Category Archives: Uncategorized

Is Your Closet Functional or Dysfunctional?

Closets! I’ll bet you’re all VERY excited about clearing out and reorganizing your closets.! Not! 

Why not? Could it be that most closets are behind closed doors and therefore prime dump spots for people looking for a quick fix to visible clutter? Or, perhaps you never clearly identified the function of a closet, so all kinds of undifferentiated things landed there? But, I’ll bet we could all agree that we dread dealing with closets because we never seem to have enough of them, and most of the ones we do have contain a jumbled collection of things  that just make us groan when we open the door!

Whatever the reason, closets are essential storage areas that regularly need attention and clearing if they are to be fully functional. Let’s compare a functional closet with a dysfunctional closet.

Functional closets

  • have a primary identifiable function, like holding coats, clothing or linens,100_0599
  • have secondary identifiable functions arranged by category, like gift and gift wrap repository, storage for off season decorations, framed photos,
  • are orderly, organized spaces with containers that conveniently hold identifiable categories of items for easy access,
  • are arranged so it’s easy to get items or containers in and out, and
  • have a majority of the most important items visible with no surprises lurking in the corners.

Dysfunctional closets, by comparison,

  • have no identifiable function, instead they house a collection of miscellaneous items,
  • contain many items that belong in other parts of the house,
  • are packed full of things, making it a logistical endeavor to get anything in and out,
  • are full of items that have completely gone out of conscious awareness,
  • are disorganized, messy spaces,
  • have few containers separating categories of items or have containers that are not well suited for the items contained in the closet, and
  • have items that fall out when the door is open. 

Now, it’s completely possible that some of your closets are quite functional while others are not. Some closets are more difficult to set up in an organized fashion and even more difficult to keep organized.

Why does it matter that closets be functional and clear of clutter? Cluttered, disorganized closets are pockets of negative energy. Think of the last time you went looking for something in a packed closet and came away feeling frustrated and annoyed because of the mess it had become. Not only does the disorder have a negative energy,  but it talks to you and says things like, “What’s wrong with you (or your son, daughter, husband) that you can’t keep this space organized, that you haven’t fixed this annoying space. . . “ That’s negative energy. Negative energy affects your energy and ultimately your health, wealth, relationships and more. And, it also blocks new, good things coming to you.

Tackle one closet at a time with goal of transforming your dysfunctional closets into  functional closets. It can be done!

Holiday Food Prep: Love It or Lose It

Over the years I’ve listened to many women complain about all they have to do at the holiday

Cracker Candy

Cracker Candy

season. And, it’s very true that the lion-share of the work to make holidays happy days is left up to women. What I’ve had a hard time reconciling is many a woman’s belief that they are being held hostage by the expectations of others, that they have no control over how much they have to do.

In the baking/food prep arena, for example, some women think they have to keep making all the special dishes that every family member loves even though their family members do little to help lighten their mom’s load at this busy time of year. These women sacrifice their own sanity and enjoyment of seasonal activities to please often ungrateful family members–because it’s what she’s always done. And, some women continue to make baked goods and food items because they think that’s what’s expected or that it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

I recommend a new approach in the area of food prep. Make those special dishes and baked goods that you enjoy making, that you have time to make without stress, and offer to teach family members to make those dishes or baked goods that they want that you don’t like making. Or, purchase comparable ready-made items to substitute for those that are a hassle to make or too time consuming to make.

I once spent many an hour baking a variety of cookies because I thought I “should.” By Christmas I was exhausted, and I’m not certain anyone really cared about all my creations. In a desperate attempt to simplify my schedule and enjoy Christmas more, I began limiting my baking to just one item, the one everyone loves the best, Cracker Candy. It just has 4 ingredients. One batch takes 20 minutes to make. I give it to friends, family and to say thanks to people who have helped me during the year. I love the process of throwing a batch together. I love the simplicity of ingredients and creating a luscious batch.

Can you simplify food prep during the holiday season? Give Cracker Candy a try!

Cracker Candy

Ingredients

2 sticks margarine (Fleishman’s original — other’s don’t work)

1 cup sugar

1 12oz. pkg semi-sweet morsels

1 pkg saltine crackers (1 of 4 that comes in a big box)

Do This:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Use a cookie sheet with sides. Line it with tin foil.
  3. Line up crackers on cookie sheet. They should almost fill the sheet. Don’t worry about it if they don’t.
  4. Melt margarine and add sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes stirring constantly. Mixture should be frothy.
  5. Pour mixture over crackers to cover all cracker surfaces.
  6. Bake 8-11 minutes. Time needed will depend on how hot your oven is. Butter mixture should be a golden brown all over with small areas on the side beginning to get dark brown (burning!). If you don’t cook it long enough, it will be chewy.  If you cook it too long, it will burn. I know. I have done both!
  7. Remove from oven and immediately use wooden spoon to push all crackers back together (they drift apart while cooking).
  8. Pour semi-sweet morsels over crackers and spread with a spoon. The heat of the crackers will melt the chocolate so it will spread like icing.
  9. Refrigerate until cool.
  10. Break into pieces and enjoy! Beware! It’s addictive!

Focus Affects Productivity

I did two marathon clearings (4 hours each) with a client. In those sessions we tackled a home

before clearing

before clearing

office and a guest room that had become dump spots for my client and her daughter. It was like doing an excavation! While neither room was completely clutter-free and organized at the end of each session, we had made significant progress in both rooms. The floors were once again visible, bags and boxes of both trash and donation items had been hauled out of those rooms, and a general order had been established. And, we had a plan for how to proceed with additional clearing.

When we finished the second 4 hour clearing in the guest room my client remarked, “Every room in my house is a wreck.” I was taken aback! I was feeling pleased at how much we’d gotten done in two VERY cluttered areas. Despite all our efforts and progress, my client was not focused on our successes. Instead, she was only seeing all that was left to be done. How far do you think she’ll get with the remaining work with that focus?

after 4 hours of clearing

after 4 hours of clearing

There are many areas of your life where you have no control — the traffic, the weather, the surprise health crisises that affect you and family members, etc. But, you can choose your focus in any situation. You can choose to see only the challenges and obstacles in your way. Or, you can choose to see each situation as through a positive lens, looking for the good, the progress, the lessons, and the benefits. The perspective you choose, positive or negative, directly affects your ability to engage in action.

A negative orientation will not only attract more challenges into your life, but it also engenders feelings of discouragement, hopelessness, and frustration. Those negative feelings block motivation and action. A positive orientation creates positive energy and feelings of hope, anticipation and even excitement. Those positive feelings provide the motivation to keep engaging in action to a completion point.

Notice your focus. Notice your ability to be productive. If you’re stuck in negative thoughts and feelings, unable to engage in right and necessary actions, notice it, don’t judge it. Then shift to what’s possible (with or without support), your successes and abilities. Your positive orientation provides the fuel to engage in action. You get to choose — a positive focus or a negative focus. Choose positive for greater productivity and success.

If you find yourself stuck in negative thoughts and feelings and can’t shift to the positive, consider getting support to get unstuck. Therapy and coaching are two forms of support that can make movement possible, from a negative orientation to a positive way of operating in the world. In coaching you have the opportunity to create awareness about what’s keeping you stuck and generate strategies for moving forward with more awareness, optimism and hope. Email me to schedule a 20 minute FREE consultation to explore how coaching could help you get unstuck and on a positive path.

ADHD Class for Family Members — Why Bother?

What is ADHD really all about?

What is ADHD really all about?

On September 13 I’m offering a class entitled, “Understanding ADD/ADHD for Family Members.” You may be wondering why I’d choose to do a talk for family members of people who have ADHD. After all, it’s the folks who have ADHD who are struggling, right? As the wife of a man who has ADHD, I can tell you that when there is a family member with ADHD, it’s not just the person with ADHD who struggles! The ADHD affects everyone in the family.

A family is a system. The behavior and challenges of any family member affect the equilibrium of the whole system. When a family member has ADHD and family members don’t understand the nature of the disorder and the challenges that come with it, they can unknowingly misinterpret the actions and behaviors of the person with ADHD, and act in ways that contribute to ADHD challenges and miss the opportunity to help their family member manage their ADHD symptoms.

Knowledge is power. When I was unaware that ADHD is a neurobiological disorder, in other words, it’s a physical wiring problem in the brain, one that affects awareness, consistently engaging in action and completing tasks, I couldn’t appreciate the true nature of the beast, the time management, task management, and emotional realities of the disorder.

Without that knowledge, I was quick to judge Bob for procrastinating and avoiding tasks, especially those that I really wanted done. I was impatient, irritable, resentful, and angry that I had to work so hard to compensate for his inaction in certain areas. I was unable to be my best self in our relationship, and unable to interact with him from a place of love. I became part of the problem! I was also incapable of registering Bob’s many gifts and strengths. People with ADHD have many remarkable gifts that can go out of awareness when a family member is focused on the challenging ways ADHD shows up.

When I learned that ADHD is a physical problem with the brain wiring and how ADHD typically shows up, I was able to view Bob’s behavior within the context of the disorder rather than judge it. Learning information about ADHD, its typical symptoms and challenges made it possible for me to look at his behaviors more objectively, with curiosity about how his ADHD showed up. I was then more capable of looking for ways to support Bob in the areas of challenge and help him manage his ADHD so his life, my life and our life together could be more manageable and amiable.

In this speech I intend to provide information about the executive function deficits of ADHD that lead to typical challenges of the disorder, to identify ADHD strengths, and to share what I’ve learned about how to be a supportive partner and live a peaceful life with an ADHD family member.

If you want to be part of the solution for your ADHD family member instead of part of the problem, I hope you’ll join me on September 13. Register now! http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=9lizjscab&oeidk=a07e9m5o60adc54e808

Accepting What Is-A Path to Peace

Years ago I learned to “accept the things I cannot change” when I was participating in meetings for adult children of alcoholics. I got the chance to “accept what is” today when I shut down my computer following several hours of recording my book, Rock Scissors Paper: Understanding How Environment Affects Your Performance on a Daily Basis, and lost the whole recording. That mistake cost me not only the room rental fee and the time spent making the recording, but I had recorded almost half the book. What amazed me was that I didn’t freak out or castigate myself for the error. I was cool, calm and collected. Why?

When something unfortunate happens, like losing my recording, I automatically begin looking for something positive about the incident. And, I hadn’t been completely happy with my tone of voice, especially in the beginning of the recording. I knew I’d have lots of edits to make. Also, I meant to record sections of the book separately and had forgotten to do that. Finally, I was worried that noises in the hall could be heard in the recording.

When the whole thing was wiped out I actually felt relieved because I had no other choice but to start over. Starting over would give me the chance to schedule the recording at a time when there would be less traffic in the building and would make it possible for me to record it section by section as I’d initially intended. I also would not have to make multiple edits that would have been warranted because of my inexperience. I began thinking of today’s session as a practice session for the real recording.

When I accept what is with the knowledge that all things work together for good and look for the positive in every circumstance, I am much less stressed. I also treat myself with more compassion and respect. What do you need to accept that has been causing you emotional distress and angst? Accept what is and get on with life!

Miracles Happen When Two or More Women Are Gathered!

This week I had the pleasure of working with Nancy (names changed to protect confidentiality), a very special, very motivated client who not only paid for me to help her at my out of town rate, but also brought in a friend, Betty, who does some organizing on the side. I was once again reminded of the power of women working together with a common goal.

In this case the organizer, Betty, and I were completely committed to helping Nancy clear her space of clutter and organize what remained. Nancy has been going through some very difficult life challenges in the past three years–a divorce and caregiving aging parents. I suspect our empathy for her current exhausting life circumstances as well as our desire to help set her up to be able to reclaim her own life once her parents have passed on, fueled our efforts. Betty and I had just met that day, but we worked together like partners united with a common cause. It was an incredible feeling to be in the middle of that tornado of positive energy.

By the end of the day we had covered a lot of ground very quickly. We reorganized her dining room/home office which included setting up a filing system, moving a shelf that was blocking a hallway, and reorganizing parts of the garage. I was astounded and impressed with what we accomplished and how well we worked together! And, best of all, during the five hours we labored Nancy transformed from being tense, anxious and uptight to being playful with a relaxed, relieved smile on her face. Women helping women! It is powerful and magical!

Clutter Clearing Takes Time! But Perhaps Not As Much As You Imagine!

Clearing clutter takes time. Excavating a neglected space can take an incredible amount of time. I remember spending two hours sorting the contents of three drawers for a client. Areas that melt down over time and become disorganized masses of stuff truly take more time to confront and resolve than most people have day-to-day and week-to-week. On the other hand, putting items back where they belong on a daily basis usually takes just a minute or two. Yes, you have to do it over and over again, day in and day out. But, doing that ensures that you don’t end up with a nightmare of your own making.

We all have avoided doing an unpleasant task because we thought it would take forever to do and we just couldn’t face it. When we finally made ourselves tackle the chore, we found that it took much less time than we expected.

I remember helping Elsa clear out a bathroom that she had neglected for months. It was loaded with a huge tumble of dirty clothes, cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning products on the floor and on every flat surface. It was also filthy. Dust and soap scum combined to form a grime everywhere that was truly off-putting. It was very difficult to face. It looked like a job that would take days to do.

Focusing on the big items first, the clothing and towels, we saw immediate progress. The task Elsa had avoided dealing with for a month was put in order in 45 minutes.
That kind of progress would not have been possible had Elsa been working alone. It did require a professional who knew where to start and how to make things happen quickly. But, this story clearly demonstrates that the timeline in your head, the one you form when you look at the mess before you and imagine the work that must be done, may not be accurate. If you use an effective process for clearing clutter, it can happen more quickly than you expect.

Bright Lights Can Cause Physical Burnout

This past weekend I was reminded that while good lighting is essential for peak performance, anything taken to an extreme can have negative effects. Mark LeBlanc*, my coach and friend came to Richmond, Virginia, to present his weekend program, Achiever’s Circle. He and I had to make a decision about the best location for him to speak in a meeting room with less than ideal lighting. At one end was a bright fluorescent fixture that gave off very bright light. At the other end were two incandescent table lamps on end tables.

The first day Mark spoke under the bright light. The following two days he spoke at the other end of the room in dimmer light. When I asked Mark about what he noticed about both locations he told me that the bright fluorescent light was just too bright. At the end of his three hour session he was exhausted. He didn’t experience the same exhaustion when speaking at the other end of the room.

This is such a good example of how the kind of light and its qualities can affect performance. Usually I opt for plenty of light for any activity that requires concentration and focus. But, taken to an extreme, lighting, like anything else, can be detrimental. The fact that the lighting was fluorescent probably contributed to Mark’s fatigue. Fluorescent lighting, which buzzes and pops and is not full spectrum, is very difficult on the nervous system.

Feeling exhausted? Be conscious of how much time you spend under bright fluorescent lighting. It could be sucking the energy out of you!

*Mark runs Small Business Success out of Minnesota. He is a small business coach, professional speaker, and author of Growing Your Business and Never be the Same. He can be contacted at www.MarkLeBlanc.com.

Getting Help–The Male/Female Struggle

It’s long been a source of conversation that men hate to ask for directions. We joke about it, but it’s really true! The bigger truth is that men hate to ask for help. I think they are programed that way from childhood. They are taught not to cry, not to be a wimp, not to need any help.

When men are married to women who need some help because they have more on their plate than they can sanely manage, the male mantra of “I’m not paying to have someone do something we can do ourselves!” can become a relationship issue.

The reality is that women are typically the CEOs of their homes. They make sure that there is food in the house, meals are prepared, laundry is done, the house is clean, the interior and exterior of the home are organized and maintained, social events are planned, not to mention that they coordinate the hundreds of activities that are involved with child rearing. In many cases women are doing all that AND working a full time job.

Is it any wonder that sometimes they have difficulty keeping their house organized and clutter free? And, there are women who on top of all those responsibilities have the added challenge of a condition like ADD or depression, neurological problems that make getting and staying organized extremely difficult. In our increasingly complex world there are very legitimate reasons that women need to hire outside help to get and stay organized.

Unfortunately not all women who want to get the help of a professional organizer get the blessing of their husband. I know this happens because I get inquiries from overwhelmed women wanting to know about my services and what I charge. When we end a phone conversation with, “I’ll have to talk to my husband about this,” I rarely hear from them again. In some cases I actually get hired and while we work a woman will tell me, “My husband just doesn’t understand why I need to hire someone to do this. He thinks I should be able to do this myself.” How sad! One client with seven children was so desperate to get help to make her house presentable for a graduation celebration that she hired me, swore her children to secrecy and never told her husband she’d hired me.

When women get the help they need they are less stressed, happier and make better wives and mothers. Why would any man not want that for his wife? My wish is that every man would take a look at his mental programming, those myths that he carries about how needing help from others makes him less of a man, and transform his belief into, “Everyone needs help sometimes. Getting help actually will make all our lives better.”

Diet Detective’s Strategies to Help You Spring Clean Your Life and Lose Weight

This blog entry is offered with permission of the author to help you get organized for good health and a healthy weight. Enjoy!

By Charles Stuart Platkin

While there haven’t been any studies I know of linking clutter to obesity, I do know that being disorganized doesn’t help. Think about the factors that facilitate weight loss: increased physical activity, eating healthier foods, good sleeping habits and a balanced emotional life — all related to an organized, clutter-free life.

The fact is that most failed dieters complain that maintaining a diet is just too much work. The amount of information and control required can be extremely difficult to sustain. This becomes especially important when your control systems are weakened — like when you’re disorganized or stressed. When distractions compete for your attention, the mental workload can be overwhelming. That alone could be the reason you fall off your diet. Therefore, you need to arrange your personal environment to maximize your chances of controlling your weight and minimize your chances of slipping up.

One of the leading barriers to increasing your physical activity is time. If your home and office are disorganized and filled with clutter, you’re probably spending a lot of time simply looking for things you need. When you get rid of the clutter, you can make room for a small exercise area and have easy access to your gym clothing so you can get to the gym. Think about it: If you spend 10 fewer minutes a day looking for things, you can spend 10 more minutes exercising.

Keep in mind, while you’re cleaning and organizing you’re also burning 210 calories per hour – not bad. Here are a few key strategies to help you get organized and declutter:

Organize Your Pantry and Have Healthy Spices Available and Easy to Use

If you believe you can easily prepare healthy foods with a disorganized pantry, you’re mistaken.
· Take everything off the shelves.
· Get rid of expired items and foods that have unhealthy ingredients (e.g., partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup). “Trigger foods” also must go. These are your go-to foods that can lead to binges.
· Clean the shelves and, if possible, paint your pantry white, or some bright color so you can see the foods you have.
· When restocking the shelves, group like foods together and try to make healthy foods easily accessible so that you reach for them first. Several companies make storage containers and tools to help you get organized. ( www.spacesavers.com, www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen)
· Create an easy-to-use spice section. Spices make bland foods taste great, and should be used as part of your cooking process.

· Make sure you have the following:

o Fat-free cooking sprays.
o Fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth.
o Rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar to add a lot of zing.
o Canned beans.
o Whole-wheat bread crumbs and flour.
o Soups and other healthy canned foods: It is not cheating to open a can of low-calorie soup or tuna for a fast dinner. Stock up on these foods — they’re filling, inexpensive and right there when you don’t feel like making a big deal out of dinner.

· Go through your utensils do you really need everything you have? Put things you don’t often use on a top shelf where they won’t get in your way.

· Things you do need:
o Several small plastic cutting boards or mats that fit into your dishwasher.
o Very sharp knives, along with a knife sharpener.
o A food processor or blender to slice, grind, dice, chop and shred.
o A microwave: Great for defrosting meat and reheating leftovers. It also cooks a potato in about seven minutes.

o Pots and pans, readily available and in good working order.

· Make sure your countertops are clean and free of unopened mail, old newspapers and magazines; they’re supposed to be for food prep.

Refrigerator Makeover

Take the Fridge Quiz at www.dietdetective.com/column/refrigerator-quiz.aspx. Would you shop in a dirty, poorly laid out grocery store? Keep your fridge clean and organized into sections, just like a supermarket. Soda and juice are high in calories; try to keep water or unsweetened iced tea in the front so you grab them first. Better yet, toss the cola.

Fruits and veggies should be front and center and at eye level so you see them. Keep all the high-cal foods in the fruit and veggie drawer or in the back.

Be Fitness Prepared

Have a gym bag packed and ready to go. Buy a crate to store all your fitness items, including sneakers, bands, pedometer, gym clothes, fitness DVDs, jump-rope, etc. Make everything easily accessible and ready to use.

Organize Your Closets and Garage
Get all the areas of your life organized, including your closets and garage. Using storage bins is great, as long as they don’t serve as another place to hide stuff you don’t need. If you haven’t used something in the last two years, chances are you will not use it at all. If you do end up storing things, make sure to label and make detailed lists of what’s in each container.

You’ve tried before and it didn’t work? Check out a few of these Web sites:
Real Simple: http://tiny.cc/eQYSZ
Good Housekeeping: www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/getting-organized
Oprah magazine: www.oprah.com/home/Clean-Your-Messy-House-in-6-Months
Unclutter Blog: http://unclutterer.com/
Clutter Diet Blog: http://www.clutterdietblog.com/

And if you can’t do it yourself, find someone to do it for you. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has about 4,200 members — visit their Web site at www.napo.net. You can also take a “help wanted” ad for an organizer on Craigslist.org, or have an organizing party with your friends. (There are always a few friends who would love to get their hands on organizing your house.)
____________________________________

CHARLES STUART PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com. Copyright 2010 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.DietDetective.com

A Personal Empowerment Victory!

Last Friday I visited a BNI (Business Network International) meeting with the intention of promoting my upcoming seminar, Organizing for Productivity and Success, and asking for contacts with church community outreach programs. Being a card carrying introvert, it has been years since I walked into an unfamiliar BNI group. When I entered the dimly lit meeting room, I thought I was walking into a men’s club. The room was filled with middle aged men. At one point in my life that sight would have sent me running. To be alone in a room full of men would have scared me to death!

I was surprised to discover that my experience today was completely different. Though I had a moment of thinking, “Hmmm. . . what have I gotten myself into?”, I quickly recovered and thought, “I can do this. This is going to be an adventure!” Looking back, I realize that I grounded myself by setting my intention–to have an adventure.

I also intuitively chose a seat where I knew I would feel comfortable and empowered, with my back to a solid wall and a full view of the door, near a man who was kind and welcoming. He was the president of the group. As if he knew exactly what I needed, he told me about the group members and their professions. By the time the meeting started I was feeling peaceful and curious about all those men.

During the meeting I realized that I was seated across the table from a man with whom I’d gone to high school. Even though I hadn’t known him well, since he too was an introvert, that familiar face was comforting. Another blessing of this adventure!

I promoted my seminar. I told the group who I am and how they could help me with my business. But, the biggest gift of the meeting was my being able to see how far I have come in my own journey of healing, growth and becoming a competent self-employed professional. No longer plagued with anxiety and free floating fears, I was able to be fully present and empowered. What a great way to end a busy week!

Are you Productive? Efficient? Energetic? Organized?

You may not have a desk like this, but do you ever feel as overwhelmed as you do when you look at this photo?

If you: have too much stuff (and can’t manage); are overwhelmed by disorganization, or are unable to reach your goals, then stop spinning your wheels – just for three hours.

I am leading a workshop to address this.  The workshop might be just the extra push you want to clear clutter and progress toward the life you really want.

Get energized.  Get direction.  Catch your breath, and then get back on track. My workshop, “Organizing for Productivity and Success,” covers essentials of organizing your stuff, your tasks and your time.

  • What are your organizing stumbling blocks?  You’ll get some great ideas about how to overcome them.
  • What keeps you from being as productive as you could be?  You’ll learn some ways to address what’s holding you back.
  • Are you getting what you really want from your time and your efforts?  You’ll arm yourself with ideas and information to take you from where you are to where you really want to be.

When you finish the workshop, you’ll know how to tackle the clutter challenge using the Love It, Use It or Lose It™ method. You’ll be motivated.  You’ll seize control of your time and tasks using proven, simple approaches. And, you’ll find yourself armed with an array of organizing tools.  You’ll use your new tools to work with more focus, more momentum and less stress.

I am offering the workshop on two dates: Thursday, April 22 and Saturday, May 22.  Both dates are 9 a.m. to noon.  The workshops will be held at the Enterprise Meeting Center, 2706 Enterprise Pkwy, Richmond, VA 23294.

Cost at the door is $77.  Save $30 (cost $47) three ways:

  • if you’re a member of the VA Chapter of NAPO –National Association of Professional Organizers,
  • if you’re a client of Bowie’s Rock Scissors Paper Institute, or
  • you RSVP and pre-pay before April 15, for the April workshop, or before May 15 for the May workshop.

Students of her February workshop get in free.

Register in one of two ways:

  • By phone at 804-730-4991. Please provide your credit card information including name on the card, card number, card expiration date and the three numbers on the back, or
  • By mailing a check for $47, postmarked on or before April 15, for the April workshop or May 15, for the May workshop.

Please mail to:

Debbie Bowie

Rock Scissors Paper Institute

7293 Jay Way

Mechanicsville, VA 23111


Create a Compass for Purposeful Productivity

When you make decisions about what tasks to do on any given day, how do you do that? Do you carefully plan out your day based on clearly defined goals? Or, do you get up and just handle whatever comes at you?

In a world of ever increasing complexity, opportunities and distractions it’s so easy to drift along and grab on to the next wonderful possibility that comes along. Even people who do not have a diagnosis of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) can feel like they do have the diagnosis because it’s so easy to bounce around responding to the onslaught of information and technology that comes at them on a daily basis. If you aren’t intentional about choosing how you spend your time, you are at high risk of finding yourself with a life you never really wanted.

Recently I gave a seminar, “Organizing for Productivity and Success”.* I told the attendees that choosing the things they keep in their home, the tasks they do and how they spend their time should be based on what matters to them, those goals and values to which they are committed. It was obvious by the blank stares I got from some of those seminar participants that they had not thought of clutter clearing and time and task management in that way.

Are you completely conscious of what matters to you? I believe that it’s the norm to hit the floor running each day to do the next thing on our to-do list without pausing to think about whether what we are doing is in alignment with our big picture of what really matters to us. We do things because they have always been done that way. We do them because someone else thinks we should. We do them because we think we should. But, if we do those things, will we get what we really want?

I think we’ve learned to put the cart before the horse. The cornucopia of activities available to us, the press of excessive responsibility and an almost obsessive need to get things done so we can avoid losing control drives us into a state of unconsciousness about what’s going on in our own hearts.

It’s time to slow down, go inside and get reacquainted with yourself and what really matters to you. It’s easy to float along with the crowd that is doing the next best thing out there. It may be easier, but in the long run it’s riskier. It takes courage to put on the brakes, pull in and get clear about your heart’s desires. If you do that, you could get behind. You could get off track. But, when you are on autopilot are you sure you’re really on track, your track?

Make the time to stop, have a cup of coffee or tea, and create a list of those things that are most important to you. For example, what really matters to me is to have a happy, healthy and growing relationship with Bob, my husband, to be financially free, to travel and have adventures, to do work that makes a difference in our world, to be healthy and continually learning, to maintain loving and healthy relationships with family and friends, and to have and maintain a lovely and comfortable home and yard. This list may not be complete, but it hits the high points. It is my guide when I get lost in the swirl of possibilities of things to do and have in our world that seems to value productivity over relationship, doing over being, and speed over stillness.

Next, evaluate whether the things you have around you, the tasks you have been doing and how you’ve been spending your time are in alignment with your list. Post your list in a place where you see it often, where it can serve as your compass when life takes over and you find yourself lost in your busyness. Use it as your guide to getting the the “right” things done, tasks that support you getting more of what you really want in life.

Task Management-Do What Matters Most!

You have some time to get something done! Oh boy! What to do? Do you just jump into the first task that passes into your consciousness? Or, do you stop to think about what’s most important given your current goals and priorities? The frantic pace of life today makes the first choice the easy option. Heck! You’re still getting something done. So what if it’s not something with a high payoff! Who cares if doing that less consequential task keeps you from getting where you really want to go!

There are always so many choices when it comes to deciding what to do at any given time. If you don’t stop, even for just a few minutes, to get clear about what really matters to you, you’ll find yourself treading water in your life. You’ll be staying afloat, but not thriving, not really happy. What really matters to you is your guide when you must make decisions about how to spend your time.

How to Organize Your Closet to Reduce Stress

Picture this. . .you desperately need to find one item in a closet jam packed with coats, games, gloves, hats, a vacuum cleaner, and yard flags. Would you be inclined to shut the door and forget the urgency of your quest? Closets become physical nightmares when they’re arranged with the “just throw it in the closet” technique. Is it any wonder that many closets are a variant of the one described above?

What many people don’t know is that a packed closet adds stress to their life. Feng shui teaches that everything in a space is alive with energy, positive or negative. Everything! Individual items in a closet may have good energy because of their quality, their usefulness, or their associations, but when many items are packed in so tight that it’s hard to access any one particular item, the closet as a whole takes on a stressful negative energy. It’s hard to get anything in or out of the closet without creating a mess. Just opening the door is stressful!

What’s the best way to organize a closet? First decide the categories of items that belong in the closet. For example, a closet near the front door usually holds coats and other clothing to protect against the whether. It may hold decorative items for the front door, like flags. It could also house the vacuum cleaner. Three categories: outdoor clothing, outdoor decorative items and the vacuum cleaner.

Second, pull things out of the closet that don’t fit the categories you’ve identified. Put them to the side to be addressed when the closet is done. Notice that it’s not recommended that you immediately put those things somewhere else. You run the risk of getting sidetracked and not returning to finish organizing the closet. Also, it is not necessary to completely empty a closet in order to organize it. You will save significant time if you organize the items without taking all of them out.

Next, evaluate the items that do fit the identified categories to see if they are all of high value, worthy of taking up space in the limited confines of the closet. Ask yourself, “Do I love it? Do I use it?” Items that you love for their usefulness, their aesthetics, or their association, are keepers. So are items you use at least once a year. When you love an item or use it once a year, there’s a good chance that it has positive energy. Items that aren’t either loved or used are good candidates for pitching. They are taking up prime real estate and are likely to have a stressful negative energy.

Third, devise ways to keep the different categories of items separate and clearly visible. This usually involves using containers or building shelves and compartments with a company like California Closets or the Closet Factory. In the closet described above, adding separate bins for hats, gloves, scarves and flags is helpful. The idea is to keep items in one category together yet separated from other categories of items. You run into closet chaos when different types of items are thrown together with no clumping into categories and no visible boundaries between categories.

The larger the closet, the more complicated the organizing challenge because there are likely to be more categories of items to consider. A good rule of thumb for organizing any space is to make sure to place items that are used most frequently in the most convenient locations, no higher than your shoulders and no lower than your hips.

Harlan Brubaker, closet designer with California Closets, reports that, “There are shoe collectors out there for whom 60 pairs is the norm. However, there usually are 12-20 pairs that are used regularly. I try to put them in a high visibility area. The rest go high or low in the closet, preferably in boxes to keep them from getting dusty.” While it would be optimal to have all those shoes stored in one location, all fully visible, it is often not possible.

So, tackle a closet using this four step process.

1. Decide the categories.
2. Remove items that don’t fit the categories.
3. Evaluate and keep only the best items that do fit the categories.
4. Use containers to keep categories separate.

9 Clutter Clearing Tips for Good Feng Shui

We all know that clutter clearing ALWAYS improves the feel of a space. But, many people ask me, “Where should I start?” Following are 9 tips to help you prioritize your clutter clearing efforts. The first three tips are focused on the best locations to begin clearing. The final seven tips identify the types of items to clear for immediate feng shui benefits.

1. Clear clutter from spaces that greet you when you first enter your home.

The condition of the space that greets you when you first enter your home has an immediate effect on your energy. If it’s neat, organized, clean and lovely, you will feel comforted and your energy is likely to go up. If, however, you are greeted by a chaotic environment with lots of clutter, dust and grime, your energy will plummet because you are being assaulted by the negative energy of the space. Create a clutter free greeting and everything that happens after you enter your home is likely to be more peaceful and positive.

2. Clear clutter from spaces where you spend the most time.

After you create a positive greeting you can move on to clear clutter from the kitchen, family room and bathroom areas, places where you spend significant amounts of time. The energy of places where you spend the most time have the most impact on your energy. Clutter clearing shifts the energies of those spaces from negative to positive. Positive energy results in positive interactions with others, positive experiences, and optimal productivity.

3. Clear clutter from your bedroom.

You spend more time sleeping than doing any other activity in your home. The quality of your sleep is directly affected by the condition of your bedroom. A cluttered bedroom is full of negative energy. Negative energy is noisy energy, alerting you to the fact that all is not well, that there are things that need to be done. It’s hard to sleep well when distracted by the shouting chorus of bedroom clutter. And, persistent clutter in the bedroom can have a profound impact on health because you are being exposed to that negative energy for prolonged periods of time.

4. Clear out anything you hate.

Why would you keep something you hate? Hated items are negative energy pure and simple. Their energy will make it easy for you to keep a negative focus. A negative focus will attract more negative circumstances into your life. If the hated item belongs to a family member, make sure it is located in an out of the way area where your aren’t greeted by it on a regular basis.

5. Clear out anything that is broken that can’t be quickly fixed or that is not worth fixing.

Broken things attract being broke or having a broken body (health issues). They are strong sources of negative energy requiring some type of work on your part. If you accumulate numerous broken items you are likely to start to feel broken. Decide quickly whether a broken item is worth the effort and/or cost necessary to fix it. If fixing it is not worth doing, pitch it quickly. If it is worth fixing, take immediate steps to fix it.

6. Clear out irritants that can’t be made less irritating.

Wires are a common source of irritation. If they can be bundled or hidden, they are usually less irritating or not irritating at all. A trash can that is too small for the needs of a space is an irritant when it is constantly full and overflowing. Removing it is the only option for reducing that irritant.

7. Clear out items that immediately remind you of a painful relationship, event or time in your life.

Items with painful negative associations hold the energy of the particular pain in place. It’s hard to move on to a more positive future when you are regularly exposed to the energies of old painful memories.

8. Clear out items that remind you of past failures.

If every time you look at an item you are reminded of a failure, you are being exposed to negative energy that says, “You are a failure!” It’s impossible to feel good about yourself and your successes when surrounded by failure energy. And, failure energy attracts more failure.

9. Clear out items that are used less than once a year.

Using an item is one way to keep its energy alive and positive. Items that are used less than once a year tend to have energies that have gone dead. Dead is negative. You wouldn’t keep dead animals or bugs in your space, why keep dead things. Either activate the item by using it more frequently or pitch it.

Allowing Grief Increases Productivity!

“God sent you to help me!” Roberta said as I entered her office. It was quite coincidental that I stopped by her office just as she was receiving word that she would have to put her beloved dog to sleep. As you would expect, she was crying. And, she was working very hard to convince me that she was OK.

As I observed Roberta working so hard to pull it all together I felt both disturbed and angry. I was disturbed that she was doing what has become a norm in our society. If you lose a loved one, especially someone as insignificant as a dog (I’m being sarcastic), it’s expected that you get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. Why? So other people won’t feel uncomfortable being around you when you are grieving.

I felt angry because that special woman has a right to be human and grieve, even though she holds a leadership position. In fact, her sharing her loss with others could really make a positive difference. It would give others permission to be human too!

As I was thinking about this situation, I thought about the effect of grief on productivity. What is the cost of not grieving in work settings? When you don’t take the time to grieve, to allow the release of sadness, and to honor the person or animal who is no longer part of your life, that grief stays bottled up inside. It’s strength doesn’t dissipate. It is carried as a weight of unexpressed feelings. It takes energy to carry that weight, energy that is not available for efficiently getting things done.

The grief, even when it has gone unconscious, is also very distracting. When you carry grief it’s difficult to get and stay focused on anything for any length of time.

Imagine how much more productive you could be if you routinely took a break to grieve privately when you experience a serious loss instead of immediately getting back to being “normal.” Imagine how wonderful it would be if you could grieve and not worry what others will think of you when your sadness shows.

Speaking-You’ve Got to Roll with the Punches!

I was taught that when you speak for an audience you want to leave them wanting more rather than wishing they had gotten a whole lot less! So, I work very hard to never go over the allotted timeframe for a speech. Today I was scheduled to give two speeches, each one hour in length. I was a little concerned that only five minutes had been scheduled between the two speeches, not much time for people to move from one session to the next, get food and get settled. I knew I’d have challenges managing the time. Then when the previous speaker went over almost fifteen minutes I knew I’d have to cut my speech a bit so participants could keep to the schedule.

I could have freaked out, been angry or resentful. But, instead I chose to remember other speakers describing challenges they’d faced when speaking, and I thought to myself, “This is just one of the realities of speaking. Not everyone keeps to the schedule. How can I make the best of this?” Fortunately I’d prepared well and knew where I could trim my speech. So, those speeches were shorter and more rushed than I would have liked. But, I still had fun delivering them. And, participants were engaged and seemed to appreciate the content. It’s amazing how I was able to shift a stressful challenge to a positive victory by changing my focus and my thoughts!

© 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.

The Productivity Challenge of an Open Schedule

One thing I’ve learned while recuperating from bunion surgery is that I am far more productive when I have a busy schedule than when I have an open schedule. I thought I’d get so many tasks done that require chunks of time to accomplish. Not! I guess the pressure of the busy schedule helped me be strategic with my time, given that the windows that were not scheduled were few and far between. Conversely, the lack of structure and consequently the lack of pressure of an open schedule make it easy for me to drift about.

For years speech participants have shared that they had high aspirations for the projects they’d get done once they retired. Once retired, however, they found they got less done than when they were working full-time. Now I really understand how that could happen!

Being able to drift for a little while is probably good for me. I’m a slave driver with myself. I really love getting things done, so I work hard and long and play very little. But, if the unstructured schedule was to become my norm, I’d have to create a structure and hold myself to it. Otherwise, life could get out of control pretty quickly!

Are you drifting when you’d rather be productive? Create a structure specifying when specific activities will be done. Or, hold yourself to doing a specific number of important tasks per day. If you find yourself cheating on the structure you’ve established, find an accountability partner who is regularly informed of your goals and timelines and to whom you can report your progress on a regular basis. Then watch your productivity soar!

Timeshare Nightmare–Lessons Everywhere!

Have you ever had a weak moment and said “yes” when you should have said “NO!” Well, that was me last year. In a weak moment, when I was longing for time away with my husband, I agreed to pay a small sum for an opportunity to spend three days and two nights in a hotel in Williamsburg, VA in exchange for 90 minutes of our time. We’d done this before. We knew we were going to be urged to buy a timeshare.

Well, the hotel was old. The room was small and smelled like disinfectant. Worst of all, THE WALLS WERE WHITE!!!! If you’ve been reading my blog for any time now you must know that I really feel very uncomfortable in rooms with white walls. The thought of spending time in a room that felt like I was in the middle of a blizzard made me want to run for Richmond! Add to that, my husband was not thrilled be there in the first place! Great!

The pitch we got the next day took almost three hours instead of the promised 90 minutes. We were hammered by not one, but two salesmen. Thank goodness we had agreed beforehand that we were not buying anything! To get through the ordeal, I watched the process they used to try to convince us that we could not leave without committing to at least $11,400 of debt in exchange for travel opportunities. Their effort was really impressive! Those men were masters of manipulation!

By the time we left with our gifts, starving and with a whopping headache, I felt like I’d been through the wringer. The whole experience was really difficult and exhausting. So much so that all I wanted nothing more than to go to our frosty hotel room (previously thought of as the smelly blizzard room), curl up with a book and take a nap! Instead we took one of our “gifts” and bought and wolfed down a much needed late lunch (we had had no breakfast!).

When we finally got back to our room, I was amazed that the room that had seemed such a disappointment the night before could so quickly become a safe haven following our traumatic experience. My thoughts and emotions were transformative. Yes, the walls were still white, stark and unwelcoming, but the bed was comfortable and we could close the door to decompress and recover from my mistake.

I think the Universe sometimes gives us very unpleasant experiences to help us learn lessons we keep failing to learn. One lesson was that I can handle a white room when it’s more appealing than being battered by a salesman! Another lesson was, “Just say NO to ANY phone solicitations, ESPECIALLY those that offer free vacations!!!!!” And finally I learned that it’s important to make sure that my basic needs for rest, relaxation, and recreation with my husband are met so I’m not so vulnerable to offers that sound good but really cost more than is immediately evident!

© 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.

Professional Organizing is Sacred Work!

“My husband’s father died last night.” I had known that my client’s father-in-law was expected to die. When I heard those words, however, I knew that what I was able to accomplish that day would not only help Jill clear her kitchen so its renovation could proceed, but I’d be helping her whole family face a sad and difficult time fully grounded with no worries at home when they flew to Texas for the funeral.

After four hours of decision-making, intense packing, and moving boxes, I left Jill with only a few minor tasks to do to have her kitchen and dining room clear for construction. As I got ready to leave, she gave me a hug and a relieved smile and said, “I don’t know what I would have done without you!”

The work I did that day was some of the most gratifying I have recently done. It gave me such pleasure to ease Jill’s burden by my presence and my ability to get things done for her so she can better handle her current challenges. That is sacred work!

© 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.

A New Speech and Book!

I’m looking for opportunities to speak!!! I have developed a new speech and have written my first book (due out in September), both with the same name: Rock Scissors Paper: Understanding How Environment Affects Performance on a Daily Basis.

Do you want to feel motivated to transform your home and office spaces into high performance places where you can accomplish your goals and get more of what you really want on a daily basis? Plan to order my book! Schedule me to speak for a company or association that wants to offer its staff or members a speech that will create a stir and motivate people to make tangible changes in their offices that translate to tangible profits.

Contact me now to schedule a speech! Order your copy of my book in August!

Get Further Faster! Get a Coach!

I finally gave in and got a coach. What took me so long? I didn’t think I could afford to do it! Scarcity mentality? You bet!

I’d heard successful speakers say that getting a coach was essential to getting them where they’d gotten. I knew I really needed one. I was working so hard, but was I using my time, money and energy wisely? No!

When I spoke to Elizabeth Hayden, a fellow professional organizer and professional speaker, I learned that she was getting coaching from Mark LeBlanc. I knew Mark. In fact, I attended his Achiever’s Circle, a weekend business development retreat, in 2008. After that experience I really wanted to get coaching with Mark. But, I still believed there was no way I could afford it. When I learned that Elizabeth was getting coaching from him, my desire got stronger. Still, I took no action.

Several months ago I got an email from Dianne Morr, an editor I had met in Mark’s Achiever’s Circle. She told me how much she enjoyed my bi-monthly new tips. And, she just happened to mention that she’d been getting coaching from Mark.

Now, that got my attention! I thought, “If Dianne can afford it, I should be able to afford it.” I’ve learned when I hear something twice it’s the Universe’s way of nudging me to take action. First Elizabeth, then Dianne. I got the message and made the call. Guess what? Mark has a special coaching program just for his Achiever’s Choice participants! And, I could afford it!

In the first hour of coaching with Mark, he helped me set a financial goal for my business, clarify my speech topic and target market (something I’d been wrestling with for about two years), and got me to commit to writing a book in 90 days. As a result of that one hour, I am clear about my key message and better able to sell what I do. I have raised my rates and am bringing in enough additional revenue per month to more than pay for my coaching. And, I just sent a rough draft of my book off to my editor. Pretty amazing!

And, there’s more. Knowing that Mark, an incredible person, expert speaker and business coach, is walking beside me and believing in me as I build my speaking business has given me the courage to do things that I’ve needed to do but have avoided doing. Though I speak with him only once a month and email him occasionally, I feel his support all the time. That support has kept me more effectively focused and productive in the last two months than in the last two years. What a gift!

Want to move further faster? Get a good coach!

Less Paper, More Writing Success!

Today I found myself thinking that since I’ve been keeping only the hottest of my “to do” items on my desk, writing my book, blogs and news tips has been easier to do. Keeping many fewer distracting papers out and visible has made it easier for me to go inside, access ideas and put them into writing.

Now, you’re probably wondering where all the rest of the papers went. I filed many of those that I knew I wouldn’t deal with anytime soon. I can access them when I’m ready. They don’t have to stay in an overwhelming pile in my line of sight.

The rest that I might take action on sooner than those I filed are in a basket behind me on top of a filing cabinet. They are out of sight, but not out of reach! The only papers on my desk are those I intend to do something about this week. That stack is much smaller than the total stack of all I’d like to get done.

Just think of how much important wisdom you could access if you weren’t distracted by piles of paper! How can you make them disappear and still access their information when you need them?

Computer Crash! A Search for Blessings!

My computer crashed last week. One day it worked. The next day, after a particularly bad thunder storm, it didn’t. After an initial panic, because it was the computer that my assistant uses to do my bookkeeping and all her work for me, I got into my problem-solving mode. After all, how was panicking going to help me restore computer order to my office? I first noted my blessings.

  • My Mac was still working.
  • I have a great computer guy, Roy Parker of PCSolutions4U.
  • The computer was still under warranty.

Then I began making the necessary calls. First I called my assistant to let her know she wouldn’t be able to work for me the next day. That actually worked out well for both her family and mine because it was the Friday before the 4th of July and we all got to sleep in. She also urged me to check out my homeowner’s insurance to determine if I have coverage for this type of incident. That reminded me that years ago I had signed up for an Equipment Breakdown rider. A light in the end of a dark tunnel!

Next I left a message for my computer guy. When he returned my call within the hour, he informed me that my warranty period ended in April. Rats! But, he would be able to look at the computer the next day to diagnose its problems.  

That done, I began to mess with the mess of wires under my desk in an attempt to figure out what happened–by myself! In the process I got the wires organized and sorted so I know what’s going on down there.

Can you see what an up and down process I had to go through as I worked to solve my computer problem? It was hard to keep my thoughts positive and spirits up throughout the whole ordeal. But, because I was looking for good things to emerge from the experience, I found them.

  • I got to sleep late the next day.
  • I was reminded I have insurance that can help me defray the cost of replacement or repair.
  • I have a willing, wonderful, and trustworthy man to tell me the truth about my computer’s health.
  • I have organized wires under my desk!

I’ve learned to look for the good even when it feels like I’ve been pooped on by the Universe! If nothing else, looking for the good kept me from cursing and likely attracted just the help I needed!