Tag Archives: organizing specialist

Staying Organized: A Mother’s Legacy

It has been a quiet week here in Kilmarnock, Virginia, in the aftermath of my step-father’s death. I’ve been here to make funeral arrangements and support my mother as she comes to grips with the biggest loss of her life.

As is my habit, I’ve watched my mother move through her days both with curiosity and concern. Mom is not only grieving the loss of the love of her life, she is showing signs of dementia. The most obvious sign is poor short-term memory. I’ve been preparing myself for further decline by reading The 36 Hour Day by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins, a book about dealing with dementia. I know it’s possible that over time she will eventually forget how to do even the simplest of tasks. I dread that time.

My mom has always been very organized. At the moment, for the most part, she still is. It has been comforting to watch her move through her days maintaining order in her lovely home. When she opens mail, she routinely throws away the opened envelopes and junk mail. As she moves from the den to the kitchen, she picks up used glasses and plates to put in the dishwasher. She regularly clears cluttered surfaces, stating that she just doesn’t like to have too much stuff around. Maintaining order is a way of life for her. I am so grateful to have learned the lessons of how to get and stay organized from her. I feel sad when I think about the possibility of her losing that ability to the ravages of dementia.

For now, I take comfort in Mom’s commitment to maintaining order and her ability to tend to her space. What a blessing it is to be her daughter!

The Urge to Purge Following a Death

Missing John Arrix

My step-father died this week. I observed his struggle to let go of life. When it was over, the first step was to notify Hospice of Virginia who would call the funeral home to remove the body. Once John’s spirit was gone, his body was a shell and we needed the body taken away as soon as possible. It was just a reminder of his struggle, of his dying, of the horror of death.

Once John’s body had been taken away, I looked around the room where he spent his last hours and saw the empty hospital bed and all the supplies that had been used while he had spent his final days at home: the bandages, the gloves, the creams and ointments, the chucks and diapers. They were all reminders of the care he had received, the care that was just palliative, not life saving. They had to go.

First I asked Hospice of Virginia to make arrangements to have the bed removed as soon as possible. Then I took a quick look at the supplies. My first urge was to dump them all in the trash. We would not have them had John not been deathly ill. Yes, some of them could be useful at a later date. I kept the moisture lotion and bandaids and gave Portia Bea from Visiting Angels permission to take whatever she thought she or Visiting Angels could use. The rest went into the trash. Once I’d made my decision about what to keep, Portia cleared everything from the room that reminded us of John’s struggle.

All of this activity occurred in the first hour following John’s death. It seemed imperative to return the bedroom back to its pre-sickroom state. Because I’d been up all night with John, it was a blessing to have Portia’s assistance with the clean up. She even vacuumed the room.

Once the bed was taken away and the room returned to its previous appearance, I found myself clearing out John’s medications, corralling all reminders of the previous five weeks of assessing John’s condition and providing help. I wanted my mother, who had lost the love of her life, to be able to grieve the loss of John rather than be distracted by the signs of his illness.

Every item associated with John’s illness and death held the energy of death. I felt compelled to remove those items whose energy screamed death and loss. I kept some medical records, papers that later could help my Mom make sense of this terrible time. I kept the baby monitor because it is possible we might need it in the future for my Mom, but I stored it in a drawer out of sight. I kept the lotion because it could easily blend in with other skin lotions and lose its association with death.

The next step is to clear the energy of death from the room by burning sage.

All that clearing gave me a much needed focus in the first two days after John left us. It also relieved my Mom’s lovely house of the signs of struggle, reminders of the horror we had all experienced while watching John leave us. And, last night my Mom, though very sad, was able to retrieve the photo albums of her life with John and shift her focus from the dying that had just occurred to the joys and pleasures of the life she had lived with him
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10 Tips to Make Christmas a Clutter Free Event

 

 

‘Tis the season to be giving, receiving, and decorating. That means that you will be giving and getting “stuff.” You will also be pulling decorations from their storage places. When “stuff” is moving you have an excellent opportunity to commit to 1) not creating clutter in your home and the homes of those who receive your gifts and to 2) clearing clutter every step of the way.

Following are 10 tips to help you make your Christmas a completely clutter free experience:

  1. Pull out ALL your decorations and evaluate each one. Toss every item that you no longer display EVERY year.
  2. When doing your Christmas cards, either send all the left over cards from previous years to eliminate your supply, or just pitch or donate the extra cards.
  3. Throw away small bits of wrapping paper you have been saving to use for just the right tiny package, but never seem to use, especially the pieces that have gotten scrunched.
  4. Clear out cruddy Christmas bags: those that have taken a beating; those that don’t reflect your taste, and those that are just plain ugly.
  5. Clear crushed bows and snarled ribbons. And, clear out ribbons altogether if you’re like me and, despite your best intentions, you never make or take the time to add ribbons to your packages.
  6. Make your gifts to others items that can be consumed and/or that are perishable, like candles, candies, fruit and baked goods. Consumption or time will assure that those gifts don’t linger long enough to become clutter.
  7. Give gift cards freely. People love to do their own shopping or enjoy a free coffee or meal out. Besides, gift card clutter is smaller and less annoying than ugly sweater or useless knick knack clutter.
  8. Evaluate each gift you get with the Love It, Use It or Lose It method. If you don’t love it or use it, lose it! Express appropriate thanks to the giver and then either regift it, donate it or pitch it. It’s the thought that counts and unwanted gifts only hold negative energy in place.
  9. When it’s time to put new gifts away, take the time to clear clutter in the area where the new gift will be stored. Release the old to make room for the new.
  10. When you put decorations away, take a good look at each item and consider the time it takes and the process involved in putting it out and taking it down. Pitch anything whose significance or beauty do not outweigh annoyance factor.

If you do any of the above actions, you will be doing your part to make the holidays a joyous, peaceful time instead of an overwhelming event to survive. Make clutter clearing a new focus of your holiday activities. It’s the best way I know to feel in control at this busy time of year.

 

Conquer Clutter Clearing Overwhelm: Get a Body Double!

“I get so much done when you’re here!” remarked the weary principal of a public elementary school. That comment caused me to pause and think about what she meant. She is a woman who works non-stop, carrying the workload of at least five people. And, she has been recognized as an outstanding principal in her school system. That kind of recognition doesn’t happen unless the principal is a highly competent leader and manager. In other words, she must be productive every day. So what exactly did she mean?

On reflection, I think she meant that when I’m there she is able to make herself face tasks that she would normally avoid or not get around to doing on her own. The pace and complexity of her job are such that she literally runs from one task/event/meeting to another, dropping books, papers and other printed materials in her office as she flies through her days. Her hit and run method of managing “the stuff” associated with her work eventually results in an office littered with piles of undifferentiated papers and books, each having a very negative, overwhelming energy. Over time their energy becomes not only more negative, but stagnant, making the possibility of addressing them seem like an insurmountable task. Putting out fires is always preferable to digging into piles of old papers.

Why can she tackle those piles when I work with her? First, I take the lead. She gets a break from having to be in charge. I strategically feed her items to address, going from the larger items to smaller items and single pieces of paper. That approach allows us both to immediately see progress being made.

Second, she has support and company from me while doing a task that she normally would avoid. My being there makes the work more like a social event. People in her position, at the top of the leadership ladder, often find it lonely there. Her position of perceived power makes it difficult for her to let her guard down and enjoy the company of those she supervises. I have worked with her for many years. She pays me, but I am not part of the system she manages day to day. Time and experience have proven that I am safe. She can be less guarded and formal with me. I also help ground her so that the anxiety she feels about the possibility of discovering forgotten tasks is more bearable.

Because I am in charge of the process she is free to focus on making decisions about what to keep, what to get rid of, and the priority of each “to do” item we uncover. I also help keep her focused on the task at hand by prioritizing the piles that will be reviewed. I make sure that we make the fastest progress possible.

Judith Kolberg, author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization and ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, labeled my role as “body double.” Just being in the space with my client increased the odds that dreaded tasks would be faced and completed.

When faced with boring tasks that seem overwhelming, consider finding a body double to help you. I am a paid professional body double. In that role I am fairly directive. But many people just need a non-judgmental, caring person who is willing to be present while they work. The person can assist at your request, but should not take the lead unless they have your permission. Often their presence alone, which makes the task a social event, provides support and grounds them, is enough.

As we were leaving the school following our session my client’s last words were, “Well, I feel better.” You can too! Find a good body double!

Putting Things Away: The Aspirin of Staying Organized

What can happen when you don't put things away!

Are you a person who routinely puts things away when you’ve finished using them? Or, are you a person that uses something and leaves it where it landed when you were finished using it? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which person would be most challenged with staying organized. Regularly putting things away as you move through your day is one of the most important behaviors necessary for staying organized.

 What is the benefit of putting things away?

  • You restore visual order. An orderly space is peaceful and feels good. It has positive energy.
  • You snuff out a bud of clutter. Anything left out of place immediately creates a negative energy that will attract more of the same. Once one thing is left out, it’s much easier to leave other things out.
  • You’ll be able to find the item when you need it.
  • You maintain order in your space and a sense of control in your life.

Why doesn’t a person put things away?

  • You were never taught the habit of routinely putting things away. It is a habit to use something and leave it where you last used it. It is also a habit to use something and put it away!
  • You have attentional issues that keep you bouncing from one task to another, leaving object litter in your wake.
  • You haven’t created a home for the item. There is no place to put it away.
  • The home you created is not convenient enough given how often you use the object.
  • The home you created has become so cluttered that putting it away is a hassle.
  • Putting things away seems boring to you.
  • You are rushing and putting an item away will take time you don’t think you have.

I could go on and on with reasons why people don’t put things away. Whatever the reason, you pay a heavy price when you neglect to regularly put things away. Over time you create your own nightmare of clutter and chaos in your space.

Putting things away is a behavior over which you have complete control. It can take only seconds to do if you’ve created convenient homes for everything. Being faithful to the behavior requires self-discipline, but it is one of the best ways to stay organized and directly correlates with feeling in control in your life.

Watch yourself today. Are you taking those extra few seconds (yes, seconds, not minutes) to put things away when you are finished using them? Remember, your peace of mind, stress level, productivity and success are affected by what you choose to do. Make putting things away a priority every day! If regularly putting things away isn’t a habit, make it the next habit you acquire in your effort to stay organized, manage stress, and have the life you really want.