Tag Archives: clutter

Make Bathroom Counter Clutter Vanish!

Take a look in your bathroom. What greets you? If your bathroom counter is covered with assorted items like toothpaste, your tooth brush, makeup, lotions, dental floss, jewelry, and other assorted items, notice the thoughts and feelings that come up as you take in the chaos. Every item on the counter is alive with energy. Each one has a different kind of energy. And, the energy of each item is talking to you all at once. That’s a lot of noise! Individually each of the items may have a positive energy because it is useful, however, collectively they have a negative energy because there are so many of them in no particular arrangement. The quantity and disorganization of those things create the roar of a crowd.

You might explain the existence of your countertop clutter by saying, “But, I use all those things every morning. It’s so convenient to have everything out there.” Yes, that may be true, but what if you could still have convenience and a lovely greeting each time you enter your bathroom?

There are several ways to silence all that noise without sacrificing convenience.

  1. Store those items in drawers and under the sink if your vanity has those types of storage spaces. Underneath sinks in many bathrooms can be as chaotic as the countertops. You can remove clutter from the counter and improve the condition underneath your sink by putting all the large items you use every day, like deodorant, body lotions, mousse, etc., in one basket or bin under the sink. When you need to use those things you can either grab the basket, place it on the counter, and return it when you are finished using its items. Or, you can leave the bin under the sink and retrieve items from the it, use them, and immediately return them to the bin. Smaller items like makeup, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, lip gloss, etc. can be stored in an easy-to- access  drawer, preferably a top drawer. To prevent that drawer from becoming a jumble of miscellaneous things, add several small containers to hold specific items. I have a container with my makeup, one for dental floss, and one for lip gloss, etc.
  2. Store items in colorful containers placed on the countertop, the back of the toilet, shelving over the toilet or on shelves in an easy-to-access bathroom closet. You can have a “used every day” container and separate containers for extra supplies or have separate bins for the different categories of things you use in the bathroom. In order to find things easily I recommend that you assign one category per container. For example, one container could be for all makeup. Another for oral hygiene products. A third for medications used frequently. 

Clearing bathroom countertop clutter will accomplish several things.

  • It will immediately transform your noisy, unattractive, overwhelming and even stressful bathroom into a comfortable place for daily self-care.
  • It will allow you to more easily inventory what you use every day. With that information you can order products in a timely manner and avoid panic purchases when you run out of products. And, because you know exactly what you have, you can prevent purchasing products you already have.
  • It will create the opportunity to discard items that you no longer use, empty containers, and accumulated trash.
  • It will be easier to keep your countertop clean.
  • If you create a “used every day” container what you need will be at your fingertips, and you will be able to complete your grooming more quickly.

Bathroom counter clutter creates a feeling of chaos in a place where you start and end your day. The negative energy it generates affects your energy and causes stress. There is much chaos in daily life that you have no control over. Seize control and reduce your stress where you can, starting with your bathroom countertop.

Why You Procrastinate Mailing Returns

Heavy sigh! You’ve just received the shipment of shorts that you badly needed and were sure would be just perfect for summer travels. Alas, they don’t fit! I’ll bet part of your sighing is because you are disappointed that the shorts don’t fit. I’ll also hazard a guess that  another reason for the sigh is because now you are facing the onerous task of mailing back the shorts. The potential positive energy of that new addition to your wardrobe disappeared as soon as you realized they didn’t fit. Now their energy has changed to negative not only because of the fit, but because now they are also associated with work, the work you have to do to return or exchange them.

When things have a negative association (not fitting) and hold negative energies, they repel you. That is one reason you are very likely to put off returning the items. Also, there is nothing fun or exciting about finding the return form, figuring out how to do the return, filling out the form, most of which are challenging to decipher at best, and sealing the package. Then you have to get the package to the post office or UPS, another unexciting item to add to your to do list. What’s your reward? A task done that you’d rather not have had to do. That’s not much reinforcement for your efforts!

I have become very experienced at preparing returns because it is a task that so many of my clients procrastinate. Unreturned items have become part of their clutter. I don’t particularly like doing returns. I find them as annoying as the next person. However, I’ve learned that they are easier to do if instead of focusing on how boring and irritating the task is, I focus on the fact that they are all about money. If I return mistakes, items that don’t fit or don’t measure up to my expectations, I get a refund.

When I work with clients I focus on how the task will benefit them. Money will be refunded, or the mistake will be fixed by exchanging items. Also, when I complete those returns I remove a heavy weight from my clients’ shoulders. Items that haven’t been returned hold energies that communicate messages like this: “you are letting money slip through your fingers,” “you should be responsible and return these things,” or “all you do is make mistakes.” Plus I’m helping clients improve the energy of their spaces. When items are returned that source of negative energy disappears and the space immediately feels better.

I recommend preparing returns within a week of receiving something that doesn’t work for you. Why one week? Every day you put off doing the return, negative energy increases making it harder to motivate yourself for the task. I say one week because it may not be possible to prepare the return during a busy work week. You may need to wait for a weekend to be able to focus on the task.

Returns not done = wasted money, negative energy, feeling burdened, annoyed, irritated, and being stuck. Returns done = money, peace of mind, positive energy, lightness and relief. Remember that, and send back items as quickly as you can.

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?

Clear Old Newspaper Clutter!

Newspapers are meant to be temporary residents in your home. If so, then why do I find them

Old newspapers can anchor the energies of tragedy and destruction in your home.

stashed away in closets, boxes, drawers and cabinets in the my clients’ residences?

Checking out the content of those papers gave me several possible answers. Some papers were kept because there were articles associated with my client or family members. However, a majority of the papers I find contain stories of major events in our history that mean something to the client: Obama’s inauguration; Kennedy’s assassination, 911, etc.

It’s interesting to me that people keep and often are very attached to papers that mark tragic events. I think many do it reflexively, as if the event itself was so significant to them that articles about the event must be valuable too. In that regard, the papers tell me what has mattered to my clients and what has touched them deeply.

Keeping old newspapers is not a good idea for a very practical reason. They deteriorate over time. First they get yellow. Then they dry out. Then they fall apart. Most people don’t know how to store newspapers so they won’t disintegrate over time. By the way, when they disintegrate, they make a great fire starter.

More important though are the energies that those papers hold in place. Articles about terrorism, death, and violence hold the energies of terrorism, death and violence. They also hold the energy of powerlessness and of the enormity of conflict that exists in our world. Those energies in turn affect your energy. They pull your energy down, keep you focused and sometimes spinning in thoughts of how bad things are in the world, and hold fear in place.

Some people say, “But, I don’t want to forget 9-11.” I usually counter with, “How likely are you to forget 9-11?” It was such a huge tragedy on so many levels that it’s very unlikely that any of us will ever forget it. I also ask, “When was the last time you perused these papers to wake up your memories of 9-11?” The answer is always, “No.” Or, I ask, “Do you really want to hold onto the energies of death and destruction?” Then I remind them that if they need to access information about 9-11 they can find it on the internet or in the numerous books written about the event.

Newspapers aren’t the best way to hold memories in place because over time papers disintegrate. If their stories are positive, find another way to remember them — internet articles, books. If their stories are negative, remember, their negative energies affect your energy and mood. Ask yourself why you are saving them and how they affect the way you feel. Releasing them is a good investment in letting go of events over which you had no control and of choosing to let go of sadness and tragedy to make space to welcome good into your life.

Transform Refrigerator Clutter Into Art

We’ve all seen it, the front and/or sides of a refrigerator plastered with papers and photos

Can you guess what I love when you look at my refrigerator collage? Dogs, art, family and friends!

hanging on for dear life at all angles in a hectic jumble. I’ll bet your first instinct when you see that messy bulletin board in someone’s kitchen is to look away. Why is that? Because it looks chaotic and radiates negative energy.

“But,” you say, “it’s so practical to have those papers within easy reach for reference or to cue you to do something . . .” I’m sure it could helpful if you could easily see everything hanging there. What seems to happen over time is that so many papers begin to accumulate on the refrigerator surface that it’s hard to see anything. To make things worse, papers are placed there at different angles which creates an off-balance, out of control feeling. Plus, if you look closely, many of those papers are probably out of date and irrelevant, therefore trash. Refrigerators loaded with papers are vertical displays of clutter.

What to do? Transform your refrigerator surfaces into a vertical collage. Create an arrangement you love to look at. Here’s how you can do that:

      • remove everything from the refrigerator surface
      • sort through the papers and photos, choosing items that are still relevant and/or lift your spirits 
      • find other items that warm your heart and make you smile, like photos of special people or places, a colorful calendar, inspirational poems or sayings, interesting or unique magnets
      • intentionally arrange those items on your refrigerator so that you can see everything, each item is at right angles to the edges of the refrigerator, and the overall arrangement is attractive and interesting to look at
      • put all papers in one area or mix them with photos and other items of visual interest which will offset the somewhat negative energy of the papers
      • step back and look at your creation
      • rearrange items if necessary for visibility or to make it more visually attractive

Once you’ve created your refrigerator masterpiece your work is not done! It’s important to maintain its order and visual appeal. Regularly clear off papers that are no longer useful. When you add new items, resist the urge to slap them up there willy nilly at odd angles. Place each item deliberately at right angles to the refrigerator edges, making sure it can be easily seen and that its placement adds to the visual appeal of the entire arrangement.

If you start thinking about your refrigerator surfaces as opportunities for artistic expression instead of convenient bulletin boards, you are more likely to treat them with the respect and care they deserve. The payoff for taking a few extra minutes to arrange their surfaces and maintain them as peaceful collages that hold useful information and warm your heart is that they will enhance your kitchen instead of being eyesores. You and others will be drawn to look at them with interest and curiosity instead of being repelled by their chaos and negative energy.

Clutter & Soul Starvation

I’ve often wondered why clutter has become such a problem for many people. In my work with

The weight of these clothes broke the rod that was holding them.

clients as a hands-on professional organizer I have the opportunity to see just how much stuff people can accumulate. In extreme cases purchased items are never used and closet rods break under the weight of clothing. People feel ashamed about the condition of the spaces in which they live. Yet, many keep accumulating more things. . .

There are many reasons people continue buying things even when their homes are extremely clutter. Some do it because they aren’t aware of what they already have. Others buy more stuff because they can’t find what they need when they need it. Still others have to have the newest, best, latest version of a product, something new and shiny.

I think there is also another reason for the constant accumulation of stuff. People buy things to feel good, unconsciously trying to fill an inner ache, an inner longing for meaning in their lives. Our society promotes materialism. We are constantly bombarded with advertising whose subliminal message is, “Own the newest model of car or iPhone or the new style of clothing, and your life will be wonderful.” We’ve been programmed to believe that having things will make us happy. When it doesn’t work, many people buy more things because they haven’t figured out that things don’t bring long-lasting happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.

I believe that in some cases clutter is an outward manifestation of an inner need for meaning, for connection with our true selves, perhaps parts of ourselves that we don’t even know exist because it has never been safe to reveal them or we were never encouraged to explore our inner world. We live in a society that rewards extroversion, outward action, more highly than inner exploration.

I refer to the inner knowing self as the soul. Our souls are fed when our actions are in alignment with our values, strengths and passions. To discover our values, strengths and passions we must go inside and reflect on what lights us up, what makes us feel alive and motivated, what brings us long-lasting pleasure. We aren’t taught how to do this in schools, churches, communities or even our own homes. We are taught that money is the source of happiness, that it’s important to get an education in subjects that have potential to lead to jobs that pay well. We are taught to seek money, not self-knowing, self-connection, or fulfillment.

Clutter caused by overspending happens when our souls are screaming to be fed. We’ve been taught that fulfillment exists outside of ourselves, so we shop. And, if that doesn’t work, we shop some more. Our houses become congested and sometimes even toxic with the physical remains of our attempts to feed our souls. Then, when clutter problems become severe, we turn on themselves with judgment and negative self-talk. Our families also join in, echoing our own criticism, and self-esteem plummets.

How do we stop the downward spiral described above? Stop shopping. Then, get to know yourself — your values, passions, and what you are longing for. Once you’ve done that, spend your time and resources investing in those things. Self-exploration is often easier to do with the help of a coach or a therapist. A close friend who knows you well and is a good listener may also be able to give you feedback about what they know about what really matters to you.

Know yourself. Feed your soul. Prevent clutter.

Clutter Clearing Success is a Choice!

You never know what will lead to a major clutter clearing achievement! I had not planned to

A simple choice can make a big difference!

work on any particular clutter clearing projects this past weekend. I was merely picking up the house to get ready for the house cleaner. I had a stack of tax files to go to the attic. As I contemplated taking them up there I cringed a bit. The order in my attic had “melted down” over the winter. The space had been so cold that instead of carefully putting things away, I had been doing a hit and run put away process. I’d get to the top of the stairs and put items in any open space I could find. Yes, professional organizers take short cuts that create more clutter too!

Now I was facing a congested mess whose negative energy had my gut churning and my mind racing for excuses to do anything but go up there. Fortunately I recognized my resistance for what it was, a reluctance to face the negative energy I had created in a small attic that at best is hard to move around in. I knew I had two choices: toss the file folders into the mess and shut the door, or reorganize and reclaim the space so I could put the tax files in the bin where they belong.

I knew it would be better to bite the bullet and tackle the mess that day because the attic temperature was perfect. If I waited much longer I’d be avoiding the space because it would be too hot. That fact gave me the extra nudge I needed to decide in favor of reclaiming order in my attic.

Once up in the attic I had to fight with irritation and annoyance about how crowded the space was in order to stay the course. However, the congestion created an urgency to get rid of things. After the first few hesitant decisions it felt so good to relieve the pressure caused by too many things in a small space that I got on a roll and was able to identify half a car load of things to take to Goodwill. I also brought down three boxes and four bags of old files to sort and get rid of. Once those things were out of the attic, reorganizing what was left was actually fun.

When done with the attic I was so energized that I very quickly went through all the paper files, sorting those that need to be shredded from those that could be recycled immediately. Within two hours I had 5 grocery bags of paper for recycling and one stack of paper to be shredded. I’ve never cleared paper so quickly! The energy and optimism that I got from that clearing stayed with me all weekend, and made it possible for me to get many other important tasks done.

It all started with recognizing that I had a choice to make when I encountered internal resistance to fixing the mess I’d created. I could have taken the easy path that would only make my attic clutter challenge worse and more time-consuming when I finally addressed it. Instead I found a compelling reason not to procrastinate reclaiming my attic. I chose the path that was more mentally challenging, but that led to new order, great relief, and increased energy and motivation to continue clearing. I made the right choice and was paid for my efforts with a deep sense of well being, optimism, and positive energy.

The next time you run into a choice point that involves clearing clutter, what path will you choose? The easy road that provides only temporary pleasure and ultimately more challenge? Or, the more difficult path that provides a deeper sense of satisfaction, feelings of competence and success, and that keeps your life moving in a positive direction? It is a choice.

Clutter Clearing Isn’t a Linear Process

I’m sure some of my clients wonder if I know what I’m doing as I begin to help them clear

Clutter clearing for me is an intuitive process, not a linear process.

clutter. I don’t work in a systematic, linear way.

Recently I was working with a woman to clear out a very congested home office area. Her office space had become the repository of both her things and her husband’s things, and was very congested. When we got started I walked right past her desk to a closet at one end of the space. I’m sure she wondered what I was doing. Why wasn’t I starting with the desk area?

My decision to start there was an intuitive decision. It felt like the right place to start. It was an unknown and could become a great storage space for many of the occasional use supplies and other items cluttering her desk area. I struck pay dirt! It held lots of her husband’s equipment and supplies, big items. It was easily cleared and available for my client’s equipment and supplies.

By clearing that closet I quickly created one space that was not congested. Having that space immediately created a feeling of optimism and reduced the feeling of congestion that could have overwhelmed us. Having more space made it much easier to face the clutter in the desk area.

Once we got the closet cleared, we were on a roll. Had I started with her desk cluttered with small items or her bookshelf which also had small items and paper, we could easily have become bogged down and would not have been able to see big results quickly.

Clutter clearing does not have to be done in a systematic, linear way. What is more important is that you find a way to create open space quickly. That success will motivate you to keep going plus it will give you room to work.

Your Home Office Is the Brain of Your Home

Home offices are rarely treated with the respect they deserve. They often become dumping grounds for everything paper and more. When you consider that, at the very least, your home office is often the administrative and financial center of the home, you would think that they’d all be in tip top shape. But, they’re not. In fact, most of those I’ve seen are not. Why is that?

Here are some possibilities:

  1. That room may accurately reflect your relationship with your financial situation.
  2. It could reflect that the room was never set up for optimal functioning, either because you did not make time for the set up or because you really didn’t know how to set it up.
  3. The home office may accurately reflect your aptitude for organizing paper.
  4. The home office may be a reflection of your inability to be disciplined about doing tasks that are detailed, boring and time-consuming.
  5. Perhaps you don’t have a grasp on the connection between the condition of your home office and your financial well-being and peace of mind.
  6. You have a very full plate, and “tending” to the home office requires more mental energy than you can muster on a regular basis.
  7. Maintaining an orderly, clutter-free home office simply is not a priority.

Home offices also often have the unfortunate fate of being multipurpose rooms. They are often the leftover bedroom used for housing many functions like bill-paying, records storage, gift-wrapping center, sewing room, guest room and play room. As a multipurpose room, its significance as a hub for financial and administrative management for the household is often diminished. Plus, setting up and maintaining order in a multipurpose room is much more challenging than having a room devoted to household paperwork and finances.

Where to begin? The fate of the home office starts with understanding its importance relative to other rooms in the house. If you run a business from a home office, its significance is apparent. But, if your home office is just “paper central” (a place to store papers and pay bills), plus a few other functions like the gift-wrapping center and guest room, it’s harder to get clear about its purpose.


Perhaps this reminder will help: THE HOME OFFICE IS THE BRAIN OF THE HOME.
Let me repeat that again: your home office is the brain of your home. It is the place where essential information is stored relating to finances and running your household (and your life!).  Like your brain, when it is organized and up to par, you can handle whatever life throws at you. If your brain is foggy and unfocused, it’s difficult to make decisions and navigate life smoothly. So too with the home office. A cluttered, messy home office not only radiates negative energy, but presents problems when you need to lay your hands on important records in a timely fashion.

So your first step in creating a home office that you enjoy is to shift your mindset. Start thinking about your home office as the brain of your home . . . focused, clear, and open to receiving new opportunities (including financial growth!).

Clear Greeting Card Clutter

Greeting cards flow into our lives as we move through them in an endless stream. What do you do with all of them? If you haven’t established personal guidelines for which cards to keep and which to toss, you likely have greeting card clutter.

When I was a young adult I tended to keep most of my greeting cards because they were an indication that people cared about me. It wasn’t until I was about 40 that I noticed that the cards I was holding onto were taking a significant amount of space in my little home. I simply had to do something different with my cards.

As I looked through my cards I realized that many of them weren’t even very important to me. They were organized and carefully stored, but, was I re-reading them? No. When began to consider my opens for reducing my greeting card clutter I re-read many of them and noticed that most of them didn’t say anything every important, anything that stirred good feelings in me. The quantity of them actually felt very heavy.

When I became aware that not all greeting cards are created equal in importance, I thought to myself, “Whose cards mean the most? Which ones would I want to re-read when I’m 80?” The answer at that time was very simple. My husband’s cards and my some of my mother’s cards. Mom and Bob were the most important people in my life. Their love and their words meant the most to me. For many years I only saved cards from Mom and Bob.

I now continue to keep all of Bob’s cards and letters. They are truly precious and remind me of his funny sense of humor and way of being as well as his love for me. When Mom was alive I kept only those cards that had a personal note of love, thanks or that demonstrated her personality and what mattered to her. She often wrote about what she had for dinner or did during the week. That content had no special value to me. I let those notes go.

I now keep cards from clients, friends, family members and my dad that have a note that really connects with my heart and/or helps me acknowledge my own worth and accomplishments.

What greeting cards are most important to you? Which ones lift your spirit and light up your heart? Those cards have the best energy. They are the ones that are worth keeping to remind you of the love in your life.

How to Clear Clutter Off Your Kitchen Desk

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is often a hub where people gather for nurturance and communing with family members. As mentioned earlier, the kitchen is often where women center their energy. As such, it has become an action area, not only for food preparation, but for women to coordinate a variety of activities as diverse as meal planning, scheduling appointments, coordinating schedules, and making important phone calls.

The kitchen desk probably came into being to accommodate the ever increasing needs of women to have an office of sorts close to where they spend most of their time. The idea was good, creating an area for the CEO of the home to work. I know, you’re already laughing! Who works at their kitchen desk? Who even sits in front of a kitchen desk?

First of all, kitchen desks are usually about the size of a postage stamp–too small to accommodate the needs of a busy family. Also, they are not comfortable places to sit because they are built-in pieces of furniture which force people to sit facing a wall with his or her back to the rest of the room. Sitting with your back to a room puts your nervous system on high alert, ready for any possible threat. In that state it’s difficult to focus. Consequently the chairs of those desks, if they even exist, are rarely used, except as a stacking spot for paper and other objects.

Kitchen desks of even the most organized women quickly become drop spots. Typical desk clutter consists of papers that come in from children returning from school, the mailbox, and meetings, not to mention all kinds of other objects that family members drop on their travels through the kitchen. Most people just roll their eyes when they look at their kitchen desk. Unless properly set up and managed, it is often a source of frustration, as well as an eyesore.

Clearing clutter from a kitchen desk first involves separating papers from other objects.

Work with objects first. Follow these steps:

  1. Sort objects into those that belong in the kitchen and those that do not.
  2. As you’re sorting, feel free to pitch any items you know you don’t need, love, or that aren’t worth the effort of moving to another location.
  3. Put items that belong elsewhere just outside the kitchen door to be dispersed to their homes after you finish working on the desk.
  4. Put away those items that do belong in the kitchen. That may involve going into drawers associated with the desk. Resist the urge to organize the drawers at this time. Your first focus is on restoring order to the desk top.
  5. If objects don’t fit in the drawer, put them aside for the clutter clearing session when you’ll address the drawers.

Once you’ve addressed the objects on the desk top, sort the papers that were on the desk.

  1. Pull out the biggest chunks first: the newsletters, magazines, and stapled-together papers.
  2. Toss or recycle those that are no longer relevant.
  3. Sort the remaining papers into the following categories:

Trash (recycling),

Refer Out (goes to another location or person),

Action (actions to be taken at this location),

Reference (e.g. contacts, schedules),

Filing (at this location),

Pending (e.g. tickets for an event, directions to a social event, etc.),

Reading (optional reading), and

Possibilities (e.g. information about products that you could use or events that you might attend).

The only papers that should remain on the desk are the action papers. The desktop is an action area. It ceases to be an action area when clogged with papers that need filing, reading, or are references and possibilities.

  1. Move reading papers to an area where they are most likely to be read.
  2. If you have room to store files, filing ideally would be done immediately up receipt.
  3. Reference items can be stored in files or binders.
  4. Pending and possibilities can also be filed for easy access.

A good filing solution for the kitchen is an open filing box for files to accommodate all the types of paper you need to access from the kitchen. It could be stored on the counter, but preferably under the counter in a cabinet or in the opening where the chair is supposed to be. It must be easy to access so frequent filing is easy to do.

Whew! Who knew that clearing clutter from a kitchen desk could be so complicated? Anywhere you have paper, you have complexity. When you set up a system for managing paper you need to access in the kitchen, and you use it, maintaining order on the kitchen desk gets easier.

Remember, keep only those things at the kitchen desk that you regularly use in the kitchen. I call those tiny desk areas “prime real estate”. If you want to maximize the potential of a kitchen desk, you can’t afford to park useless things on those small surfaces. If kept clear and set up properly, they can function as the cockpit for the coordination of most of the activities of a busy family. Is that how your kitchen desk functions? If not, why not? Claim your kitchen desk as a mini-home office, an action area for women at the heart of the home.

Clutter Clearing Challenges in Retirement

“I had planned to clear all kinds of clutter once I retired, but I can’t seem to get it done.” This is an all too common lament of people who retire with intentions to reclaim order and peace in their homes. They are baffled by their inability to take action and achieve their goals. There are several reasons why clutter clearing doesn’t happen.

  1. Lack of schedule structure — Your life while you were working was structured around your work hours. You knew when you were obligated and when you had free time to get things done. Knowing you had limited windows of time to work around the house could have served as motivation to get things done. In retirement, unless you are working part-time, you may not have activities that create a regular schedule for you. With no regular schedule it’s much easier to put off doing tasks, particularly tasks that are difficult, seem overwhelming, and taxing. It’s easier to float along and do more pleasurable activities.
  2. Lack of urgency — Often there is no compelling reason or deadline to provide you with the sense of urgency that can be a catalyst for clutter clearing. Your schedule is open. Your timeline is open. Again, it’s very easy to just drift along putting off clutter clearing.
  3. ADHD — If you have ADHD or think you have it, your ADHD could be part of the problem. People with ADHD procrastinate doing jobs that aren’t interesting, fun, new, aligned with their passions, or in some way bring them pleasure. Clutter clearing is usually complicated and therefore difficult. It can engender feelings of shame and overwhelm, both of which shut down the ADHD brain. If you have a lot of clutter, clearing it is a long-term project which highlights ADHD difficulties with sustaining awareness, attention, effort and interest.

Ok, now you know some reasons why clutter clearing isn’t happening. Following are some options to help you achieve your goal of clearing your clutter once retired:

  1. Structure your time — Mark your calendar with blocks of time for your every day activities. Then add specific times to clear clutter. Make sure that you start with small, doable blocks of time (15 minutes to 60 minutes).
  2. Create urgency — Look for activities that you can schedule that will push you to clear clutter. For example, to get clutter clearing done in your dining room, schedule a special family dinner that requires that you use the dining room. Getting ready for the dinner will motivate you to make the space presentable for your guests. Resist the urge to just move your clutter to another location. 
  3. Create accountability — Get an accountability buddy, someone who is supportive of your efforts to clear clutter. Let your accountability buddy know what you plan to clear and when you plan to do it. Ask that person to check in with you to ask about your progress. It’s easy to blow off your own plans to clear clutter, but much harder to do when you commit to doing it to another person. 
  4. Get support — Ask a helpful, non-judgmental friend or family member to be with you while you clear clutter. Their mere presence can make it much easier to focus on the task at hand and take action. Plus you will transform a dreaded onerous task into a social event.
  5. Get professional help — A coach or professional organizer can help you get your clutter clearing done. Coaching with an organizer coach can help you identify what makes it so hard for you to clear clutter, provide information about how to do clutter clearing on your own, and also offer accountability. A professional organizer will work side by side with you to get the clutter clearing done. Professional organizers can get clutter clearing done four times faster than you are likely to be able to do it on your own.

Clearing clutter is possible when retired when you add structure to your time, set a deadline to create a sense of urgency, have someone to provide accountability, get support and/or get professional help.

Clutter clearing begins with a single step. If you’ve been stuck for some time and are frustrated by your inability to make clutter clearing happen despite using my first four suggestions, it’s time to consider hiring a professional. Schedule a free 30-60 minute phone coaching session with me to explore options for assistance.

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.

The Konmari Method: Not a Magic Bullet!

51mf3u-jpal-_sx348_bo1204203200_Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has been the all the rage for the last two years. I’m guessing it caught on because people were fascinated and hungering for information about how to rid themselves of clutter forever. Wouldn’t that be nice! Or, perhaps the idea that tidying up could be magical and not a dreaded boring task was appealing.

Unfortunately, the only way to rid yourself of clutter forever is to have a highly effective, committed staff that follows you everywhere cleaning up and clearing out behind you or to be dead. As we move through life, we create clutter. The only way I know to live somewhat clutter-free is to make daily clutter clearing a priority along with several larger clutter clearing sessions per year.

Not only was I initially very put off by the suggestion that it is possible to clear clutter forever, I also had a problem with Ms. Kondo’s insistence that everything should be cleared out at once. Having worked as a professional organizer who has cleared clutter for almost 20 years, I have learned that the human brain wears out after an hour or two when making decisions once after another. Going through an entire house can take weeks or even months for most people. It is an enormous task!

Clutter clearing is all about making decisions. The idea that people are capable of working hour after hour, day after day to clear clutter not only is an impossibility (unless a team of people are doing the clearing), but it is a recipe for exhaustion and failure.

I also struggled with the sorting method proposed in Ms. Kondo’s book. At one point she suggested that a person’s closet be emptied onto the floor and clothes from other parts of the house be added to the pile. Then the sorting would begin and continue until all the clothes were sorted.

First, piling all the clothes in one place is a recipe for overwhelm. Seeing all the clothes at once would shut down most of my clients’ brains, especially those with ADHD. Also, it really isn’t necessary to empty closets when clearing them out. In fact, it’s much more efficient to leave all clothes in the closet, except for any that are on the floor, and pull out only those that a person no longer wants.

Finally, it is highly unlikely that even a person who is highly focused and motivated would be able to stay engaged in the sorting process until that enormous job was done. When exhaustion sets in, the brain melts down. When the brain is done, people quit clearing clutter. That would leave a big pile of clothes in the middle of the bedroom, a pile that would be much harder to get back to than it was to work on it the first time.

With all that said, I really liked the feng shui feel of the book. The way she looked at possessions was almost referent. Plus, she linked quality of a person’s life to the condition of their environment. Feng shui teaches that what you have in your space affects what happens in your life.

I can see all my shirts at once! No MIA shirts!

I can see all my shirts at once! No MIA shirts!

My favorite part of the book, however, was the section addressing how to fold clothes for maximum visibility. Using her suggestions I have totally transformed my sock and nightgown drawer and my shirt drawer using her methods. I feel proud and happy every time I open one of those drawers. Everything is so neat, organized and visible.

No, you can’t banish clutter forever. There are no magic bullets. But, you can improve the condition of your space by clearing clutter every day.

Stay Organized to Reduce Christmas Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essential Maintenance Tasks to Lay the Groundwork for a Great Holiday

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

Pantry Design Creates Clutter

Not all pantry designs are created equal! I can honestly say that this pantry is the

The least functional pantry I've ever organized.

The least functional pantry I’ve ever organized.

worst design of any pantry I have re-organized in my 18+ years working as a professional organizer.

First, I was shocked at how narrow the space was. It was like a dim, dark tunnel. I immediately felt irritable and claustrophobic when I stuck my head in it. It’s the kind of space most people would want to avoid.

To make things worse, the shelves were set back from the door about 18-24 inches, enough space to necessitate putting my whole body in the closet to access the shelves. Plus, the shelves were very deep — a recipe for terrible visibility and losing sight of half of the shelves’ contents. The only truly useful space, where items could be easily seen, was across the front of each shelf. The narrowness of the pantry made that space very limited.

The least functional linen closet I've organized.

The least functional linen closet I’ve organized.

This pantry reminded me of the least functional linen closet I have ever worked in. It seemed like a left over space that the builder decided to make a pantry. Clearly it was designed by someone who had little or no experience with food storage.

The whole time I was reorganizing this pantry I was thinking that the work I was doing was almost pointless. It would take no time at all for it to again become a disorganized mess. Why? Because it’s too hard to access the supplies and easily replace them where they belong. It would be pretty understandable that people putting things away might be inclined to pitch things into the space and slam the door shut hoping that nothing would tumble out before the door closed.

Why do I share all this? This pantry was a “Can you believe this?” experience for me. Sometimes I just need to tell others about this kind of experience. In this case it was not a nightmare created by a client. Rather, it was a nightmare created by poor design that left my client with few options for improvement.

What Is Your Clutter Telling You?

Clutter is information. It has a story to tell if you can get past its negative, dscn0013overwhelming energy. When I walk into a client’s home or office I look for the story that the clutter tells. Some of the stories go like this:

  • I’ve got too much on my plate to have the time to attend to my space.
  • I have too much stuff.
  • I shop for entertainment, and to relieve stress.
  • I got behind in cleaning up and doing daily maintenance tasks, and could not catch up.
  • My job takes everything out of me, and I don’t have the energy to do daily maintenance tasks like putting things away, cleaning up after myself, sorting mail.
  • I’ve had a very stressful week.
  • I’ve been through a very tough time in my life (e.g. caregiving responsibilities for parents, deaths of family members, health problems, etc.) and couldn’t hold everything together.
  • I really have no idea how to set up and maintain an organized space.
  • I am sentimental. It’s hard for me to get rid of anything that reminds me of a special person or time in my life.
  • I have ADHD and have never been organized. I can’t make myself clean up after myself, put clothes away regularly and go through my mail.
  • I need more help from others, particularly those who contribute to the mess.
  • I spend very little time at home, and when I’m home I just drop things and plop on the sofa.
  • I have no clue how to manage all the paper pouring into my house.
  • I have too many responsibilities and need support from others to maintain an organized home.
  • I am overwhelmed by how much clutter there is and don’t know how to start clearing.

Do you identify with any of those stories? You cannot address a clutter problem if you aren’t conscious of the story it tells. For example, if your story is, “I shop for entertainment and to relieve stress,” that awareness makes it possible for you to focus on finding other ways to reduce stress and have fun.

If your story is that you have ADHD and have never been organized, you can research what works for people with ADHD to get clearing done and sustain order in their space.

If the truth is you have a family of five and are the only one who is trying to create and sustain order, you can acknowledge the impossibility of doing that successfully and negotiate with family members for their participation in tasks that keep your house organized and feeling good.

Instead of beating yourself up because there is clutter or avoiding it, look at it with curiosity. Tease out the story it tells. Then take steps to change the story.

Stories are much more interesting than piles of clutter. Focusing on your story can motivate you to make take action. Be aware that many of the above stories, particularly those that involve large quantities of clutter, can only be changed with some type of outside help. Hire a professional organizer or enlist supportive friends and/or family members to help you change your story.

Clear Shoe Clutter from the Bedroom

Your goal in setting up your bedroom is to create a space that is completely

How peaceful is this?

How peaceful is this?

conducive to sleep. The energy of smelly feet can only be distracting. Why is it that I so often find pairs of shoes strewn over bedroom floors?

I’m fairly certain that part of the problem is not having adequate storage for the number of shoes that people own these days.

Also, sometimes shoes just don’t make it to the closet. You may be thinking, “Why put them away? I’m just going to put them on again tomorrow. . .”  or “I’ll put them away later.” Sweaty, smelly feet and

Are you sleeping with smelly feet?

Are you sleeping with smelly feet?

rest just don’t go well together. Ideally it’s best to reduce the number of shoes you own to those that can fit in your closet. Then make a commitment to yourself to get them back there every night.

For one thing, you’ll find your bedroom is more peaceful because there will be fewer items out and visible in the room. You’ll also find that your focus can shift away from the energy chatter of pairs of shoes to more important things like gentle reading, reflecting about your day, conversation with a partner or spouse and/or sex.

Energy chatter. What chatter? Everything is alive with energy. Positive or negative. Everything!  This may sound silly or “woo woo” to you, but stick with me.

What do shoes say? Here are some of the conversations I’ve heard:

  • Those shoes really are too tight, but they are the only ones that really look professional.
  • I really should polish that pair. Look how scuffed they are!
  • The bottoms are really worn on that pair. Is it time to bite the bullet and get another pair?
  • I look like such a dork in those shoes! But, they are so comfortable!
  • Those shoes really stink. I wonder what’s going on with my feet that they stink so badly.

With all those conversations going on, is it any wonder that you don’t get great sleep anymore? Yes, when your eyes are closed you can’t see all those shoes, but you are affected by their negative energy when you are sleeping. That negative presence interferes with peaceful sleep.

 Set your shoes free. Clear out shoes that you no longer love or use at least once a year. Banish the remaining shoes from the bedroom to the closet, and find a storage solution that will work in your closet. Then enjoy sweet dreams and the peace that results from your efforts.  

Eliminate Perspectives that Keep You Stuck!

Clutter keeps you stuck. Normally, clearing clutter helps you get clear aboutimagesCAGBLYOU what matters which then leads to positive action. But, if you’ve cleared your clutter and notice that you still feel stuck, it could be that limiting perspectives are the culprit.

What’s a limiting perspective? It’s a way looking at things in your life. For example, you could look at life as a daring adventure and greet each day with enthusiasm and the expectation that no matter what happens it will be a great adventure. Or, you could look at life as a daily grind, where nothing will ever change. With that perspective you are likely to wake with a feeling dread and resignation that each day will be the same old unfulfilling thing.

Which perspective resonates with you? Most of us are unaware of the perspectives we carry in our heads. You move through life with limiting perspectives and don’t even realize that it’s not that you have bad luck or grew up on the wrong side of that tracks or that you didn’t get enough education or land the right job. What’s often keeps you stuck are your thoughts, those limiting beliefs and perspectives that have become habitual. 

Following are some common limiting perspectives:

  • life is hard
  • we all have to struggle to get by
  • I’ll never get my head above water
  • when I get the right job, mate, break, everything will be OK.

With those kinds of beliefs running around in your head, is it any wonder that you are stuck, unable to create a meaningful life in which you experience joy, are connected to your passions, and feel happy and fulfilled?

The challenge of limiting perspectives is that they are so habitual that you aren’t even aware that they are holding you hostage. Without awareness of their existence and power over you, you are unable to let them go and choose perspectives that will move you in a positive direction.

One of the best ways to identify limiting perspectives, strategize how to release them and identify more helpful perspectives is to work with a coach. A coach is trained to listen for limiting perspectives and bring them to light in coaching sessions to be addressed and released. Coaching is a partnership in which you have the opportunity to learn which behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and perspectives do not serve you and keep you stuck, plus strategize ways to take action to let go of those habitual ways of behaving and choose new ways to think and behave.

What limiting perspectives are keeping you stuck? If you are unable to identify what is keeping you stuck, sign up now for a free 30 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me. Remember, getting unstuck begins with a single step. 

Clutter Tells the Truth

FullSizeRender

My guess is that the truth here is that this person isn’t into putting things away after using them, that she has a “drop it anywhere” approach to her stuff, and that she and her family don’t eat in the kitchen.

Over the 18 years I’ve been working as a professional organizer I have learned that clutter is information. It tells the truth about aspects of a person’s life.

Some of the things I’ve learned from clutter are:

  • this person has too many balls in the air, and the maintaining a neat, clutter-free and organized home is one of the balls that often gets dropped
  • this person spends all their mental and energy at work, and upon arriving home drops everything and hits the sofa
  • this person doesn’t make time to maintain an organized home
  • this person does not have the habit of putting things away
  • this person hates to cook
  • this person really loves clothes
  • this person has difficulty finishing tasks
  • this person is really into disaster preparedness
  • this person is an artist
  • this person is committed to animal rescue
  • this person loves the beach
  • this person is a big reader
  • this person has great difficulty making decisions
  • this person has no idea how to clear clutter
  • this person wants to be organized (has lots of organizing books)
  • this person loves color and beauty
  • this person hates doing laundry
  • this person is very sentimental
  • this person gets overwhelmed easily
  • this person may have ADHD
  • this person wants to scrapbook, but can’t get started

I could go on and on. The content of your clutter and the state of your clutter tell your story. That’s part of why I love my work. I look beyond the messiness and look at the clutter with curiosity. I ask myself, “What is this clutter telling me about this person?” I really enjoy deciphering the clutter to learn more about a person’s current reality and quite possibly their life story.

The clutter tells me much more than most people actually verbalize. That’s why I tell prospective clients not to clean up when I am going to be working with them. I tell them, “If you clean everything up I will have great difficulty determining the causes of the clutter accumulation.” When I can help clients identify the habits and behaviors that have led to their clutter problems I can then help them plan new behaviors that can prevent a meltdown of the order we establish.

What truths does your clutter tell?

Reduce Grief By Creating a Memorabilia Altar

I’ve noticed that some people who have experienced the death of someoneAlter very important keep large quantities of items associated with that person. Everything seems to have great significance. Clients have stated that when they get rid of things associated with their spouse, parent, child, etc., they feel like they are getting rid of that person. Little do they know that by holding onto quantities of things that remind them of that person they are actually anchoring their grief about the loss.

Everything a person own holds their energy if when you look at it you think of that person. An item might have had a very positive energy when the person was alive. For example, a musical instrument they enjoyed playing would likely hold positive energy. However, when the person dies the energy of their items is tinged with sadness.  The musical instrument that held positive energy could evoke sadness because the musician can no longer play the item. Holding onto it anchors sadness.

To facilitate moving through normal grief over the loss of a loved one, I recommend that survivors keep only those items that they like the best, those things that evoke happy feelings. Less is best.

One way to honor a loved one is to create an altar with an arrangement of a few precious items that belonged to the person. You don’t need to hold onto quantities of items associated with a beloved mother to hold her memory in place. Choose a few special items that remind you of the person and arrange them on a surface that you will see in passing as you move through you space. Those items might include a photograph, a special curio, a medal or award they received, anything of theirs that really matters to you or really mattered to them.

My mother died recently. After she died I created an altar to hold a few special things associated with her. It sits atop a small chest of drawers that was in our living room when I was growing up and has been in Mom’s home ever since. I chose to keep that chest for its association with Mom and my life while I was living at home with Mom and Dad.

I gave Mom the little purple silk flower arrangement. She loved flowers and she loved it. The wax ball smells of lilac, her favorite flower and fragrance. I added a few other items for aesthetics — a small painting by my dad, a live plant and a paperweight given to me by a special client who often checked in with me about how Mom was doing during the last few years.

The quantity of items on the altar associated with Mom was less important than the feelings evoked by the items. Just three items (the chest, flower arrangement, and wax ball) hold Mom’s energy and memory in place. When I walk by this little altar my heart remembers Mom and what she loved, and it smiles.

Do the things you have kept that once belonged to a loved one make your heart smile? Are they out and visible where you can see and enjoy the memories? If not, you have inadvertently created pockets of pain that make moving through your grief a much more difficult and slow process. Keep and honor the best. Let go of the rest! 

Clear Clutter to Manage Grief

My mother is dying. She has been in the process of dying for more than threeIMG_0634 weeks. Her death is inevitable. When Mom will leave is uncertain. As you might imagine, I am swimming through a sea of feelings. My relationship with my mother has been precious. She was my best friend, a constant source of love and support. Her passing will leave a huge hole in my life.

How am I coping? I’m clearing clutter. When my emotions run high, I clear clutter. I am able to care for Mom and make sure she is comfortable and getting good care. However, I am utterly powerless about when she will actually die. There is no distinct deadline to this period of great pain and sadness. That leaves me feeling out of control and powerless.

When I feel out of control, I clear clutter. Clearing clutter is a process I can control. It is concrete and I get tangible results immediately. I am also aware that as I clear clutter, I am shifting energies from negative to positive. In so doing, I increase the probability that I will be able to better manage my feelings of grief and make good decisions as this sad journey comes to its ultimate conclusion.

What am I clearing? I am clearing things from Mom’s room that are no longer of use to her in her current state. Feng shui teaches that the best way to create change is to move things and to live with only those things that are in alignment with who you are in the present moment. Most things are no longer relevant for Mom.

Yes, I have had a twinge of guilt about whether it’s amoral to clear out things before Mom has actually died. I got over that feeling by reminding myself that Mom’s passing could actually be easier for her if she’s not anchored in her current state by the negative energies of physical belongings that no longer serve her.

I am also selfishly clearing because I know if I do the clearing in small increments now her death will be easier to handle emotionally. I won’t be left with an enormous painful clutter clearing project when I’m grieving.

I’ve seen what happens to the homes of adult children when they have cleared out parents’ homes post-death in the midst of their grief. Things that belonged to their loved one hold the energy of the loved one and the energy of the loss. They avoid making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of because it hurts to do so.

Consequently they take home enormous quantities of things that may or may not be significant to them. They then cram those things into their attics, garages, utility rooms, basements and storage spaces instead of going through them and integrating items of true significance into their homes. When that happens the pain of the loss gets anchored in their space for years instead of the joy that is possible when precious items are integrated with their belongings. They can’t move through their grief because the pain associated with the stuff keeps them stuck.

I’m deliberately making decisions with each car load I take from Mom’s room. I am keeping the items that are most precious to me, saving some items for other family members, and donating everything else to charity except items that are trash.

Lest you be worried that I have completely stripped Mom’s room, do not worry! Her furniture, art work, key photos, stuffed animals, and a few decorative items remain to make the space feel homey and inviting.

Has this clearing helped? Yes. I feel calmer about Mom’s passing. When I visit her room feels calm and comfortable. I feel more in control of my emotions and less frantic. I also feel lighter because I have lightened the load of responsibility for what must be done following her death. And, I have found places in my home for the items I chose to keep. Warm touches of Mom speak to me as I move through my home, reminding me of her and our very special relationship.

Letting Go By Clutter Clearing Can Help You


reflections of an anonymous attendee of one of Debbie’s clutter clearing seminars

“It definitely lifts my spirits.

When I was going through some of my things, I was reminiscing over the emotional connections. But, I had these things forever, and they just took up too much space and energy. It was nice to get rid of them because I felt like I was letting go of both good and bad memories/experiences. It made me feel more free and liberated. I felt like I shed off a part of my past and was enabled to live in the present. I know I didn’t have to hold onto an item to regain that feeling, and was able to get rid of them.

I also hold onto a lot of papers and project ideas. I realized that I had had those for years too and was unlikely to start those projects because I already am doing the projects that I’m most passionate about. To get rid of those old projects and papers helped me to re-focus my energy on what’s more important to me.

It also just feels nice to live in a clean, uncluttered environment.”

Cram-It Method of Cleanup Creates a Clutter Nightmare

DSCN0890

The result of the cram-it method of cleanup — a clutter nightmare!

We’ve all been there. Company is coming and you look around your home in dismay. What will you do with all the clutter? You can’t have anyone see the way you live. What do you do? Grab a bag or box and cram all the stuff that is cluttering your space into it. Problem solved. The clutter is gone. . . momentarily. But, is it really gone?

What happens to those bags and boxes? They get stuck in a closet, the basement, garage or attic. Once they are there they grow roots and stay put, little cesspools of negative energy that only get more negative over time. Do you feel inclined to pull them out and go through their contents? No! The negative energy of their mixed contents is overwhelming and shuts down any motivation to address those bags and boxes. Plus, much of their contents is not important enough to motivate you to go through them.

If you continue the cram-it method of cleanup without clearing out those bags and boxes, you are planting a garden of negative energy in your home. The longer those containers go unaddressed, the harder it will be to muster the motivation to empty them out and make decisions about what to do with their contents. Also, like energy attracts like energy. Boxes of unprocessed stuff will attract more boxes of unaddressed stuff. The end result? A clutter nightmare!

The cram-it method of cleanup can quickly become a habit because it provides instant gratification. Couple that with “I’ll get to it later” thinking and you have a recipe for serious clutter problems.

What is your alternative?

  1. Create new habits. Make putting things away on a daily basis a priority so you can restore order to your home with minimal cleanup. When company is expected, use that event as your cue to put things away. Returning items to their “homes” takes a lot less time than it will take to excavate the clutter heaps you create.
  2. Make time to create homes for everything, and clear out spaces so that everything has a home that is easily accessible.
  3. Hire a professional organizer to help you clear clutter and create homes for everything if you are unable to  motivate yourself to set up your space so that your belongings can be put away easily. 

When you avoid the cram-it method of cleanup you are choosing to live clutter-free!

Incoming Clutter Negates Clutter Clearing Progress

You’ve been clearing clutter! Yay! You are lightening your load. But, are

Dam the flow of incoming things to make progress with your clutter clearing.

Dam the flow of incoming things to make progress with your clutter clearing.

you? Last night while in conversation with some former ADHD group coaching participants one woman shared that she had gotten about 25 bags/boxes out of her house. We thought that was great progress! However, another astute woman piped up with a great question, “Great! But, but how much is coming in?” The first woman looked slightly uncomfortable and admitted that she was still bringing in stuff. In fact, she enjoyed retail therapy.

Upon further questioning the woman revealed that she was buying things to display after she had cleared her clutter. They were not even things she could enjoy immediately. They became clutter because there was no place for them to go. How ironic that the things she was purchasing to enjoy once her house was clutter-free were creating more clutter.

I suggested that this woman stop buying items in advance of clearing out a room. Rather, that she first clear out the room. Then when the room was clear, she could reward herself with a few new items that could be displayed and enjoyed immediately.

The above incident made me realize that much of my writing has been about how to get rid of clutter. I have never spent much time discussing an important aspect of clutter clearing: stopping the flow of unnecessary items coming into your home.

You can’t make clutter clearing progress if you don’t reduce or stop bringing more things into your home, or at least have a system for eliminating a number of things equal to or greater than the number of things you are bringing in. It’s akin to trying to empty a pool while still adding water to it!

To get the full benefit from clutter clearing, plug the incoming channel. Then focus on eliminating things you no longer love or use.