stress management

Living With Less...Consider The Cost of Keeping your Stuff

Declutter -  Less-Stress Organizing Solutions

There is value to becoming organized. No doubt! There is a sense of calm, order, and control attached to managing your spaces and to managing how you spend your time. But it DOES take time to find the sweet spot that is just right for you. Organizing is personal.

All of my clients want to get organized.  Most of them accept that there will be disruptions and discomfort during the process. Some of them willingly reduce and remove the stuff that is no longer useful, the stuff that is unnecessary, and the stuff that they no longer love or want in their lives. They are ready for the benefits that come with reducing, sharing, decluttering, and organizing.  

The benefits of living with less in a calm, orderly environment are appealing. Yet some of us are stuck? The process IS uncomfortable, and sometimes costly. Believe me, I can personally relate to reluctantly digging in my heels. Getting to the point of having less comes with angst. We ask our selves, "What if I need it someday? What if I eventually remember what this thing fits and then I no longer have it? What if this thing is worth money and I give it away? What if I could have sold it at a garage sale? What if my kids want it someday? What if I move? What if, what if, what if...?"

What if I told you that there is a cost for keeping your stuff? Small, over crowded spaces are more difficult to clean, limit freedom of movement, and feel stagnant. Upsizing to bigger housing is an expensive option. Storage units are sometimes necessary and useful, but they cost money and are not as easily accessible as having things at your fingertips.

Time spent looking for things buried behind the other stuff that we don't use very often is time that could have been spent doing something else. Keeping every surface covered requires frequent movement of stuff when you begin simple daily activities such as food prep, mail sorting, and bill paying. 

Formal dining rooms become collection rooms, and guest rooms become large, full closets for the overflow of life until we need to use them for their intended purposes and then you know what happens next?! Frantic movement of the stuff to another room. It is endless, it is time consuming, and, it is exhausting!

And yet, we keep things because these items represent hard work, sentimental moments, difficult decisions, and a different space and time in our lives that may no longer exist. And, we are busy! We may feel rushed in our day to day lives, dropping things where we land rather than put them in the same place every day. Time spent searching for keys and wallets is a common theme.

And, as useful as technology can be, there is inherent risk when we spend more time managing our devices than the time we spend connecting to the people around us.

One of the most common complaints that I hear is regarding the inordinate amount of time looking for that one important email that is buried under 6000+ advertisements. Rather than take the time to clear the unwanted, un-needed, and unloved messages that bombard us, and unsubscribe to the messaging that is no longer relevant, we complain and we stress about the ever-growing inbox. 

And, finally, the stress attached to managing too much stuff and too full a calendar eats away at our health and well being. And, to me, that is too high a cost for keeping "stuff."

Creative solutions to these challenges and obstacles are abundant. Feeling motivated and eager to do the work takes energy, patience, and perseverance. Sometimes it takes outside help and sometimes we can do it ourselves. But, we always need to feel confident that we are in charge of the decisions.

I have seen first hand the lightness of being that results from having less both in my experience as an organizer and in my personal life. I have watched an ill client jump up and dance around her garage and tell me how freeing it is to finally let go of the weight of boxes stagnating in her garage. I have listened to a voicemail that moved me to tears from a client who donated her excess to a food bank. She witnessed first hand the most basic of needs right here in our own community and was humbly motivated to do more. 

I remember a point in my own life when I decided that I was going to "fit" into my home. I have moved many times in my life, and became comfortable with keeping things for someday. Although masterful at organizing my stuff, I asked myself the tough questions, "Do I need it, use, it, love it?" I have been in the same house now for 15 years. And, yes, I may have a move in my future. But for now, having less has brought a new level of peacefulness to my life that I cherish. I look around and marvel at the open spaces and the coziness of it all.

There is still more that I will remove, but as I tell friends and clients, the process is like peeling an onion. We take it a layer at a time, wipe away the tears that sometimes result, and then let it sit until we are ready to peel again.

Eventually, we get to the sweet center and wonder what and why we were waiting because we are so happy to be there.

  

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

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

Palace at Versailles, France

Palace at Versailles, France

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I beg of you, return things to their designated drawers, cupboards, closets, or spaces when you are done using them. If you always put things in the same space, you will create habits that make it easier to find your stuff over time.

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

Organizing Solutions San Diego

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

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

 

photography by Jennifer Raphael

 

 

 

 

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.

           


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)