Tag Archives: Debbie Bowie

Why You Procrastinate Mailing Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching and Organizing Differ

I love coaching, both the coaching I do and the coaching I’ve received. Why? It is the single most

If you want to make positive changes, choose coaching.

powerful process for change I’ve ever experienced with clients and myself.

I’ve worked for years doing hands-on organizing for people (since 1997), a role in which I usually direct the action, make decisions about what to do, and make sure progress is being made. Clients request hands-on organizing because they want me to improve their spaces. There is the possibility for change because as we clear clutter and organize a space, the energy in the space shifts from negative to less negative or positive. It’s a rather passive change process. Although the client may be the recipient of the energy benefits of improving their space, those benefits happen without much ownership by the client. Without ownership of the change process, the client is less likely to commit to maintaining the environmental changes that are made.

Coaching is a learning/action process that helps clients reach their goals. Unlike typical hands-on organizing, in coaching the client is the driver of the process of change. Clients reach out to me because they want something to be different and better in their lives. They want to be different — more productive, less scattered, more aware of what they want and how to get it. They want to change what they are doing so they can get the results they seek.

I partner with my clients to co-create a relationships that make it possible for clients to find their own answers. For coaching to work, the client must be invested in the process of coaching. They have the opportunity to create awareness of who they are, what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, their values, challenge areas and strengths. That information and learning is then leveraged to inform action. With awareness the client and I work together to strategize options for action. I may offer possible strategies, but the client decides what action he/she will take.

Accountability is part of the process of coaching. The client agrees to take specific action between sessions and report his/her progress in the next session. It is his/her opportunity to take their learning into real life practice. I provide accountability and support for the client taking action by inquiring about his/her action in the next session. Whether the client completed the action(s) or not, he/she has the opportunity to learn from whatever was or wasn’t done. With learning and practice change occurs.

Hands-on organizing is very beneficial in the short run. However, if you want real change, if you want to learn to do things differently with a non-judgmental support, coaching is your best option.

Are you curious about what coaching could do for you? Experience the benefits of coaching by scheduling a FREE 30 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me. You’ll get a risk-free taste of coaching and have the opportunity to learn more about this empowering process for change.

Clutter Clearing: Make It Fun to Get It Done!

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

How many bags of trash can you get rid of?

Clearly she hasn’t seen MY clutter!

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

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

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

Support Speeds Clearing Out Parents’ Homes

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

Mom and my step-father, John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productivity: Plan Your Breaks Carefully

Have you had the experience that you are working along on a task or project, stop for a short

Avoid engaging in social media and other pleasurable electronic activities when you take breaks to ensure that you will be able to return to work in a timely manner.

break with the sincere intention to return to your work, but don’t return to it? I’m guessing that most of us have had that type of experience. What happened? Breaks are supposed to help you be more productive, right? How did you get completely derailed from your work?

What you do on your break can determine whether or not you will be successful returning to work after it. If you stand up, stretch, get a drink and/or a snack, go to the bathroom, step outside for a few minutes, even take a short walk, it will be relatively easy to return to your work. Those activities are not likely to distract you from your focus on your work.

If you check Facebook or any other social media site, look at Youtube, play video games, watch TV, surf the web or listen to something engaging, like NPR, you are likely to have more difficulty getting back on track. Those activities are highly stimulating and give great pleasure that can be hard to disengage from. They take you to a place that is very different from your work. You may think you’ll just look at Facebook for five minutes, yet find yourself there for 25 minutes. By then you’ll have shifted from a work/productivity focus to a pleasure focus.

Breaks are essential for productivity. Your brain needs a rest after working hard for a period of time. Taking a break allows you to reset and refresh your brain and get your energy and motivation back. Take breaks regularly (5-15 minutes), but plan your breaks to avoid highly stimulating and highly pleasurable activities that can shift your focus and make re-engaging in your task or project more difficult, if not impossible.

Women Get Stuck! Is This You?

Stuck means not moving. All women experience times in their lives when they just can’t seem to

Self-doubt, limiting beliefs, and fear can keep an artist stuck. Taking action is an act of courage.

muster the motivation to take action to do the things they need to do to maintain a manageable life and/or the things they want to do to support mental, physical, emotional and spiritual growth and create a fulfilling life.

Some women get stuck more easily. I work with three categories of women who get stuck.

  1. Women in transition. When you experience a death or loss, like the death of a spouse, parent or child, or a divorce, it is quite common to get stuck in grief, stuck in an old role and paralyzed when you have to rebuild your life following a significant loss. Other transitions include retiring from a job, becoming an empty nester, changing careers.
  2. Women Artists. Writers experience writer’s block when ideas and words will not flow. Artists want to paint, draw, sculpt, etc., but can’t make themselves show up on a regular basis to do their work. Musicians have the best intentions to practice their instruments, but keep choosing other things to do.
  3. Women with ADHD. Women with ADHD can have great difficulty initiating action, particularly action that is perceived to be boring, not fun and not stimulating. They are also prone to rumination, getting stuck spinning in negative thoughts that keep them stuck. Transitions, getting into action and out of action, are difficult.

What these categories of women have in common is that each is probably stuck because they hold negative perspectives about themselves, their abilities and what’s possible for them. Limiting beliefs, fear, and self-criticism block forward motion. Fear keeps them disconnected from awareness of their strengths and gifts that could be used to get unstuck. Most aren’t even aware of how their negative thoughts and fears block action.

Coaching is a process that will get you unstuck. You will partner with a coach for support to generate awareness of what is keeping you stuck, what your strengths, values and needs are, and to strategize ways ways to take action to achieve your goals. The real gift of coaching is the opportunity to plan and take action with accountability. Knowing that your coach believes in you and is supporting forward movement can motivate you to reach for goals that previously seemed out of reach.

If you are stuck, take the first step. Schedule a 30 minute FREE Back on Track coaching session with me. In that session you will test drive coaching to see if it could be a good fit for you to get unstuck and moving in the direction of your goals and dreams.

Good Feng Shui Following the Death of a Pet

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

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

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

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

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

Clear Old Newspaper Clutter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transform Refrigerator Clutter Into Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productivity: Where You Sit Matters

Yesterday I watched myself carefully choose a seat in Starbucks. I was between meetings and

I didn’t choose to sit at this table because none of the chairs put me in the Power Position. One chair had its back to the main door, one chair had its back to the flow of traffic going to and from the bathroom and exiting the building, and the third chair had its back to the flow of traffic entering by the back door. In all positions my nervous system would be on high alert, and I would feel vulnerable.

needed a place where I could get work done on my computer. I noticed that not just any seat would do. It had to be the most comfortable seat in the restaurant.

I’m not talking about the comfort of the chair I would sit in. All the chairs were the same. I’m referring to the location of the chair in the restaurant. I passed chairs that had their backs to glass walls and chairs that faced outside with their backs to the flow of customer traffic. I was searching for a seat where I could have a solid wall behind me and a full view of the front door.

Why would I be so deliberate about my choice of seating? In my feng shui training I learned that I can be most productive and successful if I position myself in the Power Position when I am working. The Power Position is a location where I have a solid wall behind me and a full view of the door. My nervous systems is programmed for survival. A solid wall behind me ensures that I won’t be surprised from behind. A view of the door makes it possible to know what’s coming at me so I can prepare to defend myself if needed.

The chair where you see the computer was my choice because it put me in the Power Position. I had a solid wall behind me and a full view of both doors.

When I don’t have a solid wall behind me, my nervous system is on high alert for possible threats and therefore can’t settle down to focus my full attention on my work. If I don’t have a view of the door, a part of me feels unsettled, again making it impossible to be fully present to my work. The Power Position is the most comfortable place to sit, a place where my nervous system can settle down and I can focus on important things other than safety. Putting myself in the Power Position is a choice for personal empowerment and productivity.

It has become a habit to position myself in the Power Position whenever I sit down. Yesterday I really wanted to get work done at my computer. I knew if I could find a comfortable place to seat myself, I’d be able to get a lot done. If I couldn’t do that, I would be less productive.

Fortunately the best seat in the house was available with a solid wall behind me and a full view

My view of both doors (one at the end and one just off to the right) and most of the activity in the space plus a solid wall behind me made it possible for me to relax and focus on my work.

of both doors into the coffee shop. It was interesting to note that there were only two seats in the whole restaurant that put customers in the Power Position. Perhaps Starbucks unconsciously wants customers to be a little unsettled and not too comfortable, so they won’t linger, thereby making space for other customers. Or, the interior designers for Starbucks aren’t aware of feng shui principles and the effect that seating can have on the comfort and productivity of clients.

With awareness of the importance of sitting in the Power Position, you too can make seating decisions that lead to having the best focus, brainpower, and productivity.

Clutter & Soul Starvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know yourself. Feed your soul. Prevent clutter.

Artists: Improve Your Studios for Success

Artists need inspiration and motivation to keep producing art. Years ago I visited a number of

A studio housed in a garage.

artists’ studios to get a sense of the environments in which artists work. As a feng shui practitioner who appreciates the feng shui principal that what you have in your space and how it’s arranged affects what happens in the space, it was interesting to see that many artists work in very utilitarian spaces that are cluttered, disorganized, and not very inviting. The priority in many studios seems to have been to expend creative energy on art pieces rather than on the space itself.

Feng shui teaches that if you make a space a personal paradise, an attractive space with many sources of positive energy (light, color, plants, treasures, useful supplies, etc.) and few sources of negative energy (clutter, piles of paper, trash, supplies you no longer use, etc.) and utterly comfortable, you will attract more good into your life (motivation to create, increased productivity, commissions, ideas, opportunities to show your work, resources, etc.). Given that reality, it would behoove artists to invest more time, energy, and creativity into transforming their utilitarian studios into luscious places to work.

I recently had the opportunity to do a feng shui consultation for Kymberly Keniston-Pond, an artist and wellness consultant whose studio was in a small shed in her backyard. As most sheds are, it was unpainted on the inside and had no windows, a pretty grim, utilitarian space much better suited for storing yard tools than for creating art.

I initially questioned Kymberly about the idea of trying to make that space her center of creativity. It was so small, dark and uninviting. When it became apparent that the shed was her only option for a studio, we began brainstorming ways to make the space work for her. We identified areas of the space for specific activities and discussed furnishings, shelving and storage options. I made recommendations for color on the walls, for softening hard edges, for bringing a sense of the outside into the space, and for my client making the space her own. When I left that day, Kymberly had a long list of steps to take to create a studio that she’d love to come to every day.

As happens when I do a feng shui consultation, months passed with no word from Kymberly. I

The beginning — adding color to the walls and fabric in the eaves to soften the hard edges of the rafters.

often never hear from feng shui clients and wonder if they followed my recommendations but never let me know the results of their efforts, or if they never took action at all. In this case, I was lucky to receive an email from my Kymberly eight months after our consultation sharing her progress once she got a majority of the work done.

I share the following photos to show you an example of what can be done if you turn your creative energies to making your studio a personal paradise for your work. What you see may not appeal to you, but remember, it is an expression of Kymberly’s personal tastes and choices. Your expression of YOUR personal paradise will be very different.

Using fabric for visual interest, to balance the hard edges of the walls and shelving, and to screen art supplies stored below.

The specific color and content choices are not as important as the fact that Kymberly created a space she loves, one that inspires her engage in creative activities. Here’s what she had to say about the space,

“I love going into my ‘korner’. . . it makes me smile, and I feel instantly relaxed, happy, nurtured. I am looking for a beautiful chandelier to hang above my table. I will know it when I see it. I painted the covers of the florescent lights, hung some awesome Edison ones, and when I get back I will be taking down the florescent ones and hanging two more strings of Edison. . . that’s the lighting I’m most comfortable with.”

As you can see, her studio is a work in progress, one that she has enjoyed creating and now

A framed outdoor scene creates the sense of a window. A work table is transformed into an object of visual interest by covering it with with colorful fabric.

enjoys working in.

What can you do to make your studio a place that draws you in and motivate you to create more art?

A sign with the name of Kymberly’s business and a swinging chair with colorful pillows add whimsy and a lighthearted, warm energy to the space.

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.