizer by trade. Surely I can carve out time to write more often. The truth is I have chosen to postpone this task as other priorities have been the center of my focus for a few months now.  I feel content with my decision to honor what is most important to me, and understand that some things will take a back seat for my attention.

My daughter leaves for college in a few weeks and I am cherishing these last days of this chapter of my  life. For me, living a simple, authentic life means paying attention to what I bring into my home and life. It also means spending time where I feel happy, where I feel fulfilled, where I feel whole. 

Change may be good, but we all have deeply entrenched neural pathways that make shifting to something new challenging, no matter how beneficial the end result may be.  We are creatures of habit. We become set in our ways, even preferring the devil we know to the devil we don't; and, we often fear the unknown. Using these reasons to avoid change or getting started on a path to less stress  and more joy in your personal and work lives may appear as being complacent, lazy, or inept. Simply not true.  You were not ready. Forgive yourself,  take a deep breath, and consider this.

If you have a nagging sense that your personal or work life needs a shift, then maybe, you are now ready to forge a new pathway. I warn you, it is easy to fall off the shallow rails to the deeply gorged, older patterns of your life. Don't let that discourage you though. If success comes from getting back up one more time than you fall, then you already know the answer. Get back up each and every time you falter. Period.

Decide what you want, and figure out how to get there. And, if you don't know how to get there, ask. There are so many resources at your disposal. Use them!

The Kon Mari method of decluttering may not be a fit for you. But there is sage wisdom in Marie Kondo's simple approach. What I love most about her practice is asking the question "Does this spark joy?" Because honestly, if you don't use it or need it, it had better make you happy. Why spend time and energy tending mental and physical clutter that no longer serves a purpose in your life?

Writing down what you want is an important first step. You are announcing quietly to the universe what you need and want. And in that moment you are one step closer to your vision. 

Stop judging yourself. Learn from your past choices and move forward. To spend an inordinate amount of time beating yourself up mentally serves no one. Your choices, experiences, and yes, even the physical clutter have served a purpose. It is now up to you to decide what stays and what goes. People around you may say things that foster doubt in your decision making. But remember that only you know what you truly need. Monet was rejected by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and yet, went on to become one of the most renowned and beloved artists of all times. He remained authentic and true to himself. A beautiful lesson, for sure.

As you shed your homes and offices of physical clutter, let go of sabotaging language and negative thoughts that cast judgements about your stuff and, by extension, yourself. Thank yourself for what what you have learned about what you truly need. Recognize what is important where you are right here, right now. And, simply, set the rest free. 

 

photography by Jennifer Raphael Seines- pathway, Paris, France; and, Claude Monet's home in Giverney, France (June 2015)

 

 

Getting started...sifting through the stuff of your life gracefully and with kindness!

Sometimes, getting started can feel paralyzing, even for an organizer like myself.  I have honed my skills by implementing ideas, strategies, and systems, with an open mind toward paying attention to what is serving my family well, and what isn't. For me the keys are getting to the heart of what matters and then breaking them down into manageable pieces. 
 

As I move through my home, my schedule, my life, I keep a clear vision of a home and a life of love, joy, beauty, order, harmony and balance. Theses images and feeling are what I value. They influence how I make decisions regarding my environment and schedule.  The process of decluttering, repurposing, and reorganizing ultimately leads me to less stress and more joy.

Through this process, I juggle time, money, energy and changing needs, as anyone does. And, there are times that I feel overwhelmed just like anyone. I have heard it said that a confused mind says, "No!" I can certainly relate to that!

When too much stuff and too full a schedule are competing for our attentions, it is no wonder that we shut down and take detours that lead us further away from our intended goals. When I feel like this, I ask myself what is the one thing that  I can do or change that will make an immediate difference. And, then, I DO it! 

This shift in focus and positive action are often all I need to find the momentum and encouragement to keep going in the direction of what matters.   

One final thought as you begin to sort through the stuff of your life. Do so with self-compassion and the same kindness that you would show a friend, avoiding the harsh judgmental words that question "what took me so long to get here." The point is that you ARE starting. 

To borrow Dinah Maria Mulock Craik's beautiful words, 

"...But pouring them them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; 

certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, 

 keep what is worth keeping, 

and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."