Health

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.

  

Letting go of clutter...what you might NOT be expecting

We all expect our homes and offices to look cleaner as we purge and declutter the excesses of our lives. The visual impact of order is calming for many people. These people embrace the process of decluttering and clearing the cobwebs.  

But, it can be worrisome and anxiety producing for those of us who are comforted and accustomed to being surrounded by our many belongings, and who have strong attachments to stuff. There is no shame in preferring that someone hold your hand and guide you through the process of letting go. Do what works for you.

Recent work with a client had us working our way through some of the MANY boxes in her garage. After about an hour, she suddenly, and to my surprise and pleasure, became quite animated. She threw her arms wide, began dancing, and shouting, "THIS is SO liberating; it's SO cleansing!"

She had made the decision to let go of some of the stuff that no longer serves a purpose in her life and was experiencing the joy of making space for something else. Together we overcame the fears blocking her path and were able to accomplish a lot in a short time. 

Letting go opens up space mentally and physically for what IS relevant. The value of the stuff of our lives, ebbs and flows. But letting go is not always as easy as it sounds. 

I recently made the painful decision to remove a tree in my backyard. It was too big for the space, had an unstable root system, and sat too close to our house as well as the neighbor's.  With predictions of a wet winter looming this year, taking it out safely without damage to our property made perfect sense. Simple, right?! No longer needed; remove it. Period. 

But, I have looked out my windows at that tree every morning for 13 years. I watched it grow, as my kids grew. Funny how stuff, and trees, can be a metaphor for life. As I begin a new chapter in my life, I am making space for something new and for changes that extend way beyond my garden.

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What I didn't expect was how good that open space would feel to me. I feel a new serenity and sense of anticipation.  My home feels bigger somehow, and is lighter, literally. And, the empty space where once there lived a tree is now a cozier spot for my hammock. As much as I love birds, I do not miss having 100+ birds perched in the tree over my head as I sip tea and read a book. Need I say more?!

As I prepare to save and publish this piece, it has begun to rain. I can no longer see the mountains in the distance, just the mist and my back yard, full of promise for planting roses, no doubt, and, for daydreaming from my newly discovered quiet place.

Let go of what you no longer need. You may be surprised at what you find.

Decluttering...let clearing the clutter open up space for healthier living

Wouldn't it be great if decluttering could lead to better emotional and physical health? If you thought that clearing your homes and offices of the things that no longer need you and that you no longer need could be a catalyst for healthy changes that go beyond a productive workspace, a tidy little kitchen, or a streamline closet, would you be intrigued? 

Clearing clutter and making changes that streamline homes and offices have had benefits that extend far beyond what I imagined when I first embraced the idea to share my experience and knowledge with others. No, it has not cured cancer or osteoporosis or the myriad of mental and physical health challenges that people struggle with daily.

But it DOES lead the way to  calmer, more grateful, authentic living, by making it easier to access what we truly need in our environments. By simplifying our surroundings and living with less, we have more time to savor what is most important to us. And that feels great amidst the struggles of what ails us.

Here are three places to begin this process:

YOUR KITCHEN 

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then it should inspire and invite us to prepare healthy food that nourishes and loves us. If you are tripping over 40 things to get to something way in the back of a cupboard, how likely are you to reach for this item on a regular basis?

Time is precious, so keep what is truly important and vital within easy reach. This means purging the old, perishable (way, way, way past its best by dates) foods, the overflow of free stuff that you never use, and the broken pieces that clog your cabinets.  This also means getting rid of the "turned out I didn't use it, want it, or need it" things. For me it was a pasta maker. I used it once or twice, and then it took up valuable real estate. It was a wedding gift from a dear friend; but, it had already served its purpose. Was a fun toy in the early years of marriage, but I learned that I prefer easy, packaged pasta...or eating out.

For you, it might be your ice cream maker, your counter top mixer, or a four-slice toaster. I LOVE my mixer and use it often enough that it has a special place on my counter. My family eats toast daily, so that is an EASY decision. But, hey, some people don't eat toast. So a toaster could be a dust collector. My ice cream maker is in a cupboard for once in awhile. I cannot remember the last time I made homemade ice cream, but it's 95 degrees today, so it might be a good day to bring it out. There is nothing quite like homemade, frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Bottom line, if you have tools of the trade that you don't need, love or use, share them, donate them, let them go.  You may find that cooking and eating at home is more enjoyable with less clutter; and let's face it, you have a lot more control over what you feed your body when you eat from your own kitchen. As you clear the clutter, you will have more room for mindful, healthy choices that suit your current lifestyle and needs.

Your Closet

Why would decluttering your closet make a difference to your health? Think back to the last time you traveled and didn't overpack...or maybe, you came pretty close because you had choices and everything that you needed with a little overflow for unexpected weather and activities, and it worked.

Having a closet that is streamlined and works for your current life can feel so liberating, and reminiscent of vacation that you want that feeling all of the time. Seriously! Who doesn't love that feeling of having just what you need and then getting on with your day? Do you see where I'm going with this? 

It is a great time of year to review what hangs in your closet, purge what is worn out, stained, no longer fits, or that you no longer feel good in. Just get rid of it. I promise, you won't miss it. 

Some of us see a sea of black, white, and grey. And that's okay. For some of us, keeping it simple makes choosing an outfit painless. I love knowing that everything in my closet looks good together and that I have the accessories that I need. A mostly neutral wardrobe allows me to pop my favorite colors or those that the fashion color of the season dictates. Just be sure you are not adding clutter. Only add what makes your heart sing!

If you tend to be a little more adventurous with color, and shapes when you travel, perhaps, your true self is calling out to you. Listen to her. Maybe this is the year to get rid of the excess and styles that you no longer need, use, or love (sound familiar?) and, to add more color. 

I have a friend, you know who you are, who rocks color everyday. It matches her personality; she is a joy to be around. And her style suits her. And that is the point...be true to yourself, keep it simple, whatever your style. Then getting dressed every day will no longer be a chore. You won't be digging through the over abundance, to find an outfit. You will get dressed for who you want to be today and can get on with living authentically and with less stress. And, isn't that the point of all this.

 

Your Quiet Place

Finally, as you clear the clutter, look for one space in your home or office where you can carve out a quiet place. As you rid yourself of what no longer serves you, you may find the perfect space opens up. It could be a chair by a window that has soft light in the afternoon, or a table overlooking a hummingbird feeder.

Whether you dedicate a whole room, space in your backyard, or a little corner of one room, isn't as important as the act of allowing yourself this space at all. It is there to remind you to pause and stress less.

My quiet place is the sofa in my front room with a table next to it holding books, a candle, and a few throw pillows . It is away from the television, has a view of a pretty tree, and lots of natural light. I love being in this space and feel the tension of the day melt away any time I pause there.

Whatever shape it takes becomes a haven to center yourself, to feel peaceful and calm. Healthier. Keep it simple and in your style, so that you feel inclined to linger.

And, promise yourself that it will not become a place to deposit detritus. Find a way to create a space in your office as well, even if only a corner of the room, as a visual reminder to center and calm yourself during the stresses of your day, and to reassure you that more of this waits for you at home. 

Creating uncluttered spaces that work well for you open you up for a greater sense of health well-being, and this is a good thing.

 

As always, I thank you for stopping by my website and for reading my blog. I hope that you find inspiration or a single idea that makes a difference to your health by leading you toward less stress and more joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

Safety First, Not Someday...Someday is NOT a day of the week.

Why not today?! In recognition of the American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness month, my thoughts have turned to a subject near and dear to me: Safety First.

As we are experiencing the hottest months of the year in San Diego, I cannot help but remember past wild fires that required rapid evacuation for thousands of people.  Much has been written on the subject of disaster preparedness and there are excellent resources available on the internet. I recently listened to Ricardo Moran of the San Diego Red Cross speak at a local NAPO meeting. He made excellent points regarding the importance of planning and preparedness broken down into three steps which I will share now.

1. Make a plan.

2. Get a kit.

3. Be informed.

Begin by making a plan:

This entails discussion with your family and those living with you of where to meet in case of an emergency (both close to home and further away depending upon the circumstances) and to designate  points of contact in case your are separated. These contacts also give friends and family members a resource to obtain information regarding your safety when phone or internet service are interrupted. It is critical that you write down your plan and review it twice a year. Schedule this as you would any appointment, perhaps the weekend that you change your clocks. Remember to review your plan with your family, review and update your contact information, and to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep a copy of the emergency contacts in your purse/wallet, in your car and in your office. Know your escape routes both from your office, home and your neighborhood. Lastly, make a list of the vital information and materials that you want to take with you. In the moment of extreme panic or pressure, you will appreciate having practiced. Having a checklist allows you to stress a little less. Finally, register for reverse 911 calls. In San Diego, use http://www.readysandiego.org/alertsandiego

Get a kit:

Keep the following emergency supplies- food and water (1 gallon /day/person) for three days (evacuation) and for two weeks (home bound), medications, pet food, leashes, and carriers within easy reach, warm blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, batteries, cash in small denominations ($1's and $5's), fire safe with personal documents and identification, battery operated radio, sanitation and personal hygiene items, whistle, change of clothing, can opener, multipurpose tool, insurance information, plastic garbage bags, and entertainment items to occupy restless family members. Your list will vary depending upon what is important to you. I urge you to sit down now and make a list that meets your needs including the location of these items. I pray that you never need to use it.

Be informed:

This begins with knowing your neighbors. Consider a first aid class or CPR. Know your local organizations, such as CERT, and become more involved. Listen to emergency instructions if you are asked to evacuate.

I hope this has been helpful.

For more details and review, please see www.preparesandiego.org

Life Transitions...be not afraid of change; you might lose something good, but you might gain something better

Life transitions...they are a part of the human condition and of life in our modern world.

Changes of our choosing can be challenging and at the same time exciting and motivational as we anticipate the future. We delight in the possibilities and feel that butterfly tickle us deep in our guts telling us we are making a good decision! With happy heart we make our lists, gather our tools, and get started. Or we hire a productivity specialist to come in and help break down the big picture into manageable tasks. Lucky for me that is my specialty.

But then, there are those changes not of our choosing...unexpected, painful, confusing. I sit here not to tell you to cheer up and get back to work, but rather to pause, take a deep breath, and remind yourself, that we are in good company as we navigate the trials and tribulations of life.

What once seemed so effortless, can feel insurmountable. I understand. I too am grieving for what I have lost and yet yearning for a contented future with a hopeful heart. Gather your dearest friends near and learn what soothes and feeds your soul. That is what I am doing... moving forward, awkwardly, tentatively, as if a toddler learning to walk for the first time. And, I am learning to appreciate and savor the now. Now is really all that we have.

Morose...I apologize. As organized as I am, I have somehow misplaced my sense of humor. Please let me know if you find it. It will be along side my battered heart.

And, in the meantime, I will share a few of my favorite strategies for getting unstuck and being happy!

1. Do something nice for yourself every day! That may or may not require retail therapy. However therapeutic shopping may be, there is a bill to be paid at the end of the month. Consider, instead, a stack of books begging for your attention, your favorite CD long forgotten, walk the dog a new direction and admire the changes taking place in the world around you.

2. If you live close to the beach, GO!!! The ocean is a magical, soothing place that should not be overlooked. There is something larger than you and I at work here and never so obvious to me as when I listen to waves crash repeatedly upon the shore, smell the sea mist and witness the beautiful changing sky and sea at sunset. If you don't have the ocean, then find a park, a garden, a piece of nature. She is there to bring you back to your spiritual self.

3. Do one thing each day that moves you toward your most important goals. And, if you don't have goals, then making a list of everything that pops into your head, and build your list from there.

4. If you still cannot breathe, cannot move, cannot eat...find a confidant who will leave fruit in a bowl at the table for you, someone who will notice that you need a hug, and let your friends envelop you with their kindness. I am certain that you have done the same things for others when you felt whole. Being cared for is a blessing for both the giver and the receiver!

Peace my friends...change is an opportunity for growth.

Time Management..."Today, I will deadhead my roses!" she said.

I love our home gardens! They are not perfect and would not suit everyone, but they suit me and isn't that the point?!

What does this have to do with time management, you ask? Everything! The rose bed that greets me every time I drive up to my house was dropping petals yesterday and in need of a little TLC. I come from a long line of green thumbs, so knew just looking at it that 15 minutes would transform this little space that brings me such joy.

As I tended my roses this morning, my neighbor's words came back to me and I would like to share them with you now.

She commented to me several months ago when I was outside gardening, saying "That looks pretty, but I DON'T have time to garden!" I felt judged and dismissed.  I also smiled to myself and went back to my task. Because what she doesn't understand, is that this is not a chore for me.

It is a time that I set aside to clear my mind, to be grateful for my life and all that is good and to step away from my busy day to day and just breathe. You could say that this 15 minute break in my day is actually prayer time for me.

We ALL have 24 hours in each day and it is up to us how we use that time. Carving out a few minutes every day to do something that reenergizes you physically and mentally and renews your sense of gratitude is a good idea. How will you spend your day?!



Kitchen...leaning in a new direction

Before you ask, I have not finished recreating my office space, because a new need presented itself. So I took a little detour and found myself in the kitchen.

I suspect most of us find this room particularly challenging. I did not intend to work on this room yet. Gadgets alone can be overwhelming. But while making dinner a few weeks ago, I overheard Ellen Degeneres speaking with Kathy Freston about her new book, "The Lean." I admit I was intrigued, stopped what I was doing to look for it on the web and ordered it there and then. It arrived in the mail a few days later...you have got to love internet shopping, and I have been reading a chapter a day ever since.

You may be asking yourself what does this have to do with creating spaces in your home and to uncluttering? Everything! I am learning, at least for myself, my health and happiness are not in a neat and tidy little box either. I needed to take inventory of the food in my kitchen and make some adjustments to follow this eating plan that is really more of a series of adjustments.

So at least for this week, the changes that I made in the kitchen were food related. Checking expiration dates and freshness of ingredients, replacing empty containers with healthy grains and keeping the fruit bowl full have kept me from reaching for the unhealthier choices that have beckoned me in the past.

If you have considered vegetarian or vegan eating, Freston's book is sensible and easy to follow. The pantry is in order, at least for now, and I am "leaning" in a new direction.