Pleasure at Christmas Is My Priority

Years ago while working with an energy healer I learned that I have great

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

difficulty allowing pleasure. I was raised by two people who worked first, played later if they played at all. Hard work was revered in our house. Plus, when my parents’ marriage began to go downhill, working hard distracted me from my fear and sadness. I worked hard at school, at home, at work, in my private life, and at anything that mattered to me. It was always difficult for me to lighten up and have fun.

When I became aware of my challenge allowing pleasure I decided to do something about it. I started by intentionally lightening up and taking pleasure in the festivities of favorite time of year — the Christmas holiday season. It was a good place to start because it was a time of year that included many things I already loved: Christmas music, spending time with family and friends, baking sweets to give away, showing people I love them, and Christmas colors and decorations.

I deliberately simplified what I did to prepare for the holidays each year to lower my stress and make it possible to be more present to those aspects of the season that touch my heart — lights, music, warm connections with loved ones, familiar decorations. I became more mindful and discriminating about social events I would attend. I enjoyed activities I loved and eliminated those that seemed like work.

Now, when I think of the December and the holiday season my heart smiles. It’s a time of year when I give my hard-working, driven self a break. I see fewer clients. I ease up on my expectations of myself to be consistently productive, and I follow the lead of my heart.

Choosing to allow pleasure at the holidays has made it possible for me to be gentler with myself all year long. I am a first child, which comes with challenges like perfectionism, drivenness, high standards, and a harsh inner critic. I still have a long way to go toward balancing work and fun all year long. But, thanks to my annual pleasure fest in December, I am making progress.

Does pleasure (other than alcohol induced pleasure) even show up on your radar during the holiday season? If not, set your intention to experience some type of holiday pleasure each day of December no matter how busy you are. Make pleasure your focus this holiday season and reap the benefits all year long!

Dispel Christmas Pressure! Simplify!

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” That is the subject of many conversations angel-564351_640among women at this time of year. I was thinking about that question today, and the perspective it anchors. It keeps the focus on the tasks that must be done before the deadline of December 25, like a race to the finish line. Just thinking about that quest creates feelings of pressure and even dread inside me. No wonder some people hate the holidays! It’s just associated with more work to do, not pleasure.

I have always loved the Christmas season. The season, not just the day — the music, the bright lights, the special foods, getting together with friends and family, showing my love and care with gifts and cards I send to those I love. However, I once was like so many people, running as fast as I could to that magic deadline, only to feel let down once I got there. Instead of enjoying the season, I was focused on completing tasks, worrying about whether I’d get everything done on time, and not having much pleasure or fun.

One day I woke up to the fact that the way I was doing Christmas made it impossible to be present to the possible joys of the season. I had a choice to make. 1) Keep doing what I was doing and continue to feel stressed, irritable and burdened. Or, 2) modify what I do each Christmas so I can have time and energy to be fully present for all the joys of the holiday season.

I chose option number 2. My focus is no longer on the deadline of December 25. It is on enjoying the traditions, the feelings, and the opportunities for meaningful connection all through December. This is what did I did to get off the autopilot of stressful Christmas preparations.

  • I stopped putting up a big tree (it took me a day to set up just the tree), and I now have three smaller trees that I keep decorated. All I have to do to put them up is to remove the plastic bag that covers them during storage.
  • I downsized the number and kinds of decorations I put out. I kept only those decorations for which I had a strong heart connection, and I eliminated annoying, difficult to put up decorations like candles in the windows. 
  • I reduced baking from several different types of cookies and sweets to
    img_2656

    Cracker Candy

    one very simple recipe that everyone loves.

  • For many family members I only give token gifts or gift cards instead of numerous gifts.
  • I pair boring tasks like addressing and writing notes in Christmas cards and wrapping presents with tasks I enjoy like watching a Christmas movie or a special TV program.
  • I stopped attending holiday parties I didn’t enjoy.

I still have a Christmas to-do list, but it’s not my main focus. It is no longer driving my mood. I keep my eye on and devote my energies to enjoying the pleasures of the season. I go to Christmas concerts, schedule time to connect with special friends, listen to Christmas music as I drive and work around my house, sit quietly in my decorated space. And, guess what? The tasks that I want to get done (gift giving, card writing, baking, decorating, etc.) get done with less stress, less rush and more pleasure.

What can you do to shift your focus from the pressured rush to the December 25 deadline to enjoying the special opportunities for connection and pleasure that are available during the whole holiday season? You do have a choice!

3 Tips Reduce Christmas Holiday Overwhelm

Let’s face it. Adding holiday tasks to your overly full schedule creates521629_519879618030834_1602480263_n pressure, stress and often overwhelm. It’s enough to shut you down and cause you to avoid doing anything.

Over the years as I too have struggled to get everything done I’ve unconsciously developed some strategies to manage my seasonal overwhelm. Following are three that work very well for me.

Combine holiday tasks with regular daily tasks.

      • You need to get groceries. Why not buy the ingredients for your baking and holiday meals while doing your regular grocery shopping? Or, you could buy edible Christmas gifts or gift cards. 
      • TV helps you unwind after a busy day. You can address, stamp and perhaps even write Christmas cards while enjoying your favorite shows. Or, you could wrap a few packages each night to avoid having to wrap them all at once.

Break big tasks down to bite size pieces.

      • Looking at the task of writing Christmas cards can be daunting because there are so many boring steps. That task can be broken down into the following steps: get your address list together, address cards, stamp cards, write cards, mail cards. Make one step your goal instead of the whole task and you are more likely to do something rather than avoid the task altogether.
      • Rather than tackle your whole gift list at once, plan to buy one gift per day (online or in stores) as you move through your regular daily activities rather than feeling you must devote large blocks of time to shopping.

Give the same type of gift to many people on your list.

      • This year I have made small, economical photo books for almost all of my family members.
      • Every year I give Cracker Candy to family and friends. It’s the only thing I bake and is loved by everyone.
      • Gift cards to restaurants and stores that family and friends frequent allow them to have experiences and purchases things that matter to them.

Melding holiday chores into your daily life, doing a little at a time rather than thinking you should eat the whole elephant at once, and simplifying what you do will make it possible for you to get holiday preparations done with less stress and more pleasure.

Clear Clutter: Donating Items Pays Off

Donate quickly to attract more good in your life!

Donate quickly to attract more good in your life!

It seems like donating items you no longer love, need or use would be a simple process. Just drive to the closest charity of your choice and drop off your stuff, right? I wish!

In particular, many people who have a difficult time letting go of things want to find just the right person or place to donate their former treasures. What they don’t realize is that having to find the best place for everything adds a complexity to the process that is time consuming and often ends up being a barrier to donating anything.

For years I have advocated to clients and participants in my educational seminars that they donate items quickly and as easily as possible trusting that their things will end up with just the right person. For example, Goodwill is five minutes from my house. All my donations go to good will.

I have also recommended that people consider donating items without making itemized lists to claim tax deductions. Making that list is another step, is tedious (I’ve never been able to make myself do it!), and because it’s an easily procrastinated task it is another potential barrier to getting things out of your space.

I gave up getting receipts from Goodwill years ago. I view my donations as a form of community service. I also believe that what you put out there will come back to you in some form. For example, I recently rented a car to visit my disabled brother. I need a car bigger than my tiny Honda Fit because Mark’s leg doesn’t bend at the knee. A van would be ideal, but the rental cost is prohibitive. Therefore, I made a reservation for a standard car with the hope that Mark would fit in it. When I picked up the car I explained what I needed and why, and to my surprise  was offered a van for the cost of a standard car.

I believe that by being generous and freely giving away things I no longer love, use or need that I attract generosity in others. The van was my good will coming back to me.

You will not experience the benefits of clutter clearing until your donations are out of your space. Make donating items a quick and easy process to attract more good into your life.

How People With ADHD Can Successfully Clear Clutter

I received the following post from Tom Robinson, the founder of Adventures event_455738537in ADD, a meet up group for people with ADHD in the Richmond, VA area. Tom has ADHD, and like many people with ADHD, getting and staying organized is difficult.

Tom wrote, “I just started on the first step of my goal to get better organized and free of un-needed, (not un-wanted), “stuff” before Christmas. What could I do with two dozen rods and reels that were stacked in a corner and all tangled up with lines, hooks and weights? I gritted my teeth and made a decision to take the bull by the horns and take a positive step towards a less-cluttered life. Viola! In less than an hour I built twelve feet of rod holders to suspend from the ceiling of my fishing shack. Wow! Looks great and no tangles.”

Tom took the following steps.

  1. He set a goal to get better organized and free of un-needed stuff before Christmas.
  2. He set a specific deadline.
  3. He chose to grit his teeth when hit with some initial overwhelm rather than run from the job.
  4. He made a decision to take a positive step, just one step toward his goal.
  5. He made the task enjoyable by coming up with a creative solution for creating order.

Tom made progress toward achieving his goal by focusing on a very specific desire, to get better organized. That desire helped him push through his resistance. Plus, he used an ADHD strength, his creativity, to make the task more enjoyable and ultimately successful. And, surprise, surprise! The task took less than an hour!

People with ADHD can be successful with clutter clearing if they 1) focus on what they want, 2) find some way to make the task pleasurable/fun, and 2) use their strengths of persistence, determination and creativity to keep them moving and on track.

What Is Your Clutter Telling You?

Clutter is information. It has a story to tell if you can get past its negative, dscn0013overwhelming energy. When I walk into a client’s home or office I look for the story that the clutter tells. Some of the stories go like this:

  • I’ve got too much on my plate to have the time to attend to my space.
  • I have too much stuff.
  • I shop for entertainment, and to relieve stress.
  • I got behind in cleaning up and doing daily maintenance tasks, and could not catch up.
  • My job takes everything out of me, and I don’t have the energy to do daily maintenance tasks like putting things away, cleaning up after myself, sorting mail.
  • I’ve had a very stressful week.
  • I’ve been through a very tough time in my life (e.g. caregiving responsibilities for parents, deaths of family members, health problems, etc.) and couldn’t hold everything together.
  • I really have no idea how to set up and maintain an organized space.
  • I am sentimental. It’s hard for me to get rid of anything that reminds me of a special person or time in my life.
  • I have ADHD and have never been organized. I can’t make myself clean up after myself, put clothes away regularly and go through my mail.
  • I need more help from others, particularly those who contribute to the mess.
  • I spend very little time at home, and when I’m home I just drop things and plop on the sofa.
  • I have no clue how to manage all the paper pouring into my house.
  • I have too many responsibilities and need support from others to maintain an organized home.
  • I am overwhelmed by how much clutter there is and don’t know how to start clearing.

Do you identify with any of those stories? You cannot address a clutter problem if you aren’t conscious of the story it tells. For example, if your story is, “I shop for entertainment and to relieve stress,” that awareness makes it possible for you to focus on finding other ways to reduce stress and have fun.

If your story is that you have ADHD and have never been organized, you can research what works for people with ADHD to get clearing done and sustain order in their space.

If the truth is you have a family of five and are the only one who is trying to create and sustain order, you can acknowledge the impossibility of doing that successfully and negotiate with family members for their participation in tasks that keep your house organized and feeling good.

Instead of beating yourself up because there is clutter or avoiding it, look at it with curiosity. Tease out the story it tells. Then take steps to change the story.

Stories are much more interesting than piles of clutter. Focusing on your story can motivate you to make take action. Be aware that many of the above stories, particularly those that involve large quantities of clutter, can only be changed with some type of outside help. Hire a professional organizer or enlist supportive friends and/or family members to help you change your story.

Get Unstuck: Exercise Works!

yoga-263673__340

Yoga helped me get unstuck!

I’ve been stuck in grief and low-grade depression since the death of my mother in July. It’s been very hard to muster the enthusiasm needed to promote my business. I knew that losing Mom after 5 years of coordinating her care as Alzheimer’s claimed her mind would derail me. But, I thought after a month or two I would be back on track. Not so. Add in normal fall seasonal affective disorder, and I have been moving at a glacial pace.

For many years I have walked regularly and done sit ups, push ups, and leg lifts at night before going to bed — minimal exercise. In an attempt to build strength and energy, Bob and I joined American Family Fitness, a gym near our home, 

Going to a gym has never been easy for my introverted self. But this time I approached the challenge with a new perspective. Instead of thinking of the gym as a place where I would demonstrate how out of shape I am and how much better others are, I viewed it as a place to reclaim my strength, my center, my confidence and feelings of well-being.

I started with a yoga class and an easy workout on machines. As expected, I was wobbly during yoga poses and my muscles screamed and let me know I had been neglecting them. I got breathless on the treadmill. However, almost immediately I felt better. It was as if some vital life force in me began moving again. Optimism returned. Enthusiasm returned. And, with those good feelings came a desire to write this blog, to get to work.

Keys to making this gym experience different than others:

  • I went in with no expectations for a high level of performance.
  • I viewed going to the gym as self-care and an activity to help me feel better.
  • I took relatively easy, meditative classes and started slow on the machines instead of pushing myself in high intensity classes and workouts.
  • I chose the kinds of exercise I like to do.
  • I viewed just showing up at the gym as a success.

The payoff: I’m moving again, feeling better, and being more productive!

Good Feng Shui in Your Home Office Is Possible!

Feng shui teaches that creating a personal paradise is your goal when you
feng-shui-officearrange
a space. No room needs that approach more than a home office. As one of the most neglected and most dumped-on rooms in the house, it really needs some thoughtful attention and positive energy to make it an appealing place to work.

But, where to start? How exciting are filing cabinets, bookcases, desks and computer equipment?

TIP #1: Start with the wall color. It will set the tone and serve as the foundation for all other enhancements you make. Painting the walls a color is imperative. White walls very quickly become dingy, scarred and dirty. It is also easy to feel anxious and depressed in rooms with white walls because the colors of prints, photographs and paintings on the walls just won’t show up. We need color to feel good. It nurtures us with its energy. So paint your home office walls a color. Colors I recommend for home offices are a buttery yellow, sage green, and my new favorite, an earthy turquoise blue. Blues and greens are associated with the wood element. The wood element is associated with growth and expansion and a positive, upward energy. Yellow is an optimistic earth element.

TIP #2: Eliminate any furniture that is broken, ugly or doesn’t work well. You want all your furnishings to have good energy. It’s likely that you’ll be using odds and ends in this room, i.e., furniture that isn’t needed elsewhere. Just make sure that you actually like each piece and that all the pieces look good together.

TIP #3: Eliminate fluorescent lighting and be sure you have multiple incandescent light sources. It’s a good idea to have some uplighting as well, light that is directed up toward the ceiling. Light is energy. You’ll need plenty of energy to face the types of tasks typically done in a home office.

TIP #4: Place the desk in the power position with a solid wall behind it and a full view of the door. From that position your nervous system will relax and you will feel empowered and ready to tackle whatever awaits you on the desk.

TIP #5: Place other furniture around the desk, both to accommodate the convenient completion of the tasks to be done at the desk and to look attractive.

TIP #6: Add plants to bring the outdoors inside. Green is an optimistic color, and live or silk plants can immediately change the feel of a room that has lots of hard edges and electrical equipment. They provide a soft, soothing energy. Make sure they are healthy and have round shapes. Avoid dried plants and those with thorns and pointed shapes. Dried plants have a dead energy, especially when their color fades, and thorns and pointed leaves have negative energies because of their potential to do physical harm.

TIP #7: Add art, photographs, and special mementoes you love, anything that makes your heart sing and that empowers you. For example, I have a photograph of me that was taken with Jack Canfield at a conference years ago. Jack is one of my mentors. He doesn’t know it, but I want to do the kind of work he’s been so successful doing, and I want to be able to share my message with the world like he has. I also framed a print of the Chinese letters for “feng shui” since feng shui is a focus of all the work I do. And, when I recently re-decorated my office, I deliberately chose to limit almost all other art on the walls to original art by artists I know.

Invest in making your home office a personal paradise, and you’ll want to spend more time there.

You’ll also be more motivated to treat it with the respect it deserves! Wouldn’t it be nice to LOVE your home office instead of dreading it or avoiding it? You can! Make it so!

Counter Knife Blocks = A Feng Shui Kitchen “No! No!”

One of the most common feng shui errors that I find in kitchens is the knife-block-563633_640presence of a knife block on the counter. You know, a block of wood holding knives of various sizes. It’s a very convenient way to store knives so they are easily accessible for use.

When you assess the feng shui of a space, it’s important to consider safety. Knives that are located out in the open in a knife block are not considered safe because they are so accessible. They could easily be used as weapons. A block of knives is a block of negative energy because of its potential for harm.

You are probably thinking, “If I can’t store them on the counter, how should I store them for easy access?” You have several options. First, you can put the block out of sight. Make room on a shelf in one of your lower cabinets for the knife block. It’s important that you be able to reach the knives easily. If accessing it is the least bit inconvenient, you will avoid getting knives that way. Then either the block will end up on the counter again, or the knives will be tossed into drawers.

A second option, and my preferred option, is to purchase a wooden drawer insert specifically for knives. Be sure to measure the drawer first so you are sure to buy an insert of the correct size. The insert will have slits to hold the knives, safely containing the blades out of harm’s way.

Removing a knife block from the counter is a great way to make a kitchen immediately feel more peaceful. Commit to peace and safety in your kitchen by removing your knife block from the counter.

Clear Kid Photo Clutter: Who Are You Sleeping With?

“I recommend that you remove all photos of your children from your

Remove all photos of your children from your bedroom.

Remove all photos of your children from your bedroom.

bedroom.” The woman who had hired me to do a feng shui consultation looked at me with a shocked expression on her face. “Really? Why?” “Well,” I responded, “those photos hold the energy of your children. It’s as though you are sleeping with your children. Do you want to be sleeping with your children? And, how romantic can it be with your husband when your children are looking on while the two of you are having sex?”

Once you have children, an enormous amount of energy naturally shifts to meet the legitimate needs of the children. Tending the needs of the couple can easily slip by the wayside in the busyness of childrearing and making ends meet. Even the bedroom can become all about the children.

Ideally the bedroom of a couple should be treated as a love nest, a place to honor and enjoy your relationship. 

Given that the health of the couple assures the health of the family unit, doesn’t it make sense that you devote one room to being all about the couple? Make sure that you have at least one photo of you and your spouse/partner in the bedroom. Remove all photos of people other than the two of you. Not only will your bedroom feel more peaceful once the crowd has exited the room, but, hopefully you’ll find it easier to focus on your relationship.

In the 18+ years I’ve been of helping people clear clutter and improve their lives and marriages, I’ve found that the couples with the most photos of their children in the bedroom often have no pictures of the two of them in that room! They aren’t even conscious that they’ve left themselves out of the picture.

Like my client, you may be skeptical, but I challenge you to remove all photos from your bedroom except those of you and your spouse/partner.* Make the bedroom all about just the two of you energetically. Then, look for the energy in your marriage/relationship to shift in a positive direction. Eliminating the visible energy of your children will make it easier for you to relax and be more present in your relationship.

*Most people want to know what to do with all the photos that were removed, as if the actual children were asked to leave. I recommend that those photos be displayed in any of the public areas of the home. Public areas are any other room in the house except the bedrooms.

Clear Shoe Clutter from the Bedroom

Your goal in setting up your bedroom is to create a space that is completely

How peaceful is this?

How peaceful is this?

conducive to sleep. The energy of smelly feet can only be distracting. Why is it that I so often find pairs of shoes strewn over bedroom floors?

I’m fairly certain that part of the problem is not having adequate storage for the number of shoes that people own these days.

Also, sometimes shoes just don’t make it to the closet. You may be thinking, “Why put them away? I’m just going to put them on again tomorrow. . .”  or “I’ll put them away later.” Sweaty, smelly feet and

Are you sleeping with smelly feet?

Are you sleeping with smelly feet?

rest just don’t go well together. Ideally it’s best to reduce the number of shoes you own to those that can fit in your closet. Then make a commitment to yourself to get them back there every night.

For one thing, you’ll find your bedroom is more peaceful because there will be fewer items out and visible in the room. You’ll also find that your focus can shift away from the energy chatter of pairs of shoes to more important things like gentle reading, reflecting about your day, conversation with a partner or spouse and/or sex.

Energy chatter. What chatter? Everything is alive with energy. Positive or negative. Everything!  This may sound silly or “woo woo” to you, but stick with me.

What do shoes say? Here are some of the conversations I’ve heard:

  • Those shoes really are too tight, but they are the only ones that really look professional.
  • I really should polish that pair. Look how scuffed they are!
  • The bottoms are really worn on that pair. Is it time to bite the bullet and get another pair?
  • I look like such a dork in those shoes! But, they are so comfortable!
  • Those shoes really stink. I wonder what’s going on with my feet that they stink so badly.

With all those conversations going on, is it any wonder that you don’t get great sleep anymore? Yes, when your eyes are closed you can’t see all those shoes, but you are affected by their negative energy when you are sleeping. That negative presence interferes with peaceful sleep.

 Set your shoes free. Clear out shoes that you no longer love or use at least once a year. Banish the remaining shoes from the bedroom to the closet, and find a storage solution that will work in your closet. Then enjoy sweet dreams and the peace that results from your efforts.  

Books Are Fire in the Bedroom

Do you want to sleep peacefully?  Do you want to have sweet dreams? 

Are you sleeping with a bonfire?

Are you sleeping with a bonfire?

If so, it’s a good idea to become very conscious of what can influence you while you sleep.  Let’s look at the impact of books in the bedroom. Most people have books and other reading material on their bedside tables. Some have a book or two and others have the equivalent of a whole library.

Let me describe for you what a book is in terms of the FIVE ELEMENTS of feng shui.  The five elements are: wood, fire, metal, water and earth. 

The hottest, most energetic of those elements is fire.  Books are fire elements.  The words on the pages are fire.  The pages themselves are wood because they are made from wood. Wood feeds fire. In other words, if you have many books in your bedroom, you are sleeping with a bonfire. Sound restful?

What I’m saying is that books are high energy things. Their energy will affect you while you are sleeping. That’s why it’s good to limit the books in your bedroom to one or two per person. Store your books elsewhere and bring them in as you read them.

I was working with a client who loves to read in bed. She had her current reads on the bedside table. On the floor on the other side of the bed she had a four foot row of books lined up that she was interested in reading. I urged her to move the books to a bookshelf in her office that she could designate as the holding place for books she really wants to read.  She was willing and we got to work. 

As I was moving the books I noticed the titles.  She had a whole series of books by one author who writes about vampires and death. It seemed like every book I looked at had death and dying in the title. That alarmed me because not only is it a good idea to limit the number of books in a bedroom, it is also a good idea to make sure the content is peaceful and pleasant.  When you sleep, your subconscious has access to the content of books. I could only imagine what my client’s subconscious was doing with all those death books.

In another situation I was working with a woman who was a physician and was married to a physician. Guess what I found in their bedside tables?  Medical journals! How romantic! Work and romance really do not go together! And, she and her husband were both working right up until they closed their eyes at night! Sleeping with those journals in the room kept both of them focused on medicine as they slept. I suggested that if she wanted more intimacy with her husband as well as more restful sleep, the journals should be banned from the bedroom. She was thrilled to have permission to remove them and later reported that her husband was also very happy with the arrangement.

My advice: reduce the number of books and reading material you keep in your bedroom to a small number and make sure they are about topics that are positive, pleasant and NOT work-related.

Eliminate Perspectives that Keep You Stuck!

Clutter keeps you stuck. Normally, clearing clutter helps you get clear aboutimagesCAGBLYOU what matters which then leads to positive action. But, if you’ve cleared your clutter and notice that you still feel stuck, it could be that limiting perspectives are the culprit.

What’s a limiting perspective? It’s a way looking at things in your life. For example, you could look at life as a daring adventure and greet each day with enthusiasm and the expectation that no matter what happens it will be a great adventure. Or, you could look at life as a daily grind, where nothing will ever change. With that perspective you are likely to wake with a feeling dread and resignation that each day will be the same old unfulfilling thing.

Which perspective resonates with you? Most of us are unaware of the perspectives we carry in our heads. You move through life with limiting perspectives and don’t even realize that it’s not that you have bad luck or grew up on the wrong side of that tracks or that you didn’t get enough education or land the right job. What’s often keeps you stuck are your thoughts, those limiting beliefs and perspectives that have become habitual. 

Following are some common limiting perspectives:

  • life is hard
  • we all have to struggle to get by
  • I’ll never get my head above water
  • when I get the right job, mate, break, everything will be OK.

With those kinds of beliefs running around in your head, is it any wonder that you are stuck, unable to create a meaningful life in which you experience joy, are connected to your passions, and feel happy and fulfilled?

The challenge of limiting perspectives is that they are so habitual that you aren’t even aware that they are holding you hostage. Without awareness of their existence and power over you, you are unable to let them go and choose perspectives that will move you in a positive direction.

One of the best ways to identify limiting perspectives, strategize how to release them and identify more helpful perspectives is to work with a coach. A coach is trained to listen for limiting perspectives and bring them to light in coaching sessions to be addressed and released. Coaching is a partnership in which you have the opportunity to learn which behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and perspectives do not serve you and keep you stuck, plus strategize ways to take action to let go of those habitual ways of behaving and choose new ways to think and behave.

What limiting perspectives are keeping you stuck? If you are unable to identify what is keeping you stuck, sign up now for a free 30 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me. Remember, getting unstuck begins with a single step. 

Good Bedroom Feng Shui Includes Art

What hangs on the walls of your bedroom? What kind of energy surroundsScan 14 you when you sleep? The energy of each painting, print, and photograph affect the quality of your sleep and the quality of your relationships. In fact, the feng shui of any art in your bedroom is also directly related to your overall health and general well-being. So it’s important to check out each piece of art to make sure that its energy is in keeping with the primary energy you want to achieve in the space.

Remember, bedrooms are primarily about rest, changing your clothes and intimacy (sex).

So, ideally the art should have a restful, peaceful and/or sensual energy. Landscapes, beach and garden scenes are good choices for a peaceful bedroom. Scenes with people should be avoided because people have the energy of fire. Fire is the highest energy element and therefore not restful.  Violent or troubling scenes can affect your interactions with a spouse and can disrupt your sleep. Definitely avoid depictions of war and anything disturbing.  You also want to avoid art in the bedroom that conveys sad or lonely images. So what are some important feng shui factors to consider when choosing bedroom art?

Check out the subject matter of each art piece.

What is going on in the scene? You are sleeping with the content.  The best feng shui advice for bedroom art is to choose images that you want to experience in your life. Remember, what you put on your walls is alive with energy. To ensure peace in the bedroom, good sleeping and intimacy, remove anything that has a negative association or a busy, frenetic energy.

If you want to attract romance, choose art that feels romantic

If you are part of a couple and want to add some spark to your love life, add prints of couples embracing, sensual subjects that you both find appealing and pairs of prints, candles, or objects of any kind. Or, to make the bedroom all about the two of you, enlarge photographs from your honeymoon or a special trip you enjoyed together, and frame them. Avoid art depicting single women or single men. They hold the energy of being single and could affect the strength of your relationship.

Remember the functions of your bedroom: rest, changing your clothes, and intimacy (sex). Make sure your art is compatible with those functions and you will have good feng shui in your bedroom.

Bedroom Clutter Clearing: Live Within Your Closet

I was raised with parents who were not accumulators of material things.  I Home office closet_Anever saw clothes hanging from brackets attached to the outside of closets or scads of toiletries strewn across a bathroom counter.  So, in my early days of working as a professional organizer I was really unprepared for the quantities of clothes and other belongings that spilled from closets, drawers and cabinets.

Feng shui teaches that everything has energy and the energy talks to you. 

Well, when things that really belong in the privacy of a closet are hanging outside the closet, they talk to you!  In fact, if there are very many of them on the loose, they scream at you.  A peaceful bedroom can be quickly transformed to a noisy crowd when clothes no longer fit in closets and drawers.  That noise will interfere with getting good sleep which will affect your productivity, and over time, your health.

What do I mean by talk to you?  Things get their energy from their color, the memories associated with them, their materials, textures and design.  When something is out in the open all those components of it are visible and chatting away. 

What to do?  Make a commitment to live within your closets, drawers and cabinets.

Don’t accumulate more than you can comfortably house in the storage containers available to you. You can do that by regularly clearing out items you no longer love or use.

“But my closets are so small,” you say.  Get a wardrobe!  Move to a house with bigger closets!  What is more important — all those clothes, toiletries, gadgets, etc. or a peaceful home where it is really possible to get quality sleep?

Feng Shui: How Quiet Is Your Bedroom?

2006 pictures 015A starting point for organizing any room is to identify the function of the space. What kinds of activities are going to happen there? Those activities then guide your decision-making about what to keep in the space.

Bedrooms usually have three functions: rest, changing clothes, and intimacy (for couples). In my work as a professional organizer I’ve had the opportunity to see some bedrooms that include everything but the kitchen sink. How anyone could get a good night’s sleep was beyond me!

Feng shui teaches that everything is alive with energy. Everything! Energies are positive or negative. The energy of things actually talks to you. For example, a pair of pants dropped on the floor could say, “ Why don’t you hang me up?” or “The wife’s not going to be happy that you’ve left me here!” Everything out and visible in a bedroom is talking to you — all at the same time! So, it only makes sense that there is an inverse relationship between the number of things in a bedroom and how peaceful the space feels.

Going a step further, there are specific types of items that are particularly DSCN0067.JPGnoisy and problematic in a bedroom. Anything associated with work has energy that says, “You should be doing this task!” And, you’re likely to “work” in your dreams. This includes bills, sewing projects, exercise equipment, house plans, day planners, computers. The bedroom is about rest, not work. To make your bedroom a haven where quality rest is possible, remove those types of things.

Other noisy items are energy enhancers like mirrors, fountains, and televisions. One mirror or fewer is recommended in bedrooms. Not only do fountains stir up the energies in a space, they have been known to make people have the urge to urinate. Televisions stimulate both the nervous system and a person’s thoughts. It’s recommended that you not watch television right up until you turn out the lights. You’ll be left with an overactive brain, one that won’t let you rest well. Besides, televisions in bedrooms interferes with intimacy. If you’re watching television you are not focused on your partner.

books-818772_640There are two other sources of noisy energy that I often find in bedrooms: books and photographs. In feng shui everything is associated with one of five feng shui elements: fire, wood, water, metal and earth. The words in books are fire elements, very active energies. The paper is wood, also very active energies. Wood feeds fire. So, books are little bonfires! They have a stimulating, hot energy which in turn affects your energy and your nervous system, stimulating it.

Add to that the fact that when you are sleeping your subconscious can access the content of the books. If your husband likes to read war books, you’re sleeping in a space that has the energy of war. Your brain is accessing the horror of the content of those books. I personally think the energy of war in those books can lead to conflict between a man and a woman sharing the bedroom.

I recommend that you keep just one to three books or magazines at your bedside. Limiting the quantity will limit the stimulation. I also recommend choosing books that are a gentle read, preferably positive stories with little violence.

IMG_4640Images of people in photographs are also fire elements. To make your bedroom peaceful, limit the photographs in the bedroom. Photographs add a great life-affirming energy in any other part of your house, but in the bedroom they “talk” loudly and can disrupt sleep. Photos of your children in particular can distract you from the opportunity for intimacy with your spouse. Photos of parents and children can keep your subconscious working on ideas for parenting and caregiving, not rest and love-making.

How quiet is your bedroom? The condition of your bedroom can have a profound effect on your health. Because you daily spend more time in that one place than anywhere else in your house, the noise of negative energies in the bedroom can affect the body negatively, resulting in health issues. Take steps to eliminate conversations and sources of stimulation like energy enhancers, books and photographs. Make your bedroom a lovely, peaceful place to rest.

A Solution for Organizing Necklaces

I have yet to find the ideal necklace organizing product. In my work I have seen many types of organizers, but none have accomplished what’s needed to keep necklaces organized: visibility, ease of access, and keeping necklaces tangle-free.

My own necklace organizer finally reached the point where I had to do something different to be able to enjoy my necklaces. My mother recently died, and I inherited a number of her brightly colored necklaces, most of which we bought together. They hold her energy, and being able to easily access them became a priority.

IMG_4611

Before

When I added Mom’s necklaces to my existing organizer they became part of a jumble of necklaces, all of which were then difficult to see and access. If you have to fight with other necklaces to get to the one you want, you will feel irritated and most likely avoid using necklaces all together.

What to do? I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought another necklace tree. It was still not ideal for easily getting necklaces on and off of it, but it did have the capacity to store necklaces at two levels. Longer necklaces could be on the top level, and smaller necklaces on the bottom.

After. The necklaces on the counter were donated to charity.

After. The necklaces on the counter were donated to charity.

When I contemplated the volume of necklaces, most of which I actually love and use, I realized I still had too many necklaces for the new organizer. Rather than cram all of them onto the new tree, I decided to divide the necklaces into two groups: colorful beaded necklaces on the new tree; simple silver and gold necklaces on the smaller tree. Removing the silver and gold necklaces reduced the volume on the tall tree, and made it more likely that I’d be able to see and access the remaining necklaces.

I used the sorting process as an opportunity to clear out some necklaces I don’t wear and am not likely to wear again. That too reduced the volume. Any time you are setting up a new organizing system, you have the opportunity to clear clutter. 

My solution is not ideal because it takes more space, but I was able to take a chaotic jumble of inaccessible necklaces and make them accessible and visible. Mission accomplished!

If you have found an effective way to store necklaces, please share it! And, please include photos so we can all benefit from your method.

Clutter Tells the Truth

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My guess is that the truth here is that this person isn’t into putting things away after using them, that she has a “drop it anywhere” approach to her stuff, and that she and her family don’t eat in the kitchen.

Over the 18 years I’ve been working as a professional organizer I have learned that clutter is information. It tells the truth about aspects of a person’s life.

Some of the things I’ve learned from clutter are:

  • this person has too many balls in the air, and the maintaining a neat, clutter-free and organized home is one of the balls that often gets dropped
  • this person spends all their mental and energy at work, and upon arriving home drops everything and hits the sofa
  • this person doesn’t make time to maintain an organized home
  • this person does not have the habit of putting things away
  • this person hates to cook
  • this person really loves clothes
  • this person has difficulty finishing tasks
  • this person is really into disaster preparedness
  • this person is an artist
  • this person is committed to animal rescue
  • this person loves the beach
  • this person is a big reader
  • this person has great difficulty making decisions
  • this person has no idea how to clear clutter
  • this person wants to be organized (has lots of organizing books)
  • this person loves color and beauty
  • this person hates doing laundry
  • this person is very sentimental
  • this person gets overwhelmed easily
  • this person may have ADHD
  • this person wants to scrapbook, but can’t get started

I could go on and on. The content of your clutter and the state of your clutter tell your story. That’s part of why I love my work. I look beyond the messiness and look at the clutter with curiosity. I ask myself, “What is this clutter telling me about this person?” I really enjoy deciphering the clutter to learn more about a person’s current reality and quite possibly their life story.

The clutter tells me much more than most people actually verbalize. That’s why I tell prospective clients not to clean up when I am going to be working with them. I tell them, “If you clean everything up I will have great difficulty determining the causes of the clutter accumulation.” When I can help clients identify the habits and behaviors that have led to their clutter problems I can then help them plan new behaviors that can prevent a meltdown of the order we establish.

What truths does your clutter tell?

Custom Closet Design: Is It Worth the Cost?

Closet Factory, California Closets, Closet Tailors — should you pay the big 103820849_PZpaFgdN_cbucks for a closet designed to your needs? Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the effort it will take to empty the closet and put everything back?

I’ve worked with a number of clients who bit the bullet and hired a company to do a custom design and install of their personal closet or the closets of their children. Without exception, the custom closet arrangement was far superior to what had existed before.

Following are some of the benefits my clients experienced.

  1. There was more usable storage space.
  2. There was more structure within the “black hole” of the closet, so fewer items tended to float without a home.
  3. The process of emptying and refilling their closet provided two clearing opportunities, when the clothes, shoes, etc. came out and when they went back in.
  4. The energy of the new closet felt really good and seemed to urge clients to respect the space by keeping it neat and organized.
  5. Custom closets are considered to be an asset when you sell your home.

That being said, if you do decide to invest in custom closets, I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Make sure you use a company with a good reputation. Not all companies produce and stand behind their products. Ask for references for any company you are considering or go with a company recommended by discerning friends.
  2. Make sure you have a good designer. Designers are not equally skilled. I learned that lesson when I had the opportunity to review the plans of two different designers from two different companies for a client. The difference in the quality of the two designs was startling.
  3. For your personal closet, work with a same sex designer because they’re likely to have a better grasp of the complexities of your storage needs.
  4. Make sure the company has some kind of guarantee for satisfaction. It is quite common to think that a design is perfect until you begin putting clothing back into it. It’s not uncommon to need to make adjustments to the original design.

So, should you get custom designed closets? When your budget allows, I highly recommend it. If you can only do one closet at a time, start with your personal closet and that of your spouse if you are married or in a committed relationship. Having that closet function work well for you will ground you and reduce your stress. 

Your Personal Closet Is a Reflection of You!

Your personal closet is the most important closet in the house. Well, from a DSCN1100feng shui perspective it is! Your closet is an outward extension of you. Your clothes hold your energy. Take a look at your closet. How are you doing right now? Are you calm, spacious and organized? Or, are you a chaotic jumble of stuff?

How can I be so certain of the significance of your closet?

For thirteen years I’ve helped people clear and organize their closets. I have helped clients make decisions about what to keep and what to toss using the “Love It, Use It or Lose It Method” of clutter clearing. Clothing items that were loved or used have the best energy and were kept. Those that were not loved or used at least once a year were tossed. By going through that process over and over again with clients, it was very apparent that clothing held important associations with the different aspects of their lives, some of which were current and some that were outdated.

During the clearing process clients had the chance to “get current” about who they’d become by identifying those clothes they still loved, that still fit, that made them look attractive, that were comfortable, and that were useful given their current activities. In the process they let go of volumes of clothing that was too small, suited to a former occupation only, that felt uncomfortable, that fit poorly, that was of poor quality, that held  negative associations, and that was permanently stained.

When we finished our clearing sessions each client had more clarity about their current self, who they were the day of our clearing session–their current values, lifestyle, and preferences in terms of comfort, color and styles. Clients went from overwhelmed and scattered to clear and empowered within the space of two hours!

Go into your closet and set your intention to create a space that is an accurate reflection of who you are today. With each clothing item ask yourself, “Does this item accurately reflect who I am today? Does it reflect who I want to be today?” If the answer to either question is no, let it go! Get clear. Get current. And, get empowered!

Reduce Grief By Creating a Memorabilia Altar

I’ve noticed that some people who have experienced the death of someoneAlter very important keep large quantities of items associated with that person. Everything seems to have great significance. Clients have stated that when they get rid of things associated with their spouse, parent, child, etc., they feel like they are getting rid of that person. Little do they know that by holding onto quantities of things that remind them of that person they are actually anchoring their grief about the loss.

Everything a person own holds their energy if when you look at it you think of that person. An item might have had a very positive energy when the person was alive. For example, a musical instrument they enjoyed playing would likely hold positive energy. However, when the person dies the energy of their items is tinged with sadness.  The musical instrument that held positive energy could evoke sadness because the musician can no longer play the item. Holding onto it anchors sadness.

To facilitate moving through normal grief over the loss of a loved one, I recommend that survivors keep only those items that they like the best, those things that evoke happy feelings. Less is best.

One way to honor a loved one is to create an altar with an arrangement of a few precious items that belonged to the person. You don’t need to hold onto quantities of items associated with a beloved mother to hold her memory in place. Choose a few special items that remind you of the person and arrange them on a surface that you will see in passing as you move through you space. Those items might include a photograph, a special curio, a medal or award they received, anything of theirs that really matters to you or really mattered to them.

My mother died recently. After she died I created an altar to hold a few special things associated with her. It sits atop a small chest of drawers that was in our living room when I was growing up and has been in Mom’s home ever since. I chose to keep that chest for its association with Mom and my life while I was living at home with Mom and Dad.

I gave Mom the little purple silk flower arrangement. She loved flowers and she loved it. The wax ball smells of lilac, her favorite flower and fragrance. I added a few other items for aesthetics — a small painting by my dad, a live plant and a paperweight given to me by a special client who often checked in with me about how Mom was doing during the last few years.

The quantity of items on the altar associated with Mom was less important than the feelings evoked by the items. Just three items (the chest, flower arrangement, and wax ball) hold Mom’s energy and memory in place. When I walk by this little altar my heart remembers Mom and what she loved, and it smiles.

Do the things you have kept that once belonged to a loved one make your heart smile? Are they out and visible where you can see and enjoy the memories? If not, you have inadvertently created pockets of pain that make moving through your grief a much more difficult and slow process. Keep and honor the best. Let go of the rest! 

It’s Normal to Be Unproductive When Grieving

My mother died last week after at least seven years of gradual decline due to20160507_120423-1 strokes, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mom and I had always been very close, more like sisters than mother and daughter. Her death created a big void in my life. For the last 4 1/2 years I had been the coordinator of her care, a responsibility that was very heavy both emotionally and physically, and was as consuming as a full time job. When she died I lost that job, and I lost my closest connection with a family member. I felt numb, lost, unfocused and terribly sad.

Normally I am very productive. I value getting things done and making the most of my time. For years I had been running as fast as I could to keep up with home, work, and caregiving responsibilities for Mom and my disabled brother, Mark. When she died everything stopped except for taking steps to clear her apartment and plan her memorial celebration. Even the simplest of tasks too, so much energy.

Of particular concern was the fact that I had no energy to work on my business. Since I’m self-employed as a professional organizer, speaker and coach, I must work to be paid. After Mom’s death my grief flattened me, kept me stuck in slow motion, and unable to muster any interest and enthusiasm for picking up the reins of my business.

Fortunately I know a lot about the grief process and knew that he kind of grief I am describing is normal. Being productive immediately after such a big loss was not even remotely possible and was not a fair expectation. There are times when it is not realistic to expect yourself to jump back into action. This is one of those times.

Rather than beat myself up or worry myself to death about my malaise and its effect on my business, I chose to acknowledge my grief and give myself some breathing room until my energy and motivation return. Although that is not my normal way of operating, and I have twitched a bit about my slower pace, I know that to do anything else would be terribly disrespectful at this time.

Rushing right back into action would delay grieving. The underlying grief would then make it impossible to access my best self, focus and do my best work. By allowing myself to move through my grief at my own pace, I am making it more likely that I will be able to return to my former level of productivity.

Clear Clutter to Manage Grief

My mother is dying. She has been in the process of dying for more than threeIMG_0634 weeks. Her death is inevitable. When Mom will leave is uncertain. As you might imagine, I am swimming through a sea of feelings. My relationship with my mother has been precious. She was my best friend, a constant source of love and support. Her passing will leave a huge hole in my life.

How am I coping? I’m clearing clutter. When my emotions run high, I clear clutter. I am able to care for Mom and make sure she is comfortable and getting good care. However, I am utterly powerless about when she will actually die. There is no distinct deadline to this period of great pain and sadness. That leaves me feeling out of control and powerless.

When I feel out of control, I clear clutter. Clearing clutter is a process I can control. It is concrete and I get tangible results immediately. I am also aware that as I clear clutter, I am shifting energies from negative to positive. In so doing, I increase the probability that I will be able to better manage my feelings of grief and make good decisions as this sad journey comes to its ultimate conclusion.

What am I clearing? I am clearing things from Mom’s room that are no longer of use to her in her current state. Feng shui teaches that the best way to create change is to move things and to live with only those things that are in alignment with who you are in the present moment. Most things are no longer relevant for Mom.

Yes, I have had a twinge of guilt about whether it’s amoral to clear out things before Mom has actually died. I got over that feeling by reminding myself that Mom’s passing could actually be easier for her if she’s not anchored in her current state by the negative energies of physical belongings that no longer serve her.

I am also selfishly clearing because I know if I do the clearing in small increments now her death will be easier to handle emotionally. I won’t be left with an enormous painful clutter clearing project when I’m grieving.

I’ve seen what happens to the homes of adult children when they have cleared out parents’ homes post-death in the midst of their grief. Things that belonged to their loved one hold the energy of the loved one and the energy of the loss. They avoid making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of because it hurts to do so.

Consequently they take home enormous quantities of things that may or may not be significant to them. They then cram those things into their attics, garages, utility rooms, basements and storage spaces instead of going through them and integrating items of true significance into their homes. When that happens the pain of the loss gets anchored in their space for years instead of the joy that is possible when precious items are integrated with their belongings. They can’t move through their grief because the pain associated with the stuff keeps them stuck.

I’m deliberately making decisions with each car load I take from Mom’s room. I am keeping the items that are most precious to me, saving some items for other family members, and donating everything else to charity except items that are trash.

Lest you be worried that I have completely stripped Mom’s room, do not worry! Her furniture, art work, key photos, stuffed animals, and a few decorative items remain to make the space feel homey and inviting.

Has this clearing helped? Yes. I feel calmer about Mom’s passing. When I visit her room feels calm and comfortable. I feel more in control of my emotions and less frantic. I also feel lighter because I have lightened the load of responsibility for what must be done following her death. And, I have found places in my home for the items I chose to keep. Warm touches of Mom speak to me as I move through my home, reminding me of her and our very special relationship.

Letting Go By Clutter Clearing Can Help You


reflections of an anonymous attendee of one of Debbie’s clutter clearing seminars

“It definitely lifts my spirits.

When I was going through some of my things, I was reminiscing over the emotional connections. But, I had these things forever, and they just took up too much space and energy. It was nice to get rid of them because I felt like I was letting go of both good and bad memories/experiences. It made me feel more free and liberated. I felt like I shed off a part of my past and was enabled to live in the present. I know I didn’t have to hold onto an item to regain that feeling, and was able to get rid of them.

I also hold onto a lot of papers and project ideas. I realized that I had had those for years too and was unlikely to start those projects because I already am doing the projects that I’m most passionate about. To get rid of those old projects and papers helped me to re-focus my energy on what’s more important to me.

It also just feels nice to live in a clean, uncluttered environment.”

Ways to Approach Basement Clutter Clearing

So, you’ve decided you really want to clear out your basement. How will youscan0004 approach that enormous task? After all, wanting to clear a basement and actually getting it done are two very different things!

Following are some possible approaches to make it happen.

  • Light a match . . . just kidding! That option might be appealing, but is not really a good idea! I don’t think insurance covers that approach to basement clutter clearing!
  • Commit to 15 minutes of clearing one weekend day for as many weekends as it takes to finish the job. This method is comparable to the way you might approach eating an elephant. If you knew you had to eat an elephant, how would you get the job done? One bite at a time. You may find you want to work longer and that’s great, but make 15 minutes the minimum time you will work. Even though the size of the job is still overwhelming, with this approach you at least make the time commitment small enough per clearing session  to be doable. The trick to this method is to find ways to keep committing to those small chunks of time week after week. Consider rewarding yourself after a successful clearing session (remember, just 15 minutes!) with an experience you’d really enjoy. For example, you might make a trip to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and allow time to enjoy reading the paper.
  • Block off a weekend and tackle the job head on with or without the help of family member and/or friends. This approach is like diving into the deep end of the pool. It’s scary, but you just do it! It can work for people who have the ability to make themselves do things however abhorrent because they want the end result — an organized, functional basement. For this approach to work, you have to have the ability to keep your head down and not let yourself be distracted by the negative energies of the basement contents or the enormity of the task. You also have to be able to regroup from time to time when you feel overwhelmed or mentally fatigued from all the decision-making or exhausted physically from your efforts to move things around and out of the space.
  • Ask a supportive family member or friend to help you clear your basement in exchange for helping them in some way. Spend at least 2 hours working together with your friend or family member assisting. Ask them to move things out of the space as you identify them for donation or trash. Schedule more sessions for this type of help until the job is done. Remember, the person assisting you is just that, an assistant. Make sure you stay in charge of the process. The presence of a supportive other makes it easier to stay focused on the task (if you don’t get distracted by chit chat and other activities), and makes this overwhelming task seem less daunting by becoming a social event instead of an onerous task.
  • Hire a professional organizer and work with him/her in blocks of at least 2 hours until the project is done. Professional organizers know how to approach large projects like clearing a basement. Some can even bring in a team to clear the basement in one or two sessions. Organizers can work side by side with you, helping you make decisions about what to keep, what to toss or donate, and how to reorganize the space once it’s cleared. When you work with a professional organizer you’re likely to be able to get the job done two to four times faster than you could do it alone on a good day. Plus, the end result is likely to be organized in a way that with some effort on your part is easier to keep organized over time.
  • Wait for a hurricane to flood your basement and force you to excavate its contents. Yes, I’m trying to add humor here, but clients have shared their stories of this type of clearing following major hurricanes like Fran, Gaston and Isabelle. I don’t recommend it because it’s pretty traumatic and a really nasty, dirty process.

How will you get your basement cleared? It might be helpful to know that the basement holds the energy of your unconscious. The reward for clearing it could be letting go of some old unconscious beliefs and memories that are barriers to making positive progress in your life. Clear out your basement and you’re likely to feel lighter and more grounded in the present!