declutter

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

 

 

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 your sister insists 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 resonates with me 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, 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.

           


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)

 

 

Decluttering...what stays and what goes, where you will stop, nobody, but you, knows!

Everywhere I look, there is a post, a magazine article, or a blog talking about the thing that has so many people baffled. What to do with your stuff. How do you decide what to keep? What exactly does it mean to declutter and what is the fuss all about?  And what about the sentimental treasures? There is no one-size-fits-all recipe, but there are guidelines that hold true for almost everyone. They are just vague enough for you to make your own spin on it and to feel successful. And I will happily share them with you now. Keep what you need and get rid of the rest. 

If you need it, use it, or if it truly makes you happy and you have the space for it, then it stays.  It's that simple!

For me, decluttering and holding on to things for way too long has been a lifelong dance, a bit like fluctuating weight gain and loss. And hey, more on that later, because I see a connection between letting go of "stuff" and letting go of unhealthy eating patterns that by extension allow us to remain overweight. Decluttering isn't something you do once and then forget about. It is a part of a lifestyle that allows you to relish the ebb and flow of the stuff of life. Letting go of what no longer makes you happy or serves a purpose in your present life may bless someone else. And, that makes parting a bit sweeter and opens up a place for something new.

I moved homes several times as a child and as an adult. But one of the most memorable moves was during fifth grade. I am remembering something that happened 47 years ago, so forgive me for embellishing to make my point. What I remember is that one day I was content and happy in my life and in my home of almost 5 years, and then the next I was told we were moving  and that I had a few days to sort and pack my room. The idea of organizing my things was completely overwhelming and in a rash moment, I threw away all but a few treasured art pieces and mementos of my youth. I was starting over and I mourned the loss of my neighborhood gang and my schoolyard friends before we had even left the driveway. No amount of paper could make up for what I was leaving behind. I am grateful that I kept letters from my Nana, paper dolls that my mother had played with as a girl, and a few other treasures including a red teddy bear with an eye missing. It made sense at the time to purge and declutter. I was starting over.

But, the lack of physical stuff bothered me on some level; it must have. It would explain my irrational need to keep every scrap of paper from my own children's school days. Sentimental, yes! But, what I have kept of theirs fills many scrapbooks, most of which they will probably rarely, if ever, review. I suspect any psychologist would recognize this attempt to refill a space or need.

As I write this, I feel a sense of closure for the first time about parting with my childhood stuff. And isn't it interesting that after all of this time, my sister reconnected with some of the people from our neighborhood gang which has begun a Facebook reunion. After all these years, the memories of such happy childhood moments are there, with or without the scraps of paper and the boxes of stuff. I am not suggesting that you purge everything. Not at all. Just be ruthless in choosing just enough to make your heart sing, but so not so much that its care and keeping becomes a full-time job. People and events are the stuff of lasting memories. And, yes, I am so happy that Zoe kept this photo, even if I DO look ridiculous with that scarf upon my head!

*photo by Barbara Watkins, taken first day of school, September 1968, used with permission from Zoe Watkins Stigler and Barbara Watkins. Thanks for sharing!

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 with 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 my colleague 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 she 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!


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!!

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