Tag Archives: Debbie Bowie

Plan With Your Big Rocks In Mind

Planning is something we all do every day. We plan what to wear based on what we will be

What are your big rocks?

doing during the day. We plan where we’ll go when we get in the car. We plan to meet friends for dinner. We plan what activities we’ll do in a day. We plan how we’ll spend our time. Short-term planning is second nature for most of us. It helps us go from point A to B with as little hassle and as much ease as possible. No big deal, right?

It depends. Are you making those plans with full awareness of what you are scheduled to do? With an eye on the big picture of your priorities? If you aren’t, you run the risk of using your time for unimportant tasks that may be pleasurable, but not important in the grand scheme of things.

Even short-term planning requires that you be conscious of what you really want, what is most important to get done, and how long it takes to do it. I call it focusing on your big rocks. Your big rocks are the things that matter most in your life — family, finances, career, service, relationships, etc. They are the center of your compass, the point from which ideally all action originates.

What are your big rocks? Many people fly through the busyness of life without pausing to identify what is most important to them.  If you are unclear about what your big rocks are, schedule a 30-60 minute free Back on Track phone coaching session with me to discover what they are and how you can make them part of your daily planning.

When you plan your days with your big rocks in focus, you are more likely to live a life of meaning and purpose. Plan your days with your big rocks in mind!

Planning Is NOT a Swear Word!

Don’t you cringe a little when you read the word planning? I do! When I think of planning I think of work. Planning is work because it requires that I focus my thoughts, and think about and organize the activities required to achieve my goals. It takes mental effort!

However, when I think about my life and what gives it quality and meaning, so much of it is the result of planning. For example, I am in love with yoga. It feeds my soul and tones my body. The only way I am able to do it 3-5 times per week is because I found a cost-effective way to pay for it and I scheduled yoga as an appointment on my calendar. Both activities took thought and planning.

In our world of instant gratification, frenetic activity and so many opportunities to be spontaneous, planning can seem at odds with the flow of life. It can seem boring and like a waste of time. Is it boring or is it annoying because we must slow down so we can focus to do it well? I have a hunch that much resistance to planning happens because people don’t want to change their speed or the level of stimulation that comes from a more fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants approach to life.

Without planning you are more likely to drift along, under-function and land somewhere you never intended to go. Planning is the best way I know to ensure that you accomplish your goals, reach your dreams and create the life you really want.

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.

Are You Putting Things Away to Stay Organized?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!).

The Junk Drawer: A Kitchen Mini-Attic

Don’t know what to do with the curtains you removed from a child’s bedroom? Stick them in the attic! Don’t know what to do with miscellaneous pieces of plastic that might be important for

Adding dividers or small containers to “junk” drawers to separate items into categories can transform your “junk” drawer into a highly functional drawer.

some reason? Stick them in the junk drawer! Is it any wonder that most people cringe, not only when attics are mentioned, but also when junk drawers become the subject of conversation? Junk drawers are the “I don’t know what to do with it” places for small items, often located in the kitchen.

What I don’t understand is how that drawer of miscellaneous items got its name. Often most of the things in a junk drawer are not junk. They are useful items: screw drivers and other small tools, pencils, pens, batteries, nail files, sewing kits, screws and nails, gum, rubber bands . . . I’ll bet junk drawers were so named because their contents were jumbled and looked junky!

I object to using the adjective “junk” to describe any storage area in a house, because using “junk” to describe a space gives it permission to be junky. I once had a client who had a junk room! Can you imagine giving over one whole room in a house to junk?! Needless to say, that room is now a small study, not a junk room!

Believe it or not, junk drawers can be transformed from junky spaces to organized places with organizer inserts or small containers to hold the different categories of things you choose to keep in that drawer. You can even find those containers around the house, if you have some small boxes set aside for gift giving. Both lids and boxes can be used.

Be sure to limit the contents of each container to one category. For example, one container might hold batteries, another would hold pens and pencils, and a third would hold miscellaneous tools. Don’t mix items within a container or you’ll transform your neatly organized drawer of miscellaneous small items back into a junk drawer.

And, why not call your newly organized drawer of miscellaneous small items something fun like the Picasso drawer or the Discovery drawer? You decide! If you want to be successful in maintaining a really useful storage space for miscellaneous small things in your kitchen, let go of the “junk drawer” label. You’ll be glad you did the next time you are able to quickly find that miscellaneous piece of plastic that turns out to be the battery cover for the back of your TV remote!

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.

Change Your Thoughts, Stop Procrastinating!

Victory over procrastination is possible. I speak from recent experience. This past weekend the weather was warm enough to work outside. It was a perfect time to offer to help my neighbor prune a grape vine that was threatening to engulf his forsythia. Why would I want to do that? The forsythia bush is in my direct line of sight from my kitchen window. Watching that vine overtake that lovely forsythia was very disturbing to me, bad feng shui! I didn’t want to face another season of observing the forsythia succumb to an out-of-control weed.

When I returned from doing errands and considered what to do next, I contemplated the task of tearing out the grape vine. Immediately my brain began to formulate excuses for not doing it:

  • It would be boring.
  • It would be overwhelming.
  • I would get dirty.
  • I could encounter poison ivy.
  • I hate making phone calls (I needed to call my neighbor).

As I processed each thought I noted that my energy and enthusiasm for tackling the task diminished. Fortunately I recognized the familiar voice of the way I procrastinate and chose to stop those thoughts mid-stream. In their place I thought of reasons why it was important that I offer to help my neighbor evict the grapevines that day:

  • The branches and vines are completely visible now before new growth appears. In a few weeks the job will be much harder to do, much easier to procrastinate doing, and would probably not get done.
  • The weather is warm for February (60’s F). Not too cold and not too hot.
  • My house cleaner is in my house, so it is not completely comfortable to be there.
  • I enjoy yard work and always feel better physically after doing it.

It was the perfect time to go to battle with the grapevines! My hibernating winter self wanted to resist the call to go outside and do the task. However, weighing my excuses against the importance of getting the job done right away, because it would be easier to do and weather conditions were ideal, I picked up the phone. As the phone rang I wondered if  my neighbor would be up for the chore. He could decline my offer and that would be that. He answered, and after a pause (probably doing battle with his own reluctance to leave the comfort of his arm chair), agreed to accept my help.

The result: the task took much less time to do than I thought it would, especially with two of us doing it; we cut out the offending vine that I now know came from just a single root; I cut out and put an herbicide on the poison ivy I found; I now know where the poison ivy vines originate, so I know where to continue to apply herbicide; I cut back the forsythia that had spread into my garden; I enjoyed and was energized by the process of rescuing the forsythia and working outside, and, I now love the view from my kitchen.

What thoughts block you from taking action on important tasks? Change them and take action!

Income Tax Prep Without Procrastination

Do you dread getting ready for taxes? If you have a paper clutter nightmare to address in order

Don’t let paper clutter keep you from getting your taxes done!

to gather together the papers you need to complete your taxes, the task of getting ready for taxes can feel very heavy. For those of you with ADHD, it ranks right up there as not only a very heavy task, because keeping your papers organized is not your strong suit, but also as a VERY boring task. If you fear of the IRS or find the task anxiety provoking and too complex to face, this time of year is also much dreaded.

Procrastinating tax prep is very common. If you identify with scenarios above, I highly recommend you invest in support to get the task done. It will be money well spent!

Support can be asking a friend or family member to be with you while you gather your papers together. Or, it can be hiring a professional organizer to help you complete the task. An organizer will get the job done about four times faster than you could do it yourself. Plus, being in the presence of the organizer, a productivity and paper-sorting expert, will make the job seem far less daunting.

With the support of a knowledgeable, caring person you will find it much easier to manage feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, embarrassment or shame, common feelings that emerge at a time like this. The whole process becomes more of a social event than a dreaded task.

I help one of my ADHD clients find and organize the papers she needs to submit to her accountant every year. We’ve been doing it for 10 years or more. Together it only takes about 30 minutes at most to gather all the information she needs. She is then ready to submit her information to her accountant or knows exactly what to do to acquire any remaining documentation. If we didn’t tackle her taxes together she could easily procrastinate doing the chore right up to the deadline.

If taxes are your nemesis, a task associated with high anxiety, embarrassment or shame, get help! Gift yourself with the peace of mind that comes from getting that important yet dreaded task done. 

SPECIAL OFFER!!! Contact me at 804-730-4991 by April 15 to receive 25% off the cost of two hours of hands-on paper clutter clearing and organizing to get ready for taxes.

Procrastination: Normal vs. Problematic

Not all procrastination is created equal. We all procrastinate, probably every day. It is very normal to put off doing tasks for a variety of reasons: you don’t feel like doing the task; you’d rather do something else; the task will take longer than the time available; you don’t have enough mental energy for the task; the task is too hard to do on your own; the task is not the most important thing to do at the moment, etc. The list goes on and on.

It is normal to procrastinate. You can’t do everything at once. You must make choices about how to use your time and energy. I might put off taking the garbage out tonight or put off taking suitcases to the attic. If I wait to do those tasks for a day or two, there will only be a minor inconvenience. That is what I call “normal” procrastination.

If those tasks are not accomplished for a week, and other tasks are put off as well, what began as minor visual and perhaps olfactory disturbances could grow into a more serious problem, one that will take much more time and energy to address. What started as normal procrastination then becomes “problematic” procrastination.

Normal procrastination is usually short-term, involves small, less important tasks, and results in few serious consequences. It becomes problematic procrastination when small tasks are postponed more frequently and for longer periods of time or when important tasks (e.g. those that affect finances, job, relationships, health) are put off to the point of crisis. The price for problematic procrastination can be very high — loss of reputation, job difficulties or loss, relationships challenges or divorce, deterioration or loss of residence, financial difficulties (problems with the IRS, bankruptcy, ruined credit), and health deterioration to name a few.

We all procrastinate. Do you procrastinate in a way that has no serious consequences or does it lead to challenges in many areas of your life? If you would describe your procrastination as problematic, your procrastination could be caused by ADHD. ADHD is a mechanical problem in the brain whose symptoms include difficulty with starting tasks (procrastinating), particularly those that are boring and uninteresting.

If you have ADHD or think you have it, treatment for the disorder can help you procrastinate less and get more done. Schedule a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session today to discuss your procrastination challenges and options for help to procrastinate less and be more productive.

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.

Procrastination = Attempt to Feel Good Now

I’ve been reading articles on procrastination to prepare for speeches I

Who is winning?

Who is winning?

will give in March 2017. I was particularly fascinated by “Procrastination: A Scientific Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating,” an article by James Clear, which suggests that procrastination is a result of our present and future selves being at odds with each other.

Our future self plans and sets goals. It can see the benefit of taking actions with long-term benefits. Our present self is actually responsible for taking action. And, guess what? It really likes instant gratification. It seeks pleasure in the moment and tends to make choices to avoid discomfort, thus is likely to procrastinate tasks that could cause discomfort in the moment.

Clear says that we value long-term benefits when they are in the future, not in the present moment. You can vow to go to the gym to get it shape and lose weight when you set your annual goals. Getting in shape and losing weight are in the future. Having to go to the gym or stop eating ice cream, tasks that are necessary to achieve your goal, are in the present. It’s easy to lose sight of those laudable future goals when your bed feels so warm and comfortable in the morning or you have a tasty treat in front of you. Thus you procrastinate getting regular exercise and making healthy food choices.

According to Clear, your present self is not likely to be motivated to avoid long term consequences because we aren’t connected to our future selves. That self seems so far away and impervious to current benefits and consequences of actions taken today.

One answer to the future/present self conflict offered by Clear is to make the rewards of taking action with long-term benefits more immediate. When the benefits of long-term choices are more immediate, you will be more motivated take action now.

Clear suggests that you can achieve this with “temptation bundling,” a concept that came out of behavioral economics research performed by Katy Milkman at The University of Pennsylvania. Temptation bundling involves combining a behavior that is good for you in the long-run with a behavior that feels good in the short-run. Some of his examples include: only listen to audiobooks or podcasts you love while exercising; only get a pedicure while processing overdue work emails.

Clear’s information offers a very plausible explanation for why so many people have great difficulty starting and sustaining an exercise program, losing weight, and accomplishing many long-term goals despite the best of intentions. Is your present self running the show? Is the result undue stress and failure to accomplish important business and life goals?

Task Inflation Procrastination

I’m writing a speech on procrastination. I procrastinate. We all do to15873280_10208316588022928_397351164930254615_n varying degrees. As I’ve watched myself, my husband, and my clients procrastinate, I’ve learned that there are different reasons for procrastination. I thought I’d heard them all until today when a coaching client spoke of what was keeping her from completing a task that was not difficult or even time consuming to do.

I’ve known for some time that my ADHD clients can paralyze themselves by looking at the whole task to be done instead of focusing on the next step to take in the completion of a task. I call it the “looking at the forest instead of the trees” problem. It happens when the enormity of a task shuts down mental processes. It’s a very common cause for procrastination. It can be addressed by breaking a task into a series of smaller steps (eat an elephant one bite at a time) and taking one step at a time. If you do that you can avoid shutting down your brain and keep making progress. 

What I hadn’t heard before was procrastination caused by viewing a task as too overwhelming because you’ve added a much larger task onto a smaller task. In this case my client needed to complete putting Christmas decorations away in order to reclaim her dining room. That task would normally have taken 30-45 minutes to complete if she simply put things the decorations where they belong.

However, in my client’s mind the “Christmas decoration task” became connected to the “organize the garage” task. She saw putting the Christmas decorations away as an opportunity to also tackle organizing her garage since that’s where the decorations are stored. Those two tasks were then glued together in her thinking.

In her mind the task was no longer a 30-45 minute, fairly simple task. It had become a time-consuming, complicated task that could take hours and perhaps several days to complete alone.  Putting the Christmas decorations away was just a minor part of that big task.

Because putting the Christmas decorations away had ballooned into a garage reorganization project, it became so big that the “looking at the forest” problem kicked in and led to procrastination. What is exciting about the coaching process is that we had the opportunity to unearth the block that kept my client from completing the task.

As we talked and explored her reluctance to finish putting Christmas decorations away, she became aware that she was thinking of the Christmas decoration cleanup as part of the much larger garage organizing task. That awareness helped her realize that her expectation that she reorganize the whole garage at the same time that she put away Christmas decorations was keeping her stuck. She was then able to consider ways to disconnect the garage reorganization project from the Christmas cleanup so she could finally be done with Christmas.

Look at some of the tasks you are avoiding. Are you stuck because you’ve made a simple task into a much more complicated project in your mind? If so, you too have the option to change your mind to get unstuck and moving.

If procrastination is a recurring problem for you, coaching is a great way to make changes necessary to reduce procrastination. I offer a free 30-60 minute Back On Track phone coaching consultation for anyone who wants to experience coaching first hand and explore options for addressing challenges that interfere with their productivity. Start your New Year on the right track! Schedule a free coaching consultation now! 

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.

Closet Organizing Can Be Creative & Fun

A very interesting guest room closet.

A very interesting guest room closet.

Who says closets have to be overwhelming and boring? You can make your
closets interesting with a little thought and creativity.  One of my clients did just that when she decided to gather all her Williamsburg memorabilia and mementos together and displayed them in her guest room closet. How creative and lovely!

Apparently this client was in the habit of leaving her guest room closet empty for use by guests. When she was moving into her house she noticed how many Williamsburg mementoes she had and considered her options for displaying them. The empty shelves in the guest room closet seemed like a perfect place to store and display her treasures.

What a lovely greeting!

What a lovely greeting!

Can you imagine being a guest and opening that closet? How wonderful it would be to be greeted by such historic and interesting items? It sure beats the heck out of unsightly bags, boxes and other miscellaneous stuff!

Make organizing interesting and fun to get it done!

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.

Pleasure at Christmas Is My Priority

Years ago while working with an energy healer I learned that I have great

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

difficulty allowing pleasure. I was raised by two people who worked first, played later if they played at all. Hard work was revered in our house. Plus, when my parents’ marriage began to go downhill, working hard distracted me from my fear and sadness. I worked hard at school, at home, at work, in my private life, and at anything that mattered to me. It was always difficult for me to lighten up and have fun.

When I became aware of my challenge allowing pleasure I decided to do something about it. I started by intentionally lightening up and taking pleasure in the festivities of favorite time of year — the Christmas holiday season. It was a good place to start because it was a time of year that included many things I already loved: Christmas music, spending time with family and friends, baking sweets to give away, showing people I love them, and Christmas colors and decorations.

I deliberately simplified what I did to prepare for the holidays each year to lower my stress and make it possible to be more present to those aspects of the season that touch my heart — lights, music, warm connections with loved ones, familiar decorations. I became more mindful and discriminating about social events I would attend. I enjoyed activities I loved and eliminated those that seemed like work.

Now, when I think of the December and the holiday season my heart smiles. It’s a time of year when I give my hard-working, driven self a break. I see fewer clients. I ease up on my expectations of myself to be consistently productive, and I follow the lead of my heart.

Choosing to allow pleasure at the holidays has made it possible for me to be gentler with myself all year long. I am a first child, which comes with challenges like perfectionism, drivenness, high standards, and a harsh inner critic. I still have a long way to go toward balancing work and fun all year long. But, thanks to my annual pleasure fest in December, I am making progress.

Does pleasure (other than alcohol induced pleasure) even show up on your radar during the holiday season? If not, set your intention to experience some type of holiday pleasure each day of December no matter how busy you are. Make pleasure your focus this holiday season and reap the benefits all year long!

Dispel Christmas Pressure! Simplify!

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” That is the subject of many conversations angel-564351_640among women at this time of year. I was thinking about that question today, and the perspective it anchors. It keeps the focus on the tasks that must be done before the deadline of December 25, like a race to the finish line. Just thinking about that quest creates feelings of pressure and even dread inside me. No wonder some people hate the holidays! It’s just associated with more work to do, not pleasure.

I have always loved the Christmas season. The season, not just the day — the music, the bright lights, the special foods, getting together with friends and family, showing my love and care with gifts and cards I send to those I love. However, I once was like so many people, running as fast as I could to that magic deadline, only to feel let down once I got there. Instead of enjoying the season, I was focused on completing tasks, worrying about whether I’d get everything done on time, and not having much pleasure or fun.

One day I woke up to the fact that the way I was doing Christmas made it impossible to be present to the possible joys of the season. I had a choice to make. 1) Keep doing what I was doing and continue to feel stressed, irritable and burdened. Or, 2) modify what I do each Christmas so I can have time and energy to be fully present for all the joys of the holiday season.

I chose option number 2. My focus is no longer on the deadline of December 25. It is on enjoying the traditions, the feelings, and the opportunities for meaningful connection all through December. This is what did I did to get off the autopilot of stressful Christmas preparations.

  • I stopped putting up a big tree (it took me a day to set up just the tree), and I now have three smaller trees that I keep decorated. All I have to do to put them up is to remove the plastic bag that covers them during storage.
  • I downsized the number and kinds of decorations I put out. I kept only those decorations for which I had a strong heart connection, and I eliminated annoying, difficult to put up decorations like candles in the windows. 
  • I reduced baking from several different types of cookies and sweets to
    img_2656

    Cracker Candy

    one very simple recipe that everyone loves.

  • For many family members I only give token gifts or gift cards instead of numerous gifts.
  • I pair boring tasks like addressing and writing notes in Christmas cards and wrapping presents with tasks I enjoy like watching a Christmas movie or a special TV program.
  • I stopped attending holiday parties I didn’t enjoy.

I still have a Christmas to-do list, but it’s not my main focus. It is no longer driving my mood. I keep my eye on and devote my energies to enjoying the pleasures of the season. I go to Christmas concerts, schedule time to connect with special friends, listen to Christmas music as I drive and work around my house, sit quietly in my decorated space. And, guess what? The tasks that I want to get done (gift giving, card writing, baking, decorating, etc.) get done with less stress, less rush and more pleasure.

What can you do to shift your focus from the pressured rush to the December 25 deadline to enjoying the special opportunities for connection and pleasure that are available during the whole holiday season? You do have a choice!

3 Tips Reduce Christmas Holiday Overwhelm

Let’s face it. Adding holiday tasks to your overly full schedule creates521629_519879618030834_1602480263_n pressure, stress and often overwhelm. It’s enough to shut you down and cause you to avoid doing anything.

Over the years as I too have struggled to get everything done I’ve unconsciously developed some strategies to manage my seasonal overwhelm. Following are three that work very well for me.

Combine holiday tasks with regular daily tasks.

      • You need to get groceries. Why not buy the ingredients for your baking and holiday meals while doing your regular grocery shopping? Or, you could buy edible Christmas gifts or gift cards. 
      • TV helps you unwind after a busy day. You can address, stamp and perhaps even write Christmas cards while enjoying your favorite shows. Or, you could wrap a few packages each night to avoid having to wrap them all at once.

Break big tasks down to bite size pieces.

      • Looking at the task of writing Christmas cards can be daunting because there are so many boring steps. That task can be broken down into the following steps: get your address list together, address cards, stamp cards, write cards, mail cards. Make one step your goal instead of the whole task and you are more likely to do something rather than avoid the task altogether.
      • Rather than tackle your whole gift list at once, plan to buy one gift per day (online or in stores) as you move through your regular daily activities rather than feeling you must devote large blocks of time to shopping.

Give the same type of gift to many people on your list.

      • This year I have made small, economical photo books for almost all of my family members.
      • Every year I give Cracker Candy to family and friends. It’s the only thing I bake and is loved by everyone.
      • Gift cards to restaurants and stores that family and friends frequent allow them to have experiences and purchases things that matter to them.

Melding holiday chores into your daily life, doing a little at a time rather than thinking you should eat the whole elephant at once, and simplifying what you do will make it possible for you to get holiday preparations done with less stress and more pleasure.

Clear Clutter: Donating Items Pays Off

Donate quickly to attract more good in your life!

Donate quickly to attract more good in your life!

It seems like donating items you no longer love, need or use would be a simple process. Just drive to the closest charity of your choice and drop off your stuff, right? I wish!

In particular, many people who have a difficult time letting go of things want to find just the right person or place to donate their former treasures. What they don’t realize is that having to find the best place for everything adds a complexity to the process that is time consuming and often ends up being a barrier to donating anything.

For years I have advocated to clients and participants in my educational seminars that they donate items quickly and as easily as possible trusting that their things will end up with just the right person. For example, Goodwill is five minutes from my house. All my donations go to good will.

I have also recommended that people consider donating items without making itemized lists to claim tax deductions. Making that list is another step, is tedious (I’ve never been able to make myself do it!), and because it’s an easily procrastinated task it is another potential barrier to getting things out of your space.

I gave up getting receipts from Goodwill years ago. I view my donations as a form of community service. I also believe that what you put out there will come back to you in some form. For example, I recently rented a car to visit my disabled brother. I need a car bigger than my tiny Honda Fit because Mark’s leg doesn’t bend at the knee. A van would be ideal, but the rental cost is prohibitive. Therefore, I made a reservation for a standard car with the hope that Mark would fit in it. When I picked up the car I explained what I needed and why, and to my surprise  was offered a van for the cost of a standard car.

I believe that by being generous and freely giving away things I no longer love, use or need that I attract generosity in others. The van was my good will coming back to me.

You will not experience the benefits of clutter clearing until your donations are out of your space. Make donating items a quick and easy process to attract more good into your life.

How People With ADHD Can Successfully Clear Clutter

I received the following post from Tom Robinson, the founder of Adventures event_455738537in ADD, a meet up group for people with ADHD in the Richmond, VA area. Tom has ADHD, and like many people with ADHD, getting and staying organized is difficult.

Tom wrote, “I just started on the first step of my goal to get better organized and free of un-needed, (not un-wanted), “stuff” before Christmas. What could I do with two dozen rods and reels that were stacked in a corner and all tangled up with lines, hooks and weights? I gritted my teeth and made a decision to take the bull by the horns and take a positive step towards a less-cluttered life. Viola! In less than an hour I built twelve feet of rod holders to suspend from the ceiling of my fishing shack. Wow! Looks great and no tangles.”

Tom took the following steps.

  1. He set a goal to get better organized and free of un-needed stuff before Christmas.
  2. He set a specific deadline.
  3. He chose to grit his teeth when hit with some initial overwhelm rather than run from the job.
  4. He made a decision to take a positive step, just one step toward his goal.
  5. He made the task enjoyable by coming up with a creative solution for creating order.

Tom made progress toward achieving his goal by focusing on a very specific desire, to get better organized. That desire helped him push through his resistance. Plus, he used an ADHD strength, his creativity, to make the task more enjoyable and ultimately successful. And, surprise, surprise! The task took less than an hour!

People with ADHD can be successful with clutter clearing if they 1) focus on what they want, 2) find some way to make the task pleasurable/fun, and 2) use their strengths of persistence, determination and creativity to keep them moving and on track.

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.