Category Archives: Newsletters

Handling Messy Family Members

When I give speeches I’m often asked, “What if I’m not the cause of the messiness in my house?”

I first commiserate with the person, because it can be very frustrating to be working hard to maintain order only to have it wrecked by loved ones. Then I make the following suggestions:

1. Control what you can. Clear your clutter. Keep all the areas over which you have control clutter free and organized. When you do that you are shifting energies in a positive direction. Sometimes just that positive shift in energy will affect the behavior of others.

2. Make a request that everyone work together to keep public areas neat and clutter free. Don’t nag. Don’t criticize them for their bad habits. Public areas are the kitchen, family room, living room, dining room. Keeping those areas clear of clutter, neat and organized will help keep interactions between family members peaceful and positive.

3. Give those who are messy a place to be messy. For children, it’s their bedroom. Lay ground rules to avoid health hazards like attracting rodents and other pests with dirty dishes and food. Perhaps come to an agreement about how often the room is to be cleaned–once a month or so? For the spouse, leave the room alone! But, ask for agreement that his/her stuff will not spill out into the public areas.

4. Choose your battles. When clutter does accumulate in public areas, first clean up your part of the mess. Then remind others of the agreement to work together to keep the public areas neat and ask them to remove their belongings. If over time you meet a lot of resistance, or if family members seem to truly be unconscious of the mess they create, let them know that when they do leave personal items in the public areas, you will be moving those items to their rooms. If they object to you moving their things, remind them of the agreement about keeping public areas clutter free. They won’t love you for moving their things, but you’ll be able to continue to love them! And, the public areas will be neater!

5. Refuse to fight and nag and criticize others about their messy ways. Those behaviors do nothing to get your desired results and they do much that is harmful to your relationships. People who are messy usually are less bothered by the negative energy of clutter and disorder. Many of them aren’t even conscious of the whirlwind of stuff that follows them around. Most of them are awesome people, but will never be great at being neat and organized.

Happy Negotiating and Accepting Things You Cannot Change!

What Can You Do Today to Be More Organized?

Organizing your home or office may seem like a daunting task. Where to start? How to get started? What to do with all the stuff that you no longer need or use? It’s easy to get hung up on any one of those questions, easy to get overwhelmed.

Part of the problem is the ego’s need to “get it right.” The good news is that there is no “right” when it comes to clutter clearing. There are many paths to success. But, all of those paths start with a single step, an action. So, doing something, anything in the direction you want to go is a success. Each step shifts energies. Shifting energies encourages movement.

I recommend that you make “What can I do today to be more organized?” a question you ask yourself daily. Even if you make just a step as small as hanging up your clothes at the end of the day. That’s a positive step and movement in the right direction. Or, you might decide to identify one item to purge every day for a week and take those items to a charity. Or, you might decide to recycle five of the 55 boxes you have saved because they’re “good boxes” and you might need one someday. Every decision and action in the direction of order and reducing the volume of unnecessary items increases positive energies. When you feel the benefit that comes from those little steps, you will be motivated to keep going.

Here’s another suggestion: make decisions about big items first and you’ll feel bigger energy shifts! Do this every day and over time you can make your way through your self-created physical barriers to success.

“What can I do today to be more organized?” Make it you mantra!

Contractors Affect Your Feng Shui

Choose contractors to work in your house very carefully. Because the projects they work on will be forever associated with them, their behavior and energy, it’s important that you choose people who will leave you with good results and good memories. Those good results and good memories contribute to the overall energy of your home. Good results and good memories equal good feng shui.

I learned this lesson the hard way. The plumber who installed my new kitchen sink was running his own business for the first time, overwhelmed, exhausted and really struggling to get the sink in. He spewed negative energy all over the kitchen with curses and anger. Unfortunately he left his negative energy behind. Because his behavior was so unpleasant and the sink was associated with him, forever after when I looked at the sink I thought of him. I still think of him when I think of that remodeling situation.

The best way to find contractors who will be good feng shui is to ask discerning trusted friends who they use. Avoid using unknown contractors. You could end up with a feng shui nightmare!

The Dos and Don’t of Desk Placement

The Power Position

Have you ever noticed that attorneys and executives always have their desks facing the door of their offices? There’s reason for that, besides the fact that it makes a person seem important. Your nervous system is most comfortable and therefore works better when you have a solid wall behind you and a full view of the door. In feng shui we call that position the “power position.”

Your nervous system is programed for survival. When your back is to the door a part of your brain is always on high alert, ready to take action should someone or something come up from behind. When you can see what’s coming at you with the support of a solid wall behind you, your nervous system settles down. You are able to relax and you feel empowered.

I once had a client who had numerous problems in his personal and professional life. Both his bed and his desk were not located in the power position. I recommended he move both pieces of furniture so he’d have a solid wall behind him and a full view of the door from the desk and the bed. He and I made those changes that day. When I saw him several months later, he looked like a different person. He had gone back to his old job, which was the best fit for him. He had worked things out with his ex-wife. And, he had started dating. Not long ago, many years after our consultation, I saw him at Starbucks. Instead of presenting the bundle of nerves and insecurities I’d seen years before, I was greeted by a happy man who had remarried and seemed very content with his life.

Check it out! If you’re not in the power position, move your desk. By the way, being in the power position is more important than enjoying the view out the window. Then pay attention to how you feel, how you work, and your attitude. I predict improvement in all three areas!

© 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 life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

Car Clutter Clearing Tips

People who know me well know that keeping my car clutter free is my biggest organizing challenge. My car is my mobile office. And, any place where you spend lots of time, do many things and come and go frequently is likely to get messy and at times a bit out of control. Here are a few actions I take that help me manage car chaos:

1. All trash I generate goes into the cooler I have on the floor between the two front seats. It gets emptied every night when it is taken into the house to be packed for the next day.

2. All items on the passenger seat are reviewed every evening to determine if they need to go back into the house or stay in the seat for access or reference the next day.

3. To corral some of the loose items that I tend to carry in my car, all books, magazines, audio books and other reading materials are kept in a plastic tub located just behind the front seat on the floor in front of the back seats.

No one would describe the inside of my car as an organized utopia, but those simple steps have helped me keep that potential organizing nightmare at bay. It takes daily action to maintain order in my mobile office!

Productivity: Keep Your Head Down

A few weeks ago I was helping my father rake leaves. I really don’t like to rake leaves. Why? Because I can easily get overwhelmed by how much there is to do and how long it takes to see any progress.

This time I decided to apply the Lariope Method, an approach I unconsciously developed to handle big jobs, one that keeps you from getting overwhelmed. The way it works is you keep your head down, focus right in front of you and avoid looking at the whole picture of what needs to be done. By keeping your head down you can feel good about what you are accomplishing and avoid blowing yourself out of the water by comparing what you’ve gotten done to how much more is left to be done.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients lament how much there is left to do instead of celebrating the success of what they have gotten done. Their focus is one of the reasons they are unsuccessful at getting and staying organized. It’s so important that you do whatever you have to do to keep yourself feeling positive about your efforts. Sometimes that means you have to make yourself keep your head down to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Once Dad and I got a large part of the yard raked, when the end was in sight, I was able to raise my head and feel encouraged by how much we had gotten done. And, yes, we finished the job!

Got a large project? Keep your head down while you work so you can stay positive and get it done!

What Energy Is Your Art Holding In Place?

Is the art on your walls attracting good things into your life? Check each piece to see if its energy is life affirming, having a positive subject and message. For example, art showing scenes of loneliness or struggle can attract that type of energy into your life. War scenes can attract conflict. On the other hand peaceful scenes attract peace and encourage peacefulness in the space.

Remove any art that holds negative energies in place. I once saw a piece of fine art in a client’s dining room that showed a body lying on the ground with its head cut off. I was shocked by the subject of the painting. Energetically the content might imply that while dining there one might lose one’s head.

Go one step further and find art that holds energies and reflects circumstances that you want to attract. For example, I have a print of a lovely beach house hanging in my living room because I love the beach and want to spend vacations in a house just like that one.

Art is a powerful energy enhancer. Make sure your art attracts what you really want!

Visualize Organizing Success

It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and hopeless when you look at your organizing challenges, especially if you weren’t born with an organizing gene. One way to combat those negative feelings is to picture the results you want and picture yourself being completely successful in your organizing efforts. Act as if you have already been successful. Feel the positive feelings that success will cause. Visualizing your organizing success and those positive feelings will attract whatever you need to make it so.

When I am scheduled to do a speech or an interview, anything about which I feel a little shaky, I have made it a habit to picture myself doing the task being confident, competent and enjoying the process. And, without fail, I have gotten the results I was seeking. I recently used that approach when I did my first TV interview. Check it out!

Believe in your ability to be successful and you will be. Picture it. Feel it. And, move forward to find the peace that is possible when you live an organized life.

Feng Shui Tip: Put What You Want Into Your Space

Like attracts like. If you want more peace in your life, create peace in the physical arrangement of your belongings in your home. If you want more clarity, create a clutter free home environment. If you want a Pug, get a statue or a photograph of a Pug and display it in your home.

Want a new job? Write the job description and post it in your home office where you see it often. Be sure to list the salary and other specifics you are looking for in just the right job.

Want a new relationship? Cut out magazine photos of people to whom you find yourself attracted. Put the best one in a frame and place it where you see it every day. Or, write a list of the characteristics you want in a life partner. Read it often.

When you create what you really want in physical form in your home, you are setting your intention to attract it into your life.

Make Time to Get and Stay Organized!

If you think you will find time to get and stay organized, you are sadly mistaken. To have an organized home/office and be an organized person usually requires time to create an initial order, and a daily commitment of time to maintain the order.

If you need to create an initial order in any space, the only way that will happen is by deciding that the task is a priority and scheduling time to do it. Believe me, you’re not likely to wake up on a Saturday morning and feel inspired to clean out your guest (junk) room. There will be a million and one things that seem more important.

Some people can create an initial order, but have difficulty maintaining the order. They managed to make the time to get organized, but neglected to make time daily to do those maintenance tasks like putting things away, throwing things away, creating homes for incoming items, and managing paper flow.

Start small to ensure success. When scheduling time to create an initial order, commit to 15 minutes every weekend to clearing clutter and creating order. If you end up working longer than 15 minutes, fine. But, making a regular commitment of time every weekend and honoring that commitment will sow the seeds of a positive new habit that supports your commitment to live an organized life.

To maintain your hard won order, begin by adding a five minute cleanup to your bedtime routine. In addition to brushing your teeth and letting the dog out one last time, take five minutes to hang up clothes, move papers to the home office, and throw away trash from evening snacking. Just five minutes every day can make the difference between a nightmare and a comfortable home.

MAKE time for getting and staying organized! Then watch your stress go down and your quality of life improve!

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.

Feng Shui Tip: Enhance Your Foyer

The front door of your house is the mouth of the chi (energy) entering your home. The first place the chi encounters is the foyer or entryway of your home. To attract and hold the best energy in your home and therefore in your life, take special care to enhance the inside entrance of your home, even if you tend to enter your house by another door.

Put your best art there. Place mirrors in that location, though never directly in front of the door. Mirrors are not only energy enhancers, they provide any guests with a friendly greeting, their own image! Water features like aquariums and fountains are also great energy enhancers for this area if kept clean and well maintained, as are plants, lamps, and other treasured decorative items.

Take special care with your inside entrance. It really matters as much as the parts of the house where you spend most of your time!

Moms, Reclaim Your Dreams!

If you are a busy mom, be sure to create a file or designate a basket as the container to hold papers about things you want to do just for you.

The role of mother is so consuming that many mothers have to put their own life and personal interests aside, at least until the children are in school, and often until they are out of the house. I’ve met dozens of incredible moms in my work as a professional organizer, many of whom have sacrificed careers, hobbies and activities that feed their spirits for the sake of their family. It seems there is just not enough time in a day to do all that is required to maintain a happy home and well-adjusted children and take time to follow their own passions.

There is a cost to pay for disregarding yourself, however noble the reason. Depression, weight gain, health issues and marital difficulties can all result when a woman spends a majority of her time caring for everyone but herself.

Starting a dream basket of events you want to attend, places you want to go (with other women or by yourself), classes you want to take or services that will nurture and spiritually feed you is a simple way to acknowledge your very normal needs for self-care. It will hold the energy of honoring yourself. And, it can be the bud of a decision to make yourself one of the priorities in your life.

Clear Donated Items Quickly for Best Results

When you do clutter clearing in your home or office, be sure to take items identified for donation to your favorite charity immediately! The benefit of releasing things only occurs when those items leave your space. Each item is alive with energy. When it is removed from the space the energy it was holding is then available to you. Not only will your space feel better, but you will feel more energetic and optimistic.

The Three “W”s of Clutter Clearing

When deciding whether to keep or toss an item, ask yourself these three questions:

Why am I keeping it?
Where am I keeping it?
Is it Worth keeping?

Clutter accumulates when you stop after asking, “Do I want to keep this?” Sure, you may want to keep many things, but unless you ask the why, where and worth questions, you’ll keep many more things than you need or have room to keep.

Some people are just programmed to keep things. They may have been affected by Depression era thinking growing up. They may be artistic and see everything as a possible art supply. Or, the act of letting go of anything may terrify them. Keeping things is easier. There’s no risk of making a mistake and regretting it later.

A good answer to the why question is: I love it or I use it.

Ask yourself where you’ll keep something. That question forces you to face the fact that your space is limited. Asking that question will keep you from taking on more things than can comfortably fit in your space.

And, ask yourself if an item is worth keeping. You’ll assess its value relative to other items in your space. It’s ideal if you only welcome items that have the best energy. You’re looking for diamonds, not the rocks or stones.

Accept only diamonds into your space and you will shine in all your are and do!

Create a Compass: Managing Time, Tasks & Things

Create a compass, a list of what matters most to you. Use it as a guide for making decisions about the tasks you’ll do, how you’ll use your time and the things you’ll have in your home or office. Then, when you find yourself caught up in feelings of overwhelm or distracted by busyness, common states in our fast paced world, you can use that compass to ground yourself and quickly get back on track to getting more of what you REALLY want!

Clear All Clutter for Business Success

Clear clutter in all areas of your business and watch your business grow!

Those out-of-sight places, closets and storerooms, filing cabinets, and storage cabinets, often get neglected. They fill up with items that are outdated and static, harboring quantities of negative energy.

They are out of sight and out of mind. They are also affecting your bottom line. Clutter and negative energy are blocks to new good things coming to you. They are also energetic distractions that keep you from thinking clearly and making good business decisions.

Grief Can Be A Physical Block to Success

Papers and objects can hold associations with times of loss in our lives. A divorce decree, a gift from a lost love, equipment associated with a former career. They all hold energies of loss and sadness. Those negative energies are VERY powerful even if you’re not conscious of them. They can keep people from venturing into a closet or clearing out a desk for years. You’re not sure why you can’t face the task, but the urge to avoid it is very compelling.

If you’re avoiding a particular organizing challenge, check the content of the stuff to see if the items hold old associations of loss that are connected to grief you have been carrying. If you can’t allow the grief to come up and out, find a gentle loving soul to be with you while you face the loss, someone who can be in the presence of sadness without discomfort or the need to fix your pain. Tell him or her the stories associated with the grief. That will lighten the emotional load your are carrying and will allow you to move forward.

Remove the Telephone as a Distraction

Want to get more done? Stop answering the phone every time it rings. I watch clients when the phone rings. Will they automatically answer it? Will they ignore it? Or, will they check the caller ID to see who is calling so they can decide whether it is essential to answer the call.

The clients in the last two categories tend to be most productive. Why? Because they view answering the phone as a choice, not an imperative. They are choosing whether to allow an interruption. Interruptions always reduce productivity.

Make answering the phone a choice not an imperative!

Watch Incoming! How Does Clutter Happen?

“How did this happen?,” a client laments as she looks at the disaster area that is her office. I’ll bet that’s happened to you a time or two! You get busy, turn around and you’re in the middle of a mess.To be able to make real progress in creating and maintaining a clutter-free environment, you first have to get conscious about how it gets cluttered.

This week, make it a point to notice the many sources of things that come into your space–the mail, things dropped by others, things dropped by you, items given to you by others, items left out by you etc. Once you get conscious of how the stuff gets there, you can then devise ways to intervene to reduce and manage incoming, reduce stress and be better organized.

Office Transformation with Feng Shui Pop of Positive Energy

Want to motivate yourself to transform your office from a space that is cluttered, filled with an assortment of annoying piles of paper, office supplies and equipment and baskets of unfinished projects? Create a high energy, highly visible catalyst, one area that is clutter-free, completely decorative, a collection of things that lift your spirits when you look at it. The positive energy of that one part of your office will initiate a shift in all the energies of the space, making it more difficult for you to ignore the other areas that need attention.

“Debbie, I want you to see what I’ve done in my office!” said Mary Ann, a client of mine. As I rounded the corner into her office I immediately noticed a small bookshelf she had moved from the floor onto a large table that she uses as an extension of her desk. On it she had placed luscious green plants that immediately drew my eye away from the busyness of other areas of her desk. Not only was it eye-catching, but it was the first step in a major clearing of baskets and boxes and other forms of clutter that had hung out in Mary Ann’s office for months.

Mary Ann had been saying she wanted to clear off the piles that had occupied every flat surface in the room, including the floor, but had been unsuccessful until she created her plant monument. Once it was in place she was inspired to purchase two sets of plastic drawers that she placed under her table/desk to hold major chunks of paper that had been floating on its surface. She also processed several baskets of very old papers. And, she made her trash, shredding and recycling area less visible and annoying.

The positive energy of Mary Ann’s plant monument seemed to set a high energy standard that she wanted to achieve in the rest of her office. The contrast between the positive energy of the plants and the negative energy of numerous piles of papers was the energetic kick in the butt she needed to get moving to create a new look and a new way of working in her office.

Create a high energy monument that will launch you into reclaiming your office!

Reduce Commitments!

“I never spend time at home.” Those were the words of a woman who recently heard me speak about clearing clutter to get more of what you really want.

When I hear those words they usually mean one of two things:

1. Her house has some serious clutter challenges because she doesn’t have enough time at home to do what it takes to maintain a clutter-free home.

2. Her home is so uncomfortable because of clutter that she’d rather be anywhere else.

People who are never home often develop the dangerous habit of “drop and plop.” When they do get home they are usually so tired that they drop their mail, their bags, their clothes, etc., and plop on the sofa or into bed from exhaustion. Consequently, the all important habits of regularly putting things away, throwing things away, and cleaning up take a back seat to the more pressing need to get rest from the exhaustion of doing too much.

If you suffer from “drop and plop” or if you are over-committed to the point where you have no time or energy to make maintaining a clutter-free home a priority, evaluate your commitments and let go of at least one.

Think of it this way. You are making space for your needs and your well being. Your ability to help others will only increase and deepen when you first MAKE TIME to take care of yourself!

Commit yourself to the path of a clutter-free human “being” by ceasing to be a human “doing!”

Let go and GO HOME!

Watch Incoming! Become A Clutter Sleuth!

“How did this happen?,” a client laments as she looks at the disaster area that is her office. I’ll bet that’s happened to you a time or two! You get busy, turn around and you’re in the middle of a mess.

To be able to make real progress in creating and maintaining a clutter-free environment, you first have to get conscious about how it gets cluttered.

This week, make it a point to notice the many sources of things that come into your space–the mail, things dropped by others, things dropped by you, items given to you by others, items left out by you etc. Once you get conscious of how the stuff gets there, you can then devise ways to intervene to reduce and manage incoming, reduce stress and be better organized.

Create a Filing System and Use it!

Do you have a reliable filing system? Are you a disciplined filer? Setting up a filing system is not great fun (it’s really tedious, detailed work!), but the benefits of doing it and having important papers at your fingertips far outweigh the difficulty of the task. If you can’t make yourself set up a filing system, and the thought of filing makes you want to throw up, hire a professional organizer to get that task done! You’ll be glad you did the first time you really need to lay your hands on an important piece of paper.

I was recently reminded of the benefits of having a reliable filing system. My cell phone battery had been dying on me at the most inopportune times. What an annoyance! I postponed gong to Verizon to get the battery replaced AGAIN as long as I could. Going to the Verizon store is like entering a war zone!

When I finally bit the bullet, I was told I’d need the receipt for the battery because they didn’t keep a specific record of that transaction. Great! That’s when I started praying that I had followed my own filing system! I really have set up a filing system and do file regularly, but I swear that sometimes little birdies mess with my stuff! I just hoped I’d done what I should have done with that receipt! I had five hours driving from Bristol, VA back home to Richmond, VA to think about it.

It was nice knowing there was just one place to look for the receipt. If it wasn’t filed where it should have been, I was out of luck because I didn’t have a clue where else it could be! I’m happy to say I don’t have piles of miscellaneous papers lying around.

When I got home I went to the cell phone file inside the telephone file. And, there it was! The receipt was proof that the battery was only 6 months old. With that receipt in hand, a new battery was ordered with no hassle and no additional cost.

That incident reminded me again of why a good filing system and good filing habits can really reduce stress! It was so nice to know where to look for the receipt, to know there was just one place to look. Had I not found the receipt where it should have been, my dilemma of getting back to having a reliable phone would have been so much more of a hassle.

File and be happy!

© 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 http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.