Productivity

Let Go...expect it to add value.

Today is New Year’s Day, at least for a few more hours. If you are an introvert, then you will relate to this. I didn’t want to go anywhere, make small talk, eat one more less than healthy meal or someone else’s idea of delicious. And, just for this one day, I didn’t want to meet anyone’s expectations after the demands and challenges of the past few months.

There. I said it. Selfish maybe, but, why not make this the year of self-care?! If we don’t take care of ourselves, there isn’t much of us left for others. So! I stayed home for most of the day and felt like the cat that got the cream. Don’t worry, I DID walk my dog. There are some expectations I am happy to hold onto.

As I review 2018, I can see so many of the expectations I may grow to resent are of my own making. This year I am determined to let them go and create the life that fulfills me and brings joy and contentment to myself and those most important in my life. If this appeals to you, then please join me in the quest for finding more joy and less stress.

One of the most interesting, and, most likely, important gifts I received this year is a planner because it stimulated a long train of thought in a brain where everything is connected.  So, what does that have to do with letting go, you might ask?! I am a fan of Planner Pads as some of you know and faithfully use them. But I am now, as of today, exploring The Desire Map Planner, by Danielle LaPorte. (Thank you, Shelley!)

Parker knows exactly how he wants to feel. Rested!

Parker knows exactly how he wants to feel. Rested!

In order to maximize this tool fully, I downloaded three workbooks from her website and have been pouring out my heart and soul onto paper. As I answered her questions about expectations and letting go, I felt compelled to stop and share a few thoughts with you. So here I sit, amidst my notes and pens, and my thoughts.

I’m not going to give you complicated guidelines or lists to follow. Instead, I will paraphrase thoughts my review of the first workbook set in motion. Consider beginning with these questions: How do you want your life to feel? How do you want your work to feel? How do you want your body to feel? You get the idea.

What if you let go of what doesn’t bring you closer to how you want to feel and start there? How would this impact your daily life in the immediate moment and over time? I expect to discover my own answer to this over the next year. I will most likely share my progress in a few months. There is a bit of a learning curve and I want to dive in a bit more before I make any bold statements.

For now, simply ask yourself as you go through your day, “Does this thing, this task, this event, this meal bring me closer to the life I want and the feelings I desire?” Letting go of a long, long, LONG laundry list of to-do’s for 2019 might just be what you need. It’s where I’m starting this year, for less stress and a lot more joy.

Happy New Year, my friends!

Jen


For more information regarding Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map Planner, check her website. http://www.daniellelaporte.com/planners-2019/#desire-program

Full disclosure: I gain nothing from referring you to her work other than the satisfaction of sharing something that may add value to your life. I would love to hear if you have used her planner previously and what impact it had on your life.

A special thank you to Jess G. for your invaluable insights.


Productivity...Finishing something is a very good place to start!

"I don't know where to start and I feel like I'm falling more and more behind!" These are words I hear frequently from prospective clients. I know the accompanying, unsettling feelings well. 

It's true confessions time! If you follow my blog, you know I haven't posted a new blog piece since February. If this isn't delayed decision making and fear of making a wrong move, I don't know what is. I am now a published author. So on the surface, one might think I have it all figured out. The truth is, authors struggle with the same things everyone else does every time we sit down to write. What better subject to tackle than delayed decision making?!

Today, I am choosing to follow my own sage advice. Choose something and FINISH IT!! 

When I don't know where to begin, I find something, one thing, any thing, and finish it. This may seem to contradict much of what you have been taught, and even some of what I have written in previous posts. It is not meant to replace other excellent advice. This is simply another strategy for getting unstuck and moving forward.

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Prioritization, planning, and scheduling are still important productivity tools. But, sometimes, there is so much begging our attention, we delay making any decision for fear of making the wrong decision. I am here to tell you, doing nothing is a decision.

What remains are unfinished tasks and what I have come to think of as loose threads both physically and mentally. Delayed decisions seem to multiply exponentially and add to our stress levels making planning and productivity even more challenging. 

In those moments when we have allowed delayed decision making and perfectionism to paralyze us, setting aside our fear of making the wrong decision is critical. But, getting into any sort of momentum requires taking a first step.

So I ask you this: What if you were to choose one simple task to finish? And, then you were to finish it. Just one task. It need not be the most important, but rather, just one task you are absolutely certain of completing. It could be as simple as clearing the kitchen counter or folding a load of laundry, or five minutes sorting the afternoon mail, or clearing your desk before writing an important email. But, in those next moments, you have completed a task and prepared yourself mentally for another task.

You have finished something. 

The next step is to repeat that simple first step until you feel a sense of calm and confidence. I promise calm and self-confidence are there if you will allow yourself to appreciate and value completion of even the smallest of tasks. 

Once you feel the momentum build, you are more prepared to prioritize and strategize asking these important questions: What is the best use of my time? What is critical or time sensitive? What adds the most value to my life and goals? And, then, finish something that answers those questions. Today I have done exactly that! I finished simple tasks at home and then headed to have my car serviced. I put myself into momentum and now here I sit blogging for the first time in months.

It feels good to finish something! Try it...you just might like it!!

Resolutions...a very good place to start

In the spirit of Chinese New Year and The Year of the Dog, I thought I would share my alphabet soup of practical organizing and productivity words to help build your lists. It's not too late to start visualizing and manifesting your goals for the next twelve months. 

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RE Assess Begin where you are. Take a look at what is and isn't working for you. Know what you want to feel in your home and work spaces. Real change begins with having a vision, and, remembering that vision.

RE Boot Check your computer and phone. Update settings and make sure that they suit you. Are your emails out of control? No time like the present to unsubscribe and delete, delete, delete!

RE Cycle Do you have a designated space for recyclable materials? Make it easy on yourself to follow through with this goal by taking a little time to set up a space in your kitchen, office, garage, or the side of your home to collect the items that can be repurposed. 

RE Define  Know the difference between a project and a task. Break down your goals into manageable pieces. Celebrate the completion of each task with a little mental "high five" rather than wait until the entire project is finished to acknowledge your accomplishment. 

RE Finance February is a good time to reevaluate your budget and commit to following it. Tax time is here. Gather what you need to complete your returns.

RE Enerergize Repainting your walls is a simple and inexpensive way to change how a room feels. Consider colors that enhance the feeling you want in each room and have fun with it. 

RE Group No budget for new furniture or decorations for spring? Edit your spaces by removing what you no longer need. Try rearranging what remains to make the room look fresh. Regroup favorite photos as a collage on the wall or group books by their jacket colors to add a focal point on a shelf.

RE Hash Do your files need revision? Do you have three files with similar names making it difficult to remember which one houses what you seek? Make a decision to simplify your labeling. While you're at it, purge old, irrelevant files, and shred anything with personal information.

RE Inforce New habits and resolutions need reminders. Reinforce your commitment by writing things down in your planners and calendars. Add visual reminders until what's new becomes habit. Use them and keep them easily accessible.

RE Juvenate Commit to self-care! Schedule regular time to restore your energy, to decompress, and, to find your calm center in ways that fit you. For me it's a manicure or a few hours at the beach. 

RE Kindle Is there a hobby or skill you want to pursue? Make time for something that makes your heart happy and to remember your creative self. Take photos, write in your journal, fit a puzzle, binge watch old classic black and white movies. Do YOU!  

RE Linquish Let go of what you no longer need, use, or love! Let having less to clean and take care of, lighten your load; and, at the same time help someone in need.

RE Move This is a good time of year to remove toxic items stored in your garage. Check your local waste removal companies to learn where to take old batteries, old paint and stains, and electronic waste. 

RE Number If you can finish something in two minutes or less, why wait?  For me, it takes longer to add some things to my list than it does to actually complete them. In the spirit of getting things done: keep it simple, know your priorities, and keep your main task list short. 

RE Organize Be sure to edit your belongings before organizing them. Purchase any containers, shelving, or organizing systems after you decide what to keep. It saves time and money in the long run.

RE Pair Are you having trouble finding a replacement for your favorite shoes or boots? Consider having the soles repaired by a cobbler. They'll be good as new for a fraction of the replacement cost.

RE Quest There are only 24 hours in a day. Be sure to utilize resources that are available, request help when necessary, and delegate tasks. Whether at home or work, many hands make small work!

RE aRange Keep items you reach for the most often where you can easily access them. This may require you to remove and rearrange the contents of your cabinets, shelves and closets. 

RE Sale Do you have a growing collection of gently used clothing? Take them to local consignment shop. Be sure to repair and launder items before reselling or donating.

RE Turn To quote Peter Walsh, "Don't put it down, put it away!" Return things after using them. You will save time over the long run and will thank yourself later when you can find it in its designated place.

RE Use I'm a big fan of reusing and repurposing common household belongings in new ways.  My favorite multipurpose rock star item is the mason jar. There are a million uses for them, they come in several sizes, and are inexpensive. 

RE View Don't let perfectionism hinder your path to what you want to accomplish. There are very few jobs that require perfection. Why not take a new view of your progress and let good enough be good enough?!

RE Wire Have you considered feng shui or space healing to bring clarity and energy to your home or office? I have recently explored these options in ma petit chateau and have found setting intentions, writing affirmations, and deliberately arranging my environment to have positive benefits. 

RE eXamine Schedule annual appointments including vision and dental screenings. Remove old, expired first aid and medications in your bathrooms and cabinets and replace what you still need and use on a regular basis.  

RE Ykjavik Iceland anyone?! It's not too early to put travel plans for summer vacation into motion. Begin with your destination, lodging, and transportation arrangements. 

RE ZZZ! Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of adequate, restorative sleep. It sets the tone for your whole day, at least that has been my experience. A calm, uncluttered bedroom with no signs of work when you awaken is a good place to begin. Know your caffeine limitations. Has your promise to yourself to limit caffeine wavered? Add that to your resolutions. Finally, take a look at your bedtime routine. Does it need tweaking so that you feel relaxed enough to fall into a deep sleep?  

Happy New Year! May it be filled with less stress and more joy!

 

Motivation and productivity...what I Could do is my choice

There are a million strategies and articles written to help motivate us and guide us toward becoming more productive. I'm not going to add heavily to that list today. Instead, I’m going to give you something simple to consider.

I read an article in Darling Magazine recently that reminded me of something I learned more than thirty years ago from a wise mentor. I'm going to share her sage advice with you now. It is a simple shift in thinking.

She told me to stop "should-ing on myself" and to "substitute the word could in place of the word should." It was that simple. This little shift in my mindset is a powerful tool when I feel the weight of external pressures and when my to do list feels unmanageable.

There are many things that we do in our day to day lives, and many demands upon our attention. Some them are not all that much fun. Need I say, paying bills, laundry, and staff meetings are not high on most lists of "I can't wait to do this?"; and yet, they serve a purpose we appreciate.

When we sit down with colleagues to discuss what is important to the group, we are choosing to keep communication lines open and choosing to give people the opportunity to be heard. When we see home caring tasks as ways to nurture our families rather than tasks that we should and must do, the tasks feel different. And, we feel different doing them.

Last week, I had a growing mountain of tasks on my list, along with appointments and scheduled work projects, and felt overwhelmed by the big picture. I heard this rumble of a nagging voice in the recesses of my mind telling me I should do this and should have already finished that!

How did I quiet that voice? I substituted should with could.

I wrote a list of every task that I thought I could do at the top of my planner page. Seeing it in black and white and resetting my mindset was a mental refresh for me. 

For the rest of the week, I looked at unscheduled blocks of time and asked myself, “What could I be doing with this time?” I considered the consequences of procrastinating a particularly tedious but time-sensitive task and opted to do it first thing that morning and felt instantly successful. I also, gave myself permission to take breaks as my energy waned. I savored the lulls rather than allow guilt to steal my joy.

Gandalf chooses to pace his busy day of grooming, eating, and sleeping by stopping to smell the roses. 

Gandalf chooses to pace his busy day of grooming, eating, and sleeping by stopping to smell the roses. 

Slowly but surely tasks on my could list disappeared along with a few other tasks that I added later, just because I could. Imagine that! 

When we say could, we take ownership for our actions and feel empowered. What we could do with our time may be exactly the same as what think we should be doing with our time. But the pressure is lifted. Should sucks the joy out of life. Could gives us back our joy and allows us to set our own course! I like that.

 

 

 

 

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.

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!!

New Year's Resolutions...How resolving to create and cultivate a great year puts the wheels in motion

Resolving to create and cultivate a great year may feel beyond your control; yet it is a practical, smart goal. Aren't we the most excited and engaged in work and play that is important to us and that is interesting to us? Don't we feel the most pride and greatest sense of accomplishment and self worth when we have worked through challenging obstacles and opportunities that scare the hell out of us?

I find that the first step toward making a change or opening the door to a new opportunity is in writing it down. Simple, right?! We have been encouraged time and time again to make lists. Why is this so powerful? Could it be the laws of momentum?

To set the wheels in motion, begin with a pen and piece of paper. It is that simple. Now...make a list of all the unconnected, random ideas and thoughts for your future. Set no bounds or limitations upon time or practicality or finances or physical limitations. Make the list long...100 things, tasks, projects, dreams. There will be time to break down your list into measurable tasks to add to your calendar later. What is important in the beginning is to release your desires out into the universe even if no one sees your list but you. The energy that it takes to make this list begins a new pathway toward discovering what is important to you and  remembering what makes your heart joyful. And it puts you into momentum.

Keep moving. Review your list often. As you check off your accomplishments, enjoy the renewed energy and momentum. Take yet another step toward your dreams by adding items to your calendar. Schedule those appointments that keep you in good health. Schedule those daily and weekly tasks that make a difference over time. Dare I say, get moving, literally? You can't eat seven apples on Sunday and you can't exercise seven hours on Sunday to make up for a week of less than healthy choices. Make yourself important enough to schedule time for the things that really do add to your sense of health and well-being. Added to your calendar, in writing, they are more likely to get done.

What about the things that we write down year after year that don't get done? Do some things show up year after year never to be completed? Perhaps finances keep you from making these dreams come true. Perhaps you feel unsupported or simply overwhelmed. Sometimes it simply comes down to time. Whatever the reason, decide this year to make it important...or, remove it from your list. Yes, you read correctly. Take it off your list, set yourself free, no guilt. Maybe your needs have changed.

But if this thing, this missed promise to yourself, this possible dream continues to nag at you, then it is time to become courageous and take the first step, and then the second which might just be reaching out to someone else to coax you along. Think of it as catching the draft from a fast car. Ask for help from a friend, a colleague, a professional. There are many resources available and people who are skilled in assisting you to break down your goals into manageable parts. Some of them will sit by your side and walk you through the process if that is what you need.

We are now into the second week of the new year. Are you ready to get started reaching for your dreams? No time like the present!

Wishing you all happy beginnings and a year of unsurpassed expectations.

Spring Into New Year's Action...begin right here, right now

Why wait for Spring to get started. If you are motivated and inspired, then why not start today?

One of my favorite movies is "Under the Tuscan Sun." The protagonist, Frances, has purchased a house in Tuscany and in a moment of panic and overwhelm she says, "The trick to overcoming buyer's remorse is to have a plan. Pick a room and make it yours." I do not have buyer's remorse, but I DO understand the feeling of overwhelm. Whether you feel a sense of dread over post holiday clean up, or feel overwhelm due to life changes, I propose that you pick a room or a space in your home that is not being used to its best ability and consider changing it to make it your own.

Whether you have 15 minutes or 15 hours at your disposal, there are small tasks and projects that will make a tangible difference to your comfort and use of your spaces. Take those increments of time and repeat often until you feel and see the change that make a difference to you. Block out time on your calendar and commit to creating an environment that works for your life as it is right here, right now.

First step is choosing one space or room in which to work your magic.  Let me share what I am doing in my own spaces in hopes that it will help you to visualize.  I found myself with New Year's Day completely open and at my disposal. I wandered through my house, room by room and found one space calling to me for change. The space felt heavy!  Despite pretty furniture and freshly painted walls, beautiful art and good lighting, it was missing something. And, I acknowledged that no one spends much time in this room. Even guests will gravitate to the family room, which although always a bit messy and dusty, has an air of comfort, a welcoming quality. My daughter weighed in on this and with her careful honesty shared her thoughts on what would make the unused room more inviting. Real estate is too valuable to sit empty as they say; so I listened with an open mind!

Step two is to move and use existing materials. I urge you not to rush out to bring more into this space. Live with it and look for things in other parts of your home that will make this newly repurposed space work even better. You probably have many treasures that make your heart sing.

Step three, keep only those things that bring a smile to your face, or serve the purpose you choose for this particular space. This goes beyond de-cluttering and cleaning. This is about creating a new energy in your surroundings. Remove unwanted items from the room. Period! These items go into one of three places, the garbage, the sharing pile, or the recycle pile. Do not bring them back into the room. If they belong somewhere else in the house, put them away! The space will begin to feel different, more open and lighter. At this point in the process, I like to sit for a minute and savor this feeling before moving on to the next steps.

Step four, look at the space from several angles while positioning the furniture. No one likes to sit facing away from the door or entry. I am currently working on the room that you enter from my front door. Adjusting the seating has already made a difference to how the room feels and I noticed that my son came in, sat, and chatted with me few times over the course of the afternoon. He had helped me schlepp the heavy pieces and is now a stakeholder in the success of this project.

Step five, finishing touches may include dusting and cleaning the floors and windows and  a little paint touchup on newly exposed walls or baseboards. No time like the present. And if you have put your label maker to good use, the paint cans in your garage will be easy to sort through and this little refresh will take but a few minutes. More on labeling later.

For now, Happy New Year and let's do it it with less stress.

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