General Organization

Moving...a change could be just what you need

Today, as I sit on my patio with my iced coffee listening to the birds, and the cars rushing past ma petite chateau, I am grateful. Grateful that I have all the packing and schlepping behind me, grateful for the end of the myriad of paperwork and intrusion into my personal life, and grateful for the opportunity to begin again in my own little corner of the planet.

Getting here was not easy and not for the faint of heart. But, it was just what I needed.

Have you considered relocating? Downsizing? Upsizing? Right sizing? Do you need to change your living arrangements due to a "change of circumstance?" 

In February, I answered yes to right sizing and making the final move toward my independence. "Let's put the house on the market in June," I said. "Okay," he said.

You may have noticed that today is May 21. My taking it slow and easy plan looked great on paper, but ended up moving at warp speed!

I found a realtor who was aligned with my need to look first before listing the house.  I wanted to be excited about this move. I was leaving the home where I had nurtured and raised my family, and where I had spent years developing a beautiful garden and bird sanctuary. I was leaving this all behind. I could take the memories with me, but not the visual peace of it all. And, this was a final goodbye to my married life.

Off I went to find a little place that I could afford near the new life I have built, where I could find peace, inspiration, and restoration. I found it sooner than expected and then sold the family home just as quickly. Blessings both, I know, along with the lessons learned through all of this.

Here's my checklist of do's and don'ts refined after recently practicing what I teach my clients.

1. Know what you can afford and stick to it. Prequalify for your home loan. Take a hard look at your expenses and budget for rent or for a mortgage.

2. Know what is most important to you. Can you give up an office space for a pretty patio garden?  Bigger kitchen for a smaller than optimal living room? I found, "Loving The House You're In," by Paige Rein, to be insightful and helpful as I navigated my transition to a smaller home.

3. Interview more than one realtor and loan officer/broker and find a good fit for you. They will see the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of your temperament. They will also help to put the bumps and bruises of buying and selling into perspective.

4. Trust your gut. 

5. Start decluttering long before you list your home. In fact, start now even if you aren't  thinking about moving. Get rid of anything and everything that is weighing you down. If you don't use it, need it, or love it, let it go!

                                                        Recycle, repurpose, and share.

                                                        Recycle, repurpose, and share.

6. Not sure what you will need at the other end? Believe me when I say that I appreciate this. There comes a point in  the moving process when you feel exhausted from the endless decision making. What remains will be boxed up and taken to your next home. The down side is that you will need to pick up where you left off at the other end. 

7. To garage sale or not to garage sale, that is the question! If you have items that are probably not going to fit in your new residence, why pay a mover to do the heavy lifting when you are most likely going to let go of the overflow of furniture? A moving sale is win-win. 

8. If you have friends and family who will drop everything to help you, then get on your knees and give thanks! And, don't forget to feed these angels well.

9. Hire movers for the heavy furniture and boxes of books. 

10. Pace yourself or have your chiropractor on speed dial. 

   Set up a work space as soon as possible so that bills and paperwork don't overwhelm you.

   Set up a work space as soon as possible so that bills and paperwork don't overwhelm you.

11. Set up one bathroom and the essentials in the kitchen as soon as possible. You can't go wrong with a stash of chocolate, almonds, and iced cold Lacroix. 

12. Have lots of cleaning supplies on hand.

              Have a few of your favorite things in sight as you are moving in and unpacking.

              Have a few of your favorite things in sight as you are moving in and unpacking.

13. Have I mentioned pets? This is where it gets tricky. I have two cats and a dog. They knew change was brewing and reacted with predictable behaviors. Having a place for pets to feel safe during the transition is paramount to everyone's happiness. Bring blankets and bedding that smell familiar to them.  

14. Enjoy the process of moving in. It may feel good to "get it done," but some decisions need to simmer awhile and that's okay. 

I have unpacked many boxes, cleaned every inch of my new home, helped my daughter paint her room, wallpapered my bedroom for whimsy, planted a little kitchen patio garden, and have clocked many, many, many steps along the way to settling in. 

My pets have adjusted, I have found a beautiful path to walk my dog, and I just saw my first hummingbird. If you know me, you know this is a good omen!

My garage still holds many treasures and a growing donation pile. I brought more than I needed, but I do not regret it. I have found resourceful ways to repurpose some of my favorite things. The rest will be sorted one box at a time.

Moving to a new home is a change that I can live with and that I am embracing whole-heartedly. It is just what I need.

Closets...when it comes to getting dressed, less is more

Is your closet bulging with clothes that you no longer wear, clothes that you might wear given a different life, clothes that no longer fit, clothes that have seen better days, clothes that have lost their appeal or just bring a frown to your face? 

If you answered, "Yes," then I understand because I have been where you stand...just outside the closet door, dreading it even though it holds an abundance of beautiful things. Why? Because they are crowded by the other "stuff,"  the stuff that needs a new and grateful home. 

Spring is just around the corner and wouldn't it be nice to open the door to your closet and love what you see? How much time would you save having just what you need to get dressed quickly and in a style that suits you? Wouldn't it be refreshing to have room in your closet for that something new that makes your heart sing?! 

If you have been following me on Facebook, then you know I have been exploring  closet organization strategies. My reason for doing this was two-fold.

First of all, a personal closet review was long overdue. Second of all, several people have asked my thoughts regarding Marie Kondo's Konmari Method.

So, I began there, utilizing "The Magic Art of Tidying Up," by Marie Kondo. How convenient that she asks that you begin your "tidying up" journey by sorting and purging your clothing. 

I admit that I was tentative at first which only served to slow down the entire process. But, once I embraced her "pull-it-all-out-and-only-keep-what-sparks-joy" methodology, it worked. I honestly love everything in my closet, well almost everything. There are still a few pieces that I am holding in reserve.

That said, less is definitely better! But what to do with it all?!

My mother will tell you that she loves my style. But, she has to say that though 'cuz she's my mom. I LOVE styling others. As for myself,  I struggle a little bit unless I adhere to my must-have trifecta: Cut, Color, and Comfort.

Enter my second closet strategy: reading and studying the content in "The Curated Closet," by Anuschka Rees.  Such a useful book filled with beautiful visuals and practical ideas regarding building a wardrobe that reflects what you need for the life that you lead. 

closet organization

I spent an entire weekend reviewing my pared down closet, studying colors and shapes and patterns, thinking about where and how I spend my time, and remembering what I love about clothing. I know, I can hear you laughing or scolding now, wondering how you are going to find an entire weekend to devote to your clothing and closet overhaul. Sadly, or as luck would have it, I had a nasty virus and needed something to keep my cabin fever at bay.

As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will come. I was a captive audience. 

So here is my take away from my weekend of closet review, reflection, and revision:

1. There is no shame in having nice things in your closet. After all, we cannot run around naked. Feeling good in your clothing allows you to get on with your day in a confident manner.

2. Less IS more. It takes less time to put outfits together when everything you own suits your style and your life. 

3. Play with outfitting and take notes and photos for later. Really! 

4. Keep a few go-to outfits ready for those times that you are rushing or are over-scheduled (who me?!). You will thank yourself later, trust me!

5. Sharing feels good. Let go of the garments that you no longer wear, need, or love while someone else can still benefit from them.

6. My three personal criteria for clothing must be met or I am throwing money away. If a garment is not comfortable, not a good cut for my body,  or not a color that I feel confident wearing, then I say, "No!" 

7. I am clear on what I like and on what I need , but am in no hurry to add to my wardrobe unless I LOVE it.

8. I have a good foundational, neutral wardrobe. Adding pops of color is where I will focus my efforts next! I see shades of red, raspberry, and greens in my future.

9. Strategic placement of my garments has streamlined the time it takes to choose an outfit. As I returned garments to my closet, I considered how and where I would be wearing them. Work clothes are together, clothing for outings are separate from what I wear when I do heavy organizing jobs. You get the idea.

10. Time spent planning and organizing saves you time in the long run!  

My advice to you as I close this chapter is this: Take time to review, reflect, and revise what you already have in your closet before adding anything new. Be honest with yourself and let go of what is just getting in your way. You may find that you already have what you need. If not, you will definitely have a clearer picture of what is missing to make getting dressed easier.

Cheers to finding less stress and more joy in your closet. 

Much love,

Jen

 

 

Breaking the cycle of overwhelm...critical first step in taking back your life, ADHD or not

Whether or not you live with ADHD, there is benefit from today's blog post. I hope that you will find a golden nugget in this discussion and break your cycle of overwhelm. We all have them.

Palace at Versailles, France 

Palace at Versailles, France 

 

One of my favorite resources for those learning to manage their ADHD is called, "Odd One Out," by Jennifer Koretsky. She describes life from her point of view in a simple, clear manner and then breaks down a plan for success that makes complete sense to me.

If you have not read it, and have the good fortune to know someone challenged by this neuro-atypical brain style, I highly recommend spending the two hours it will take to read her book. There is benefit to improved understanding whether or not you live with ADHD. I guarantee that most of you work with people challenged by this brain style. You can be of great service to them and to yourself.

In the meantime, I will fast-forward you to the critical first step.

Ms. Koretsky describes the first step in managing ADHD as this: to break the cycle of overwhelm. I agree.

I have known this to be true for many years and, have found it to be a critical first step with all of my clients and in my personal and professional life whether challenged by ADHD or not. No matter what has led a person to feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in their homes, office, and heads, "breaking the cycle of overwhelm," is the key to taking charge, moving forward, and finding less stress and more joy in day to day living!

Sounds simple, right? The challenge is in recognizing that you are overwhelmed, stepping back long enough to acknowledge your feelings, and then choosing to focus your attention upon one thing. Your most important or nagging, worrisome space.

I am frequently hired to "help sort a few things." This invariably means "come help me dig my way out of the detritus of the past 20 years and find the golden rings buried in the ooey gooey center of it all." And, I LOVE what I do. Truly!

My clients feel overwhelmed. There is no question about it. And, if I am completely honest, I have been known to experience a momentary sense of overwhelm when I first arrive. But this feeling quickly passes because I have learned to break the cycle of overwhelm but placing my focus upon what is most important to them. I always work from this perspective.  

For me this has two layers, emotional health, and safety. Yes, I am a safety girl. Grounded and sensible. And, I LOVE a 1000 piece, 3-D puzzle. So I can see past the messes and piles of stuff towards the potential and possibility of a healthier, less stressful environment for my clients to live and work. They have asked me to help them declutter, to make sense of their things, to let go of what no longer serves them well. We do this one thing, one space, one room at a time. And it works.

My advice to you, if you are looking at your home or office, and you want or need a change, but feel overwhelmed and are unsure where to begin, start by asking what is stressing or overwhelming you the most, and begin there.

Get rid of what you don't need unless you cannot bear to part with something.  I urge you NOT to organize what is really unnecessary. Throw it away, donate it, recycle it, give it back to its proper owner, but do not let it take up permanent residence. It is crowding out what is important and adding to your mental clutter. 

For those of us with ADHD, keeping everything in sight is a common strategy for finding things. This is not the most effective strategy in reality, because over time it becomes difficult to distinguish what is important from what is not.  If you have ever spent 20 minutes looking for something that is right in front of you, you know what I am talking about. 

I beg of you, put things away that have a designated drawer, cupboard, closet, or space when you are done using them. If you always put things in the same space, you will create habits that make it easier to find your stuff over time.

You may have items of value and may hesitate or hold on to them for later. This is a double edged sword. Keeping things for a garage sale or to resale can bring a sweet little chunk of change. And there is definitely a time to do this. But sometimes, especially in those truly overwhelming periods of your life, it is more freeing and more gratifying to "just let it go," now. The sooner the better. If you are asking for help, wanting help, looking for change, then you ARE ready. 

Organizing Solutions San Diego

Give it away, throw it away, bless someone else with it. Let go of what no longer serves you. Put things away. Keep only what you need and use, and love. ADHD or not, break the cycle of overwhelm.

Your peace of mind and your new, healthier, less overwhelming life is waiting for you.

 

photography by Jennifer Raphael

 

 

 

 

Closets, and cupboards, and shelves, oh My!...What to do with15 minutes.

It is raining and cold today, or should I say, "It is cold for Southern California?" We have been known to complain if we cannot wander barefoot in March.

Dare I say, it is a perfect day to tackle a project that you have been avoiding? 

Do you know what lurks behind your closed doors? Those doors hide the yet-to-be-discarded, might-use-it-someday, will-get-to-it-later, someone-dropped-by-and-I-needed-to-hide-it-quickly stuff of life. And those things crowd out what is important to you by making the space tight and less functional. 

These are spaces that can be tackled one shelf, one cupboard, one box, one closet at a time. One rainy day at a time. One, I have 15 minutes and I want to finish something useful in this time, time.

Being the remove the band-aid slowly kinda girl, I am okay with slow and steady wins the race. You have my permission to set a timer, or set a boundary to the physical space that you are going to tackle. Gather bags and boxes for sorting, and begin!

Choose the space that nags at you the most. A sweet reward awaits you.

I suspect you have a closet that fits this parameter. Why? Because, in my experience, and yes, this is anecdotal, closets are a great place to push things and easy to avoid. We all have them, and they tend to fill up as if by magic.

And because they nag at you, decluttering and reorganizing an overstuffed, no longer easy to use closet feels richly rewarding upon completion. It is that simple.

Know for certain the purpose of this space. If a closet is for cold weather gear, then that is all that belongs there. Designating spaces for "like things" makes finding them easier, makes upkeep easier, and makes letting go easier.

You can see that you have 15 red sweaters when you keep your sweaters together in the same space. Maybe you LOVE all 15 and will choose to keep them. Maybe you didn't realize that you have that many. Maybe you just realized that you do indeed have the sweater you sister insists that she loaned to you.

Remove things that no longer fit, that are damaged, that no longer serve a purpose in your current life. Remove what belongs elsewhere. Remove the items that make you cringe. I know you have them. We all do. And remove what doesn't belong in that space. 

Admittedly, the space that has been nagging at me, is my son's closet. I can hear you all laughing. Upon my request that he do some spring cleaning, he begrudgingly agreed to "work on his closet." He had good intentions, and has removed six tee shirts over the past two days. Sigh!

Since he is an adult and it is his room, there are boundaries and limits that he and I have agreed upon. So while I was just delivering laundry to his room today, and listening to the hailstones pelting his window, I spent 15 minutes sorting through the shirts in his closet. That's it. I quickly reviewed two, two foot sections of his closet in 15 minutes. He has already discarded what he no longer wants in that section, at least for now.

And then, like anyone who has ever worked retail, I lined up everything by color, sleeve length, and material weight. The space is calmer and I expect he will remove a few more pieces when he sees how many, many, MANY gray and black tee shirts that he owns. Ultimately, the decisions are his, but will be less overwhelming because I have removed heavy coats to the coat closet, empty coat hangers to the laundry room, and dirty clothes to the hamper. 

Personal Organizer - Residential


As I write, the El Nino rains have resumed. And, since it is my day off, I think I will stay inside and tackle another closet. Happy Monday!



Everything I need, and nothing that I don't...beginning with the end in mind

 

I listen to many genres of music, but one of my favorites is country. For me, the lyrics are plain, sweet truths and often get to the heart of what matters. One that has caught my ear many times is, "Homegrown," written by Niko Moon, Wyatt Brown, and Zachary Brown. The lyrics sing joyfully of having just what you "need and nothin' that you don't." I like that! 

What if you were to begin with the end in mind and expect to find joy with less stuff? Would you feel inspired to reevaluate your surroundings, home and office, and to consider letting go of what no longer fits into your current life?

What if I told you that having just what you need and truly want in your life opens up your spaces and redirects your energy toward what is important to you?

It is now the second month of the new year. What will you do with your space and time? How do you get to the place of joy with less?  

It is easy to become overwhelmed when you look at the big picture, especially if it has been a long time since you spent time organizing your home or office. I am going to give you a few guidelines  to help you stay focused on your goal with a manageable first step.

Clear your surfaces and open storage spaces. 

A lot of unnecessary items congregate and fill up surfaces and open storage/shelves until they are overflowing and the room no longer functions in a way that pleases you. And let's be honest, facing the clutter and disarray is stressful, anxiety producing, and even shaming.

I have a client who didn't used to take the time to file or purge no longer relevant materials. He is a busy man, and his time is best spent doing what he does best.  The problem was that there was nowhere to sit in his office, and no surface for a notebook during meetings. This is not ideal when you have daily meetings with staff and colleagues. Keeping surfaces clear on a regular basis has made a huge difference in the function of his work space. 

Keeping surfaces clear for the work that needs to be done there, whether it is peeling carrots for dinner or taking notes and brainstorming the next big project at work, is critical.

Before you start, grab 4 boxes or bins and label them…Trash, Donate, Recycle, Relocate

I find it helpful to begin at one end of a counter and then work clockwise through the room. That way I don’t jump around and miss something. 

Here are a few questions to ask as you touch each item.

            1. Is this item useful, relevant or important to me?

            2. Do I use it in this room?

Sounds obvious, but things have a way of migrating into other parts of our homes, offices, and lives. If it needs to stay in the room and has a designated place, put it away. If not, then put it in the Relocate box. If the answer is "NO" and it is no longer relevant or useful in your current life and does not have a purpose in the near future, it either goes into the trash, the recycle bin, or the donation bin. You decide.

Clearing your open spaces is a practical first step. You will be greeted by clear, calm spaces every time you enter the room which may be just the encouragement you need to look behind the closed doors.

Organizing Solutions


But that is a next step. And, we will get there, one thing at a time.

           


Travel planning off the beaten path...The Who, what, where, when, and why of it all.

I have traveled alone and with friends, with my husband, and later, my ex-husband & kids (yes, really!), pregnant, and solo with my children at every stage from infancy to adulthood.  What I know for certain is that each trip brought happy moments, adventures, and, yes, challenges to finding joy. Such memories!

Being the resourceful (stubborn) woman that I am, although I find anticipatory planning is critical to my comfort, I also find it equally important to be adaptable and find ways to enjoy and cherish my travels along the way. On those rare trips where the challenges overwhelmed me, I learned valuable insight into what I truly need to be happy when I travel. I would encourage you to search your heart for the same discoveries. It will make your travels all the richer for it.

No matter who I travel with, where I go, or what hiccups we meet along the way, I have noticed a few common threads that have made it easiest to relax, immerse myself in the present moment, and to return home refreshed. 

1. Know why you are traveling.

Sounds simple enough. But honestly, you are setting yourself up for anxiety and conflict if you cannot answer this simple question: "Why am I going?" Following someone else's list of "must sees" can be a recipe for disaster. If you are fan of art, then entering 30 art museums may be your version of paradise.

If you become bored after the fifth Monet then daily visits to art museums does not belong on your list. If seeing sculpture but no paintings is what makes your heart sing, then skip the sections of the museum that do not interest you. There is no one right way, just your way! It is YOUR vacation. So honor your own agenda.

Before leaving for my recent travels to Ireland, someone asked me "Why Ireland?" My initial, silent response, was "Are you kidding??" But it is a fair question. We are all drawn to different places and experiences.

Ireland is one of the most beautiful and inviting places that I have visited.  The Irish exude a fierce pride in their hard fought independence and anguish over memories of centuries old losses. Yet the Irish are some of the most genuine, and generous people I have ever met.

Keem Beach, Achill Island, Ireland 

Keem Beach, Achill Island, Ireland 

I was traveling with my son, cameras in hand. We agreed that our focus would be seeking local lore, megalithic tombs,  ancient fortresses, and majestic coastal views. Ireland was the perfect place to venture with these purposes in our hearts. We have family history and living relatives there, connections that called us to explore for ourselves. It is liberating to let go of someone else's to-do list and to focus upon what makes your own heart sing! 

2.Keep it simple, Take Time to linger- WHAT YOU DO MATTERS

Again this seems obvious, but an overly ambitious itinerary doesn't leave time to savor unexpected discoveries. I had booked two nights on a working farm near Kilkenny, called Lawcus Farms. It had wonderful reviews on Trip Advisor; but they honestly didn't come close to describing the magical essence of the place. I felt an immediate ease and sense of calm upon entering this beautiful place and as if I was leaving family after only two days with Ann-Marie and Mark. We came home with much more than beautiful photographs, in part because we did not hold tightly to a prescribed itinerary. We allowed time to linger.

Lawcus Farm, Stoneford, near Kilkenny. There is a mixture of humor, history, and sentiment in this home. I was deeply moved by a personal photograph in their kitchen with this inscription, "if it is meant to be, it will not pass you..." Lovely.

Lawcus Farm, Stoneford, near Kilkenny. There is a mixture of humor, history, and sentiment in this home. I was deeply moved by a personal photograph in their kitchen with this inscription, "if it is meant to be, it will not pass you..." Lovely.

3.Travel off season WHEN you have a choice.

If you have had the luxury of traveling off season when places are less crowded, then you know how wonderful travel can really be. It is easier to find lodging, the lines are shorter, and wait times for entering points of interest are almost nil.

Knowing that you can change your plan without consequence is attractive to many people. Booking lodgings as you go can be freeing, and safely done off season. That said,  I have found that knowing where I am staying each night allows me to relax and enjoy the daily excursions. Even traveling off season, having my lodging arrangements in place gives me a framework for my travels and the peace of mind to become immersed in the moments. 

After a long day of explorations and driving on some of the tiniest roads known to man, (okay I haven't been on every road known to man, so this COULD be an exaggeration), we arrived in Strandhill, Sligo. There are no street lights and very few signs to guide you. But I had booked a bed and breakfast inn ahead of time. All I had to do was find the white house with the dormer windows, IN THE DARK, on a country road barely wide enough for two cars. Yup! 

Needless to say, I phoned the inn and spoke with the couple who run it. I was asked what landmarks I could see...really!! It was pitch black but I finally passed a pub, clearly marked, and shortly after, the church where he asked me to stop and wait. Five minutes later he drove up, flashed his lights and escorted us to our destination..white house, dormer windows, warm welcome! 

Megalithic tomb, Carrowmore, Strandhill, Sligo, Ireland                       

Megalithic tomb, Carrowmore, Strandhill, Sligo, Ireland                       

 

4.Know WHERE TO STAY-When in doubt, find a Bed and  Breakfast Inn

I highly recommend Bed and Breakfast Inns when traveling, especially when journeying to a foreign country. The proprietors know the local lore and sites and will recommend good restaurants and alternate routes that take you past incredible sites that are not always found in your typical guidebooks. You are guaranteed a warm, hearty breakfast, interesting conversation, and a warm welcome upon your return from your day's adventures.

One of the locals at Park South Bed and Breakfast Inn, Mallow, Cork

One of the locals at Park South Bed and Breakfast Inn, Mallow, Cork

Choosing places where my own family have stayed in the past made sense as I was making reservations. Having a trusted advisor recommend a place so far from home was reassuring. And, we were greeted like old friends. Charming!

5.know who you are with and your own limitations

No matter how much you enjoy the person with whom you are traveling, travel requires patience, consideration, give and take, and a good sense of humor. Having open communication and a willingness to compromise are critical. Discuss ahead of time with your travel mates their most important agenda items. 

Know each person's requirements for privacy, and factor those things into your itinerary as well. It is up to you do your own homework regarding dietary restrictions and medications before you leave for your destination so that it doesn't weigh heavily upon everyone else.

At the same time, know that unforeseen illnesses and injuries are a part of daily life no matter where you are. Be prepared to slow down if need be and accept this change as an opportunity to linger or read that book that is at the bottom of your suitcase.

Finally, remember that you are a guest whenever you travel. Be grateful for the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and know that please and thank you are welcome sounds in any language! 

Sláinte! 

 

 

 

 

    

Overcoming Procrastination...Habits Worth Having

We all want to work smarter, not harder, to feel accomplished, successful, and significant in our work and at home. And yet, we get in our own way when we put off doing the things that are the most important and most likely to move us toward our goals. Whether or not you consider yourself an organized person, we all experience times when we procrastinate.

Fortunately, procrastination is not a fatal flaw; it is just a habit that can be changed by substituting it with better ones.

So what does this look like? There are foundational skills and patterns that have a positive influence on most of us regarding procrastination. Motivation is what gets us started and moves us into momentum. Habits of working at our peak performance times, conquering fear of failure and anxieties, and setting up productive work spaces are all important in maintaining momentum. And yet, we procrastinate. Why?

We procrastinate when we lack focus or direction.  You wouldn’t just get in your car and start driving and expect to arrive on time to your destination if you haven’t determined where and when that is.

The first step is making a plan.

We all know that written goals are more likely to come to fruition. I begin each year with a free-formed list of all the ideas and goals and tasks as they come into my head. I don’t worry about content, order, or structure at this point. Once I have 100 things written down, patterns emerge and I begin to see what is important for the year ahead.

The second step is to be clear about your core values (i.e., compassion) and your business mission (i.e., inspiring others to find more joy and less stress as they manage their belongings, their living spaces, and their time).

Your core values really don’t change much from year to year, but reviewing them is useful as you decide where and with whom to spend your time, money, and energy. Your mission statement should reflect who you are now and who you are becoming. When these are in alignment, moving forward into action becomes easier, and you will have a clear direction.

I look at my 100 Things list and ask myself if the things that are listed are congruent with my core values. If they are, they stay on my list (i.e., attend NAPO National Conference). If they are incongruent, I know they won’t be a priority for me – and that is okay. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do them, but they fall lower on my list of priorities.

Next, I look for the tasks that can be easily scheduled onto my calendar. Writing them down is a commitment to yourself, and allows you to move on to the more difficult task of breaking down the projects on your list into manageable steps.

For me, mistaking projects for tasks is the primary reason I get stuck. When the big picture is broken down into manageable tasks, I feel more in control of my days, and by extension more successful.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment and completion. By breaking down projects into tasks, I have learned to appreciate how much time it truly takes to do certain things and have become more reasonable in making lists and prioritizing my time.

Finally, we procrastinate when we lose sight of the big picture and allow perfectionism to cloud our judgment. It is important not to make assumptions and to gather the information that we need to make intelligent decisions about our work and personal lives. But continuing to overthink and over-analyze, allows us to put off the difficult task of making a decision when we already have what we need. Be confident in your ability to make decisions. Trust yourself. Get back to the task at hand.

Remember, what is delayed is often forgotten. Make your lists. Schedule your time. Break it down into component parts. Keep going. Do this every day until it becomes second nature. These are all habits worth keeping.

Feng Shui...Applying the neuroscience of architecture

We have all heard of feng shui but as with so many influences in our daily lives, we may be unaware of the significant impact our surroundings have upon our energy levels. Despite my expertise in the organizing arena, I recently reached out to a colleague, Cathryn, who has incredible knowledge of feng shui hoping for insight into the next steps needed to improve the balance of energies in my home.  In my experience, when applying the general principles of this practice, there is always  a positive result whether you understand the why of it all or not. There are many books and many web sites with information on the practice if you are intrigued.

What I want to share now is what Cathryn referred to as removing the "splinter" because this is a profound, although simple, concept and one that has already influenced a mood and energy shift for me. The "splinter" is that pattern or repeated misuse of space that influences energy.

For me, it was displaying things on high shelves throughout my home. These spaces had become heavy and stagnant. Because they are difficult to access and require a ladder and half a day to clean once I get started, I had left the displays unchanged for a long time. Even before I invited feng shui advice, I had noticed a nagging feeling when looking at these heights and had removed items from one room.

Some of the items have been donated to bless someone else, and other things are now being used for their intended function rather than decoration. Beginning this process propelled me into to considering the same steps in next room. But something was holding me back. Enter Feng Shui expert with no connection to my things or the stories attached to them. These ceiling height collections were one of the first things that Cathryn noticed and urged me to remove all of them and to live in the cleared spaces. I noticed a sense of calm immediately. Since removing the splinter, I have discovered the energy to move forward in other areas of my life.

I was inspired to put this new knowledge into practice and asked my son's participation. He has challenges falling asleep at night, as do many people with ADHD, and with his permission, I made some change in his room to see if they would make a difference.

I proposed that we remove the high energy bedding and leave the gray blue in its place. The shift was noticeable immediately. Next we removed active, high energy posters from his walls. Although he is a film major and chose posters to represent his favorite film genres, how restful can it be to wake to movie posters of the New York skyline in flames and the Joker's wicked grin? I proposed that we remove them temporarily to see if he felt any different with this change. His room is definitely calmer. But it remained crammed full of his many treasures, and being the creature of habit that he is, has remained unchanged for a few years other than to add to the mix.

Did I mention that he had a dense collection of things at ceiling height in his room? A splinter, perhaps! What I know for certain, is that he has been sleeping better and waking at 9 am instead of noon since we made those changes. That was two weeks ago.

Since then he has been more receptive to clearing more clutter and going through boxes and cupboards one at a time. And, I have been doing the same throughout our home.  I call this process peeling another layer.

For many people, and especially those challenged by chronic disorganization, setting a time limit with an actual timer, or pinpointing one specific area to review makes decluttering less overwhelming. Just one  shelf or box, or just 15 minutes are finite and tangible parameters. It may take longer than some of you would prefer, but it will get done and with benefits beyond the clutter clearing.

Apply the neuroscience of architecture to your life and who knows what you may discover!


Hot Spots...tending the embers Keeps them from burning out of control

Let's talk about hot spots. Hot spots are those spaces in your home, office, car where things seem to come and stay, crowding your clear counters and precious real estate. I hate to tell you, but it's up to YOU to remove things. They will not leave on their own.

Never was it so important to remember the golden rule (or guideline) of one in, one out than in these spaces. I could even compare it to planting mint in your garden. Anyone who has made the mistake of planting a pretty little 4 inch pot of mint in their kitchen garden has learned that mint spreads like wildfire and will NEVER leave no matter how often you pull it out.

Our hot spots are like that.  You set your keys and mail down as you enter the kitchen, and then someone asks when dinner will be ready, and the dog needs to go outside, and the phone rings and by the time you get back to the pile of mail, it may be buried under three more days of mail. You may also have spent time looking for your keys. Are you getting the picture yet?

I would like to offer a suggestion. Simple really and many of you already do this. Yay you! Keep a basket or box near your front door for your car keys and set the keys in it as you enter your home...every time. You will never misplace them if you create this habit.

Secondly, mail collections, wherever yours is, seems to be a common hot spot. My rule of thumb, is to handle paper that comes into your home as few times as possible. I sort my mail in the kitchen when I bring it in and immediately dispose of the unwanted recyclable material. This leaves me one or two useful or important items that need further handling. These few envelopes take up a lot less space than the giant pile of mailers and advertisements. Unless you are a coupon clipper and actually use your coupons, do NOT keep this kindling for later. And, yes, there are ways to have yourself removed from mailing lists. There is information regarding this on the internet, but you and I both know that doesn't keep it completely at bay.

Another common hot spot is your car and handbag or wallet. Make it a habit to remove garbage from your car each day and dispose of it immediately.  You are going to thank yourself the next time you get into your car and it is clean and doesn't smell like yesterday's take out! Remove receipts from your wallet and put them in the box on your desk for data entry. Then when you sit down to look at your spending, the receipts are where you need them.

A third hot spot, and one you may not have considered, is wherever you leave your laundry. Anyone with teenagers knows what I am talking about. But adults are not immune to this either. It is amazing how quickly laundry can take over a bedroom. Many people have laundry baskets near or in their bedrooms, but I prefer that it be taken directly to the laundry room. Bedrooms smell fresher and laundry gets handled more quickly. At least that is what works at my house.

Laundry already in the laundry room, means there is a load ready when I start my morning routine. That is not to say that I won't collect the few items scattered on my kids' floor as I pass their rooms. But, the key word here is "few." Before I leave for the day, it goes into the dryer. Everyone has their own basket for clean folded clothing and they know to check there first before asking me where I hid something. This has been a life saver and keeps those piles at bay!

One final, noteworthy hot spot that many of us recognize, is the kitchen table. For some reason, we are quite comfortable dumping books and bags and groceries and projects and notes from teachers and, well,  just about anything can come to rest here.

I have learned to accept that there will be a few things on my kitchen table that have nothing to do with our dining experience. But what helps at our house is that each person has their designated spot and can only use that spot. Now when there is a note that I need to read, my kids will leave it at my spot on the table. I will read and sign it or whatever the case may be and return it to their spot and that's it. And, since the table gets cleared for mealtime, the piles cannot take up permanent residence.

Putting Things Away...a place for everything and everything in its place

Put things away after you use them.

Keep things where you use them.

Awesome guidelines. But...what do you do when you don't have the space to put everything away much less room to put things where you actually use them?

Whether you have 800 square feet or 8000 square feet there are rules of thumb that will help you feel more organized and zen in your spaces. And following these golden rules, or let's say "guidelines," the possibilities will grow. Making peace with your things and then moving them where you use them is paramount to finding your happy ending. But it won't happen by magic.

Making peace with your things requires heavy lifting; remove unwanted items, keep only those things that make your heart sing, are truly useful to you or you know you will need in the future.

"Removing things and getting rid of the excess is the first step to finding space for what you DO treasure or need. "

Begin by clearing out the trash, and boxing up the items that you will share with others, be it the friend's borrowed book or an extra toaster you no longer need. There are people out there with less than you and your excess is a blessing to them. Be honest about broken and unusable items. They have served a purpose and now must lay to rest.

You may discover after clearing a row of books, for instance, that you now have space for the stack of references for work. Just be sure that this shelf is near your work table or desk or you may forget that you have these tomes of wisdom. For many of us, "out of sight, out of mind," is a reality, reason enough to keep things where you use them.

After you have cleared out your unwanted items, you may discover that you have enough space to put everything away that has been piling up. Yay, get to it!!

I encourage you to put your things away daily, or better yet as you are finished with them. Spending 10 minutes once or twice a day, helps to manage  your clutter and is much less intimidating than spending hours and weeks less often.

Don't despair if you are not at a point where you can put everything away yet. For most of us, this process of sorting,  purging, and decluttering takes multiple chunks of time because it is both physically and emotionally exhausting. Take breaks and stop to appreciate what you have already accomplished rather than focusing solely on what is yet to be done. And then plan when you will continue working.

If you have homeless stacks of truly usable, necessary items, you may need to add organizing furniture pieces. Be sure to take measurements and be honest about your budget. If having a nice desk is not a priority but you need a place to put your work papers at the end of the day or a place for your computer or printer, consider a folding table and chair. Costco sells both at a very reasonable cost. A comfortable, ergonomic chair is a high priority if you spend hours each day sitting at a desk.

A few of my favorite places for finding organizing pieces are Staples, The Container Store, and local salvage and antique stores. You will find shelving units, and stacking carts and boxes and bins in every style, size and color.

When my children were young, I purchased Elfa Units for their toys for functional and efficient use of space. At the time it felt like extravagant spending but those carts have been used for years and for different purposes as my family has grown. They have been worth their weight in gold!

Toys and outgrown treasure...a topic for another day! Meanwhile...forge on!!