Tag Archives: organized

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!).

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.

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.

Stay Organized to Effectively Navigate Crises

When tough times hit it’s very tempting to stop doing all the maintenance

Stay organized to stay afloat when you hit rough waters in life.

Stay organized to stay afloat when you hit rough waters in life.

behaviors that keep you organized and relatively clutter-free. The emotions that come up during an extended illness, the decline or loss of a special person or pet in your life, a divorce or period of financial challenge can derail motivation to do those boring tasks that keep you organized and moving. 

What happens when you stop doing those important maintenance behaviors (putting things away, hanging up your clothes, doing laundry, processing mail, paying bills, filing, daily cleaning up, deleting junk emails) is that you create pockets of negative energy in your space and on your computer.  Those energies produce stress that will keep you feeling bad and stressed and prevent clear thinking. Plus the chaos you create by not staying organized makes it very hard to get back on track once you move through the difficult period.

The truth is that if done regularly those maintenance tasks don’t take a lot of time. Plus, if you can make yourself do tasks that don’t seem very important during periods of crisis, you will keep yourself grounded so you can think clearly and make good decisions. 

Doing maintenance tasks in a time of crisis is not optional. It’s an important investment of time to assure that you can effectively navigate rough waters. Make doing it a priority during tough times. 

Get Organized for Taxes!

This is the time of year we dread! Once again we need to pull together financial

Tax preparation is a boring and often overwhelming and anxiety provoking process.

Tax preparation is a boring and often overwhelming and anxiety provoking process.

information to submit our federal and state taxes. Even if you’ve kept good records or you get someone to do your taxes, it’s a task that produces inner angst. That emotional angst can lead to procrastination of doing your taxes or getting your tax information to your tax preparer. That procrastination then leads to more angst.

Avoid the angst this year! Following are ways I’ve learned to manage my anxiety and get taxes done.

  1. Stop thinking you have to do things perfectly. For years I was frozen in fear and inaction because I was so sure I was going to make a mistake in my tax reporting. Instead of focusing on the need to get everything just right in a process I barely understand, I now focus on doing the task to the best of my ability. If the IRS finds a mistake, I won’t be thrown in jail or judged harshly by anyone but myself. I might have to pay a penalty, but I can handle a penalty.
  2. Gather all papers associated with your taxes (personal property tax information, W-2s, 1099s, interest statements, mortgage interest records, real estate tax information, tax preparation document from your tax preparer if you use one, etc.) into one file or box. Don’t look at the papers carefully, just assemble them together. Looking at the information will only generate unnecessary anxiety and lead to procrastination.
  3. Schedule a time to organize your tax-related papers. Tell someone else of your plan and ask them to call or text you at the designated time. Instruct them that you want them to check to see if you followed through with your plan to work on your taxes. Let them know you need support and encouragement, not nagging or judgment.
  4. Set the stage for successfully organizing your papers. Make sure you are in a comfortable location with lots of room to spread out documents. The space should have lots of light, both natural and artificial light. It should be free of distractions, like noise, demanding pets, children and other family members. Put on some relaxing music. Get yourself a beverage of your choice, preferably not alcohol. Doing those activities will increase the odds that you get started on the work you intend to accomplish. Combining pleasure with a dreaded task makes the dreaded task easier to face.
  5. Remind yourself that your goal is to make progress, not to complete the task perfectly. It can take several sessions to assemble all the information you need to submit for taxes. A realistic goal, one that is less likely to generate anxiety and overwhelm, is to get as much done as is possible in that session given the information you have. At the end of the first session you will probably have identified additional information and/or documents that you need to obtain. If you stick to the task until all the papers are sorted and missing items identified, you will have reached a good completion point and be armed with a to do list of next actions to take.
  6. Use the previous year’s tax form or the tax prep document provided by your tax preparer to help you identify the types of information you need to assemble.
  7. Separate the papers in your tax folder or box into two categories: 1) those you know you need like personal property tax information, W2s, etc.; 2) those that you might need to refer to, but may not need. Set aside the papers in the second category.
  8. Make a list information that is missing. As you sort, identify information that you don’t have, but will need to complete your taxes.  
  9. Gather the missing items, and you are ready to do your taxes or submit information to your tax preparer.
  10. Get help from family, friends or a professional organizer if despite your best intentions you cannot make yourself take action. Tax preparation is a boring, sometimes overwhelming and almost always a process that stirs uncomfortable feelings. Involve a supportive other to reduce your anxiety and make completion possible.

Thinking about tax preparation will likely always produce some dread. Perhaps it is associated with paying the government your hard earned money. Or, you see it as an opportunity to demonstrate how disorganized you and your papers are. Or, you view it as an opportunity to fail. It definitely makes you touch in on your financial reality. All those conditions can provoke anxiety.

Facing tax preparation from a grounded place with your emotions in check, with both knowledge of the process of preparation and strategies for managing uncomfortable feelings, however, you can transform the task from a highly charged event into just another annoying task to be done. What can you do today to jumpstart yourself into tax preparation?

Organized Papers are Empowering!

Papers associated with challenges can empower you when they are organized. I had thegesture-772977_640 chance to observe this first hand when I helped a very dear friend organize papers associated with her son’s very challenging disability.

We faced numerous binders, paper storage containers, and piles of papers, the kind of paper challenge that makes you want to run from the room. We went through all the binders, storage containers and paper, sorting papers into easily identifiable stacks: IEPs, psychiatric evaluations, medical evaluations, reference materials, etc. In the process we got rid of a whole box of paper! By the time we were done she could put her hands on any document she might need, and had plans for sustaining the order we created.

My friend began the sorting process feeling overwhelmed and anxious, focused almost entirely on how very difficult her journey on the painful road to obtain help via a less than cooperative school system and a medical establishment that had led her son down some rough roads. By the time we’d finished she was calmer, and saw the remaining papers not as a big burdensome reminder of her difficult situation, but rather as resources to use as she continues to advocate for her son. The process of purging and organizing those papers not only made the papers more manageable, but also helped her ground herself to face future challenges.

Disorganized papers can keep you anxious and overwhelmed. Organized papers can empower and support you!

Dogs and Your Ability to Get Organized

I LOVE DOGS. And, I look for any excuse to talk or write about them. To that end I found myself wondering whether there was anything that dogs could teach us about getting and staying organized. This is what I came up with.

  1. Self-discipline is necessary in order to take action to get and stay organized. Dog breeds have different levels of ability to be obedient (self-disciplined). So do people.
    • beagle-166873_640Huskies and Beagles are difficult to train and not very obedient. Poodles and Shetland Sheep Dogs, however, are much easier to train.
    • Brain wiring and personality result in some people being driven, Type A achievers who get things done, and some people being couch potatoes who procrastinate and have difficulty completing tasks.

2.  Focus is required to be able to sustain attention and effort to clear clutter, get organized, and stay organized. Dog breeds differ in their ability to focus. So do people.

The Border Collie stare.

The Border Collie stare.

    • The Border Collie is an intense, highly driven breed with a superb ability to focus on his owner. The Border Collie stare is visual evidence of that. It is far more difficult to get the attention of more relaxed, less driven breeds like Shih Tzus and Golden Retrievers.
    • Some people can sustain focus easily. People with ADHD and other brain-based disorders like anxiety and depression, however, can have great difficulty sustaining focus.

3.  Not all dogs are motivated by the same thing. Not all people are motivated by        the same thing.

    • labrador-1114810_640Some dogs are motivated by food (e.g. Beagles). Others by attention. Some by toys, balls, and play (e. g. Terriers, Labrador Retrievers).
    • Some people are motivated to get and stay organized because they have a high need for order. Others need to look good to outsiders. Still others are motivated because being organized makes life easier.

4.  Dogs have differing levels of energy. People also have differing energy levels.

    • dog-719630_640Terriers are high energy dogs, whereas Mastiffs and Greyhounds are not.
    • Some people are always moving, enjoy being productive, and can keep going for long periods of time. Others are more laid back, slow to get into action, move at a slower pace, and exhaust their energy more quickly.

Why compare dog behavior to people? It’s a fun way to make the point that in terms of our abilities to be self-disciplined, focused, motivated and have energy available to get and stay organized, we are all different.

Differences are normal, not something to hide or feel bad about. Once you identify your “normal” in terms of self-discipline, focus, motivation and energy level, you can better understand any challenges you have with getting and staying organized. And, you can better justify getting help to handle your organizing challenges with less guilt.

Just as dog breeds are different, so too are people. Accept who you are and your abilities, and make getting and staying organized happen!

Clear Clutter, Save Money!

I read this on Facebook yesterday.

“Cleaning out the sewing room. .. Ah, you know all those missing scissors? Think I found them. Wonder how that happened.”

Scissors FoundThis is what can happen when a space is not organized so that you can find what you need when you need it. Can’t find a pair of scissors. . . buy another pair, and another pair, and another pair.

Cluttered spaces hide things. They can make your brain shut down and go to the path of least resistance. . . buy what you can’t find. Think of the money that could have been saved if this woman had been able to find those sewing scissors!

Clear your clutter and set up your space so that the tools you need are visible and easily accessible. Save money, sanity and time! If you can’t make yourself clear that clutter, ask for help. Over time living in clutter can cost you more in the cost of new items than the cost to get help from a professional organizer.

I Love My Life! Clear Clutter and You Can Too!

I love my life! I love almost everything I do. I love my work. I have a great marriage. I have a comfortable home. I have good friends. I enjoy learning new things all the time. I have three great furry children. I’ve made peace with all family members. And, when I really want something new, I can usually find a way to get it. What a big change from the days when I was working full time for a school system, counting the hours until I could go home to watch a taped soap opera!

When I think about how I came to be in this good place, I can definitely say it was not a straight line to get here. Each step along the way involved some challenge, some pain, and some learning. I think what made it possible for me to maneuver through all the obstacles to a more fulfilling and peaceful place was that I have been vigilant about maintaining an organized, comfortable home. The order I created and the hard work required to maintain it has grounded me through the tough times. When I run into a rough patch, my stuff is not part of the problem. I can focus on the current challenge, supported by the systems I have in place that help me maintain order even during the worst of times.

Do you love your life? If not, why not? What would you change? Start by clearing your clutter so you too can clear a path to a life that you love.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

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

10 Characteristics of High Performance Environments

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Clearing Clutter for Good Online Program | Debbie Bowie

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