Holidays

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!

Four agreements for less stress and more joy...happier holidays may require a little shift in thinking.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, as my family does, or any of the beautiful cultural traditions that we find in December, the Winter Solstice is a time of year that can increase stress if we allow the goal of perfection to guide us.

You know what I am talking about…the perfect gift, the perfect outfit, the perfect party, the perfect meal, the perfect guest list…you get the idea.

What if you were to strive for your own version of excellence and to let good enough be good enough? Could this shift in thinking shift your experience of the holiday season? I say, “Yes!”

Home Organizing Solutions

About a year ago, I read a book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book he describes four basic principals for approaching your life. His words are simple, yet profoundly important and applicable to daily life. I find them inspiring and since it is the season for sharing, I will share them with you now.

#4. DO YOUR BEST

Yes, I am beginning with the fourth because it is my favorite. It allows us to be human, does not expect perfection, and implies that forgiveness is near at hand. If we operate from a place of always doing our best, we are free to focus our energy from our strengths and, I hope, to feel less judgment with the results.

With guests due to arrive in two days, I have a festively decorated home, my gift shopping is finished, and gifts are wrapped. But I have NOT shopped for the food yet, and have one bathroom out of order. Not ideal with a house full of people, but a small problem in the scheme of life.

I can stress about it, or I can let it go. This year I will grocery shop with the crowd but make the best of it. The food will be fresh, and it will be good enough. And, as they say, “Many hands make small work.”

Doing your best means letting people know what is helpful, and then actually letting them help. Let them do their best and you will multiply the joy in the day.

#3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

If there was ever a time to ask questions, it is now. This could be as simple as asking guests about food allergies, or your daughter what she wants most for her holiday feast.

Since everything revolves around food with my family, it is imperative that I find out what people expect to see on the table. Lord help me if Elizabethan Carrots or brussel sprouts are not on the menu this year. I assumed that people would prefer traditional, pumpkin pie for dessert, but it is a unanimous “no.”

So this year, dessert will be an ooey gooey chocolatey goodness from a recipe to be discovered and executed by my daughter. And, it will be more than good enough.

#2. DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

This has got to be one of my biggest challenges. I am a fixer. So when things are not going well, I blame myself and set out to fix them. Folks, I am here to tell you that we cannot solve all the world’s problems in one day. And many things are not ours for the solving. And that includes the many moods of the people surrounding you.

Although this season is supposed to be “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” many people find their losses less bearable and sadness harder to tolerate. And, you may be on the receiving end of someone’s bad mood or unkind words. Don’t take it personally, and yes, I am telling myself this as well.

By not taking it personally, you are free to hold on to your own happiness and to share your joyful spirit with others, which might just lighten their load a little.

And just in case, you need a little visual inspiration, I highly recommend watching, “Elf.” This has become a family favorite for good reason. “Smiling is our favorite!”

#1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

This is where things become complicated. To be impeccable with your word requires that you be honest AND kind, honest, but NOT disparaging, honest, but NOT hurtful. A tall order, but sets clear boundaries for choosing new language.

To be impeccable with your word also means to keep your promises. When you say no to one more thing, you are saying yes to what is most important to you. You honor your choices and commitments, and the people involved know where you stand. We cannot be everywhere at once nor can we do everything asked of us. So we must dig deep and become honest with ourselves about what is most important.

When we do this, the answers become clearer, we are grateful for good enough and cherish the present moments just as they are. After all, we are here to do and give our best. 

My very best wishes for happiness as you celebrate the holidays with your families and friends. Will see you in the new year!

Love,

Jen

Negative Space is Incredibly Positive...The Power of Pausing

There is power in pausing.

Pauses are as important in life as they are in art. Breathing, we inhale, and breathing, we exhale! Yet, sometimes we need reminding not to hold our breaths. Rushing around from thing to thing, we forget the importance of the pause. In life, as in art, the negative space is a critical piece of the whole. Just as the negative space defines the boundaries of the art composition and draws attention to it, and just as the silence in music, or the stillness in dance, draw attention, we are given the opportunity to pause and reflect and to give thanks in those moments. The art is richer, the dance more meaningful, the music more poignant.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it occurs to me that there is something rather special about this particular holiday. Despite, all of the frenzy and excitement looming in December, Thanksgiving is a day when most of us pause to enjoy our families and friends.

What if we were to take that idea and weave it into our daily lives...into our personal and work lives and into our personal and work spaces? What if we remembered to take small breaks to loosen tense shoulder muscles, to play with the dog, to look out the window, to sit with a cup of tea without multitasking? Would we get less done, and feel more behind? Or would we actually feel energized and more connected to ourselves and those around us? Would our experiences change, would our views broaden and our eyes see more? I say yes!

For me, decluttering is another form of pausing. Removing things that no longer suit me, no longer make me happy, or no longer serve a purpose, is mentally cleansing. It leaves a visual pause, or negative space in my surroundings, and has a calming effect on me. Clear your desk at the end of your work day and notice how this impacts you the next time you sit down to work there. Clear the clutter from your purse, your wallet, your car, and savor the emptiness.

Pause to reflect upon what you have accomplished today. If you were to make a list, you would be amazed at how many things you do every day. I am grateful that I can do so much for myself. Ask anyone who has been ill or recently injured, and they will tell you how much they have taken for granted.  I leave you with this thought. The pauses, or negative spaces in our lives, invite us to focus upon how we view our days, our accomplishments, ourselves, and for that I give thanks.


*photo of painting, "The Dance Examination," by Edgar Degas

Holiday Thing Management...making peace with your things requires a little courage and a little creativity

There are signs everywhere that the holidays are upon us. And, I LOVE it! But there is a real danger in becoming overwhelmed and overloaded by our THINGS, especially at this time of year!!! As all of the pretty ornaments and holiday themed decorations and wonderful specialty items go on display, we are tempted to throw caution to the wind and bring yet more into our homes, sometimes without thought as to where they will live for the other 11 months of the year, or whether we really even need them.

The need question is simple to answer. But there will be no judgement from me. I just spent an hour at Crate and Barrel sighing over this year's Christmas tree ornaments and even bought a few. What it is different for me this year, however, is that I have a plan and a place to keep them after the holidays.

Last year, I sorted through every box and bag of decorations that had collected over the years, and shed myself of quite a few things that I no longer really cherished or needed. There will be more of that as the boxes come out again this year and I will take another critical look and shed a few more things.

Here are a few ideas for keeping holiday thing management under control:

1. Share/give away/throw away one item for every item that you bring into your home...okay one for every two or three things if you have the storage space and are building your collection. But, be honest, be brave! And, remember that sharing is a blessing!

2. Consider Coco Chanel's motto of less is more and take the last item out of your cart and put it back onto the shelf.

3.  If a THING calls loudly to you, and won't stop, consider it for someone on your shopping list; wrap and label it for that person immediately so as to remove the temptation to keep it for yourself.

4. Decorate early in the season, savor the ambience longer, and move on to the other elements of the holiday that you enjoy!

5. Consider experiences as a part of your holiday to-do list: The Boat Parade of Lights, Christmas Card Lane,  a party or potluck with friends, a trip to Starbuck's on the first day that the red cups arrive! You get the idea. I celebrate Christmas; so am focused there. But the same encouragement holds true for Hanukkah or other Winter holidays and holds true for Thanksgiving and Halloween as well.

6. Find a buddy to make the task of sorting decorations more fun and then return the favor. Have lively music and delicious refreshments on hand.

7. As you sort through your boxes of holiday treasures and decorations, remember that gently used or never used items can be wrapped and given to toy drives and other charity events. Be creative and generous! And do it early in the season so that others have more time to savor their new treasures.

8. Finally, as you make your way through the holiday season, repeatedly ask yourself the tough questions: Why am I keeping this? Why am I buying this?

No, I don't need four plastic pumpkins for trick or treating.  My children no longer trick or treat. The flip side of this record is, yes, I DO need an extra string of lights. Do NOT wait until two weeks before Christmas and expect to find twinkle lights lining the shelves of your favorite stores.

Or, you could consider using fewer lights! For me, this is one place Coco and I disagree. More is more when it comes to twinkling lights in December! Just remember to consider where you will shelter them the remainder of the year.

Cheers!

 

October...anticipating the holidays with a happy heart and clean windows

I LOVE this time of year! The evenings are cool and the leaves are falling from my birch trees.

I'm  not sure how much my neighbors appreciate the leaves that blow their way, but these are signs that some of my favorite holidays are approaching. I have yet to make my lists. I am pausing first to reflect upon what is truly important to me. And, I have chosen to treat myself to something simple.

This year, I am beginning the season with clean windows. Yes, you read correctly! There is something wonderful about having squeaky clean windows. Turns out...again...that mom was right! I have a lovely view from my back windows and expect to see even more of it through clean glass.

Whatever is it that lightens your load a little bit before the holiday madness begins, consider it for yourself. Be prepared to enjoy the rush headlong into the fray from October to January.

Clean carpets

Polish floors

Clean gutters

Fill the bird feeders...but be prepared to repeat frequently!

And then sit with a cup of tea near your favorite window, make your lists and hang on to your hat!!