Tag Archives: cluttered

Home Office Clutter Clearing Plan

My new book, From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover, is coming out just in time for Christmas giving — to yourself and others. One helpful feature of the book is the inclusion of clutter clearing plans for each area of your home. Below is an excerpt of a clutter clearing plan from the Home Office chapter. It will give you a taste of the book, help you to push past any overwhelm, and start clearing out your home office. The ideas included in this plan are transferrable to any office setting.

Home Office Clutter Clearing Plan

Clutter in a home office is equivalent to blockages in the circuitry of your brain. Blockages in the brain can be lethal. They can also cause a state of unease that results in stress, anxiety and fear, and impairs productivity. When your home office is clear of clutter you can access the information you need for personal business and personal interests within seconds. Once you have ready access to that information, your life can roll along without incident. 

Clearing clutter from the home office can feel like you’ve gotten your brain back! Let me show you how.

  1. Take a photo of your home office before you begin work. As you look at it, take note of the “hot” spots, those areas of intense negative energy that make you want to run from the room. Resist the urge to run. Notice the negative thoughts that immediately pop up. Thoughts like, “What a mess! I don’t know where to start. This will take forever to do!” Notice those thoughts, but don’t allow them to shut down your brain. Just notice the challenge areas. Tell yourself that you can handle this challenge. It may take time, but you can do it, even if you have to do it in a number of short sessions or get some help to make it so.
  2. If paper has gone wild in the room, gather it up and put it in bags or boxes to deal with after you’ve finished organizing the rest of the room. As you gather up the papers, be sure to separate out supplies like envelopes, writing implements, sheet protectors and pads of paper. Put those aside in one area of the room. Also, be sure not to scoop up papers associated with current bills to be paid and current action items. Keep those two categories of paper separate from the rest of the paper. That way you can be sure to keep up with bills and other important actions that must be handled before the organizing is completed. The purpose of gathering up the paper is to quiet its annoying, distressing and distracting negative energy so you can think clearly as you make decisions about the rest of the contents of the room.
  3. If there are miscellaneous little items floating around the room, on the desk, filing cabinet, floor, etc., gather them all up and put them in a bag or basket. Like paper, the energy of those little things can be very distracting and probably needs silencing before moving forward. You can deal with those things at the end of the clutter clearing process, once everything bigger has been handled.
  4. Identify all the functions of the room. Home offices are often multi-purpose rooms, especially in small houses. It’s important to determine the various functions of the space before you begin clutter clearing, so you’ll know what belongs in the room and what needs to find a home elsewhere. Is it just a home office, a place to pay bills and store papers you might need to access someday? Does it house a home-based business as well as personal financial information? Is the room both home office and guest room? Does it also serve as the location of the gift-wrapping center for the home? Is it a craft room as well as a home office? So many possibilities! Know that the more functions housed in a room, the more challenging it will be to organize and keep organized.
  5. Remove everything from the space that does not fit its function. Place those items either just inside or just outside the door to be moved once you’ve worked long enough to have either a weary brain, or to have accumulated enough items to justify taking a break to distribute them to their new locations.
  6. Look at each piece of furniture and determine whether it serves at least one of the functions of the room. Remove any furniture that doesn’t serve one of the functions of the room. Home offices are complicated spaces that are a challenge to organize and keep organized. They ALWAYS have a lot going on in them. You cannot afford to have excess furniture holding precious energy that could be better used another better way in that room.
  7. Check each piece of furniture to make sure it works well and is in good condition. A good way to determine this is by noticing which furniture is being used and which is not. If something is not being used, why not? It’s common that filing cabinets and desks with broken drawers or drawers that don’t open and close easily will be avoided. Let go of furnishings that are not in good condition.
  8. Check the placement of the furniture. Is it comfortable? Is the desk situated so you will be in the power position, having a full view of the door and a solid wall behind you? Is it possible to work effectively and efficiently in the current arrangement? If not, rearrange the furniture put yourself in the power position when working at the desk. Make sure you can easily reach anything you will use on a regular basis, like computers, printers, other office equipment, filing cabinets, and supplies.
  9. When you are moving furniture around, be sure to clump supplies you encounter in one location for evaluation, organizing and containing later in the clutter clearing process.
  10. Evaluate computer equipment. Does it all work? If there are old computers, printers, modems and hard drives that are not being used, why not? Purge broken items that aren’t worth repairing, items you don’t know how to use and don’t  care about figuring out how to use. The “someday” you think will come when you’ll be able to figure out everything is not likely to come. Get real about all the electronic equipment that you own. Make decisions about what will be kept and let go of the rest. This may require taking steps to remove data from hard drives. If you are not computer savvy, the fastest way to clear hard drives is to hire someone to help you do this. Also, much outdated electronic equipment is not worth selling. Live only with electronic equipment that is alive and used!
  11. Gather all books together and evaluate the energy of each one. Books to keep are those that you haven’t read but are still interested in reading, those that you have read and know you’ll re-read, those that you are highly likely to use for reference, and any book that has changed your life. Those are high energy books. Let go of the rest.
  12. If you have binders, evaluate each one to determine if it is worth keeping. Binders from workshops and conferences are seldom used after the event and can take up valuable “real estate” in a home office. If you don’t use a binder in the first month after a workshop or conference you are unlikely to ever use it. Let it go! Binders of old financial information can be archived in banker’s boxes in the attic, again freeing up precious space. If, like me, you’ve had good intentions of using binders, but really hate the hole punching process, consider getting rid of binders in favor of another way of storing papers.
  13. Sort supplies by category: writing implements, paper, filing supplies, index cards, sheet protectors, binders, blank CDs, jewel cases, organizing supplies, etc. As you sort, put aside for donation any supplies you no longer use, that are outdated, and that you find annoying or irritating to use. Once the supplies are sorted by type, look at the quantity of each item. If you have an excessive amount of any item, consider donating a portion of it to a local charity. After you’ve made those decisions, check to see if all the supplies you plan to keep will fit in the storage area you plan to use to house them. Make it your goal to have all your supplies comfortably live in the storage space available.
  14. Evaluate all software books and CDs (content, music, software, photos, etc.), purging any that are outdated or that you no longer use.
  15. Consider all the decorative items in the space. Do they still have positive energy? Do you love them or use them? If not, let them go. Or, if you have a decorative item that you still value, but you no longer want it in the home office, put it by the door to find a home for it in another part of the house.
  16. Check out any other items that don’t fit into the major categories I’ve discussed to identify those that you still love or use. Move those that aren’t loved or used to the door with other items to be donated.
  17. Once the entire space has been evaluated and unused and unloved items purged, turn your attention toward the paper that you scooped up early in the clutter clearing process. You are likely to find that paper is easier to handle now that you’ve cleared the rest of the room.
      • DO NOT start making decisions about single pieces of paper, unless that’s all you have to deal with. If you start there, you will quit! Handling big chunks of paper first will allow you to see visible progress quickly. That is essential in order for you to stay motivated and keep going.
      • Start by pulling big chunks of paper from your paper piles first, like magazines, catalogs, newsletters, and stapled chunks of paper. Making decisions big chunks allows you to see visual progress for your efforts more quickly than starting with single sheets of paper. Visual progress is imperative to keep you motivated to continue working on paper.
      • Work your way from big chunks to single sheets, and then to small pieces of paper.
      • Keep only those papers you are highly likely to reference at some later date. Remember, 80 to 90% of paper that is filed never gets touched again.
      • Be very selective about papers you keep. If you keep them, they become work, because you’ll need to figure out how to store them so you can easily access them.

Keep in mind that the energy in your home office will be much improved once you have cleared it of clutter. You will then need to organize your paper and set up a filing system, if you don’t already have one.

After all that hard work you can turn your attention to other fun activities, like decorating the space and enhancing it with lovely art and images that bring you joy, create feelings of empowerment, and motivate you to take action.

Now that you’ve read through the steps, it’s time to apply your knowledge. Are you ready to love your home office?

From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year

I am very excited to report that I am in the final stages of preparing From Cluttered to Clear In Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover, my second book, for publication. I hope to have it available for sale on my website and on Amazon by December 2017.

Why is this exciting news for you? My first book, Rock Scissors Paper: Understanding How Environment Affects Your Performance on a Daily Basis, described how the condition of your environment affects your performance, the tools that can be used to create high performance environments, and a general process for clearing clutter. It was designed to set the foundation of principles, information and processes to create high performance spaces by clearing clutter and improving feng shui in spaces. From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year goes a step further by providing specific recommendations and step-by-step plans to clear clutter and create good feng shui in every area of your home.

From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year begins with a chapter designed to help you start clutter clearing. It includes information about where to start clutter clearing for the best results, where not to start clearing, the best way to start clearing, how to clear clutter, what to clear out, and how to get started and continue clearing clutter.

What distinguishes this book from other books about decluttering is that chapters address both clutter clearing and feng shui challenges in each area of the home. For example, in the Bedroom chapter you’ll find a section that addresses how to clear clutter from the tops of dressers as well as sections about how to make your bedroom peaceful by eliminating things that affect quality sleep like loose shoes and an open laundry hamper. At the end of the chapter is step-by-step plan to clutter clearing from the bedroom.

You can use From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year as your guide to systematically clear clutter and create good feng shui in your home over the period of one year. Or, you can use it as a reference manual to pull out when you are ready to tackle clutter in any area of your home.

Is this the year you are going to get your clutter clearing done and reclaim comfort and peace in your home? If so, email me to be added to a list to be notified when From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year hits the book shelves later this fall.

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!).

12 Tips to Ensure Peace in your Family Room

A cluttered room, regardless of its furnishings and paint color, is a noisy,

A family room can be peaceful!

A family room can be peaceful!

stressful environment whose negative energy will have a negative effect on the energy of its occupants. Conflicts are more likely to occur in a cluttered space.

When you think about your family room or den, do you sigh with pleasure or groan with displeasure, irritation or overwhelm? Family rooms are gathering spots, high use areas for relaxing at the end of busy days and busy weeks. As such, they tend to attract all kinds of things that have very little to do with relaxing, like computers and other forms of technology, CDs, DVDs, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, toys, art supplies, paper. . . the list goes on! If your family room is cluttered, you are not alone! Family rooms seem to take on a life of their own, especially when more than one person is sharing that space.

Guidelines for a Peaceful Family Room

  1. Remember that everything is alive with energy, and that the energies of items talk to you all the time. The more items you have in the space, the noisier and less peaceful the space will be.
  2. Keep small items like CDs, DVDs, art supplies and games contained and out of sight to quiet their noisy energies.
  3. Limit the number of knick knacks you have out and visible to just a few precious items.
  4. Have a balance between large objects (furniture) and small objects (knick knacks, books, magazines, etc.) in the room, erring on the side of more large objects and fewer small objects.
  5. Keep paper out of the family room. If you bring paper into the room to read or work on, be sure to remove it when you leave. Paper usually has the energy of activity and work, and is not conducive to the function of peace and relaxation of a family room.
  6. Limit the number of framed photos to one to three per surface so each photo can be enjoyed. Large quantities of framed photos on a surface have the energy of a crowd, more annoying than pleasurable. Plus, because the energy of a crowd feels overwhelming, it’s less likely that all the photos will be seen.
  7. Contain your magazines and catalogues to one or two baskets or bins rather than out on tables. If a basket fills up, consider it a sign that it’s time review the contents of the basket and let some items go to recycling or the trash.
  8. Keep side tables clear by using small boxes with lids on side tables to contain small items that are frequently used in the family room, like nail clippers, nail files, pens, note pads, etc. When those items are used, return them immediately to the box.
  9. If you have more than one remote, devote one attractive container to remotes and return all remotes to it at the end of each day.
  10. Teach children that whatever they bring into the room must leave it when they leave, like book bags, school supplies, books, snack wrappers, plates, shoes, iPods, tablets, laptops, etc.
  11. Return the room to order each time you leave it and teach your family members to do the same. Return magazines to their basket, remove newspapers, return dishes to the kitchen, and put CDs and DVDs that were used back in place.
  12. Keep the room clean. Dust and dirt are negative energy. Negative energies can induce negative behaviors, irritation and conflict.

It takes just minutes per day to maintain peace in a family room. And, a peaceful family room can also be trashed and transformed into a chaotic mess in a matter of minutes of thoughtless action. Choose for peace!

Want Peace in the Family? Clear Kitchen Countertop Clutter!

At this time of kitchen gadgets and appliances galore, it’s not uncommon toCalm Kitchen find kitchen counters clogged with those “essentials.” But, I challenge you to do a survey of those items asking yourself, “How often do I use this?” I’ll bet you can cut those “essentials” in half if you limit countertop items to those you use every day. Any item used less often can be stored in a cabinet or pantry and retrieved when needed.

The energy of those items displayed on your counters talks to you and everyone else in the kitchen. Multiple appliances and gadgets create lots of energy chatter. Lots of chatter can become lots of stress, particularly when you add the chatter of family members to the mix. Remove the chatter by removing those items, and you’ll find that your kitchen feels much more peaceful.

It’s also difficult to make cluttered countertops look attractive. “Attractive? Kitchens are meant to be functional, not necessarily attractive,” you say. I say, “Why not functional AND attractive?” Treat your kitchen as a 3D collage of those things that bring family and friends together and you’ll find interactions with others in that space not only more harmonious, but more connected. Environment affects performance. A cluttered space tends to irritate the nervous system. A lovely space soothes it. Which would you prefer?

Clutter: 5 Negative Effects on Personal Relationships

If you think your clutter affects only you, think again. Feng shui teaches that everything

Clutter creates conflict in relationships.

Clutter creates conflict in relationships.

is connected. Clutter in any area of your home affects the overall energy of the space. The overall energy of the space affects what happens in your life.

Clutter is negative energy. Negative energy repels good things from coming to you. It also can make you feel unsettled, irritable, anxious and overwhelmed. Clutter affects your energy and the energy of everyone in your space even if the clutter is yours alone. The energy of each family member affects their decision-making and behavior. 

Over the years I’ve worked as a professional organizer I’ve seen clutter affect personal relationships in the following ways:

  • It affects your relationship with yourself. Your self-esteem and your thinking and feelings about yourself suffer when you have clutter. You can be very self-critical, forever beating yourself up about your inability to clear your clutter. Clutter blocks you from accessing your gifts and strengths and effectively utilizing them in your life.
  • It affects your relationship with your spouse. Spouses of a cluttered person who are bothered by the condition of the environment express their discomfort in judgment, negative comments, name calling, anger and irritability. Even if your spouse is not openly judgmental, the negative energy of the clutter creates a charged environment in which it is easier to become irritated, agitated and at odds with each other. Clutter also keeps you unconscious of the state of your relationship, it’s growth or lack of growth, issues that need to be addressed, and changes that need to be made for the sake of the relationship. Failure to address clutter challenges can lead to divorce.
  • It affects your relationship with your children. Clutter is distracting. Feng shui teaches that the energy of each item in your space talks to you. Having clutter, therefore, is like having hundreds of little conversations going on all at once. All that noise keeps you distracted, unable to have the mental clarity needed to parent effectively. It also makes it more difficult to stay calm, grounded and make good decisions. In a cluttered space you are more likely to be reactive, saying and doing things that are hurtful to your children.
  • It affects family relationships. The negative energy in cluttered spaces makes everyone less tolerant and more easily irritated and reactive. It distracts from what is really important to sustain healthy family connections. Clutter keeps you focused on what’s wrong, what doesn’t feel good rather than on fostering and investing in positive connections.
  • It affects your relationships with friends and relatives. You may be embarrassed by the condition of your space to the point where you avoid asking people over to visit, to share a meal or to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Barring people from your home can disconnect you from social contacts and eventually result in isolation.

What can you do today to improve your relationships by clearing clutter? If you cannot clear clutter on your own despite your best efforts, email me today to schedule a free 30 minute coaching consultation to determine your next step to clear clutter for the sake of your relationships.

Clear Clutter: Top of the Bedroom Dresser

You may have learned this the hard way, but it’s best to leave clearing cluttered dresser

Bedroom dressers are best used as decorative surfaces,  not storage areas or dump spots.

Bedroom dressers are best used as decorative surfaces, not storage areas or dump spots.

tops for last in your bedroom clutter clearing efforts. Why? Those surfaces are usually covered with little stuff like jewelry, receipts, business cards, perfumes, coins, knick knacks, photographs and anything else that lands on that tempting flat surface.  If you begin clutter clearing with small stuff, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed by the quantity of decisions to be made and the impossibility of seeing visible progress quickly.

If, on the other hand, you figured out that it’s best to tackle the rest of the room first, good for you! That way you have already improved the energy in your space to a point where facing that dreaded mess of little stuff seems possible.

So, you’re looking at all that little stuff. Where do you begin?

Start by considering the function of that surface. In other words, what kinds of items do you want to have out in the open, either because you love them and they make your heart sing or because you want easy access to them?

Once you make that decision, remove anything from the dresser top that doesn’t fit that function. Move those items in the direction they need to go. For example, if business cards really belong in your home office, place the cards near the door to the room, ready for transport to the home office when you take a break or finish your work for the day. Don’t take those items to the location at that moment. If you do, you may never get back to the dreaded dresser top!

Once you’ve removed those things that don’t fit the dresser top function, sort the remaining items into categories of like items. Clump jewelry with jewelry, perfumes with perfumes, etc. That way you can get an accurate picture of the quantity of each item and you are better able to decide how many of a particular type of item you want to have out in the open. Be very selective about those things that remain on the dresser top because each is alive with an energy that will talk to you while you sleep. Remember, your bedroom will feel more restful if fewer items are visible.

A great option for a dresser top is a box and small containers in which you can store all the little stuff that talks too loudly.

Men find a dresser box helpful for storing nail clippers, other small grooming tools and various odds and ends that could get lost in the depths of drawers. Another option for keeping a dresser top less cluttered is to place a small container to hold loose change or frequently used jewelry. When small items float over the top of a dresser it feels more cluttered. Be sure to use each container for just one category of little stuff. When you mix items in containers you create clutter in a container and can’t easily find and access items you want.

Dresser tops are best treated as decorative surfaces rather than a landing strips for the stuff in your pockets and anything you don’t want to bother moving to its rightful home. Once you identify the function of the dresser top, it will easier to stop yourself from just dropping anything in your hand or pocket onto that surface.

Clear your dresser top and then treat it with respect. The peace of your bedroom depends on it!

New Clothes Lead to Clutter Clearing

Do you have cluttered dresser drawers? Are your drawers packed so full you can’t get anything else in them? Have you stopped putting items in your drawers because it’s too much trouble to cram anything more in them?

2015-08-29 07.37.10Recently I acquired two new shirts to go in my dresser. My shirt drawer had been filling up, and by the time I needed to add those two shirts it was screaming, “No more!” Instead of just cramming them in I decided to practice what I preach, “When you bring in a new item of clothing, make sure you get rid of one. If you want to reduce the volume of clothes you have, get rid of two for every one you bring in.”

I pulled the shirts out and separated them into three piles: T-shirts, short sleeved shirts, long sleeved shirts. As I looked at each shirt I thought about 1) how I look in it, 2) how 2015-08-29 07.39.46often I’d worn it in the last year, 3) what condition it was in, and 4) whether I loved wearing it or not. I just got real when I looked at all my shirts, and was able to let go of a pile of shirts instead of the just two.

When you get too many shirts in a drawer, you can’t see all of them easily. When things can’t be seen, you don’t use them. So, why have them? When you have fewer shirts neatly stacked by type, you can glance at them all quickly and very easily access all your shirts, even one at the bottom of a stack.

An "in control" shirt drawer.

An “in control” shirt drawer.

What does your shirt drawer look like? This is what mine now looks like. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels to have an “in control” shirt drawer full of my favorite shirts.

Clutter: The Risks of Not Doing Clutter Clearing

imagesCAGBLYOU“Risk is a part of life, work, and love. If you leap, a net will appear.”

~Barbara Talisman

When you clear clutter you are taking risks. You could decide you are going to clear a particular space, but then find you can’t get started. You risked and failed at starting. You could start clutter clearing, get stuck, and run for the remote. You risked and bailed out. You could identify items to donate, take them to be donated, and later find you need the very thing you donated.

Those risks can keep many people from achieving their clutter clearing goals. Some people decide it’s better to be cluttered than risk failing or making a mistake. But, what if the risk of not clutter clearing is far greater than the risks associated with clutter clearing?

The risks of NOT clearing your clutter include:

  • not being able to achieve your goals because you can’t find what you need when you need it,
  • missing opportunities because your clutter makes it impossible to think clearly and make good decisions,
  • not being able to achieve your goals because your clutter is so distracting that you lose sight of your goals and/or fail to follow through on opportunities and necessary actions,
  • wasting money in late fees and/or destroying your credit rating because you aren’t able to find your bills to pay them on time,
  • blocking the flow of money and other good things coming into your life,
  • having relationship conflict or even getting divorced because your partner or spouse cannot tolerate the clutter,
  • being lonely and isolated because you don’t want anyone to see the condition of your home, and
  • having health challenges because the negative energy of your clutter affects you physically (breathing problems, autoimmune disorders, heart problems, cancer).

Can you afford to not clear clutter? You can get over making a mistake or failing in your clutter clearing attempts. But, can you afford to risk your productivity, your financial situation, relationships and health? Take a risk. You will survive and be glad you did!

If you need help to move past your fears of failure and/or making a mistake in clutter clearing, email me to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to determine your best next steps to get unstuck and moving to clear your clutter.

Is Your Closet Functional or Dysfunctional?

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

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

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

Functional closets

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

Dysfunctional closets, by comparison,

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

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

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

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

Travel Re-Entry — A Grounding and Clutter Clearing Opportunity

Travel creates clutter. There are suitcases to unpack, clothes and toiletries to be put away, IMG_2394papers associated with travel details, souvenirs accumulated. Getting ready for the trip can be hard enough, making sure you pack all you think you’ll need during your time away. But, unpacking and restoring order post travel is much more difficult. After all, the excitement and anticipation of a trip can motivate packing. But, what provides motivation for unpacking?

Why has my brain landed on this subject? I’m just back from the vacation of a lifetime, a trip to New Mexico for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It was a magical, spiritual and fun experience beyond words. Therefore, re-entry has been VERY difficult. I didn’t want to leave the pleasure and freedom I experienced during that week with Bob, my husband, and Pattie Toad, my best friend since age 16. So, as is my habit when I’m struggling emotionally, I’ve been watching myself navigate this uncomfortable re-entry process.

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Debbie & Bob

I could have just gone to ground — dropped my suitcase, backpack, purse and hit the sofa, ignoring the need to unpack. If I had followed the direction of my feelings (sadness, anger, irritability), that’s just what I would have done. But, instead I used my swirling feelings to motivate action to resist parking on the sofa indefinitely and kept thinking about how much better I would feel when I was unpacked and really home (based on my memory of past experiences).

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Debbie and Pattie Toad

When you’re not unpacked, you aren’t home yet. You aren’t grounded in your current life. Your bags and associated papers hold the energy of the trip in place — a past event. Your space and your brain are cluttered with things and thoughts associated with the travel. It’s hard to be present, productive, back on track in your life and moving forward when the things around you keep you stuck in the past.

Over time I’ve developed the habit of unpacking and creating order within the first 24 hours of returning home. It helps me get grounded physically, mentally and emotionally. My work with clients has taught me that many people have a very different habit. They drop their suitcases and immediately launch back into their lives. Spewing suitcases take up residence in bedrooms and mail goes unopened. I’m sure it’s due to the ho hum, boring aspect of unpacking. But, I also wonder if part of the reason for not unpacking and fully landing back in real life is also a function of not planning enough time for re-entry.

The saving grace of my re-entry from my Albuquerque trip is that I scheduled a day off after we arrived back home. That day provided me with time to unpack and re-establish basic order in my home which made it possible to work through my unsettled feelings and prepare myself to step back into the roles and responsibilities I’d set aside while on vacation. When I did return to work the following day, not only was my home in pretty good shape, but so too was my mood and attitude.

So, having just experienced the benefit of my day off post balloon-heaven, I offer you this travel strategy to prevent physical, mental and emotional post-travel clutter.

Strategy: Schedule an extra day off following a trip, especially a major trip, to unpack, clear travel clutter, and get grounded in your life. Make unpacking and grounding yourself a priority on that day.

3 Tips to a Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2014 message greeting written on heart shape blackboard against a pink background.The last day of 2013. What a perfect time to review the last year and set your intentions for the new year! It’s an opportunity make some decisions and internal commitments about what you want to accomplish and experience in the new year in your personal and/or professional life. Does considering that type of thinking and planning send you into overwhelm? Here are three suggestions to help you find your way.

  • Choose a guiding theme or message for the year. This year my guiding them is, “feed your heart.” Recently while being coached I came to the realization that when I feed my heart I have fun, feel most alive, and experience joy. Last year was so heavy with family obligations and hard work that I really long for more fun and joy in the coming year. Feeding my heart with experiences of deep connection, creating beauty, spending time in nature, spending time with dogs, and enjoying music is the way for me to get that. 
  • Choose an area for personal or professional growth and learning. One of the best ways to feel alive and excited about life is to be engaged in learning something new, particularly something that is in alignment with your values, needs and your guiding theme. My areas of learning and growth for 2014 will be in further developing my coaching skills and in some type of art endeavor. 
  • Make a decision to get unstuck in at least one area of your life and make it so. Perhaps you’re stuck in a pattern of overeating when stressed. Perhaps your physical environment is cluttered and keeps you stuck in indecision and in an inability to take action on your own behalf. For years my automatic has been work, work, work. My drug of choice is work. I’ve been somewhat clueless and mostly unsuccessful in efforts to play, lighten up and have fun. Because I have no been successful at achieving more balance between work and fun/play on my own, I’m seeking support from a coach specifically to address my own self-care.  Our goal is to increase my awareness about the nature of my challenge and about how to shift from being a compulsive doer to being a more balanced, playful person. 

Following through on any one of the above steps could be challenging. How will you keep them in the forefront of your mind as you drift back into the current of daily life post holidays?

Partnering with a coach is a great way to identify your goals for 2014, to keep them in your awareness, and make steady progress to accomplish them. If you want 2014 to be your best year yet, I hope you’ll call me to discuss the possibility of working with me as your coach (804-730-4991). I’m offering a $50 discount off three 30 minute micro-coaching sessions until January 31 ($150 reduced to $100). Consider coaching to launch yourself into the new year with intention and purpose.

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!

How To Stay Organized When Life Throws You a Curveball

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 6 of the important lessons I learned:

1. Identify tasks to be done no matter what.

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

2. Defer whatever tasks you can to other people.

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

3. Lighten your load by eliminating obligations.

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

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

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

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

5. Resist the urge to do nothing.

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

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

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

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

10 Characteristics of High Performance Environments

Want to create a high performance environment? My guess is that you already know many of the characteristics listed below. But, you may need some incentive to motivate yourself to create that type of space. Here you go! High performance environments:

  • are comfortable and make visitors immediately feel comfortable
  • are places where you can be productive and accomplish your goals
  • are optimal for positive human interactions
  • are places where you want to spend time

Following are ten characteristics of spaces where you can be both productive and comfortable.

  1. Clean–Dust, dirt and grime are sources of negative energy. Negative energy is distracting and interferes with your ability to feel comfortable and motivated.
  2. Organized–When you’re organized you can find what you want when you want it, keep track of what you need to do and work efficiently. Being organized also helps you feel more in control and empowered.
  3. Uncluttered–Clutter distracts. Clutter irritates. Clutter attracts more clutter. It also talks to you. I’ll bet the last time your space was cluttered with paper it said something like, “Why don’t you take care of me?” or “What a mess!” Who needs a space that says unkind things to you!
  4. Walls painted a color, not white–When you are in an environment that is predominantly white you are more prone to anxiety and depression. The reason for that is that color doesn’t show up against white walls. You are nurtured by color. When you don’t have enough color in your environment, you’re more likely to feel blue or anxious. Paint your walls a color and watch the color in your wall hangings and window coverings pop off the wall.
  5. Good natural lighting–We all know that rooms with windows are preferable to rooms with no windows. But, for optimal performance you want to have rooms with light that is not too bright and not too dim. Light is energy. In rooms that are too bright, you run a risk of burnout because there’s too much energy. If windows let in too much light, bringing in heat and glare, window coverings can be used to moderate the level of light. If a room is too dim, there isn’t enough energy in the space and it’s very hard to feel motivated to take action. In that case adding additional light is essential.
  6. Well lit with at least three sources of incandescent light–Avoid fluorescent lighting. We need full spectrum lighting to thrive. Fluorescent lighting is not full spectrum. It also makes noises–buzzing and popping–that are irritating to the nervous system. Many spaces feel most comfortable with at lease three light sources, two lamps and one pole lamp that provides up-lighting.
  7. Attractive, comfortable furniture in good condition–It is most important that you avoid having furniture that you hate because it’s ugly, is uncomfortable or is associated with bad memories or bad feelings. Always choose comfortable furniture whose appearance you love.
  8. Healthy live plants or clean silk plants–Our natural habitat is the out of doors. Plants make spaces feel comfortable because they bring the outdoors inside. Live plants also remove pollutants from the air. Their green color will nurture you and can transform a sterile environment into a comfortable space. While live plants are preferable, silk plants that look like real plants can be used as long as they are kept clean.
  9. Interesting, colorful art–Art feeds a space with color and scenes that can lift your spirits and your energy. Violent scenes and scenes with a negative association should be avoided because their negative energy will affect your energy and could attract negative circumstances.
  10. Mementos that matter to you–Mementos hold the energy of the memory associated with them. When that association is positive and you bring them into your space, you are anchoring positive pieces of your history. When surrounded by things that remind you of some of the best experiences, accomplishments and people in your life, those things can help you keep on track, focused on your abilities and blessings.

© 2012 Clearing Clutter for Good Online Program | 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 www.letcluttergo.com.