Category Archives: Getting Help

Support Speeds Clearing Out Parents’ Homes

I was recently reminded about how having the assistance of a professional organizer can help

Mom and my step-father, John

adult children face and complete the clearing of a parental residence. I spent 4.5 hours helping a dear friend clear out her old bedroom in the home she grew up in. After a tour of the house to see the reality of the overall project, Carol (name changed to protect the identity of my friend) and I agreed that the best place for us to work together was in her childhood bedroom. She chose that project because it was the part of the house that she most dreaded tackling. I agreed because from our conversation I understood that her bedroom was a place where we were likely to find many things that could stir up strong and perhaps uncomfortable feelings from her past.

This kind of project can keep a person stuck in their clutter clearing process because they intuitively know that they will be taking a mental and emotion trip down memory lane, reviewing their history which is almost always a mixed bag of positive and negative memories that can stir both positive and negative feelings. Carol knew herself so well that she could predict where she might get stuck and flee from a project that had to be done. That type of project is a great place to bring in the support of a professional organizer who has experience working with people in emotionally charged situations.

Clearing out the home of a parent or parents ranks up there as one of the most challenging clutter clearing projects because when you empty a parent’s home, you are taking apart what’s left of their life. It also takes you back into the past and stirs feelings of grief and loss. Even if your relationship was not close with your parent(s), feelings are likely to come up because of their significant role in your life. If your relationship was troubled, disconnected, abusive or non-existent, you could feel sadness about not having had the type of relationship you wanted and deserved. If you had a good relationship and have lots of wonderful memories, you might be sad because you are left with a significant void in your life where once you shared good times, connected deeply, and made precious memories.

I am able to work well with clients who are in Carol’s situation, faced with the daunting, emotional, and overwhelming task of clearing out and closing a parent’s home because:

  • I went through that painful process myself when I cleared out my mom and step-father’s home four years ago. I learned so much about what it takes to get through that process and the realities of that type of mammoth undertaking.
  • I have had LOTS of experiences moving through my own grief (parents’ divorce, my divorce, the death of my mother, healing childhood wounds). In all but one of those situations, it was with the presence of support from a trained professional that I was able to heal and return to build a life of meaning.
  • I have a M.S. in counseling, so I know what works to help who people who are experiencing grief and uncomfortable feelings and move through feelings that could send them fleeing for a safer, more emotionally comfortable place. Most professional organizers without that level of training and experience aren’t comfortable helping people who feel sad, mad, hurt and the host of other feelings that tend to show up when clearing out a parent’s home.
  • I enjoy the opportunity and challenge of being present with people when strong feelings hit. I have both knowledge and experience as a counselor and Certified Organizer Coach® that have taught me that what works in that type of situation is to acknowledge the feelings that have presented and to inquire about the feelings, which offers the person the chance to stay with the feelings, explore what triggered the feelings, and ultimately manage them or release them so forward progress is possible.
  • I have 18+ years experience as a professional organizer doing this kind of work.

How does this work affect me? I feel so grateful for the honor of being allowed to be part of a person’s healing. I leave that type of situation knowing I made a significant difference for the person whether they acknowledge it or not, a difference that has the potential to lighten their emotional load a bit in a VERY complicated and difficult situation. I also know I have been part of helping them getting on with their lives after a significant loss. I feel very good about paying it forward, helping others as I have been helped.

If you find yourself faced with the challenge of clearing out a parent’s home, consider me a resource who can help you step into and move through the emotionally difficult parts of that process. I can be part of that process in any way that works for you. I can visit the home and recommend strategies for how to get the job done. I can do spot clearing with you in areas you tend to avoid as I did with Carol, areas that stir painful feelings or that seem too overwhelming because of the quantity items to be cleared, the messiness or nastiness of the space, and/or your difficulty making decisions. Or, I can help you with the whole project by working with you to break it down into doable bite-sized pieces, working with you hands-on so you can move through the process without getting stuck due to feelings associated with overwhelm, grief, and other strong emotions, and identifying other potential resources for support if needed.

Closing down a parent’s home can be a healing process with the right kind of support. Check out my website, call me at 804-730-4991 or email me at to learn more about how my support can help you clear your parent’s home more quickly and easily. 

Women In Transition — A Growth Opportunity

You are trying to get back on your feet after a painful divorce. You are planning to retire and are contemplating how to spend your time in retirement. You are grieving the loss of a spouse or a child. You want to quit an unfulfilling job to pursue work that is more in alignment with your values and passions. You are recovering from an illness and know that you need to make significant life changes in order to live a healthy life. But, how can you get through the challenges of these periods that seem so daunting?

Life transitions are times of change whether by choice or circumstance. Typically they are periods in your life when you feel uncertain, perhaps disconnected from yourself, and sometimes stuck because it’s scary to go from a familiar way of being into something new and unknown. However, transitions are also times of opportunity to create new awareness about what really matters to you, your choices for forward movement, and possible steps to take to get to a better place.

Times of transition are often accompanied by swings of emotion — fear, overwhelm, excitement, depression. It is not uncommon to get hung up in negative emotions, to complain about how long transitions last and how lost you are, to feel frustrated with a lack of mental clarity and, to be stuck.

Many people in transition will isolate themselves from others. They mistakenly believe they have to find their way on their or that getting help from others means they are weak. Going it alone only prolongs this uncomfortable state of being. Also, in isolation you are more likely to become wedded to inaccurate perceptions and limiting beliefs because there is no one to question them or offer alternative ways of thinking and doing.

One way to navigate through transitions more quickly with fewer stuck points is to hire a coach. A coach can help you reconnect with yourself, identify your options for forward movement, help you develop a plan of action, and provide emotional support as you find your way into a new segment of your life journey.

Are you in transition? If so, make this time of transition a productive period of growth and personal development by hiring a coach to walk with you as you find your way through uncertain and unsettled times to a better place. I offer a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session so you can experience the benefits of being coached. Schedule your frees session now!

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. 

Get Your Christmas Cards Done & Have Fun!

Christmas theme for design. holiday greetingsDo you still send Christmas cards? Many people have stopped doing it for a variety of reasons: postage has gotten so expensive; not enough time; too boring a task; too complicated a task to bring to completion. 

I have found stacks of partially addressed Christmas cards in many clients’ homes. On one occasional I found unfinished cards in  July and I inquired about the possibility of pitching them. After all, it seemed too late to send them for the previous year. When it became apparent that my client really wanted to complete them, but just couldn’t seem to get the task done, I offered to help her do it. Because working together was so successful and sending cards was something my client wanted to keep doing, I also suggested that we schedule a couple of sessions that fall to make sure she got her cards out before Christmas that year.

I’d been doing my own cards for decades, but it wasn’t until I did it with my client that became very clear that part of the problem with card completion is that it’s a task with many steps, many of which are boring, and it’s easy to get stuck on any one of them. To get the task done, we divided up the parts of the process between the two of us. She did the tasks that could only be done by her. I did all the other tasks.

The steps she had did were: get a good photo of her children, order reprints of the photo, write her Christmas letter, copy the letter, print the address labels, buy stamps and sign all the cards. I picked up all the other tasks that anyone could do, like folding the Christmas letter, stamping the envelopes, attaching address labels and return address labels, and putting one Christmas letter in each Christmas card so all my client had to do was add a short note and sign each card.

I enjoy sipping tea and listening to Christmas music while I work, and my client appreciates having a deadline for getting her letter done and copied, her labels done, her photo done and copied, her cards purchased, and making sure she has sufficient stamps and return address labels. Setting an appointment with me gives her the incentive to start working on her cards. It’s more difficult to procrastinate doing her cards when she knows I’m coming over to work with her, and she’s paying for my help.

Because our division of labor worked so well the first time, that client regularly schedules time with me every year. She now routinely gets her cards out before Christmas. Because sending cards to family and friends is really important to her, getting them done early in the holiday season is a real weight off her shoulders.

If sending and receiving holiday greetings is important to you, identify someone who would be willing to help you complete that multi-step process. Make doing your cards a social event that is part of your holiday traditions instead of a dreaded chore. It’s a great investment in maintaining important relationships!

Clutter Clearing Success, Thanks to Housekeeper

Every now and then one of my former clients will write and let me know about their clutter imagesCA7LLPVQclearing success. I always ask if I can share their stories in my blog so others can benefit from what they learned. Following is a success story I received this week. I think it’s wonderful how this client found a way to get her housecleaning and clutter clearing done with a little creative thinking about her finances. I hope she inspires you to find clutter clearing solutions that work for you!

“I have found a solution that is working for me with the clutter clearing of the things I’ve collected over the years along with the addition of my mother’s things after her death in 2007.

I hired a housekeeper.  

I had become so frustrated with not being able to be a good housewife AND a productive artist/teacher, along with nursing 3 sick animals until their deaths in recent years, it was overwhelming.  So after our big dog died in October, I looked at what the medicines and vet bills had been for those pets and realized I could divert those funds into having a housekeeper once or twice a month.  Better yet, while she is doing that, I decided I can use that time, since I’m home while she is here, to go through all those things to toss, save or give away. One table or bookcase or corner at a time. 

It’s been a great way to handle the de-cluttering. Even if it takes awhile, it’s better than not (doing it) at all.  Using the advice you had given me during your visits here about (not) keeping broken things, or emotionally negative things along with various other bits of wisdom, like one hour, one drawer at a time, it’s getting done.”

PS This client stumbled on the magic of using a body double when she began using the housekeeper’s cleaning time as clutter clearing time for herself. Many people are able to do things that they normally would avoid, especially boring and/or overwhelming tasks like paying bills, cleaning up and clutter clearing, when there is another body in their space. Somehow the presence of that impartial other helps ground them to be able to manage their anxiety, boredom, or overwhelm to face what seem like insurmountable tasks when faced alone.

Inattentive ADD & Workaholism: Two Ends of the Productivity Spectrum

Some people struggle to get started, particularly on tasks that are challenging, unpleasant or boring. Others can start with relative ease, but have difficulty finding their off switch. The first type of person struggles to get things done, to be reliable, to be consistently productive and follow through consistently. The second type gets lots of things done, but struggles with exhaustion and burnout as well as the personal fall out from being so absorbed in work that other areas of their life, particularly relationships, are neglected.

Are you ready to step out of the stress?

Are you ready to step out of the stress?

The first description is of a person who has inattentive ADD (attention deficit disorder), a neurobiological disorder. The second describes a compulsive doer, a workaholic. The person with ADD is likely to have more conflict outside of herself in relationships for not following through, finishing tasks and being reliable as well as an internal struggle with shame and low self-esteem. The compulsive doer seems to have her act together because she is productive, but she is not free from struggle. Though her relationships can be stressed by her unavailability, her biggest struggle is internal. Workaholics are often driven by fear that they might not measure up and an unconscious need to do enough to be OK. They manage their fear of inadequacy by continuing to push themselves mercilessly. No matter how much they accomplish, they have never done enough to feel safe from the critical voice in their own head.

These two types of people are at opposite ends of the continuum of productivity. One struggles to be productive. The other is incredibly productive, but is unable to acknowledge and enjoy their accomplishments. Unfortunately it’s common for both types of people to continue struggling because they are not aware that there are other options to dodging bullets, racing for deadlines and working to the point of exhaustion. 

Coaching is a process that focuses on developing self-knowledge and self-awareness to make it possible to accomplish goals. In coaching the person with ADD has the opportunity to develop awareness of how her ADD sabotages her efforts to be productive and design and practice strategies for managing her ADD. The workaholic in coaching has the opportunity to pause, connect with herself and discover what keeps her on the treadmill to exhaustion. With greater clarity about what drives her to the point of exhaustion and even illness, strategies for shifting to a lower gear, and the support of her coach, the workaholic has the opportunity to shift her perception of herself and make space for more than work in her life.

Opposites aren’t always opposite. The person with ADD and the workaholic both struggle to feel competent and productive enough. Their lives are lived in stress mode. Coaching is an option that can help them identify and manage their internal and external struggles and create new ways of being that can result in long-lasting personal empowerment.

If you recognize yourself in either description, consider investing in coaching to make possible living a life with less stress, more pleasure and more peace.

Making Clutter Clearing Happen: The Value of Support

2006 pictures 034There are some people who cannot get clutter clearing done without support, without help from someone else. Perhaps you’re wondering if you are one of those people. You may be someone who needs support if:

  • you have ADD,
  • you have an enormous, overwhelming clutter challenge,
  • despite the the best of intentions you cannot get started clearing,
  • you don’t know where to start,
  • you don’t know how to start,
  • you repeatedly make excuses for not getting started,
  • you start, but cannot sustain the effort,
  • you have too many other responsibilities that make doing clutter clearing impossible,
  • you have physical limitations that make clutter clearing alone impossible,
  • you are very sentimental and have great difficulty parting with things,
  • you are afraid you’ll make a mistake when clutter clearing, and your fear shuts you down, or
  • clutter clearing stirs up uncomfortable feelings like fear, sadness, and anxiety that block you from engaging in clutter clearing.

Following is a note I received from a faithful follower of my work who experienced the benefit of support. With her permission I’m sharing this note with you.

“Just wanted to tell you that I made some real inroads (with clutter clearing) this year for the first time in forever.  All it took was some help. My 19 year old son could tell I was overwhelmed with the clutter, getting ready for the holidays, and sat down with me and went through the bags and boxes that were littering the downstairs. It was so nice to have someone actually do this with me. So many times I ask for help and it doesn’t pan out. Also, like you said, “Big items first!” I got rid of a piece of  exercise equipment, a clock, an old vacuum cleaner. I cleared up boxes of magazines, and went through bags that were in the closets. It goes a lot faster when you have someone helping and prodding you to do just one more bag. Also, because it looks so nice (and he has some ownership in it now), it’s stayed that way.”

Support helped this woman by:

  • providing her with company when facing an overwhelming challenge, transforming the clutter clearing process from an onerous task to more of a social event,
  • making the process go much faster,
  • having help to move items that were being donated or moved to other locations,
  • having encouragement to keep going, and
  • making clutter clearing a joint effort with joint ownership.

Support for clutter clearing can be the difference between being stuck living in overwhelm, self-judgment and stress or moving forward in a life with purpose, pleasure and peace. What support do you need to clear a path to the environment and the life you really want?

Have Realistic Organizing Expectations

In my twelve years of professional organizing I’ve run into many women who are still trying to keep house just like “Mom” did. So, what’s wrong with that? After all, Mom was the role model. There would be nothing wrong with that if Mom’s life was comparable to the lives of women today.

When I look at my mother’s reality compared to mine, there are major differences:

  1. For most of the years that we three children were at home, she did not work outside the home. Therefore, she had much more time to manage all the tasks of running a home.
  2. The pace of life was much slower than it is today, therefore it was easier to keep up with all the chores of running a home. Easier, not easy. It’s never easy to keep up with the demands of raising children and running a home.
  3. There was no instant access to people with voicemail and email, so there were fewer social contacts to make on a daily basis. Mom wasn’t accessible to others at all times, as is the norm today.
  4. There were no computers to distract them from getting things done. Not only that, but there was no need to learn to use new technology like computers, cell phones, email, Ipods, Ipads, etc., activities that take time, focus and energy.
  5. There were fewer activities for children to participate in, therefore children played closer to home and did not require as much transportation.
  6. Academic expectations and involvement in extracurricular activities were such that children still had time to contribute to maintaining the home by regularly doing household chores.

So, given those differences, does it make sense to aim for the same level of organization and home maintenance by the same means? In other words, should women still be trying to do it all by themselves in addition to working outside the home, having more to do because of voicemail, email, computers, etc., more running around to children’s activities and events, and less help? No! That’s a setup for feelings of chronic inadequacy, chronic fatigue, and hating life!

What do I recommend? By all means, don’t compare yourself to your mother! You have two choices: get more help or lower your expectations. Remember that times are different and it’s imperative that you do things differently to achieve the results you want. One of the biggest mistakes moms make these days is to carry too much of the load of home maintenance. Husbands and children get off easy because moms pick up so much of the slack.

Stop it! Ask for help! Hire help! Doing so is imperative today, not optional, given current realities. You have a right to rest, play and leisure time too! Do it! Your health and the quality of your life and that of your family depend on it!

The Cost of Independence, The Power of Delegation

When I read Stop Organizing, Start Producing: Leverage the 12 Factors that Make or Break the Busy Professional by Casey Moore, I identified delegation as one of my weak links in The Productivity Chain®. As first child in my family I learned early on to do things myself and not to count on anyone else to get things done. Yes, I developed into one independent woman!

In my marriage I took the road so often traveled by women and over-functioned. I took care of many of the tasks that need to be done to run a home. It seemed so much easier to do that than ask Bob, my husband, for help and then getting varying results: things not being done at all; things not being done in a timely manner; things not being done the way I like them done. Does this sound familiar?

Casey’s book was a wake up call to me. She suggests that all the factors that affect productivity are connected. In other words, a weakness in one factor affects other factors and overall productivity. Using Casey’s model I was able to identify the cost of not delegating. My health suffers. I get exhausted and then get depressed. When I feel exhausted and depressed everything else is difficult: my relationship with myself, Bob, family, friends and clients; marketing my business; working with clients; enjoying life; handling my furry children. That’s a hefty price to pay for not delegating!

Awareness is the first step toward change. Becoming aware of the cost of being so independent has motivated me to start asking for more help. I still have a long way to go with delegation, but more and more often I find myself stopping to think about whether I am the only one who must do a task or whether it is something Bob or someone else can do.

And, guess what? Bob is stepping up to the plate. He actually seems to enjoy being more involved in household tasks. We are now working more as a team instead of Bob just playing a minor role in the Debbie Bowie show. My health is improving and I am feeling relief not to be carrying such a heavy load of responsibilities.

How comfortable are you at delegation–asking for help from co-workers, children, husbands, wives? Are you able to regularly ask others for help to lighten your load? If not, what is it costing you? Are you sure you want to pay that price?

Asking for Help: Don’t Go to the Hardware Store for Milk

Asking for help is hard to do. So, when you do it, be sure you are asking help of a person who is actually capable of giving you what you need.

In 1994 my husband and I were in a motorcycle accident that left him in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury and me at home living with the emotional aftereffects of the accident. I needed lots of help.

Early on I made the mistake of trying to share my distraught feelings with two men who were very willing to help me move a canoe. Both of them stiffened slightly and looked like they’d like to beam themselves to anywhere but where they were. Seeing their reaction I moved on to safer topics, acknowledging that I had inadvertently gone to the hardware store for milk. There was no way I’d get what I needed there! Men are often uncomfortable with emotional conversations. They were clearly out of their element.

After that important lesson, I separated the friends who were offering help into categories. Some were very willing to give us food, but would not have been comfortable being a shoulder to cry on. Others could run errands and mow the lawn, but would not have been comfortable providing meals. And, a precious few were capable of listening to me when I needed to talk about how scared I was feeling about Bob’s condition and how our lives could change as a result of the accident.

When I ask for help and don’t get what I need, one of the first questions I ask myself is, “Did I go to the hardware store for milk?” Over time I’ve become more and more experienced at determining who can meet my needs at any given time.

Have you been to the hardware store for milk and been baffled when all you could find is nails? Some people are just not capable of giving us what we need even though they care about us. Avoid hurt feelings and disappointment by learning who really is capable of helping you and in what way they can help.

Freedom From Clutter

On this 4th of July, I can’t help but think about clients who live in this country where we are blessed with so many freedoms, but who are trapped, unable to move in a nightmare of their own creation. Their clutter and disorder keeps them paralyzed, unable to make decisions or take action to improve their situation. How can they free themselves and reclaim their birthright?

In many cases the first step is to admit that what they have created is unacceptable to them. Then they need to commit to doing things that make them feel uncomfortable: asking for help; accepting help; letting go of belongings they no longer love or use despite the fear they may feel; learning new ways to think about their things, themselves and their space; and learning new behaviors so they can maintain a space where they have the freedom to move and grow.

Freedom is a privilege. Even though you live in a country where personal freedom is valued, sometimes it is you who must free yourself. Let go. Get help if you need it. Free yourself from environments that keep you stuck and feeling bad about yourself. That is your birthright! Go for it!

Writing a Book: An Organizing Victory

“I want you to write a book in 90 days.”

Those were the words of my coach, Mark LeBlanc of Small Business Success in May 2009. I took a deep breath and said, “OK, how do I do that?” I wanted to write a book. In fact, it had been a goal of mine for years. I even had some pieces of it written. I just had no clue about how take that enormous task and break it down so I could keep from running away from it. And, as a small business owner and the CEO of my home, how was I going to make time to write?

For more than 13 years I have helped clients figure out how to get overwhelming tasks done. I was supposed to know how to do that. But, I too am human and subject to shutting down, especially when it involves my work. Fortunately I wanted to write the book badly enough that when Mark made his suggestion, I was actually intrigued that he thought it was possible for me to write a book in such a short time. I put aside my pride and insecurities and asked him to help me figure out how to make it happen.

“Write 50 minutes a day, five days a week, “ he said.

I could do that! Claiming the first 50 minutes of each day was entirely possible. That formula worked! I set a goal to write at least a paragraph every week day and was off and running. Once I got over the logistical barrier of how to make time and got started, my writing took off. By the end of August the cover was done and the manuscript was being edited. Rock Scissors Paper: Understanding How Environment Affects Your Behavior on a Daily Basis was available for sale in December.

It was miraculous how I got just the help I needed when I needed it. With Mark’s support and belief in me and my commitment to the project, all I had to do was start and be disciplined about working at it every week day with the end in mind–creating a book that puts words to the information and processes I use to help clients move forward with their lives, making it possible for many more people to empower themselves by deliberately making positive changes to their home and office environments.

Is there something you really want to do, but keep running from? What is blocking you? If you too are feeling overwhelmed and stymied by the enormity of the challenge, find a way to move beyond your mental obstacles. You may be surprised at how much help you get once you really commit yourself to your goal and are open to getting help to make it happen!

Getting Help to Clear Clutter

Have you ever noticed how much more work gets done when two people committed to the process join forces? It’s often astounding! Easily three to four times as much work gets accomplished when two people work together clearing clutter. The energy of the interaction between the two people can create a momentum that is just not possible when you work solo.

If it’s possible to make great strides when two or more are gathered together to clear clutter, why do so many people resist asking for help with that on-going challenge?
Following are some common reasons and my thoughts about each of them.

Fear of judgment–New clients often tell me that they are embarrassed for me to see their space. They are afraid I will judge them harshly. Why? Because they already judge themselves harshly. They may have already experienced judgement from well-meaning family and friends. Judgment hurts. My question to them is, “Will you get what you really want if you keep avoiding judgment?” Avoidance keeps people stuck.

If you make a good choice about the person you ask for help, preferably NOT close family members and judgmental friends, you could experience something other than judgment–the opportunity receive help that could change your life for the better.

Fear of being beholden to anyone–Some people have such a hard time managing their own life that they can’t imagine having any time or energy to help anyone else. If they accept help from someone, they may feel they should return the favor if asked to do so. Perhaps they hate clutter clearing. Perhaps they feel unqualified to be much help. Perhaps they are afraid they won’t be able to make the time or find the energy to help.

Believe it or not, some people feel it’s an honor to be asked for help. And, some people actually give of their time and energy because it brings them pleasure. When you ask for help it really is a compliment to the person you’re asking because it’s an indication that you think they can help you. If the person cares about you they also get the chance to spend time with you. That may be all they ever want from you.

Belief that “I should be able to do this by myself”–In the United States the American Way is to need no one but yourself. What a bunch of junk! How lonely and how inefficient! There are so many things that are much more easily done with help from another. And, for some people, clutter clearing is one of those things! Some people are just not wired to attack a project that requires expert decision-making and organizing skills. Give them a helper and their level of performance increases exponentially!

If you’ve committed to regaining control of your home or office by clearing clutter and it’s just not getting done, asking for help is the only step that makes sense. Asking for help and interdependence should be the American way!

Fear of loss of control–”I’m such a wimp, I’m afraid I’ll just go along and then regret all that we do later after all my important stuff is gone.” Some people worry that they won’t be able to assert themselves adequately if they are getting help from someone else.

Getting help could be an excellent opportunity to not only clear clutter and get more clarity about what really matters to you, it could be a chance to practice asserting yourself with someone safe, someone who is willing to honor your wishes.

Fear of being controlled–”If I let her in to help me, she might make me get rid of my stuff!” For some people, asking for help is synonymous with being controlled. And, you don’t want anyone else to tell you what to do with your belongings.You have the illusion of being in control when you and only you are responsible for the clutter in your home or office. Of course, you can’t find what you need when you need it or accomplish your goals in a timely manner, but it’s your responsibility, so you are in control! Nonsense!

There are people who will try to control you and what you do with your stuff. Those are the people you don’t want to ask for help! You get to choose! Choose either a professional organizer trained to guide clients to an improved living situation without coercion or a special friend who is helpful, willing to honor your wishes and not judgmental and controlling.

Fear of loss of relationship–Have you ever wondered why you haven’t been invited into the home of a relative or friend? Many fear that if others see the truth about how they live, they’ll be judged harshly and written off. Hiding the truth of their struggle is a better option than rejection.

Being seen is risky. It could lead to rejection by people who don’t understand your reality. But, living a lie costs you as well. It keeps you isolated and alone with your struggle. Getting help from someone safe, someone capable of treating you with respect no matter how awful the mess, could release you from your self-imposed prison. Imagine life free of the shame and embarrassment you currently feel. Isn’t it worth the risk?

If you identify with any of the reasons listed above, and you are sick of being stuck in your own mess, reach out and get some good help. If finding good help is a challenge, go to and search for a professional organizer in your area. Interview several people until you find a person whose knowledge and personality are a good match for your needs. Get help and get on with your life! You’ll be amazed at how fast you progress when you get the right kind of help.

Disrupting Events Cause Organizing Challenges

When I walk into a chaotic environment I listen for clues from my client about what may have caused the chaos. Some people have always struggled to get and stay organized. They are affectionately referred to as “chronically disorganized” by professional organizers nationwide. Despite all their efforts they cannot stay organized. Those clients usually tell me that they have struggled with disorganization for as long as they can remember.

There are some people, however, who at one time in their lives were organized and able to maintain organized spaces at home and at work. When I learn that a client was once organized and has since gone down hill, I seek to identify what threw him or her off course. Following is a list of the disrupting events that can turn a person’s life upside down, making it very hard to maintain order in their lives:

physical illness
mental illness–particularly depression
illness in a family member
death of a loved one
caregiving for an ailing parent
home renovation
frequent travel
getting married
birth of a child

Any of the above events or issues takes either an emotional or physical toll above and beyond what is experienced in normal every day life. Since you have energy limits, any one of those disrupting events can eat energy that would ordinarily have been allocated to tending to your home, your papers, your things, and the variety of chores that you do to stay organized.

It’s normal for people to do what is easiest in times of high stress just to survive. And, paper and disorder can back up at those times because tending to them isn’t as important as getting through the difficult time. But, you may want to remember that your space also affects your energy. Disorganized, chaotic spaces are loaded with negative energy. Exposing yourself to that energy will only deplete your energy all the more.

Unfortunately, once the difficult time has passed, you may have a nightmare on your hands, clutter and chaos that are overwhelming and not easily addressed. And, you’ll be depleted from your ordeal and further depleted by the negative energy in your space.

If you find yourself experiencing any of the disruption I’ve described above, it is helpful to remain conscious of your space even if you don’t have time to keep up as you normally would. Avoid the inclination to just let go and let chaos reign. Make yourself take as little as 5 minutes a day to clear clutter and maintain order. Doing a little clearing and organizing on a regular basis could save you from a nightmare of your own creation. If you cannot maintain a basic order, ask for help from family and friends, people who likely want to help you through a difficult time.

Asking for Help–A Habit that Pays Off

This week I noticed that the fonts on my blog were messed up. Initially I tried to figure out how to change them. Yes, my knee jerk response was to do it by myself. After a frustrating few minutes of searching for how to make the changes I wanted, it dawned on me that I did have a great resource who could help me. I shot an email to Bryan Dunn of WebbDunnRight at, asking him to check it out. Not only did he fix the problem, he found the origin of the problem and added a few spam filters to keep me from getting an inbox full of comment spam. Asking for help really does pay off! I got what I needed and more!

I’m working hard at developing the habit of hunting for help as soon as I am clear that I cannot do or do not want to do something by myself. Rather than taking hours, days, weeks and even months trying to do tasks myself that I can’t do or making myself do things I hate doing which always results in procrastination, I’m calling for help and getting things done by competent others. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels and how much gets done. No longer do I have procrastination piles impeding my path to success! Try it! You’ll like it! And, by the way, it’s not breaking the bank! If anything, the bank is filling up faster!

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in your life. If you’re ready to finally clear the clutter from your life and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at

Bunion Surgery: Asking for Help

As many of you already know, I am recovering from bilateral bunion surgery–both feet, both sides of both feet. When I scheduled the surgery I knew I was signing up for a procedure that at best would be painful, and at worst could be excruciating and debilitating for an undetermined amount of time. I’d had estimates of being off my feet ranging from 2-8 weeks. Since I’m self-employed, being off my feet for even one week costs big bucks! So, physically and financially the whole experience looked pretty overwhelming!

Fortunately, in the last twenty years I’ve learned how essential it is to ask for help and allow it to be given. As a first child, first grandchild and a child of divorce and other types of family dysfunction, it was no easy feat to ask for help. I felt safer and more in control doing everything for myself. My work as a professional organizer, however, has given me ample opportunity to watch the magic that happens in people’s lives when they invite help into their homes. When I decided to have bunion surgery I knew the only way I could do it was with the help of others.

I didn’t know exactly what kind of help I’d need, other than my husband’s help to get me to and from surgery. So, I started there. I told him the surgery day and he made arrangements to take three days off work to be available to help me. I didn’t ask for that much time. He willingly made those arrangements, and guess what! That’s exactly the length of time I needed him!

I made a point of telling all my family, friends, clients, neighbors and networking buddies about the upcoming surgery. I wasn’t sure what I’d need from them, but letting them know about the challenge I’d be facing felt like the right thing to do. Following my surgery many of those people spontaneously reached out to me with food, flowers, phone calls, emails, offers to drive me to doctor’s appointments, cards, visits and gifts. And, each and every offering was EXACTLY what I needed. Two clients even gave me projects I could work on for them at home so I could generate some income while off my feet.

I guess part of the lesson of this experience was that I didn’t need to figure it all out ahead of time. I just needed to let people know that I was having surgery and trust that I’d get what I’d need as I needed it. That’s really how it happened!

And, when I had a specific need, like the need for a Healing Touch session or a meal, I had to be willing to ask for that. I also had to be willing to receive it without guilt or feeling like I was being a burden.

Finally, for years I’ve worked with the belief that what you put out there comes back to you. I’ve worked hard to put out love, caring, respect and kindness to clients, friends, neighbors and family members. First, it is a value of mine to treat people that way and it has felt good to do that. But, I also knew that by doing that I was sewing the seeds of receiving the same back from them. Recovering from bunion surgery gave me the opportunity to receive so much good from people who were happy to give. What a blessing!

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in your life. If you’re ready to finally clear the clutter from your life and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at

Starting Each Day With Intention, Gratitude and Prayer

“Hello!” I looked up with a start at the greeting that had torn me from my thoughts and prayers.  There was the man with his Border Collie. My first thought was, “I wonder if he heard me praying?” You see, I pray as I walk my dogs in the dark each morning. I pray out loud, not loud, but my prayers are audible. Then I thought, “Oh, well. Let him wonder. . .”

I have been praying as I walk in the morning for a long time. It helps me start my day with the right perspective, the right connection to the source of my personal power. Once I have that gentle conversation I am better able to deal with the realities I encounter each day in my work. 

Recently a trusted advisor suggested I start my day by first listing things I am grateful for, then stating my intentions for the day, and finally ending with specific requests of God, spirit, the Universe, my Higher Power. I’ve been doing that for several weeks and find it a nice, balanced way to pray.

My prayer might go like this: I am grateful for all my wonderful clients, Bob’s love, these sweet, faithful mutts. Today I intend to be a grounding, positive source of help and support for my clients. I intend to look for opportunities to rest and have fun. I ask that Mark (my disabled brother) and Mom and John (my step-father) be safe. I ask for more clients who want feng shui or feng shui organizing services.

It’s amazing how good I feel after my morning walks!