Tag Archives: clearing clutter

Find Information & Motivation to Clear Clutter

“I don’t know where to start.” “I don’t know how to start.” “I just can’t seem to get around to it.” “I can’t seem to get started.” Those comments speak to two common problems people have addressing their clutter challenges: lack of information and difficulty with motivation. Many good intentions to be rid of clutter have died at the feet of those two problems.

From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover, was written to address both of those problems. Those who struggle to get started with clutter clearing will be armed with specific information about what to clear, how to clear it, and how to get started plus specific chapters devoted to clearing clutter from every room of the house. They will also find step-by-step clutter clearing plans at the end of every chapter.

People are motivated to take action either because they are in great pain or when there is the opportunity for great rewards. Life in a cluttered environment can be painful, but often not painful enough to incite action. In fact, the negative energies of the clutter actually suppress motivation.

What if clearing clutter could improve your life? Would that motivate you to clear clutter? Feng shui teaches that what you have in your space affects what happens in your life. Change your space (clear clutter) and conditions in your life will improve.

In addition to information about how to clear clutter from every room of your house, From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year also includes information about how to create good feng shui throughout your house. Create good feng shui and you will reap rewards. First, new, good things will show up in your life — money, new relationships, improved relationships, needed resources, good health, job opportunities, etc. Life will run more smoothly. You will have less stress and more inner peace and comfort. Entertaining will be easier and house guests will feel utterly comfortable in your home.

One women cleared clutter from the corner of her living room that holds the energy of wealth and prosperity and shortly thereafter got a $2,000 a year raise from a state agency. That’s almost unheard of!

Plus, From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year will teach you how to look at your belongings through feng shui eyes, a process that is much more fun than asking traditional clutter clearing.

Arm yourself with information and motivation to clear your clutter. Be one of the first to get From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year by pre-ordering your copy at a reduced rate. Until December 1 you can order the book for just $20.65 including shipping. That is a $2 savings! To order, please send a check to: Debbie Bowie, 7293 Jay Way, Mechanicsville, VA 23111.

Clutter Clearing: Make It Fun to Get It Done!

I can see the wheels turning in your head. Clutter clearing can be fun? Is this lady off her rocker?

How many bags of trash can you get rid of?

Clearly she hasn’t seen MY clutter!

No, I haven’t seen your clutter, and some clutter is more difficult to address than others. However, there are ways to make the process of clutter clearing less onerous and actually more pleasurable.

  1. View the task at hand as a treasure hunt. Rather than focusing on all the useless stuff you are going through and lamenting that you let things get so bad, look for the gold in the midst of the clutter. I’ve found gift cards, money, birth certificates and titles to cars in what looked like piles of useless papers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client utter, “Oh, I’ve been looking for that.” Just yesterday a client found two important items that she needed and was thrilled to locate. Remember, you can locate good stuff when you clear clutter. Keep your focus on the gold!
  2. Put on your favorite high energy music. Music can give you energy to begin clutter clearing, and can engender good feelings to distract you from the challenge at hand.
  3. Focus on the progress you are making. When you keep your eye on how much you are purging instead of how much more needs to be done, you will get pleasure from your accomplishment.
  4. Invite a supportive family member or friend to help you. Working with a person who is not judgmental, who actually wants to help you get the job done, can be a pleasurable social event. You’ll also get more done much more quickly. The presence of that person will also make it easier to manage feelings of fear, anxiety and overwhelm if they surface.
  5. Challenge a friend to a clutter clearing competition. The person who has cleared out the biggest quantity of clutter within a specific time period wins. Be sure to identify the prize for the winner. Make it something that is highly motivating like being treated to dinner at a very special restaurant.
  6. Take before and after photos to chart your progress. The benefit of taking photos is that it keeps you focused on positive outcomes rather than the enormity of your task. Even if you spend just 15 minutes clearing clutter, take before and after photos. The photos are tangible evidence that will tell the story of your journey to restore order to your space. They also indicate that the work you are doing is important, worthy of documentation.
  7. Count the number of bags/boxes you get rid of. It is truly amazing how much you can part with when you clear out items you no longer love or use. Take photos of the piles of bags of donations, trash and recycling that come out of one closet, one bedroom, one area of a room, etc. The quantity of bags/boxes that leave a space when clearing can be mind-boggling. Celebrate your success by keeping track of how much you purge.
  8. Hire a professional organizer. Like working with a family member or friend, working with a professional organizer makes clutter clearing a fun social event. Because a professional organizer has experience and knowledge of strategies for clearing clutter the fun comes from making progress about four times as quickly as you could do it on your own. Also, a professional organizer will model how to approach the challenging task of clutter clearing, and will teach you how to do it on your own and how to prevent clutter accumulation in the future.

Keep your focus finding treasure and charting your progress. Add in effective support, and tackling and eliminating clutter can be a positive, empowering experience. What will you do to make your clutter clearing fun?

Support Speeds Clearing Out Parents’ Homes

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

Mom and my step-father, John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Feng Shui Following the Death of a Pet

Last week we said good-bye to Jake, our beloved terrier mutt. He had been part of our lives for 11 years and 3 months. It was time. He was 15-17 years old. He had had a good life with us. His little body wore out, though his devotion to me never did. It was a very difficult decision to let him go.

What did I do in the aftermath of his death? I took up all the beds he slept on, threw several away because they were not in good shape, and washed the rest. I was driven to change the environment to reflect the fact that Jake was no longer with us. Otherwise, every time I’d look at one of those beds I’d picture him curled up in it and my broken heart would crack open again. I put his food bowl away in a cabinet. Seeing it would keep my heart wounds raw. I also took all his dog food and bagged it to donate to the SPCA.

Why did I act so quickly to remove his things? Those things associated with his daily activities held his energy that once was so alive and vibrant but now is gone. They held the sadness about his decline and death in place, making it hard for me to grieve his death and move beyond it.  Feng shui teaches that it is important that your space reflect your current self, your current reality. By clearing out things that would cause pain whenever I saw them, I was signaling to the Universe that I choose to let go of the energy of death and decline and instead focus on good memories of Jake when he was alive and thriving.

As so often happens when I clear my space of things that don’t reflect my current reality, my mind cleared and I noticed that I have no photos of Jake displayed in our house. I have photos on my computer, but none that I can enjoy seeing every day. With that new awareness I began planning ways to hold his energy in our space. I will print out a photo to frame. I also plan to make a photo book of him to hold his sweet energy in place.

When you lose a loved one, you have a choice. Keep things that hold the energies of death, decline and sadness in place or release them in favor of things that hold positive memories and good feelings. It’s a choice to stay stuck in grief or move through it.

The Five-Step Clutter Clearing Process

Clearing clutter is a complex process that can be difficult for even the

Clutter clearing, you too can do it!

most determined and intelligent person. How do you start? Where do you start? How do you keep going? Below are 5 steps to help you get started so you can experience success and be motivated to keep clearing.

1 Remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. What you do may not produce stunning results quickly, but doing any clearing shifts energies in a positive direction. 

2 Set a small goal for yourself. For example, plan to work for ten minutes. Set a timer and go to work. When the timer goes off, stop. Most of us can work for ten minutes. During that time do whatever is easiest to create some new order. Throwing away trash is usually easy. Clearing off a table might be easy. Finding a bag full of things to give away might be easy.

3 Start with the biggest items in the space you are clearing. Check the energy of big things. Ask yourself, “Do I love this?” If you have no special emotional attachment to the item, ask yourself, “Do I use this?” If the answer is “no” or “not in the last year”, consider losing it.

Moving big items allows you to see and feel yourself making progress and will motivate you to keep clearing. 

As soon as you decide to eliminate an item, remove it from the space, preferably by placing it just outside the door. It’s not a good idea to pause in the evaluation process to take the item much further than outside the door, because you risk getting sidetracked doing something else.

Removing the item from the room releases the energy that the item was holding. That released energy is then available to use as you continue making decisions about what to keep and what to release. The bigger the item, the bigger the energy release that is then available to you.

As you make decisions and move things out of the room, your energy will also increase, and making decisions becomes easier. Your brain begins to generate creative new ideas about what you can do in your space.

When you find that removing things from the room is getting difficult because of the quantity of items outside the door, stop sorting. Reward yourself by taking those items to their respective locations. DO NOT stop to reorganize the new location, even if you cannot easily put things away. Just leave items in the areas where they belong and make a mental note that the area needs your attention at a later date. Then, return to your project.

4 Congratulate yourself on your success. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Some of you are thinking, “So, I did ten minutes of clearing in a house that needs ten weeks of clearing. What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that you made a plan to clear and kept it. You got started. Remember, every bit of clearing helps. And, if you don’t stop and feel the good feelings that come from the accomplishment of the work you’ve done, how are you going to motivate yourself to continue? It’s a head game. Play it!

5 Schedule your next clearing session, preferably sooner rather than later. Repeat the process. All progress makes a difference as long as you aren’t creating more chaos between clearing sessions than the amount you cleared.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If that’s the case, why do people avoid decluttering? How do their spaces become nightmares right before their eyes? The fact that something sounds simple doesn’t make it easy to do. Clutter clearing involves making so many decisions. You not only need to decide what to keep and what to pitch, but also where to start and what to do with all your things as you work. It can be a great logistical challenge with the potential for distraction everywhere.

When I work with clients, part of my job is to keep them from running away. Even though I am in charge of the process and of making it easier for them, they are still affected by the way the space feels and by the enormity of the decision-making process. Your job is to keep yourself clearing despite the urge to run away.

Dining Room Multiple Functions Create Clutter

Scanned Image 102260152The obvious function of the dining room is a gathering place to enjoy a meal. In recent decades with the advent of fast food, the busy schedules people keep, and a shift toward more casual living, dining rooms are less and less often used solely for the purpose of dining. Now dining in that room may only happen on special occasions like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. The rest of the time the room often sits in wait for the occasional special meal, or becomes an annex of the home office or kitchen desk, or a study spot for children. And, those new functions often bring paper with them!

Why does the dining room seem to attract the paper that belongs in a home office or the study materials of children? Because the dining room table is a large flat surface in the proximity of the kitchen. Many kitchens have a postage stamp sized desk, if they have one at all. And, paper lands in the kitchen from all directions–mail, school papers, action items for the woman of the house, shopping lists, coupons, menus, etc. It’s quite understandable that papers would gravitate to one of the nearest flat surfaces if the kitchen desk is already overwhelmed or non-existent.

Some children are not comfortable doing homework in their bedrooms all by themselves. They are wired such that having people nearby actually helps them focus. So, the dining room is a perfect place to park to do homework assignments–close enough to the activity of others, but at enough distance to be able to concentrate on homework tasks.

So, when you think about clearing clutter from your dining room, first get real about its current functions. What activities actually happen there? What activities do you want to have happen in that space? Knowing the answers to those questions will be your guide for what to keep and what to clear out of the space.

By the way, it’s good feng shui to have something happening in every room on a regular basis. Your dining room holds energies that affect your life. It’s always optimal to have some type of activity in a space–active energy–as opposed to stagnant–dead energy. Giving your dining room a few additional functions besides being a dining area could be an energetic asset for your home.

I recommend that if you still want to use your dining room as a dining area, even only occasionally, that you do your best to maintain the look and feel of the dining room. The risk of combining other functions with the dining function is that the room could become a clutter haven if it houses messy functions that involve paperwork or creative projects.

If other functions are added, like study area, bill pay area, tax prep area, wrapping area, art creation area, fabric cutting area, etc., either contain the items associated with those functions out of sight in a piece of furniture or bring in the items necessary to do the activity and clean up once you’re done. Developing the discipline to maintain the dining room as a place where you could enjoy a meal at a moment’s notice is an important skill for every family member. And, it makes it much more likely that the room will be used for its original function — dining.

So, what’s the function of your dining room? Dining rooms can be beautiful, inviting spaces if they are treated with the respect they deserve.

Clutter Clearing & Feng Shui: Not All “Love It” Energy is Created Equal

Feng shui teaches that we should live with what we love to attract good into our lives. “Love it” things hold positive energies and in turn enhance our spaces and our lives. Items can be loved for many reasons: their shape, their color, their functionality, the way we feel in their presence, the memories associated with them. 

IMG_2615My pink hat is a “love it” item. It is my favorite hat. It is a favorite shade of pink and has silver sequins scattered all over it. I love its appearance. I love the way it fits. I love the way I look in it. All that love makes it a high energy item, one worthy of keeping in my space.

But, the love goes deeper than that. It was also a thoughtful gift from my husband who knew I love pink. It holds the energy of his caring and his remembering what I love. It is associated with Bob and his love for me. That association transformed the energy of that hat from a “love it” item to a “LOVE IT” item.

IMG_2581

Bob, me and the pink hat!

You’re probably thinking that’s all the “love it” energy one hat can hold. But, the story continues. I took that hat with me on my recent vacation to New Mexico for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I wore it each time we went to the balloon park to see hundreds of hot air balloons inflate and take off like magical colorful jewels in the sky. It hid my “bed head” hair, and kept me warm in the wee hours of the morning as we waited shivering in the dark for the first balloons to light up. It became part of the memory of that incredible experience. Its “LOVE IT” energy ratcheted up to LOVE IT” energy.

What kind of “love it” energies do you have in your space? Not all “love it” energy is created equal! If you are a person who loves so many things that your space has become uncomfortable because of their quantity, check out the strength of the love you actually feel for those items. 

For the best feng shui and the most energy benefit from “love it” items, check out the reasons why you love each item. Do you love an item because you really love it or because you don’t want to let it go? Ask yourself, “Does this item have “love it,” “LOVE IT,” or “LOVE IT” energy? Checking out the associations and stories associated with items is a great way to more easily make decisions about whether items have adequate “love it” energy to be taking up prime real estate in your home and in your life. 

Consider letting go of lesser “love it” items. In so doing you’ll be clearing clutter and making space for items of higher energy that can positively affect your energy and attract more positive into your life.

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!

The Urge to Purge Following a Death

Missing John Arrix

My step-father died this week. I observed his struggle to let go of life. When it was over, the first step was to notify Hospice of Virginia who would call the funeral home to remove the body. Once John’s spirit was gone, his body was a shell and we needed the body taken away as soon as possible. It was just a reminder of his struggle, of his dying, of the horror of death.

Once John’s body had been taken away, I looked around the room where he spent his last hours and saw the empty hospital bed and all the supplies that had been used while he had spent his final days at home: the bandages, the gloves, the creams and ointments, the chucks and diapers. They were all reminders of the care he had received, the care that was just palliative, not life saving. They had to go.

First I asked Hospice of Virginia to make arrangements to have the bed removed as soon as possible. Then I took a quick look at the supplies. My first urge was to dump them all in the trash. We would not have them had John not been deathly ill. Yes, some of them could be useful at a later date. I kept the moisture lotion and bandaids and gave Portia Bea from Visiting Angels permission to take whatever she thought she or Visiting Angels could use. The rest went into the trash. Once I’d made my decision about what to keep, Portia cleared everything from the room that reminded us of John’s struggle.

All of this activity occurred in the first hour following John’s death. It seemed imperative to return the bedroom back to its pre-sickroom state. Because I’d been up all night with John, it was a blessing to have Portia’s assistance with the clean up. She even vacuumed the room.

Once the bed was taken away and the room returned to its previous appearance, I found myself clearing out John’s medications, corralling all reminders of the previous five weeks of assessing John’s condition and providing help. I wanted my mother, who had lost the love of her life, to be able to grieve the loss of John rather than be distracted by the signs of his illness.

Every item associated with John’s illness and death held the energy of death. I felt compelled to remove those items whose energy screamed death and loss. I kept some medical records, papers that later could help my Mom make sense of this terrible time. I kept the baby monitor because it is possible we might need it in the future for my Mom, but I stored it in a drawer out of sight. I kept the lotion because it could easily blend in with other skin lotions and lose its association with death.

The next step is to clear the energy of death from the room by burning sage.

All that clearing gave me a much needed focus in the first two days after John left us. It also relieved my Mom’s lovely house of the signs of struggle, reminders of the horror we had all experienced while watching John leave us. And, last night my Mom, though very sad, was able to retrieve the photo albums of her life with John and shift her focus from the dying that had just occurred to the joys and pleasures of the life she had lived with him
.

Clutter Clearing Can Be Comforting

I’m sitting in McDonald’s in Kilmarnock, VA, taking a break from watching the process of my step-father’s death. I’m attempting to take care of myself in the midst of a very painful phase of life–helping parents at the end of life.

Because it’s hard for me to write and work on aspects of my business, I’ve been doing what I teach clients to do when they can’t do what they think they should be doing. I’ve been clearing easy stuff. Today the easy stuff is emails that just aren’t important given what is going on right now. It’s amazing how easy it is to clear out emails that I usually pause over. I just don’t have the time or energy to consider all the discussion group emails, the networking emails, the offers of products to buy. And, I certainly don’t need them cluttering up my inbox!

I’m saving all the kind notes of support from friends and people who read my newsletters and blog posts. I want to thank each person for their kindness. I’m responding to emails regarding appointments, speaking engagements and other aspects of my business. Nothing else really matters right now.

Somehow clearing out the non-essential emails has helped me feel more in control of my life at this moment. I am certainly not in control of what is happening with my step-father. The hospice nurse said the timing of his death depends on his will, that it’s between him and God. I’m just an observer of a process that is so much bigger than me.

Clutter clearing can be comforting in difficult times.

Transform Christmas Clutter Clearing Into Community Service

In response to my recent post about Christmas clutter clearing, one reader shared two great ideas for clutter clearing that can help nursing home residents have a happier holiday. She gave me permission to share her ideas with you.

  1. Instead of recycling or tossing extra unused Christmas cards, offer them to the residents of a local nursing home to save them the expense and the hassle of buying cards. You might even consider including stamps with the cards to make it easy to write a note and mail the card. Nursing home residents have limited space, so saving unused cards from year to year is probably not possible. They are likely to welcome your offering of cards.
  2. If you decide to discard ornaments because you no longer use them, purchase a Rosemary Tree or Norfolk Island Pine, often available at your grocery store during the holiday season, to decorate with those ornaments and ribbon remnants. Then, offer the tree to a nursing facility. Those live trees and your ornaments can then bring smiles to the faces of the residents.

What wonderful ideas for transforming clutter clearing into meaningful community service! Clutter clearing doesn’t have to be an onerous task if it results in helping you reduce stress and in lifting the spirits of some often forgotten members of your community.

© 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.

Clutter Clearing: The Importance of Accountability

You’ve decided that this weekend you’ll tackle the clutter in your bedroom. You know it’s affecting your ability to sleep peacefully. When you wake to it every morning you feel like such a slacker for allowing it to sit there and grow day by day. What a great way to start each day!

The weekend comes and once more you wake to your personal clutter nightmare. You tell yourself you’ll do it, but first you’ll have a cup of coffee and read the paper. Then you get a phone call from a friend asking you to go to a craft fair. The bedroom is waiting. You told yourself you’d do it this weekend. But, there’s always Sunday to get to the bedroom clutter. And, after all, you do want to have more work/life balance! Off you go with your friend. The bedroom clutter goes untouched for one more day.

Sunday arrives. You groan as you crawl out of bed and again look at the clutter. Today is the day. But, first you must go to church and then have brunch with friends. When you get home your husband wants you to help him with a project in the garage. To keep the peace and make progress in the garage you table the bedroom clutter clearing project for later in the day. Then the children need your help with a school project. The next thing you know, it’s time to make dinner. Once again, the bedroom clutter remains untouched. You tell yourself, “It’s gone this long. It can wait one more week.”

Sound familiar? Other than doing taxes or going to the dentist, almost anything is more appealing than clearing clutter. Clutter that has been sitting for any length of time has a static energy that makes addressing it seem like moving a block of cement. It’s energy is so negative. Moving it requires making so many decisions. That takes energy and focus, both of which are hard to come by in lives filled to the brim with activities and obligations. No wonder clutter clearing seems so overwhelming!

So, how do you make yourself do it? One way I get myself to follow through with onerous tasks is to tell another person what I intend to do and ask them to hold me accountable. What does “hold me accountable” mean? The way they hold me accountable is to check back with me to see if I did the task, to remind me that I thought doing it was important for my well-being and peace of mind. Holding me accountable is not nagging me, berating me or shaming me into doing the task. It is simply to ask the question and remind me of my intention.

For some reason when I tell another person I am going to do something, I am less likely to blow off the task. Who can you ask to hold you accountable for tackling a clutter clearing project in your home? Make sure whomever you choose is a supportive, loving person, not someone who will give you a hard time. It’s even better if that person also wants to make progress in some area of his/her life and also needs help with accountability. You can then be accountability buddies.

If you find you have difficulty identifying a good candidate for an accountability buddy, I will be offering a new accountability opportunity in the new year. Look for future posts outlining the details of The 12 Months of Clutter Clearing Challenge, a special program designed to help people get clutter clearing done.

Conquer Clutter Clearing Overwhelm: Get a Body Double!

“I get so much done when you’re here!” remarked the weary principal of a public elementary school. That comment caused me to pause and think about what she meant. She is a woman who works non-stop, carrying the workload of at least five people. And, she has been recognized as an outstanding principal in her school system. That kind of recognition doesn’t happen unless the principal is a highly competent leader and manager. In other words, she must be productive every day. So what exactly did she mean?

On reflection, I think she meant that when I’m there she is able to make herself face tasks that she would normally avoid or not get around to doing on her own. The pace and complexity of her job are such that she literally runs from one task/event/meeting to another, dropping books, papers and other printed materials in her office as she flies through her days. Her hit and run method of managing “the stuff” associated with her work eventually results in an office littered with piles of undifferentiated papers and books, each having a very negative, overwhelming energy. Over time their energy becomes not only more negative, but stagnant, making the possibility of addressing them seem like an insurmountable task. Putting out fires is always preferable to digging into piles of old papers.

Why can she tackle those piles when I work with her? First, I take the lead. She gets a break from having to be in charge. I strategically feed her items to address, going from the larger items to smaller items and single pieces of paper. That approach allows us both to immediately see progress being made.

Second, she has support and company from me while doing a task that she normally would avoid. My being there makes the work more like a social event. People in her position, at the top of the leadership ladder, often find it lonely there. Her position of perceived power makes it difficult for her to let her guard down and enjoy the company of those she supervises. I have worked with her for many years. She pays me, but I am not part of the system she manages day to day. Time and experience have proven that I am safe. She can be less guarded and formal with me. I also help ground her so that the anxiety she feels about the possibility of discovering forgotten tasks is more bearable.

Because I am in charge of the process she is free to focus on making decisions about what to keep, what to get rid of, and the priority of each “to do” item we uncover. I also help keep her focused on the task at hand by prioritizing the piles that will be reviewed. I make sure that we make the fastest progress possible.

Judith Kolberg, author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization and ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, labeled my role as “body double.” Just being in the space with my client increased the odds that dreaded tasks would be faced and completed.

When faced with boring tasks that seem overwhelming, consider finding a body double to help you. I am a paid professional body double. In that role I am fairly directive. But many people just need a non-judgmental, caring person who is willing to be present while they work. The person can assist at your request, but should not take the lead unless they have your permission. Often their presence alone, which makes the task a social event, provides support and grounds them, is enough.

As we were leaving the school following our session my client’s last words were, “Well, I feel better.” You can too! Find a good body double!

Clearing Clutter/Getting Things Done Connection

When I recently reflected back on the 11+ years that I have been working full-time as a professional organizer and the two to three years that I have been writing regularly about my organizing experiences and lessons I’ve learned, I realized that there are two areas of the organizing process that I enjoy most: clutter clearing and helping people get things done. I am both very sensitive to energy and visually oriented, therefore I am very affected by the negative effects of clutter. And, I’m a task-oriented person. I like to get things done, finished, settled, decided. So, it makes sense that clutter clearing and getting things done would be my primary areas of interest.

After I pinpointed my primary organizing interests I began to think about the connection between clutter clearing and getting things done. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Clutter is a physical block to getting things done. The negative energy of clutter blocks both the thinking and the inclination to get things done.
  2. Clearing clutter makes it possible to see what needs to be done and frees energy to make taking action possible.
  3. When clutter has been cleared it is easier to plan what needs to be done and to problem-solve how to get things done.
  4. Some clutter is the physical evidence of tasks that have not been done. For example you might leave the paint can and brush out in a room to remind you to touch up a painted surface.
  5. Unfinished projects can have the same negative energy as clutter.
  6. Getting things done reduces clutter.

Clearly clearing clutter and getting things done are intertwined! Go clear some clutter today and make it easier to get things done!

Conclusions:

  • If people made a commitment to keeping their spaces clutter free, they would be more productive.
  • If people were more productive, there would be less clutter.

Want More Energy? Clear Clutter!

Yesterday I had the honor of helping a lovely twelve year old girl, “Anna”, clear clutter from her bedroom. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why is that an honor?” It’s an honor because she welcomed me into her personal space and gave me permission to guide her in her decision-making. When I help people clear clutter, the energies in their lives shift and change for the better. It was an honor to be on that journey with her.

As we began working, Anna was reserved and somewhat aloof with me. That behavior is very common when I first begin clutter clearing with new clients. It was especially reasonable for a child working with an adult she hardly knew.

The way I work is to ask questions about the items in the room, starting with the biggest and moving on to the smallest. As we moved through that process it was fascinating to observe Anna morph from a self-contained soul sitting curled up in a little ball on her bed, answering my questions in a perfunctory manner, into an excited young colt bounding around the room gathering up items to evaluate and discard. Her shift from no energy to boundless energy was impressive.

I can’t remember the specific moment when Anna’s energy shifted. I have a hunch that it happened when we moved a small dresser from her closet to make more room for her to work in her closet. The dresser was a significant block to her being able to easily access her clothes and put them away. Moving it seemed to move Anna energetically from an overwhelmed, discouraged child into an enthusiastic young woman. From then on she worked with me with gusto, speed and focus. It was such a pleasure to be in that process with her. My challenge at that point was to contain her enthusiasm so we didn’t get ahead of ourselves in the clearing process.

In three hours Anna’s clearing transformed her room from that of a little girl to that of an adolescent. With her mother’s blessing I gave her permission to decide which items would stay and which would be donated, trashed or moved to another location. While having the right to choose was no doubt empowering and motivating for Anna, releasing huge quantities of books, toys, clothing and several large pieces of furniture was what shifted her mood and her energy. She was so relieved and excited to have the burden of too much stuff removed from her space. Anna now had room for her evolving adolescent self to grow and thrive. I predict she’ll have a great school year!

What things in your space are blocking your energy? If you have clutter, you are blocked in some way. Clear that clutter and watch your energy re-emerge. It’s worth the effort!