Category Archives: Staying Organized

Are You Putting Things Away to Stay Organized?

One of the single most important habits that will help you stay organized is to put things away

This is what can happen when things aren’t put away. You lose the use of your kitchen table.

all the time. Putting things away after use is insurance that you will be able to find those things again when you need them. It also keeps your home feeling good, clear of the clutter of things left out in the open.

Everything is alive with energy, positive or negative. A jacket might have positive energy because you love the color, fit and style. However, the energy of that jacket changes when it’s thrown over a chair instead of put away in a closet. It takes on negative energy because it has landed where it is not supposed to be because it’s irritating to see it out of place. It’s energy is similar to that of litter — irritating and therefore negative.

This is what is available if you take the time to regularly put things away. Which space would you choose?

You may know it’s better to put things away, but you keep leaving things out. What are the reasons that you do that? Following are some common reasons that things don’t get put away.

  • It’s easier to leave things out and/or not put them away.
  • You tell yourself you will do it later. But, do you?
  • You think it will take a lot of time to put away.
  • You tell yourself that there are other more pressing things that need to be done.
  • You think putting things away is tedious and boring.
  • You are unaware that you’ve left things out because your attention has shifted to something else.
  • It’s a habit to drop things without thought.
  • It’s a habit to leave things out.
  • It’s not easy to put things away because where they belong is too full of other things.
  • The item doesn’t have a home, a place where it can be stored.

What does it cost you to not put things away regularly?

  • You can’t find things when you need them.
  • You create a space that over time feels chaotic and uncomfortable.
  • You attract criticism from others.
  • The negative energy of the space causes increased irritability between family members.
  • You waste money because you buy things you already own but can’t find.
  • You are less productive because you can’t think clearly in a messy space.
  • As your space becomes more cluttered, negative energy increases and your self-esteem dips. You feel bad about yourself and your space.
  • You create negative energy blocks that distract you from what it most important.
  • You create negative energy that blocks good things from coming to you.

Can you really afford to wait until “later” to put things away? The longer you wait to put something away, the harder it will be to make yourself do it. Make putting things away after use your “must do” habit to keep your life more peaceful and productive.

If despite your best efforts you cannot seem to develop the habit of regularly putting things away, it’s time to seek support to change your behavior. A coach can help you tease out what is preventing you from making the change you want, and can provide support and accountability as you try on new behaviors. Schedule a free 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session to explore how you can develop new habits to keep you organized and on track with your goals.

Stay Organized to Reduce Christmas Stress

It’s holiday crunch time! The final push to get everything done by December

Don't let holiday stress prevent you from staying organized!

Don’t let holiday stress prevent you from staying organized!

25. It’s quite common to focus on finishing shopping and Christmas cards, wrapping presents, and baking at the expense of maintaining order in your home. You may think the mail can wait, cleaning up after wrapping presents can be done after the holiday, and putting clothes away is definitely NOT a priority.

You just have to be ready for Christmas. At what cost?

Regular maintenance tasks like cleaning up, putting clothes away, and processing mail are activities that will ground you, help you feel in control at a time when many things can feel out of control. You don’t know how people will get along during your holiday social events. You don’t know if people will be happy and appreciative of the gifts you worked hard to find and wrap. You don’t know if dishes you make for your family will turn out or be liked. You don’t know if someone will drink too much and pick a fight.

Christmas is a time of heightened emotions and high expectations. It can be very stressful. The best thing you can do when facing unpredictable, stressful situations is to ground yourself by keeping up with tasks that help you stay organized and feeling in control.

Even if your bills are not in your awareness as you plough through your “to do” list, the fact that you don’t know where they are or how much you have spent can stress you on an unconscious level. Clothes chaos in your bedroom affects the quality of your sleep and starts you off on the wrong foot in the morning. A messy kitchen or gift wrapping area holds negative energies that are irritating and sap your energy.

Besides, do you really want to wake up December 26 to a nightmare you created by choosing not to make time to keep up with essential maintenance tasks?

Essential Maintenance Tasks to Lay the Groundwork for a Great Holiday

  1. Process mail daily — recycle junk mail and move important papers to an area to be further dealt with after Christmas.
  2. Clean up every day — wash dishes, unpack shopping and work bags, restore order when finished with projects and/or wrapping gifts.
  3. Put coats and clothes away every day.
  4. Take out trash and recycling often.

Stay Organized to Effectively Navigate Crises

When tough times hit it’s very tempting to stop doing all the maintenance

Stay organized to stay afloat when you hit rough waters in life.

Stay organized to stay afloat when you hit rough waters in life.

behaviors that keep you organized and relatively clutter-free. The emotions that come up during an extended illness, the decline or loss of a special person or pet in your life, a divorce or period of financial challenge can derail motivation to do those boring tasks that keep you organized and moving. 

What happens when you stop doing those important maintenance behaviors (putting things away, hanging up your clothes, doing laundry, processing mail, paying bills, filing, daily cleaning up, deleting junk emails) is that you create pockets of negative energy in your space and on your computer.  Those energies produce stress that will keep you feeling bad and stressed and prevent clear thinking. Plus the chaos you create by not staying organized makes it very hard to get back on track once you move through the difficult period.

The truth is that if done regularly those maintenance tasks don’t take a lot of time. Plus, if you can make yourself do tasks that don’t seem very important during periods of crisis, you will keep yourself grounded so you can think clearly and make good decisions. 

Doing maintenance tasks in a time of crisis is not optional. It’s an important investment of time to assure that you can effectively navigate rough waters. Make doing it a priority during tough times. 

Staying Organized: The Lesson of the Weeds

Lessons come in the most unusual of places! I remember the time when the lesson of the benefits of staying organized really hit home with me.

I was pulling weeds in an effort to make bring our yard under control and make it 22998127_spresentable for a visit from my in-laws. As I worked my way around the yard I noticed that in the areas where I had been regularly weeding periodically there were fewer weeds, and they were much less well established.  In other words, I could pull them with relative ease. In one particular area that I hadn’t touched at all that summer, the weeds were a thick mat and very difficult to pull. Those weeds required that I put my whole body weight behind each pull in order to make their roots give at all. It was frustrating, exhausting work.

There I was on my knees, yanking away at those tenacious weeds when it occurred to me that the lesson of the weeds is the same as the lesson of the stuff. If we regularly manage our stuff, putting it away, cleaning it up, pitching on a regular basis, it really doesn’t get out of hand and overwhelm us. We can restore order with minimal effort.

It’s when we ignore those maintenance tasks for a period of time that it seems that a superhuman effort is required to bring our space back to order. Instead of taking minutes to get organized and on track, it can take hours and even days. And, just as I had avoided tackling that garden with its spreading masses of weeds because the task seemed overwhelming, so too is it a common inclination to avoid those areas of accumulated stuff. That doesn’t work at all because things only go from bad to worse.

I didn’t finish weeding that overgrown garden. It was too much for me to do in one session. My back, arms and shoulders weren’t up to it. I did, however, get a major chunk of it done and have a plan to return to finish it the next day.

What areas of your home or office are becoming an overwhelming task to tackle? Do something today to improve one of those areas, and make a plan to return to it regularly to chip away at it until it’s gone. Then, guard against a return of the chaos. Remember what it cost you before. Use that memory to motivate you to take regular action to keep order in your space!   

Staying Organized: The Power of Putting Things Away

“I’m too tired.” That was the response of a speech attendee when I asked what kept people from putting things away on a regular basis. 

For years I’ve navigated through spaces littered with clothing, papers, and objects that had not been put away. I was curious about how that happened because not putting things away would be difficult for me. My mother taught me the importance of keeping my room neat and our house neat. It was no big deal for me because I did it every day and there was never any big mess to deal with.

Dropped items are the bud of a clutter nightmare.

Dropped items are the bud of a clutter nightmare.

I’ve heard the “I’m too tired” response over and over again from clients. This time instead of being understanding and sympathetic I asked the class to look at the reality of the energy that would be expended by hanging up their clothes every night. “It takes seconds to hang up or fold clothes and put them in a drawer,” I said. Seconds that could prevent a clutter nightmare from forming or from getting any bigger.

I guess the real questions are, “What do you want?” and “What are you creating?” Going for the immediate gratification of dropping things where they land instead of putting them away gives you a short term reward while creating a long-term problem. If you want your space and your life to be more peaceful, your space must feel peaceful. A space with the litter of life shouting from all corners screams of negative energy and creates feelings of overwhelm and self-contempt.

If you have difficulty making yourself put things away and maintain order, clearly your tired self is winning over the self who wants a peaceful, comfortable space. What if you felt tired and put things away anyway? How would that change the feeling in your space? What would your efforts do for you? How would your energy be affected?

Making yourself invest a few minutes a day to maintain order can be a tangible way to take care of yourself, ground yourself, and help you connect with your personal power. It’s a way to communicate to yourself that you matter. 

You are not separate from the space you live in. If it’s a mess, so are you. If it’s well maintained, you’ll have more access to your own wisdom, energy and feelings of well-being. Those are pretty good results for investing a few minutes per day to put things away!

Being Organized: What It Takes to Find What You Need When You Need It

Set Up Homes for Everything!

The other day I was thinking about what it takes to be able to find what you need when you need it. Yes, we professional organizers are a strange lot, daydreaming about what it takes to find things! But, alas, that’s the way my brain works!

The three keys to being able to find things on a regular basis are setup, habit and memory.

Setup–The best way to ensure that you will be able to find things is to create a “home” for everything. A home is the place where an item is stored so you can find it when you need it. Homes don’t just magically present themselves. They have to be set up. Setup takes time and careful thought to determine the best home for each item you own so you’ll know where to go to retrieve it when you need it. You will need to set up all the storage areas in your home, your car, your purse, your garage, your shed, even your wallet. When you create homes for everything, you’ll be creating an initial order. In so doing, you will be laying the groundwork for being able to find what you need when you need it. Setup is an initial action that will likely need evaluation and adjustments over time.

Habit–Having a home for everything is great, but if items aren’t returned to their homes after use, all your work to establish homes will quickly melt down into a mess. The essential habit you need to ensure you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it is to routinely return things to their homes after use. Retrieve things. Put them back. Retrieve things. Put them back. The repetition of putting things away will help you remember where everything is located in your space.

Memory–To be able to find things, you must remember how you set up your space. You must remember the homes you designated for each item. That is no small feat! Homes and offices are filled with thousands of items. If your memory isn’t the greatest, being able to find things will be a challenge. One way to build the necessary neural pathways to be able to remember where things live in your space is to work very hard on the habit of retrieving things and putting them away. If you are conscientious about putting things away immediately after use, that repetitive action will help create the neural pathways for remembering the homes of your things.

Setup, habit and memory. Where do you get hung up in this process of finding what you need when you need it? Do you struggle with setup, either because you have no clue how to do it or because you have difficulty making time for setup? Is your “put things away” habit weak? Or, is your memory your weak point? Perhaps you set up your space nicely but struggle with the habit of putting things away. If losing things is a constant challenge for you, identify where you struggle–with setup, habit or memory, and take steps to address your problem.

If you are at a loss for what to do to make real progress to improve the odds of finding things on a regular basis, remember that help is available from both coaches and professional organizers. Being able to find things on a regular basis is a great way to lower stress and feel empowered. It’s worth the investment of your time and money to improve the conditions for finding what you need when you need it!

© 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

Staying Organized: A Mother’s Legacy

It has been a quiet week here in Kilmarnock, Virginia, in the aftermath of my step-father’s death. I’ve been here to make funeral arrangements and support my mother as she comes to grips with the biggest loss of her life.

As is my habit, I’ve watched my mother move through her days both with curiosity and concern. Mom is not only grieving the loss of the love of her life, she is showing signs of dementia. The most obvious sign is poor short-term memory. I’ve been preparing myself for further decline by reading The 36 Hour Day by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, a book about dealing with dementia. I know it’s possible that over time she will eventually forget how to do even the simplest of tasks. I dread that time.

My mom has always been very organized. At the moment, for the most part, she still is. It has been comforting to watch her move through her days maintaining order in her lovely home. When she opens mail, she routinely throws away the opened envelopes and junk mail. As she moves from the den to the kitchen, she picks up used glasses and plates to put in the dishwasher. She regularly clears cluttered surfaces, stating that she just doesn’t like to have too much stuff around. Maintaining order is a way of life for her. I am so grateful to have learned the lessons of how to get and stay organized from her. I feel sad when I think about the possibility of her losing that ability to the ravages of dementia.

For now, I take comfort in Mom’s commitment to maintaining order and her ability to tend to her space. What a blessing it is to be her daughter!

Putting Things Away: The Aspirin of Staying Organized

What can happen when you don't put things away!

Are you a person who routinely puts things away when you’ve finished using them? Or, are you a person that uses something and leaves it where it landed when you were finished using it? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which person would be most challenged with staying organized. Regularly putting things away as you move through your day is one of the most important behaviors necessary for staying organized.

 What is the benefit of putting things away?

  • You restore visual order. An orderly space is peaceful and feels good. It has positive energy.
  • You snuff out a bud of clutter. Anything left out of place immediately creates a negative energy that will attract more of the same. Once one thing is left out, it’s much easier to leave other things out.
  • You’ll be able to find the item when you need it.
  • You maintain order in your space and a sense of control in your life.

Why doesn’t a person put things away?

  • You were never taught the habit of routinely putting things away. It is a habit to use something and leave it where you last used it. It is also a habit to use something and put it away!
  • You have attentional issues that keep you bouncing from one task to another, leaving object litter in your wake.
  • You haven’t created a home for the item. There is no place to put it away.
  • The home you created is not convenient enough given how often you use the object.
  • The home you created has become so cluttered that putting it away is a hassle.
  • Putting things away seems boring to you.
  • You are rushing and putting an item away will take time you don’t think you have.

I could go on and on with reasons why people don’t put things away. Whatever the reason, you pay a heavy price when you neglect to regularly put things away. Over time you create your own nightmare of clutter and chaos in your space.

Putting things away is a behavior over which you have complete control. It can take only seconds to do if you’ve created convenient homes for everything. Being faithful to the behavior requires self-discipline, but it is one of the best ways to stay organized and directly correlates with feeling in control in your life.

Watch yourself today. Are you taking those extra few seconds (yes, seconds, not minutes) to put things away when you are finished using them? Remember, your peace of mind, stress level, productivity and success are affected by what you choose to do. Make putting things away a priority every day! If regularly putting things away isn’t a habit, make it the next habit you acquire in your effort to stay organized, manage stress, and have the life you really want.

Organizing Priorities in a Health Crisis

I was recently asked to address the issue of what to do about staying organized when you’ve been leveled by some type of illness. What an important subject! You may have your house all organized and clear of clutter and then break your leg. How on earth can you tend to your house when it takes all of your energy to get to the bathroom and feed yourself, much less do anything else?

My first recommendation is: ASK FOR HELP!!!! I know that’s hard to do with tapes playing in your head that say, “You should be able to do everything by yourself,” and “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else.” Contrary to popular belief, the people who care about you often get pleasure out of being able to lend a helping hand from time to time.

When I say ask for help, I not only include friends and extended family, but also the people who live with you. They may be accustomed to living in their own orbit, but a healthy functional family is one in which all members contribute, especially in a time of crisis. In particular, ask family members to be even more vigilant about cleaning up after themselves and helping to maintain order in the home.

My second recommendation is: keep paper under control. If paper gets out of control, you are more likely to have negative consequences, like missing a bill payment. It will also take much longer to dig out once your recover from your illness or injury if paper is part of the mix. Paper is one of the hardest things to organize. It also takes more time to organize than most things. And, the energy of paper will shut you down faster than any other kind of clutter. If you do no more that separate out bills from other papers, throw away junk mail and stack up all other papers, like those that require an action or filing, dealing with paper once you are up an around again will much easier to do.

You will have physical challenges from time to time that make it difficult for you to maintain order in your home. Be gentle with yourself at those times and do whatever you can to restore order as soon as possible once you recover. That may require getting some outside help if the challenge you are facing is beyond what you are capable of doing in a timely manner. If you leave your house in disarray, its condition is more likely to deteriorate further which then can become a health risk in itself.

Stay Organized Even When Hit By a Hurricane!

There is still much external chaos here in Richmond, VA, the remnants of Hurricane Irene’s wrath. The damage done by high winds and fallen trees is visible everywhere. Some people still have no power, phone or cable service.

It is impossible not to be affected by that chaos, those disruptions to day to day functioning. The energy of brokenness abounds. Most of us are unconscious of the effect of that negative energy. We are too busy trying to get back to normal in our homes, with our work, with public schools opening soon. There is also the uncertainty of when services will be restored, when school will start given the delays caused by the storm.

When things feel so out of sync, when the negative energy of brokenness is everywhere, it’s very easy to let your day to day maintenance activities slide. After all, you have no hot water, why bother washing dishes. Those dominant negative and unsettled energies attract more of the same. They stress us and make us less likely to attend to cleaning up, putting things away, maintaining order. It takes extra energy to make yourself do the things that you would normally do to maintain order in your home.

If you follow the lead of those negative, chaotic energies, you’ll find yourself inclined to ignore tasks you know you should do. Do them anyway. Consider them an investment in restoring order. So, you can’t make the power come back on any sooner. You can’t get cable up and running. You can’t get the tree branches hauled away soon enough. You can maintain order inside your home. You can process your mail. You can hang up your clothes even if you can’t do a load of laundry. Resist the urge to stop because the power is out or your yard is torn up by a fallen tree. You’ll be glad you did when you are enjoying a calm order in your home environment instead of a nightmare of your own making!

Staying Clutter-Free = Commitment + Action

In a prior career I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor. We’d tell clients that the first step in the recovery process was to make a commitment to get sober. Some people would talk a good game, but the addicted part of themselves was still working hard to keep them thinking they could control their use and continue using. Their commitment was shaky and their actions eventually led them back to using.

A person who makes a commitment to a process, like the process of recovery from addiction, must first make a psychological shift in their thinking, a mental commitment, before they can be successful in their efforts at recovery. They may be doing all the right things, but if they haven’t made a solid commitment and taken steps every day to honor their commitment, they are likely to fail.

The same is true for people who want to go from living a cluttered, chaotic life to a life that is primarily clutter-free. The first step is to make a commitment to learning a new way of thinking and acting. Then they must honor that commitment every day by taking action to prevent and eliminate clutter.

Commitment without action is like having a boat with no motor. The boat is capable of traveling from one area to another, but it won’t move forward without the energy of the motor. Action with no commitment is comparable to a car in need of a tune-up. It will move in fits and starts for awhile, but eventually it will break down. Commitment + right actions=success.

AA teaches alcoholics and addicts to stay sober one day at a time. They are urged to start their day telling themselves, “Just for today I won’t drink.” Take the same process and use it to help you stay clutter-free. Tell yourself, “Just for today I will process the mail, pick up after myself, put things away, throw things in the trash, wash the dishes. . . .” Staying clutter-free is a one day at a time commitment!

The Cost of a Messy Home

“I keep my office at work organized, but my house. . . that’s another story!” I have heard that comment so many times. I wonder if what is happening for those people is that their work and keeping things organized at work takes so much of their available energy that they have none left over for maintaining a neat, clean and organized home.

I also wonder if they are choosing to invest the bulk of their energy at work because their financial survival depends on doing what it takes to keep their job. It’s as if they can afford to let the condition of their home slide, but they really can’t let things slide at work without experiencing consequences that they think they can’t afford.

Because I spend many hours per week helping people get organized in their homes, I’ve had the chance to observe the cost of a messy home. Here are some of the consequences of a messy home:

  • More chronic health issues, particularly autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, allergies, asthma.
  • Difficulty making decisions because you are distracted by the noise of the negative energy of your clutter.
  • Difficulty taking action to achieve goals. The negative energy of the mess affects your energy and your ability to think clearly to identify actions to take and how to take them.
  • Tend to stay in situations (jobs, relationships) that aren’t working longer than necessary because your mess keeps you immobilized and distracted from the reality of your situation and your options for change.
  • Waste money purchasing duplicates of items you own because you can’t find what you need when you need it.
  • Feelings of shame, inadequacy and low self-esteem, a reflection of the negative energy of the mess back onto your sense of self.
  • Feelings of irritability, hopelessness, overwhelm and apathy that can cause relationship difficulties and keep you stuck feeling anxious and depressed.
  • Inability of have family and friends over for social events because you are embarrassed by the condition of your home or it would take too much effort to clean up and restore order.
  • You might even deprive yourself of going out and participating in social activities because you think you should be home cleaning your house. However, you never seem to get it done.

Wow! That’s quite a list! A messy home affects every aspect of your life. It’s not a little deal. It’s a big deal! Letting home maintenance activities slide could cost you your health, your mental health, your marriage or primary relationship, your relationship with your children, your money, your sense of self worth, and your social life. If all of those things suffer, it’s quite possible that you will also have problems at work. Doesn’t it make sense that your first priority should be realigning your energy so you have some energy left to tend to those daily tasks necessary to maintain a neat and organized home?

Mess-Cleanup Approach to Staying Organized

I am an observer of behavior. I watch myself. I watch my clients. I watch family and friends and people I don’t even know. I learn a lot about getting and staying organized and not staying organized by observation. This week I watched myself make a mess on my desk while I was in the process of completing a task. Then I watched myself automatically restore order. I realized that my habit is to make a mess, clean it up, make a mess, clean it up.

Somewhere along the way I learned that if I just clean up my messes as I go along, I stay organized. I might clean up at the end of a particular task or at the end of a particular time segment spent doing things that make messes. And, I rarely leave messes behind. Why? I guess I learned that if I left them, there would be negative consequences. I’ll bet my mother gave me some consequences when I was growing up. She was very organized and both modeled regularly cleaning up and enforced it as a family norm.

Now I can do what I want and I choose to clean up regularly. Why? Because it takes just seconds or minutes to clean up most messes I make, whereas if I leave the mess it is likely to attract even more clutter. Then cleanup time and effort would be much greater–hours and even days. Besides, the bigger the mess the bigger the overwhelm factor, which would lead to procrastination to avoid the overwhelm. That’s how messes snowball into rooms full of unorganized stuff.

Also, I really value closure. Cleaning up is a way to close an activity and give me a feeling of accomplishment. Cleaning up also restores physical order which in turn helps create mental order. I feel grounded and ready for the next task when I leave a neat and organized office. Finally, when I return to my tidy office I am greeted with calm and positive energies. If I didn’t clean up I’d be greeted with chaotic, noisy energies whose message to me would be something fearful and abusive like this, “You’re too busy. What’s wrong with you that you can’t get everything done? Why are you so messy?” Who needs that? Especially if it only takes seconds or minutes of effort to avoid it!

Make the “Mess-Cleanup” approach to staying organized your new habit. It could change your life!

Staying Organized: 8 Tips for Daily Sanity

Staying organized is not for sissies! Unlike getting organized it requires a commitment to DAILY ACTION to maintain the order you created when you got organized. That means, you must do the same actions day after day after day after day after day . . . in order to avoid the trauma of having to reorganize chaos all over again!

So what? What’s the big deal? All you have to do every day is pick up things, put them away, throw them away or give them away. That’s the simple answer for how to stay organized. No big deal!

The actions you must take are not difficult. In fact, they are pretty easy once you have established an initial order. But, they are boring and repetitive. For those folks who are creative, fun-loving and who crave variety and stimulation, the repetitive actions required to stay organized can seem deadly. But, they must be done if you want to stay organized and have a peaceful life free of chaos.

Here are 8 steps to learn how to STAY ORGANIZED:

1. Watch your behavior to identify actions that contribute to the problem of being disorganized and commit to changing problem behaviors.

Common problem behaviors include: dropping, plopping (choosing couch potato mode before taking care of business), avoiding and procrastinating.
2. Identify specific places in your schedule for daily organizing activities.

Work and school schedules create a structure around which to arrange routine organizing tasks. For example, there is usually a small window in the morning before leaving for the day that can be used for loading the dishwasher, putting in a load of wash, and cleaning up breakfast dishes. And, there is a window in the evening upon returning home where mail can be processed, voice mail checked, etc. There is also another window before bedtime for a final pickup of clothes and other items used during the day. People who are retired or self-employed sometimes have difficulty staying organized because they don’t have the structure provided by work and school schedules. It is even more important for them to consciously commit to specific times for getting routine maintenance chores done.

3. Incorporate the most important organizing tasks into routines.

Routines create a structure within which specific activities can happen. Repeating routines over and over again will make actions automatic rather than dreaded daily events. A morning routine might include getting up, showering, hanging up wet towels, getting dressed, eating breakfast, cleaning up after breakfast, checking email, leaving for work/school. An evening routine might include putting away any items you bring into the house (groceries, shopping bags, etc.), processing mail, checking
voice mail, making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, helping children with homework and cleaning up afterwards.

4. Reward yourself for changed behavior.

Commit to a new organizing behavior that you know will help you stay organized. Then repeat the behavior 21 days in a row. It takes repeating a new behavior 21 days in a row before it becomes a habit. Beware, you will resist new behaviors. You may have to start over again several times if you find yourself sliding back into old messy habits. When you reach the 21st day, reward yourself with something you enjoy, a special meal or purchase. Use email, TV or a phone call to a friend as a reward for finishing your evening chores.

5. Be willing to pay to get help if you haven’t been successful in your efforts to stay organized by a certain date.

Professional organizers and professional coaches can provide the structure necessary to hold you accountable to your goals to stay organized. (Admit it; you’d pay for help if you couldn’t get your car to start.

6. Hire others to do the things you hate the most and/or have the hardest time doing.

Consider paying for a cleaning service, a professional organizer, a person to pay your bills, a lawn service or a person to do your laundry/ironing. I pay to have my bills paid because I hate doing it, I’m prone to math errors and I want it done right. I also pay to have my house cleaned every two weeks. Again, I hate cleaning. And, it always gets done better than I’d do it. Having someone clean my house also gives me a deadline to pick up my house so I can get the most out of the cleaning!

7. Make staying organized a family commitment.

Invite family members to participate in the process of maintaining an organized, comfortable place to live. If you have a husband or wife, start with him/her. It is always easier to encourage children to participate if you and your spouse both consider staying organized a priority. Teach children early that picking up after themselves and participating in on-going organizing efforts is not optional; it is essential to having a rewarding, comfortable life.

It should be introduced to them as a normal part of life as soon as they are capable of throwing toys into open tubs. Be sure to reward them with praise for their on-going efforts even though they are expected to do them. Never use getting or staying organized as a punishment. And, remember, they will be watching what you do. You are a model for behaviors they need to learn like cleaning up after themselves and regularly getting rid of things they no longer love or use.

8. Have realistic expectations for the level of organization you can maintain.

It is fairly common for women to believe that they should keep a perfectly organized and clean house, even though they may work outside the home and/or have several children running around. That is an old standard that probably has NEVER been attainable without regular outside help. If you have children, especially under the age of 10, cut yourself some slack and shoot for relative order. As long as you keep picking up daily, regularly get rid of stuff, and you have all family members doing their part in the process, you probably can function without any major organizing challenges.

As your life changes, so too will the level of intensity of your daily organizing efforts. Efforts should intensify when raising children and become less intense when children leave home (if you haven’t replaced the obligations as a parent with other commitments). When you reach retirement, initially, you will have much more time to get organized and stay organized. But, you will also lose the structure provided by a work schedule. Resist the urge to drop helpful routines at retirement. Those who do find their homes in chaos and wonder what happened!

You will be rewarded for your daily organizing efforts with the ability to think clearly and accomplish your goals more easily, improved relationships and greater peace of mind. A few minutes every day is not a great price to pay for an improved life!

7 Ways To Stay Grounded by Staying Organized

Think about the last time you were all over the place, full of a free floating anxiety, bouncing from one task to another, reacting to people and situations emotionally in a way you later regretted. I’ve learned that when I feel like that I have become ungrounded, disconnected from my center, from my knowing that I am OK and all is well.

How do I get back to my center? How do I ground myself? Staying grounded requires daily attention and effort. Here are some of the ways you can stay grounded:

  1. Make your bed every day. Creating order and peacefulness in the bedroom settles the energies in that space and those good energies affect the rest of the house and you.
  2. Clean up your kitchen every day. Having a clean and orderly kitchen calms the part of the house most associated with nurturance and comfort, also calming you.
  3. Have morning and evening routines that are made up of activities of self-care, like bathing, exercising, tending to pets, straightening up. Tending yourself is a powerful way to ground and center yourself.
  4. Sort your mail daily to make yourself aware of tasks that need to be done and bills that need to be paid. Knowing your reality is more calming than the anxiety produced by not knowing.
  5. Keep paper in no more than two main locations, for example, the kitchen and the home office. Avoid allowing paper to spread throughout the house. When it spreads, its negative energy pollutes whatever area it is in. Paper is usually associated with some kind of task that needs to be done, like deciding whether you need the paper or not, or deciding where the paper should go next. When you see it all over the place it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the message it is sending, “You need to do something!” When you are feeling overwhelmed your are not centered.
  6. Maintain order by putting things away all the time. Avoid the temptation to just drop things. It takes much more energy to pick them up than it does to drop them. When items are just dropped they have a negative, chaotic energy that is anything but grounding. And, dropped things attract more dropped things!
  7. Do at least one 5 minute cleanup per day. Either start or end your day with a quick cleanup. Put things away, move things to the part of the house where they belong, straighten your papers, throw out trash. Take that time to restore order to your space. One of the first things I do when I’m thrown off center by some bad news or a difficult situation is to establish order in my home. Some would call my behavior compulsive. I call it grounding!

As I wrote the above list it occurred to me that all my recommendations are the same recommendations I make to people who want to learn how to stay more organized. So, staying organized in your physical space is a great way to stay grounded!

Joan Borysenco, Ph.D, author of Inner Peace for Busy People writes of the benefits of being grounded, centered, “When I’m centered it’s easier to respond to people, to catch the nuances of their attention, and to let inspiration flow through me. Thinking of myself as an instrument that life plays, rather than the source of the melody, has helped me be a better juggler. The instrument needs to be cleaned and polished, treated with care. When I’m in balance, the unbalanced hodgepodge of things on the to-do list are accomplished more effectively.”

Treat yourself with care and stay grounded by committing to maintaining an organized space. That way when you are confronted with one of life’s challenges you can handle it from a place of clarity and calmness, centered and able to access your inner wisdom.

How to Avoid Creating An Attic Nightmare

I was recently reminded of why many attics stay packed for decades. After two hours of mounting two sets of stairs and hauling down volumes of old items I was panting, sweating (not perspiring!) and thinking to myself, “People have no idea what a nightmare they are creating when they dump items one by one into an attic.” The effort to put things in an attic in no way compares to the energy it takes to get everything out of it!

Here are a few tips to keep your attic from becoming a nightmare:

  1. Don’t use your attic as a default location for things you don’t know what to do with. Most of those things are really items you no longer love or use. That makes them good candidates for purging.
  2. With very few exceptions, make the attic a place to hold things you use at least once a year, like luggage, seasonal decorations, and off-season clothing. That will keep those items mobile and give you a yearly opportunity to assess whether it’s time to let them go.
  3. Don’t store books in the attic. Books can’t be easily accessed for reading or reference if they are in the attic. And if they are so precious that they warrant being kept, why would you expose them to the temperature extremes of an attic?
  4. Limit paper storage in the attic to records that must be kept for tax or legal reasons. Most other paper can be tossed with no significant consequences.

Remember, what goes up into an attic must come down! Make careful choices to avoid an attic nightmare.

How To Stay Organized When Life Throws You a Curveball

“Things went downhill when we had three family crises in a year,” said a new client who was explaining how her lovely home had evolved into a cluttered, chaotic mess.

It is very common for people to lose control of the order in their homes during times of crisis. Crisis situations that go on for an extended period of time consume time, energy and the motivation required to maintain an organized home.

It’s not uncommon for people to find that once they’ve gotten past the personal crisis–illness, death in the family, caregiving for aging or sick relatives, recovery from surgery–they have another crisis on their hands, a living space that is such a mess that they have no idea how they will ever get it back to its more orderly state.

Twice in the past year I’ve been thrown into crisis mode, first when my step-father began deteriorating mentally and had to have brain surgery and then when my disabled brother developed a serious infection in his artificial knee joint requiring surgery, weeks of IV antibiotics and another knee replacement. Both events were incredibly energy consuming for me because I was a key decision-maker, the coordinator of communication between family members, a key source of emotional support, and I had my own fears and other feelings to manage.

It was all I could do to get through each day dealing with the crisis at hand, much less tend to my small business and maintain order in my home. Those two crises were an opportunity for me to learn how to get through difficult times without losing control of other parts of my life.

Here are 6 of the important lessons I learned:

1. Identify tasks to be done no matter what.

Then do them! I am the money manager in our house. So, making sure bills got paid and that money was in the right accounts at the right time were two tasks I had to get done so we could avoid consequences like ruining our credit rating. Keeping us afloat financially during those difficult times helped ground me. I liked knowing that no matter what else happened, we were operating on a firm financial foundation.

2. Defer whatever tasks you can to other people.

Instead of trying to keep everything in order by myself, I asked my husband to do many tasks that normally I would have done to maintain our home and our lives together.
Also, people offer help during times of crisis. Let them! Last summer when I had bi-lateral bunion surgery I asked friends to help provide food and walk my dogs. They were happy to have something to do that would help me, and their help provided a type of emotional support I really needed.

3. Lighten your load by eliminating obligations.

It became clear to me pretty quickly that helping my mother and step-father through my step-father’s health crisis and staying healthy myself during that stressful process was more important than writing checks for a professional organization. I actually chose to resign from two volunteer positions because taking care of family and myself were the priority.

4. Control paper flow even if you can’t regularly process it.

You may not have time to do much with paper that flows into your house on a daily basis, but you can make sure that it all flows to the same place. That way, when you need to find something in that pile of paper, you have only one place to look. You might stack it in piles in your home office or get an open box and store it there. Just don’t let it float throughout your space!

If you want to go one step further, pull out bills and magazines/catalogs/newsletters. Put the bills in a highly visible location so you don’t forget about them and so they are easily accessible when you are ready to pay them. Place the magazine, catalogs and other reading materials in a location where you spend time reading. Removing those items from your paper pile will make it shrink and also make it easier to access things to read when you need a source of distraction.

5. Resist the urge to do nothing.

In times of personal crisis it is very normal to shut down because of overwhelm, fatigue, or just not knowing what to do. While it is important to take breaks to rest, recharge, and recover, it is not a good idea to go to ground and let everything go. It takes only a day or two for your space to go from being a peaceful haven to a chaotic nightmare. Then you not only have a crisis going on outside your home, but also inside your home. You have no safe place to retreat. Messy houses scream, “You slob! Why don’t you do something about this mess!” Make yourself do at least the bare minimum to maintain order, like controlling the paper flow, washing the dishes, straightening up daily.

6. Remember that maintaining a basic order will ground you during difficult times.

You may resist doing maintenance activities because you are exhausted, but if you override the urge to stop and plop on the sofa and instead do a few tasks to keep your space neat and organized, you will find that doing those things will help ground and calm you. You will then be better able to go out and deal with whatever challenge is going on. If you are physically incapable of maintaining order yourself, because of illness or disability, ask others to help you do that. Many people want to help in some way. Let them know that their help will ground you and facilitate your recovery.

© 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

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!

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.

Less is REALLY More!

Today as I was putting away clean pots and pans I gave myself a pat on the back for having only three saucepans, one large pot, and two frying pans. Some time ago I deliberately pared down the number of stovetop pans I own so I could fit them all in one cabinet. Since I did that I’ve realized that I can accomplish my cooking activities with just six pans.

At one time I had many more pans, just in case. . . . Just in case what? I might grow another two burners? I might need a few extra pans available because the dishes hadn’t been washed? It is so nice not to be stressed by the task of cramming too many pans into my cabinet or fighting off pans that are falling out of the cabinet when I’m trying to get to a particular pan.

Why am I telling you about my pans? It occurred to me that the pan problem can occur anywhere in your home or office. Do you have duplicates of things that you just don’t use? Do you have more things in a drawer or cabinet than can comfortably fit in there. By comfortable I mean, you can retrieve what you want and put it back with minimal effort and stress. What can you thin out to lighten your load and make staying organized that much easier?

© 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