Tag Archives: professional organizer

Productivity Doesn’t Have to Hurt

No pain, no gain, right? What if that’s not true? According to Gabrielle Bernstein, author of The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith, “We’re taught that we must struggle to achieve and that success comes from ‘making things happen.’ We learn that good things don’t happen without a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”

Where has struggle gotten you? You might be successful in the way our culture judges success, with position and net worth. But, are you happy? What did it cost you to “make things happen”? Perhaps your health? Or, your waistline? Or, your marriage? Or, quality connections with family and friends?

Bernstein offers an alternative to struggle as a way to get ahead. She challenges us to, “move beyond these limiting beliefs of limitation and struggle.” In her words, “I challenge you to accept that you’re here to have fun.”

What a concept! We’re here to have fun. What could that mean for us? It could mean that it’s

Productivity problems disappear when your work is fun and need-fulfilling.

best that we find work that gives us pleasure, floats our boat, and meets needs other than making sure we can pay our bills. It could also mean that if we do work that is fun, we’ll be aligned with  our birthright and can make a bigger difference, make more money, be happier. People who do work that they find fun, pleasurable and need-fulfilling tend to procrastinate less and be more productive.

Good things like productivity, financial success, and accomplishment are more likely to happen when what you do is fun, not a struggle. Find ways to make the work you do fun, and watch your productivity and success soar!

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. 

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.

Procrastination = Attempt to Feel Good Now

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

Who is winning?

Who is winning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Organized to Reduce Christmas Stress

It’s holiday crunch time! The final push to get everything done by December

Don't let holiday stress prevent you from staying organized!

Don’t let holiday stress prevent you from staying organized!

25. It’s quite common to focus on finishing shopping and Christmas cards, wrapping presents, and baking at the expense of maintaining order in your home. You may think the mail can wait, cleaning up after wrapping presents can be done after the holiday, and putting clothes away is definitely NOT a priority.

You just have to be ready for Christmas. At what cost?

Regular maintenance tasks like cleaning up, putting clothes away, and processing mail are activities that will ground you, help you feel in control at a time when many things can feel out of control. You don’t know how people will get along during your holiday social events. You don’t know if people will be happy and appreciative of the gifts you worked hard to find and wrap. You don’t know if dishes you make for your family will turn out or be liked. You don’t know if someone will drink too much and pick a fight.

Christmas is a time of heightened emotions and high expectations. It can be very stressful. The best thing you can do when facing unpredictable, stressful situations is to ground yourself by keeping up with tasks that help you stay organized and feeling in control.

Even if your bills are not in your awareness as you plough through your “to do” list, the fact that you don’t know where they are or how much you have spent can stress you on an unconscious level. Clothes chaos in your bedroom affects the quality of your sleep and starts you off on the wrong foot in the morning. A messy kitchen or gift wrapping area holds negative energies that are irritating and sap your energy.

Besides, do you really want to wake up December 26 to a nightmare you created by choosing not to make time to keep up with essential maintenance tasks?

Essential Maintenance Tasks to Lay the Groundwork for a Great Holiday

  1. Process mail daily — recycle junk mail and move important papers to an area to be further dealt with after Christmas.
  2. Clean up every day — wash dishes, unpack shopping and work bags, restore order when finished with projects and/or wrapping gifts.
  3. Put coats and clothes away every day.
  4. Take out trash and recycling often.

Pantry Design Creates Clutter

Not all pantry designs are created equal! I can honestly say that this pantry is the

The least functional pantry I've ever organized.

The least functional pantry I’ve ever organized.

worst design of any pantry I have re-organized in my 18+ years working as a professional organizer.

First, I was shocked at how narrow the space was. It was like a dim, dark tunnel. I immediately felt irritable and claustrophobic when I stuck my head in it. It’s the kind of space most people would want to avoid.

To make things worse, the shelves were set back from the door about 18-24 inches, enough space to necessitate putting my whole body in the closet to access the shelves. Plus, the shelves were very deep — a recipe for terrible visibility and losing sight of half of the shelves’ contents. The only truly useful space, where items could be easily seen, was across the front of each shelf. The narrowness of the pantry made that space very limited.

The least functional linen closet I've organized.

The least functional linen closet I’ve organized.

This pantry reminded me of the least functional linen closet I have ever worked in. It seemed like a left over space that the builder decided to make a pantry. Clearly it was designed by someone who had little or no experience with food storage.

The whole time I was reorganizing this pantry I was thinking that the work I was doing was almost pointless. It would take no time at all for it to again become a disorganized mess. Why? Because it’s too hard to access the supplies and easily replace them where they belong. It would be pretty understandable that people putting things away might be inclined to pitch things into the space and slam the door shut hoping that nothing would tumble out before the door closed.

Why do I share all this? This pantry was a “Can you believe this?” experience for me. Sometimes I just need to tell others about this kind of experience. In this case it was not a nightmare created by a client. Rather, it was a nightmare created by poor design that left my client with few options for improvement.

3 Tips Reduce Christmas Holiday Overwhelm

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

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

Combine holiday tasks with regular daily tasks.

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

Break big tasks down to bite size pieces.

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

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

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

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

Clear Clutter: Donating Items Pays Off

Donate quickly to attract more good in your life!

Donate quickly to attract more good in your life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How People With ADHD Can Successfully Clear Clutter

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

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

Tom took the following steps.

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

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

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

What Is Your Clutter Telling You?

Clutter is information. It has a story to tell if you can get past its negative, dscn0013overwhelming energy. When I walk into a client’s home or office I look for the story that the clutter tells. Some of the stories go like this:

  • I’ve got too much on my plate to have the time to attend to my space.
  • I have too much stuff.
  • I shop for entertainment, and to relieve stress.
  • I got behind in cleaning up and doing daily maintenance tasks, and could not catch up.
  • My job takes everything out of me, and I don’t have the energy to do daily maintenance tasks like putting things away, cleaning up after myself, sorting mail.
  • I’ve had a very stressful week.
  • I’ve been through a very tough time in my life (e.g. caregiving responsibilities for parents, deaths of family members, health problems, etc.) and couldn’t hold everything together.
  • I really have no idea how to set up and maintain an organized space.
  • I am sentimental. It’s hard for me to get rid of anything that reminds me of a special person or time in my life.
  • I have ADHD and have never been organized. I can’t make myself clean up after myself, put clothes away regularly and go through my mail.
  • I need more help from others, particularly those who contribute to the mess.
  • I spend very little time at home, and when I’m home I just drop things and plop on the sofa.
  • I have no clue how to manage all the paper pouring into my house.
  • I have too many responsibilities and need support from others to maintain an organized home.
  • I am overwhelmed by how much clutter there is and don’t know how to start clearing.

Do you identify with any of those stories? You cannot address a clutter problem if you aren’t conscious of the story it tells. For example, if your story is, “I shop for entertainment and to relieve stress,” that awareness makes it possible for you to focus on finding other ways to reduce stress and have fun.

If your story is that you have ADHD and have never been organized, you can research what works for people with ADHD to get clearing done and sustain order in their space.

If the truth is you have a family of five and are the only one who is trying to create and sustain order, you can acknowledge the impossibility of doing that successfully and negotiate with family members for their participation in tasks that keep your house organized and feeling good.

Instead of beating yourself up because there is clutter or avoiding it, look at it with curiosity. Tease out the story it tells. Then take steps to change the story.

Stories are much more interesting than piles of clutter. Focusing on your story can motivate you to make take action. Be aware that many of the above stories, particularly those that involve large quantities of clutter, can only be changed with some type of outside help. Hire a professional organizer or enlist supportive friends and/or family members to help you change your story.

Get Unstuck: Exercise Works!

yoga-263673__340

Yoga helped me get unstuck!

I’ve been stuck in grief and low-grade depression since the death of my mother in July. It’s been very hard to muster the enthusiasm needed to promote my business. I knew that losing Mom after 5 years of coordinating her care as Alzheimer’s claimed her mind would derail me. But, I thought after a month or two I would be back on track. Not so. Add in normal fall seasonal affective disorder, and I have been moving at a glacial pace.

For many years I have walked regularly and done sit ups, push ups, and leg lifts at night before going to bed — minimal exercise. In an attempt to build strength and energy, Bob and I joined American Family Fitness, a gym near our home, 

Going to a gym has never been easy for my introverted self. But this time I approached the challenge with a new perspective. Instead of thinking of the gym as a place where I would demonstrate how out of shape I am and how much better others are, I viewed it as a place to reclaim my strength, my center, my confidence and feelings of well-being.

I started with a yoga class and an easy workout on machines. As expected, I was wobbly during yoga poses and my muscles screamed and let me know I had been neglecting them. I got breathless on the treadmill. However, almost immediately I felt better. It was as if some vital life force in me began moving again. Optimism returned. Enthusiasm returned. And, with those good feelings came a desire to write this blog, to get to work.

Keys to making this gym experience different than others:

  • I went in with no expectations for a high level of performance.
  • I viewed going to the gym as self-care and an activity to help me feel better.
  • I took relatively easy, meditative classes and started slow on the machines instead of pushing myself in high intensity classes and workouts.
  • I chose the kinds of exercise I like to do.
  • I viewed just showing up at the gym as a success.

The payoff: I’m moving again, feeling better, and being more productive!

Good Feng Shui in Your Home Office Is Possible!

Feng shui teaches that creating a personal paradise is your goal when you
feng-shui-officearrange
a space. No room needs that approach more than a home office. As one of the most neglected and most dumped-on rooms in the house, it really needs some thoughtful attention and positive energy to make it an appealing place to work.

But, where to start? How exciting are filing cabinets, bookcases, desks and computer equipment?

TIP #1: Start with the wall color. It will set the tone and serve as the foundation for all other enhancements you make. Painting the walls a color is imperative. White walls very quickly become dingy, scarred and dirty. It is also easy to feel anxious and depressed in rooms with white walls because the colors of prints, photographs and paintings on the walls just won’t show up. We need color to feel good. It nurtures us with its energy. So paint your home office walls a color. Colors I recommend for home offices are a buttery yellow, sage green, and my new favorite, an earthy turquoise blue. Blues and greens are associated with the wood element. The wood element is associated with growth and expansion and a positive, upward energy. Yellow is an optimistic earth element.

TIP #2: Eliminate any furniture that is broken, ugly or doesn’t work well. You want all your furnishings to have good energy. It’s likely that you’ll be using odds and ends in this room, i.e., furniture that isn’t needed elsewhere. Just make sure that you actually like each piece and that all the pieces look good together.

TIP #3: Eliminate fluorescent lighting and be sure you have multiple incandescent light sources. It’s a good idea to have some uplighting as well, light that is directed up toward the ceiling. Light is energy. You’ll need plenty of energy to face the types of tasks typically done in a home office.

TIP #4: Place the desk in the power position with a solid wall behind it and a full view of the door. From that position your nervous system will relax and you will feel empowered and ready to tackle whatever awaits you on the desk.

TIP #5: Place other furniture around the desk, both to accommodate the convenient completion of the tasks to be done at the desk and to look attractive.

TIP #6: Add plants to bring the outdoors inside. Green is an optimistic color, and live or silk plants can immediately change the feel of a room that has lots of hard edges and electrical equipment. They provide a soft, soothing energy. Make sure they are healthy and have round shapes. Avoid dried plants and those with thorns and pointed shapes. Dried plants have a dead energy, especially when their color fades, and thorns and pointed leaves have negative energies because of their potential to do physical harm.

TIP #7: Add art, photographs, and special mementoes you love, anything that makes your heart sing and that empowers you. For example, I have a photograph of me that was taken with Jack Canfield at a conference years ago. Jack is one of my mentors. He doesn’t know it, but I want to do the kind of work he’s been so successful doing, and I want to be able to share my message with the world like he has. I also framed a print of the Chinese letters for “feng shui” since feng shui is a focus of all the work I do. And, when I recently re-decorated my office, I deliberately chose to limit almost all other art on the walls to original art by artists I know.

Invest in making your home office a personal paradise, and you’ll want to spend more time there.

You’ll also be more motivated to treat it with the respect it deserves! Wouldn’t it be nice to LOVE your home office instead of dreading it or avoiding it? You can! Make it so!

Counter Knife Blocks = A Feng Shui Kitchen “No! No!”

One of the most common feng shui errors that I find in kitchens is the knife-block-563633_640presence of a knife block on the counter. You know, a block of wood holding knives of various sizes. It’s a very convenient way to store knives so they are easily accessible for use.

When you assess the feng shui of a space, it’s important to consider safety. Knives that are located out in the open in a knife block are not considered safe because they are so accessible. They could easily be used as weapons. A block of knives is a block of negative energy because of its potential for harm.

You are probably thinking, “If I can’t store them on the counter, how should I store them for easy access?” You have several options. First, you can put the block out of sight. Make room on a shelf in one of your lower cabinets for the knife block. It’s important that you be able to reach the knives easily. If accessing it is the least bit inconvenient, you will avoid getting knives that way. Then either the block will end up on the counter again, or the knives will be tossed into drawers.

A second option, and my preferred option, is to purchase a wooden drawer insert specifically for knives. Be sure to measure the drawer first so you are sure to buy an insert of the correct size. The insert will have slits to hold the knives, safely containing the blades out of harm’s way.

Removing a knife block from the counter is a great way to make a kitchen immediately feel more peaceful. Commit to peace and safety in your kitchen by removing your knife block from the counter.

Clear Kid Photo Clutter: Who Are You Sleeping With?

“I recommend that you remove all photos of your children from your

Remove all photos of your children from your bedroom.

Remove all photos of your children from your bedroom.

bedroom.” The woman who had hired me to do a feng shui consultation looked at me with a shocked expression on her face. “Really? Why?” “Well,” I responded, “those photos hold the energy of your children. It’s as though you are sleeping with your children. Do you want to be sleeping with your children? And, how romantic can it be with your husband when your children are looking on while the two of you are having sex?”

Once you have children, an enormous amount of energy naturally shifts to meet the legitimate needs of the children. Tending the needs of the couple can easily slip by the wayside in the busyness of childrearing and making ends meet. Even the bedroom can become all about the children.

Ideally the bedroom of a couple should be treated as a love nest, a place to honor and enjoy your relationship. 

Given that the health of the couple assures the health of the family unit, doesn’t it make sense that you devote one room to being all about the couple? Make sure that you have at least one photo of you and your spouse/partner in the bedroom. Remove all photos of people other than the two of you. Not only will your bedroom feel more peaceful once the crowd has exited the room, but, hopefully you’ll find it easier to focus on your relationship.

In the 18+ years I’ve been of helping people clear clutter and improve their lives and marriages, I’ve found that the couples with the most photos of their children in the bedroom often have no pictures of the two of them in that room! They aren’t even conscious that they’ve left themselves out of the picture.

Like my client, you may be skeptical, but I challenge you to remove all photos from your bedroom except those of you and your spouse/partner.* Make the bedroom all about just the two of you energetically. Then, look for the energy in your marriage/relationship to shift in a positive direction. Eliminating the visible energy of your children will make it easier for you to relax and be more present in your relationship.

*Most people want to know what to do with all the photos that were removed, as if the actual children were asked to leave. I recommend that those photos be displayed in any of the public areas of the home. Public areas are any other room in the house except the bedrooms.

Clear Shoe Clutter from the Bedroom

Your goal in setting up your bedroom is to create a space that is completely

How peaceful is this?

How peaceful is this?

conducive to sleep. The energy of smelly feet can only be distracting. Why is it that I so often find pairs of shoes strewn over bedroom floors?

I’m fairly certain that part of the problem is not having adequate storage for the number of shoes that people own these days.

Also, sometimes shoes just don’t make it to the closet. You may be thinking, “Why put them away? I’m just going to put them on again tomorrow. . .”  or “I’ll put them away later.” Sweaty, smelly feet and

Are you sleeping with smelly feet?

Are you sleeping with smelly feet?

rest just don’t go well together. Ideally it’s best to reduce the number of shoes you own to those that can fit in your closet. Then make a commitment to yourself to get them back there every night.

For one thing, you’ll find your bedroom is more peaceful because there will be fewer items out and visible in the room. You’ll also find that your focus can shift away from the energy chatter of pairs of shoes to more important things like gentle reading, reflecting about your day, conversation with a partner or spouse and/or sex.

Energy chatter. What chatter? Everything is alive with energy. Positive or negative. Everything!  This may sound silly or “woo woo” to you, but stick with me.

What do shoes say? Here are some of the conversations I’ve heard:

  • Those shoes really are too tight, but they are the only ones that really look professional.
  • I really should polish that pair. Look how scuffed they are!
  • The bottoms are really worn on that pair. Is it time to bite the bullet and get another pair?
  • I look like such a dork in those shoes! But, they are so comfortable!
  • Those shoes really stink. I wonder what’s going on with my feet that they stink so badly.

With all those conversations going on, is it any wonder that you don’t get great sleep anymore? Yes, when your eyes are closed you can’t see all those shoes, but you are affected by their negative energy when you are sleeping. That negative presence interferes with peaceful sleep.

 Set your shoes free. Clear out shoes that you no longer love or use at least once a year. Banish the remaining shoes from the bedroom to the closet, and find a storage solution that will work in your closet. Then enjoy sweet dreams and the peace that results from your efforts.  

Books Are Fire in the Bedroom

Do you want to sleep peacefully?  Do you want to have sweet dreams? 

Are you sleeping with a bonfire?

Are you sleeping with a bonfire?

If so, it’s a good idea to become very conscious of what can influence you while you sleep.  Let’s look at the impact of books in the bedroom. Most people have books and other reading material on their bedside tables. Some have a book or two and others have the equivalent of a whole library.

Let me describe for you what a book is in terms of the FIVE ELEMENTS of feng shui.  The five elements are: wood, fire, metal, water and earth. 

The hottest, most energetic of those elements is fire.  Books are fire elements.  The words on the pages are fire.  The pages themselves are wood because they are made from wood. Wood feeds fire. In other words, if you have many books in your bedroom, you are sleeping with a bonfire. Sound restful?

What I’m saying is that books are high energy things. Their energy will affect you while you are sleeping. That’s why it’s good to limit the books in your bedroom to one or two per person. Store your books elsewhere and bring them in as you read them.

I was working with a client who loves to read in bed. She had her current reads on the bedside table. On the floor on the other side of the bed she had a four foot row of books lined up that she was interested in reading. I urged her to move the books to a bookshelf in her office that she could designate as the holding place for books she really wants to read.  She was willing and we got to work. 

As I was moving the books I noticed the titles.  She had a whole series of books by one author who writes about vampires and death. It seemed like every book I looked at had death and dying in the title. That alarmed me because not only is it a good idea to limit the number of books in a bedroom, it is also a good idea to make sure the content is peaceful and pleasant.  When you sleep, your subconscious has access to the content of books. I could only imagine what my client’s subconscious was doing with all those death books.

In another situation I was working with a woman who was a physician and was married to a physician. Guess what I found in their bedside tables?  Medical journals! How romantic! Work and romance really do not go together! And, she and her husband were both working right up until they closed their eyes at night! Sleeping with those journals in the room kept both of them focused on medicine as they slept. I suggested that if she wanted more intimacy with her husband as well as more restful sleep, the journals should be banned from the bedroom. She was thrilled to have permission to remove them and later reported that her husband was also very happy with the arrangement.

My advice: reduce the number of books and reading material you keep in your bedroom to a small number and make sure they are about topics that are positive, pleasant and NOT work-related.

Eliminate Perspectives that Keep You Stuck!

Clutter keeps you stuck. Normally, clearing clutter helps you get clear aboutimagesCAGBLYOU what matters which then leads to positive action. But, if you’ve cleared your clutter and notice that you still feel stuck, it could be that limiting perspectives are the culprit.

What’s a limiting perspective? It’s a way looking at things in your life. For example, you could look at life as a daring adventure and greet each day with enthusiasm and the expectation that no matter what happens it will be a great adventure. Or, you could look at life as a daily grind, where nothing will ever change. With that perspective you are likely to wake with a feeling dread and resignation that each day will be the same old unfulfilling thing.

Which perspective resonates with you? Most of us are unaware of the perspectives we carry in our heads. You move through life with limiting perspectives and don’t even realize that it’s not that you have bad luck or grew up on the wrong side of that tracks or that you didn’t get enough education or land the right job. What’s often keeps you stuck are your thoughts, those limiting beliefs and perspectives that have become habitual. 

Following are some common limiting perspectives:

  • life is hard
  • we all have to struggle to get by
  • I’ll never get my head above water
  • when I get the right job, mate, break, everything will be OK.

With those kinds of beliefs running around in your head, is it any wonder that you are stuck, unable to create a meaningful life in which you experience joy, are connected to your passions, and feel happy and fulfilled?

The challenge of limiting perspectives is that they are so habitual that you aren’t even aware that they are holding you hostage. Without awareness of their existence and power over you, you are unable to let them go and choose perspectives that will move you in a positive direction.

One of the best ways to identify limiting perspectives, strategize how to release them and identify more helpful perspectives is to work with a coach. A coach is trained to listen for limiting perspectives and bring them to light in coaching sessions to be addressed and released. Coaching is a partnership in which you have the opportunity to learn which behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and perspectives do not serve you and keep you stuck, plus strategize ways to take action to let go of those habitual ways of behaving and choose new ways to think and behave.

What limiting perspectives are keeping you stuck? If you are unable to identify what is keeping you stuck, sign up now for a free 30 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me. Remember, getting unstuck begins with a single step. 

Good Bedroom Feng Shui Includes Art

What hangs on the walls of your bedroom? What kind of energy surroundsScan 14 you when you sleep? The energy of each painting, print, and photograph affect the quality of your sleep and the quality of your relationships. In fact, the feng shui of any art in your bedroom is also directly related to your overall health and general well-being. So it’s important to check out each piece of art to make sure that its energy is in keeping with the primary energy you want to achieve in the space.

Remember, bedrooms are primarily about rest, changing your clothes and intimacy (sex).

So, ideally the art should have a restful, peaceful and/or sensual energy. Landscapes, beach and garden scenes are good choices for a peaceful bedroom. Scenes with people should be avoided because people have the energy of fire. Fire is the highest energy element and therefore not restful.  Violent or troubling scenes can affect your interactions with a spouse and can disrupt your sleep. Definitely avoid depictions of war and anything disturbing.  You also want to avoid art in the bedroom that conveys sad or lonely images. So what are some important feng shui factors to consider when choosing bedroom art?

Check out the subject matter of each art piece.

What is going on in the scene? You are sleeping with the content.  The best feng shui advice for bedroom art is to choose images that you want to experience in your life. Remember, what you put on your walls is alive with energy. To ensure peace in the bedroom, good sleeping and intimacy, remove anything that has a negative association or a busy, frenetic energy.

If you want to attract romance, choose art that feels romantic

If you are part of a couple and want to add some spark to your love life, add prints of couples embracing, sensual subjects that you both find appealing and pairs of prints, candles, or objects of any kind. Or, to make the bedroom all about the two of you, enlarge photographs from your honeymoon or a special trip you enjoyed together, and frame them. Avoid art depicting single women or single men. They hold the energy of being single and could affect the strength of your relationship.

Remember the functions of your bedroom: rest, changing your clothes, and intimacy (sex). Make sure your art is compatible with those functions and you will have good feng shui in your bedroom.

Bedroom Clutter Clearing: Live Within Your Closet

I was raised with parents who were not accumulators of material things.  I Home office closet_Anever saw clothes hanging from brackets attached to the outside of closets or scads of toiletries strewn across a bathroom counter.  So, in my early days of working as a professional organizer I was really unprepared for the quantities of clothes and other belongings that spilled from closets, drawers and cabinets.

Feng shui teaches that everything has energy and the energy talks to you. 

Well, when things that really belong in the privacy of a closet are hanging outside the closet, they talk to you!  In fact, if there are very many of them on the loose, they scream at you.  A peaceful bedroom can be quickly transformed to a noisy crowd when clothes no longer fit in closets and drawers.  That noise will interfere with getting good sleep which will affect your productivity, and over time, your health.

What do I mean by talk to you?  Things get their energy from their color, the memories associated with them, their materials, textures and design.  When something is out in the open all those components of it are visible and chatting away. 

What to do?  Make a commitment to live within your closets, drawers and cabinets.

Don’t accumulate more than you can comfortably house in the storage containers available to you. You can do that by regularly clearing out items you no longer love or use.

“But my closets are so small,” you say.  Get a wardrobe!  Move to a house with bigger closets!  What is more important — all those clothes, toiletries, gadgets, etc. or a peaceful home where it is really possible to get quality sleep?

A Solution for Organizing Necklaces

I have yet to find the ideal necklace organizing product. In my work I have seen many types of organizers, but none have accomplished what’s needed to keep necklaces organized: visibility, ease of access, and keeping necklaces tangle-free.

My own necklace organizer finally reached the point where I had to do something different to be able to enjoy my necklaces. My mother recently died, and I inherited a number of her brightly colored necklaces, most of which we bought together. They hold her energy, and being able to easily access them became a priority.

IMG_4611

Before

When I added Mom’s necklaces to my existing organizer they became part of a jumble of necklaces, all of which were then difficult to see and access. If you have to fight with other necklaces to get to the one you want, you will feel irritated and most likely avoid using necklaces all together.

What to do? I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought another necklace tree. It was still not ideal for easily getting necklaces on and off of it, but it did have the capacity to store necklaces at two levels. Longer necklaces could be on the top level, and smaller necklaces on the bottom.

After. The necklaces on the counter were donated to charity.

After. The necklaces on the counter were donated to charity.

When I contemplated the volume of necklaces, most of which I actually love and use, I realized I still had too many necklaces for the new organizer. Rather than cram all of them onto the new tree, I decided to divide the necklaces into two groups: colorful beaded necklaces on the new tree; simple silver and gold necklaces on the smaller tree. Removing the silver and gold necklaces reduced the volume on the tall tree, and made it more likely that I’d be able to see and access the remaining necklaces.

I used the sorting process as an opportunity to clear out some necklaces I don’t wear and am not likely to wear again. That too reduced the volume. Any time you are setting up a new organizing system, you have the opportunity to clear clutter. 

My solution is not ideal because it takes more space, but I was able to take a chaotic jumble of inaccessible necklaces and make them accessible and visible. Mission accomplished!

If you have found an effective way to store necklaces, please share it! And, please include photos so we can all benefit from your method.

Clutter Tells the Truth

FullSizeRender

My guess is that the truth here is that this person isn’t into putting things away after using them, that she has a “drop it anywhere” approach to her stuff, and that she and her family don’t eat in the kitchen.

Over the 18 years I’ve been working as a professional organizer I have learned that clutter is information. It tells the truth about aspects of a person’s life.

Some of the things I’ve learned from clutter are:

  • this person has too many balls in the air, and the maintaining a neat, clutter-free and organized home is one of the balls that often gets dropped
  • this person spends all their mental and energy at work, and upon arriving home drops everything and hits the sofa
  • this person doesn’t make time to maintain an organized home
  • this person does not have the habit of putting things away
  • this person hates to cook
  • this person really loves clothes
  • this person has difficulty finishing tasks
  • this person is really into disaster preparedness
  • this person is an artist
  • this person is committed to animal rescue
  • this person loves the beach
  • this person is a big reader
  • this person has great difficulty making decisions
  • this person has no idea how to clear clutter
  • this person wants to be organized (has lots of organizing books)
  • this person loves color and beauty
  • this person hates doing laundry
  • this person is very sentimental
  • this person gets overwhelmed easily
  • this person may have ADHD
  • this person wants to scrapbook, but can’t get started

I could go on and on. The content of your clutter and the state of your clutter tell your story. That’s part of why I love my work. I look beyond the messiness and look at the clutter with curiosity. I ask myself, “What is this clutter telling me about this person?” I really enjoy deciphering the clutter to learn more about a person’s current reality and quite possibly their life story.

The clutter tells me much more than most people actually verbalize. That’s why I tell prospective clients not to clean up when I am going to be working with them. I tell them, “If you clean everything up I will have great difficulty determining the causes of the clutter accumulation.” When I can help clients identify the habits and behaviors that have led to their clutter problems I can then help them plan new behaviors that can prevent a meltdown of the order we establish.

What truths does your clutter tell?

Custom Closet Design: Is It Worth the Cost?

Closet Factory, California Closets, Closet Tailors — should you pay the big 103820849_PZpaFgdN_cbucks for a closet designed to your needs? Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the effort it will take to empty the closet and put everything back?

I’ve worked with a number of clients who bit the bullet and hired a company to do a custom design and install of their personal closet or the closets of their children. Without exception, the custom closet arrangement was far superior to what had existed before.

Following are some of the benefits my clients experienced.

  1. There was more usable storage space.
  2. There was more structure within the “black hole” of the closet, so fewer items tended to float without a home.
  3. The process of emptying and refilling their closet provided two clearing opportunities, when the clothes, shoes, etc. came out and when they went back in.
  4. The energy of the new closet felt really good and seemed to urge clients to respect the space by keeping it neat and organized.
  5. Custom closets are considered to be an asset when you sell your home.

That being said, if you do decide to invest in custom closets, I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Make sure you use a company with a good reputation. Not all companies produce and stand behind their products. Ask for references for any company you are considering or go with a company recommended by discerning friends.
  2. Make sure you have a good designer. Designers are not equally skilled. I learned that lesson when I had the opportunity to review the plans of two different designers from two different companies for a client. The difference in the quality of the two designs was startling.
  3. For your personal closet, work with a same sex designer because they’re likely to have a better grasp of the complexities of your storage needs.
  4. Make sure the company has some kind of guarantee for satisfaction. It is quite common to think that a design is perfect until you begin putting clothing back into it. It’s not uncommon to need to make adjustments to the original design.

So, should you get custom designed closets? When your budget allows, I highly recommend it. If you can only do one closet at a time, start with your personal closet and that of your spouse if you are married or in a committed relationship. Having that closet function work well for you will ground you and reduce your stress. 

Your Personal Closet Is a Reflection of You!

Your personal closet is the most important closet in the house. Well, from a DSCN1100feng shui perspective it is! Your closet is an outward extension of you. Your clothes hold your energy. Take a look at your closet. How are you doing right now? Are you calm, spacious and organized? Or, are you a chaotic jumble of stuff?

How can I be so certain of the significance of your closet?

For thirteen years I’ve helped people clear and organize their closets. I have helped clients make decisions about what to keep and what to toss using the “Love It, Use It or Lose It Method” of clutter clearing. Clothing items that were loved or used have the best energy and were kept. Those that were not loved or used at least once a year were tossed. By going through that process over and over again with clients, it was very apparent that clothing held important associations with the different aspects of their lives, some of which were current and some that were outdated.

During the clearing process clients had the chance to “get current” about who they’d become by identifying those clothes they still loved, that still fit, that made them look attractive, that were comfortable, and that were useful given their current activities. In the process they let go of volumes of clothing that was too small, suited to a former occupation only, that felt uncomfortable, that fit poorly, that was of poor quality, that held  negative associations, and that was permanently stained.

When we finished our clearing sessions each client had more clarity about their current self, who they were the day of our clearing session–their current values, lifestyle, and preferences in terms of comfort, color and styles. Clients went from overwhelmed and scattered to clear and empowered within the space of two hours!

Go into your closet and set your intention to create a space that is an accurate reflection of who you are today. With each clothing item ask yourself, “Does this item accurately reflect who I am today? Does it reflect who I want to be today?” If the answer to either question is no, let it go! Get clear. Get current. And, get empowered!

Reduce Grief By Creating a Memorabilia Altar

I’ve noticed that some people who have experienced the death of someoneAlter very important keep large quantities of items associated with that person. Everything seems to have great significance. Clients have stated that when they get rid of things associated with their spouse, parent, child, etc., they feel like they are getting rid of that person. Little do they know that by holding onto quantities of things that remind them of that person they are actually anchoring their grief about the loss.

Everything a person own holds their energy if when you look at it you think of that person. An item might have had a very positive energy when the person was alive. For example, a musical instrument they enjoyed playing would likely hold positive energy. However, when the person dies the energy of their items is tinged with sadness.  The musical instrument that held positive energy could evoke sadness because the musician can no longer play the item. Holding onto it anchors sadness.

To facilitate moving through normal grief over the loss of a loved one, I recommend that survivors keep only those items that they like the best, those things that evoke happy feelings. Less is best.

One way to honor a loved one is to create an altar with an arrangement of a few precious items that belonged to the person. You don’t need to hold onto quantities of items associated with a beloved mother to hold her memory in place. Choose a few special items that remind you of the person and arrange them on a surface that you will see in passing as you move through you space. Those items might include a photograph, a special curio, a medal or award they received, anything of theirs that really matters to you or really mattered to them.

My mother died recently. After she died I created an altar to hold a few special things associated with her. It sits atop a small chest of drawers that was in our living room when I was growing up and has been in Mom’s home ever since. I chose to keep that chest for its association with Mom and my life while I was living at home with Mom and Dad.

I gave Mom the little purple silk flower arrangement. She loved flowers and she loved it. The wax ball smells of lilac, her favorite flower and fragrance. I added a few other items for aesthetics — a small painting by my dad, a live plant and a paperweight given to me by a special client who often checked in with me about how Mom was doing during the last few years.

The quantity of items on the altar associated with Mom was less important than the feelings evoked by the items. Just three items (the chest, flower arrangement, and wax ball) hold Mom’s energy and memory in place. When I walk by this little altar my heart remembers Mom and what she loved, and it smiles.

Do the things you have kept that once belonged to a loved one make your heart smile? Are they out and visible where you can see and enjoy the memories? If not, you have inadvertently created pockets of pain that make moving through your grief a much more difficult and slow process. Keep and honor the best. Let go of the rest!