Tag Archives: Richmond Virginia

Plan to Join the ADHD Tribe

I’m just back from the 2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD, held in Atlanta. It was an extraordinary experience for me. The conference was attended by people with ADHD, parents of ADHD children, many of whom also have ADHD, and therapists, coaches and psychologists who work with people who have ADHD, many of whom also have ADHD.

Even though I don’t have ADHD, I felt like a legitimate member of the “tribe” as conference attendees call themselves. Most of my coaching and organizing clients have ADHD, as does my husband. I understand it both at a personal and professional level. It was incredible to participate with so many people who are committed to learn as much as they can about ADHD and make a difference by embracing, normalizing and educating others about ADHD.

I came away with a deeper knowing of the daily struggle of ADHD — to be on time, to have their act together, to stay organized, to find what they need when they need it, to start and complete tasks, to hold themselves accountable, etc. What was so remarkable was that many of the speakers who have ADHD spoke candidly about their struggle instead of hiding it under a mask of pseudo-confidence. It was safe to let others know you have ADHD!

Speakers showed up in the truth of their on-going struggle to manage their lives and reach their goals. AND, they made significant contributions to our learning at the conference. In spite of the challenges of their ADHD, they have kept on keeping on in their lives because they were passionate about helping others understand ADHD and how to manage it. Having ADHD didn’t stop them from taking huge steps.

If you have ADHD and struggle because you feel different from others, mark your calendars for the 2018 Annual International Conference on ADHD, November 8-11, 2018. There you will find your tribe. It is so therapeutic to know you are not alone. In fact you belong to a group of highly creative, compassionate, and talented people.

The conference will be held in St. Louis next year. Registration this year was only $300 for 2.5 days of outstanding programing plus an incredible talent show. The conference experience will take you further faster in making peace with your ADHD and creating a life that fits your ADHD brain. I will be there. I hope to see you there too!

Clutter Affects Small Business Success

Small business owners wear many hats. Too many, actually! Often the only way to survive financially, especially in the first three years, is to run the business, work in the business, market the business and do the bookkeeping. Whew! It’s so easy to devote every waking hour, during the week and sometimes on weekends as well, to working on and in your business.

I’m curious. What happens to the condition of your home while most of your energy and time are spent on your business? Do you run out of gas by the time get home and leave unopened mail for later when you aren’t so tired. Do you drop your clothes to the floor when undressing, promising yourself that you’ll pick them up in the morning, but don’t. Has paper management gone out the window because keeping up with the paper associated with your business seems more pressing and urgent?

It’s so easy to tell yourself, “I have to focus on my business. Home clutter clearing and maintenance tasks can wait. After all, it won’t affect my business. Once the business is up and running, making good money I’ll be able to tackle home projects.”

But, what if the condition of your home has a direct effect on your business? Feng shui teaches that everything is connected. Therefore, the condition of your business and your home are connected. The energy of each affects the other. In other words, clutter and disorganization in your home has a negative effect on you and your business.

Clutter in your home makes difficult to think clearly, about home issues and work issues, having direct effects on your decision-making ability and productivity. Dust, dirt and clutter in the home have negative energies that can also block the flow of positive energy and opportunities in both your personal and professional lives. Knowing that, can you really afford to put off tending to your home?

Some of you may be thinking, “There is no way I can have the brain power to both work my business and get caught up on all the backlog of clutter at home.” If so, now is the time to reach out for resources that will make home clutter clearing and organizing easier.

One such resource is From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover. I wrote it for busy people just like you, people who are too busy to figure out what to do with accumulated clutter. It is a how-to manual for clearing clutter and creating good feng shui in every area of your home, attic to basement. It is filled with clutter clearing and organizing tips about how to address common feng shui and organizing dilemmas in each room. There are also step-by-step clutter clearing plans for every space, including the garage.

With From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year as your guide, you can create a home environment that will support you in your business, be a refuge at the end of your busy days, and attract more business to you.

From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year will be released in December. Be one of the first to get your copy by pre-ordering your copy at a reduced rate. Until December 1 you can order the book for just $20.65 including shipping. That is a $2 savings! To order, please send a check to: Debbie Bowie, 7293 Jay Way, Mechanicsville, VA 23111.

Home Office Clutter Clearing Plan

My new book, From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover, is coming out just in time for Christmas giving — to yourself and others. One helpful feature of the book is the inclusion of clutter clearing plans for each area of your home. Below is an excerpt of a clutter clearing plan from the Home Office chapter. It will give you a taste of the book, help you to push past any overwhelm, and start clearing out your home office. The ideas included in this plan are transferrable to any office setting.

Home Office Clutter Clearing Plan

Clutter in a home office is equivalent to blockages in the circuitry of your brain. Blockages in the brain can be lethal. They can also cause a state of unease that results in stress, anxiety and fear, and impairs productivity. When your home office is clear of clutter you can access the information you need for personal business and personal interests within seconds. Once you have ready access to that information, your life can roll along without incident. 

Clearing clutter from the home office can feel like you’ve gotten your brain back! Let me show you how.

  1. Take a photo of your home office before you begin work. As you look at it, take note of the “hot” spots, those areas of intense negative energy that make you want to run from the room. Resist the urge to run. Notice the negative thoughts that immediately pop up. Thoughts like, “What a mess! I don’t know where to start. This will take forever to do!” Notice those thoughts, but don’t allow them to shut down your brain. Just notice the challenge areas. Tell yourself that you can handle this challenge. It may take time, but you can do it, even if you have to do it in a number of short sessions or get some help to make it so.
  2. If paper has gone wild in the room, gather it up and put it in bags or boxes to deal with after you’ve finished organizing the rest of the room. As you gather up the papers, be sure to separate out supplies like envelopes, writing implements, sheet protectors and pads of paper. Put those aside in one area of the room. Also, be sure not to scoop up papers associated with current bills to be paid and current action items. Keep those two categories of paper separate from the rest of the paper. That way you can be sure to keep up with bills and other important actions that must be handled before the organizing is completed. The purpose of gathering up the paper is to quiet its annoying, distressing and distracting negative energy so you can think clearly as you make decisions about the rest of the contents of the room.
  3. If there are miscellaneous little items floating around the room, on the desk, filing cabinet, floor, etc., gather them all up and put them in a bag or basket. Like paper, the energy of those little things can be very distracting and probably needs silencing before moving forward. You can deal with those things at the end of the clutter clearing process, once everything bigger has been handled.
  4. Identify all the functions of the room. Home offices are often multi-purpose rooms, especially in small houses. It’s important to determine the various functions of the space before you begin clutter clearing, so you’ll know what belongs in the room and what needs to find a home elsewhere. Is it just a home office, a place to pay bills and store papers you might need to access someday? Does it house a home-based business as well as personal financial information? Is the room both home office and guest room? Does it also serve as the location of the gift-wrapping center for the home? Is it a craft room as well as a home office? So many possibilities! Know that the more functions housed in a room, the more challenging it will be to organize and keep organized.
  5. Remove everything from the space that does not fit its function. Place those items either just inside or just outside the door to be moved once you’ve worked long enough to have either a weary brain, or to have accumulated enough items to justify taking a break to distribute them to their new locations.
  6. Look at each piece of furniture and determine whether it serves at least one of the functions of the room. Remove any furniture that doesn’t serve one of the functions of the room. Home offices are complicated spaces that are a challenge to organize and keep organized. They ALWAYS have a lot going on in them. You cannot afford to have excess furniture holding precious energy that could be better used another better way in that room.
  7. Check each piece of furniture to make sure it works well and is in good condition. A good way to determine this is by noticing which furniture is being used and which is not. If something is not being used, why not? It’s common that filing cabinets and desks with broken drawers or drawers that don’t open and close easily will be avoided. Let go of furnishings that are not in good condition.
  8. Check the placement of the furniture. Is it comfortable? Is the desk situated so you will be in the power position, having a full view of the door and a solid wall behind you? Is it possible to work effectively and efficiently in the current arrangement? If not, rearrange the furniture put yourself in the power position when working at the desk. Make sure you can easily reach anything you will use on a regular basis, like computers, printers, other office equipment, filing cabinets, and supplies.
  9. When you are moving furniture around, be sure to clump supplies you encounter in one location for evaluation, organizing and containing later in the clutter clearing process.
  10. Evaluate computer equipment. Does it all work? If there are old computers, printers, modems and hard drives that are not being used, why not? Purge broken items that aren’t worth repairing, items you don’t know how to use and don’t  care about figuring out how to use. The “someday” you think will come when you’ll be able to figure out everything is not likely to come. Get real about all the electronic equipment that you own. Make decisions about what will be kept and let go of the rest. This may require taking steps to remove data from hard drives. If you are not computer savvy, the fastest way to clear hard drives is to hire someone to help you do this. Also, much outdated electronic equipment is not worth selling. Live only with electronic equipment that is alive and used!
  11. Gather all books together and evaluate the energy of each one. Books to keep are those that you haven’t read but are still interested in reading, those that you have read and know you’ll re-read, those that you are highly likely to use for reference, and any book that has changed your life. Those are high energy books. Let go of the rest.
  12. If you have binders, evaluate each one to determine if it is worth keeping. Binders from workshops and conferences are seldom used after the event and can take up valuable “real estate” in a home office. If you don’t use a binder in the first month after a workshop or conference you are unlikely to ever use it. Let it go! Binders of old financial information can be archived in banker’s boxes in the attic, again freeing up precious space. If, like me, you’ve had good intentions of using binders, but really hate the hole punching process, consider getting rid of binders in favor of another way of storing papers.
  13. Sort supplies by category: writing implements, paper, filing supplies, index cards, sheet protectors, binders, blank CDs, jewel cases, organizing supplies, etc. As you sort, put aside for donation any supplies you no longer use, that are outdated, and that you find annoying or irritating to use. Once the supplies are sorted by type, look at the quantity of each item. If you have an excessive amount of any item, consider donating a portion of it to a local charity. After you’ve made those decisions, check to see if all the supplies you plan to keep will fit in the storage area you plan to use to house them. Make it your goal to have all your supplies comfortably live in the storage space available.
  14. Evaluate all software books and CDs (content, music, software, photos, etc.), purging any that are outdated or that you no longer use.
  15. Consider all the decorative items in the space. Do they still have positive energy? Do you love them or use them? If not, let them go. Or, if you have a decorative item that you still value, but you no longer want it in the home office, put it by the door to find a home for it in another part of the house.
  16. Check out any other items that don’t fit into the major categories I’ve discussed to identify those that you still love or use. Move those that aren’t loved or used to the door with other items to be donated.
  17. Once the entire space has been evaluated and unused and unloved items purged, turn your attention toward the paper that you scooped up early in the clutter clearing process. You are likely to find that paper is easier to handle now that you’ve cleared the rest of the room.
      • DO NOT start making decisions about single pieces of paper, unless that’s all you have to deal with. If you start there, you will quit! Handling big chunks of paper first will allow you to see visible progress quickly. That is essential in order for you to stay motivated and keep going.
      • Start by pulling big chunks of paper from your paper piles first, like magazines, catalogs, newsletters, and stapled chunks of paper. Making decisions big chunks allows you to see visual progress for your efforts more quickly than starting with single sheets of paper. Visual progress is imperative to keep you motivated to continue working on paper.
      • Work your way from big chunks to single sheets, and then to small pieces of paper.
      • Keep only those papers you are highly likely to reference at some later date. Remember, 80 to 90% of paper that is filed never gets touched again.
      • Be very selective about papers you keep. If you keep them, they become work, because you’ll need to figure out how to store them so you can easily access them.

Keep in mind that the energy in your home office will be much improved once you have cleared it of clutter. You will then need to organize your paper and set up a filing system, if you don’t already have one.

After all that hard work you can turn your attention to other fun activities, like decorating the space and enhancing it with lovely art and images that bring you joy, create feelings of empowerment, and motivate you to take action.

Now that you’ve read through the steps, it’s time to apply your knowledge. Are you ready to love your home office?

Debbie Bowie’s Favorite ADHD Resources

Books

More Attention/Less Deficit by Ari Tuckman

Women with Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolber & Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.

Overload: Attention Deficit Disorder and the Addictive Brain by David Miller & Kenneth Blum, Ph.D.

Healing ADD Revised Edition: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD by Daniel G. Amen

Smart But Stuck: Emotions in Teens & Adults with ADHD by Thomas E.Brown

Articles

“Essential Oils for ADD and ADHD: Better Focus, Quicker Learning, Calm and Grounding,” https://suite.io/victoria-anisman-reiner/5rn280

“Natural Remedies for ADD and ADHD,” https://suite.io/victoria-anisman-reiner/5rd280

Online Resources

http://www.additudemag.com Great short articles!

http://www.theartofadd.com Great quotes & ADD info!

http://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/adhd-add/ Great ADD resources!

http://www.camerongott.com Great followthrough coach & blog!

Make Bathroom Counter Clutter Vanish!

Take a look in your bathroom. What greets you? If your bathroom counter is covered with assorted items like toothpaste, your tooth brush, makeup, lotions, dental floss, jewelry, and other assorted items, notice the thoughts and feelings that come up as you take in the chaos. Every item on the counter is alive with energy. Each one has a different kind of energy. And, the energy of each item is talking to you all at once. That’s a lot of noise! Individually each of the items may have a positive energy because it is useful, however, collectively they have a negative energy because there are so many of them in no particular arrangement. The quantity and disorganization of those things create the roar of a crowd.

You might explain the existence of your countertop clutter by saying, “But, I use all those things every morning. It’s so convenient to have everything out there.” Yes, that may be true, but what if you could still have convenience and a lovely greeting each time you enter your bathroom?

There are several ways to silence all that noise without sacrificing convenience.

  1. Store those items in drawers and under the sink if your vanity has those types of storage spaces. Underneath sinks in many bathrooms can be as chaotic as the countertops. You can remove clutter from the counter and improve the condition underneath your sink by putting all the large items you use every day, like deodorant, body lotions, mousse, etc., in one basket or bin under the sink. When you need to use those things you can either grab the basket, place it on the counter, and return it when you are finished using its items. Or, you can leave the bin under the sink and retrieve items from the it, use them, and immediately return them to the bin. Smaller items like makeup, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, lip gloss, etc. can be stored in an easy-to- access  drawer, preferably a top drawer. To prevent that drawer from becoming a jumble of miscellaneous things, add several small containers to hold specific items. I have a container with my makeup, one for dental floss, and one for lip gloss, etc.
  2. Store items in colorful containers placed on the countertop, the back of the toilet, shelving over the toilet or on shelves in an easy-to-access bathroom closet. You can have a “used every day” container and separate containers for extra supplies or have separate bins for the different categories of things you use in the bathroom. In order to find things easily I recommend that you assign one category per container. For example, one container could be for all makeup. Another for oral hygiene products. A third for medications used frequently. 

Clearing bathroom countertop clutter will accomplish several things.

  • It will immediately transform your noisy, unattractive, overwhelming and even stressful bathroom into a comfortable place for daily self-care.
  • It will allow you to more easily inventory what you use every day. With that information you can order products in a timely manner and avoid panic purchases when you run out of products. And, because you know exactly what you have, you can prevent purchasing products you already have.
  • It will create the opportunity to discard items that you no longer use, empty containers, and accumulated trash.
  • It will be easier to keep your countertop clean.
  • If you create a “used every day” container what you need will be at your fingertips, and you will be able to complete your grooming more quickly.

Bathroom counter clutter creates a feeling of chaos in a place where you start and end your day. The negative energy it generates affects your energy and causes stress. There is much chaos in daily life that you have no control over. Seize control and reduce your stress where you can, starting with your bathroom countertop.

From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year

I am very excited to report that I am in the final stages of preparing From Cluttered to Clear In Just One Year: Your Room-by-Room Home Makeover, my second book, for publication. I hope to have it available for sale on my website and on Amazon by December 2017.

Why is this exciting news for you? My first book, Rock Scissors Paper: Understanding How Environment Affects Your Performance on a Daily Basis, described how the condition of your environment affects your performance, the tools that can be used to create high performance environments, and a general process for clearing clutter. It was designed to set the foundation of principles, information and processes to create high performance spaces by clearing clutter and improving feng shui in spaces. From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year goes a step further by providing specific recommendations and step-by-step plans to clear clutter and create good feng shui in every area of your home.

From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year begins with a chapter designed to help you start clutter clearing. It includes information about where to start clutter clearing for the best results, where not to start clearing, the best way to start clearing, how to clear clutter, what to clear out, and how to get started and continue clearing clutter.

What distinguishes this book from other books about decluttering is that chapters address both clutter clearing and feng shui challenges in each area of the home. For example, in the Bedroom chapter you’ll find a section that addresses how to clear clutter from the tops of dressers as well as sections about how to make your bedroom peaceful by eliminating things that affect quality sleep like loose shoes and an open laundry hamper. At the end of the chapter is step-by-step plan to clutter clearing from the bedroom.

You can use From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year as your guide to systematically clear clutter and create good feng shui in your home over the period of one year. Or, you can use it as a reference manual to pull out when you are ready to tackle clutter in any area of your home.

Is this the year you are going to get your clutter clearing done and reclaim comfort and peace in your home? If so, email me to be added to a list to be notified when From Cluttered to Clear in Just One Year hits the book shelves later this fall.

ADHD: The Payoff for Completions

When I finish a project I am in the habit of stepping back and taking a moment to appreciate

Celebrate your completions!

what I’ve done and notice how good I feel when it’s done. In my work with ADHD clients for almost two decades, however, I have noticed that more often than not when we finish a project or a portion of a project clients rarely look back and appreciate our completions. Their brains seem to automatically take them to the next thing. This habit is a missed opportunity to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments and build self-esteem.

For me the stepping back, noticing what I’ve done, and patting myself on the back when I’ve finished a task have been my positive payoff for my hard work. What I only recently learned is that with each completion the brain rewards me by releasing serotonin, the neurotransmitter that promotes positive mood and emotional balance. In order to feel the benefits of the serotonin, however, I have to pause to allow myself to feel it. Rushing on to the next task on my to-do list distracts me from pleasure of the release of serotonin.

So, when you finish tasks take a few minutes to look back at what you’ve accomplished. Celebrate your completions even if you have much more to do. Pause to appreciate your efforts and enjoy your well-earned serotonin  surge.

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!

ADHD: Make Starting Tasks Easier

One of the symptoms of inattentive ADHD is difficulty getting started on tasks that need to be done, especially those that seem boring and uninteresting. Executive function deficits due to lower levels of dopamine in the brain make shifting gears and getting into action difficult.

One way to handle the problem with a brain-based faulty starter is to use stimulant medication prescribed by a physician who knows how to treat people with ADHD. Medication improves a person’s ability to focus, start and complete tasks. Unfortunately medication doesn’t work for everybody. It is estimated that 80% of people with ADHD benefit from stimulants. If you are part of the 20% who don’t find stimulants effective, one way to get into action when you need to so is to make the task easier to face. Following is an example of how to do that.

I don’t have ADHD, but like everyone, I do have difficulty making myself get started on certain tasks, especially tasks that are repetitive, new, and about which I lack confidence and competence. That perfectly describes practicing the oboe.

I’m at the beginning of a very frustrating learning curve since the oboe is one of the most difficult wood wind instruments to play. It would have been so easy to commit to learning the oboe and then avoid practice because practice can be boring and painful to do especially at first during the long period of normal incompetence. I knew I had to set myself up so that practice would be simple and easy to do.

Fortunately my music teacher helped me by setting a realistic goal for practice time. He suggested I play several 10-15 minute sessions every day instead of longer sessions. I could do that! Actually, I could do no more than that at first because I would tire easily.

First I created visibility. I set up my music stand in my home office with my music on it. I also left the oboe in plain sight so it is the first thing I see when I enter the room. Because I go in and out of my office numerous times during the day, there was no way I could forget to practice.

Then I had to figure out how to make starting to practice easy. The oboe is a three part instrument. It stores nicely in a little 13” x 7” box. I could put it together before practice and take it apart after practice or leave it put together on top of a storage cabinet. I quickly realized that leaving it intact was the best option because it takes an extra 20-30 seconds to put it together and I find the task annoying. I knew that if the first thing I had to do to practice was unpleasant it could deter me from practicing. I therefore chose to leave it intact on top of a low storage cabinet. Now all I need to do is pick it up, insert the reed, and start practicing.

Because I only have to practice 10 minutes to be successful, and all I need to do to practice is pick up the instrument and sit down to play, I practice 10-15 minutes every day.

What important task can you make easier to do?

Why You Procrastinate Mailing Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching and Organizing Differ

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

If you want to make positive changes, choose coaching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clutter Clearing: Make It Fun to Get It Done!

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

How many bags of trash can you get rid of?

Clearly she hasn’t seen MY clutter!

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

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

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

Empower yourself! Fix broken things!

Broken things carry a very heavy weight energetically. For example, you may not be aware of

Fixing my arthritic thumb joint was empowering!

how heavy that leaky faucet is in your subconscious until you repair it and feel the relief of having it fixed.

I was reminded of how empowering it can be to fix broken things when I had surgery to address osteoarthritis in my right hand. For years I had been experiencing increasing aching pain at the base of both my thumbs. As the arthritis and pain progressed my mobility in my hands became more and more limited. I had to stop knitting. I had to stop using the track pad on my computer. I had to ask my husband to open jars for me. My hands became weaker and weaker. As those things happened I began to feel broken, powerless to do anything about it, frustrated, and old. The brokenness in my body negatively affected my sense of self, my belief in myself and my abilities. I was on a negative slide. Brokenness brings with it negative energies in many forms.

I was excited to learn that surgery could give me back full use of my hands. I’m now two weeks into recovery. Though my hand still has some dull pain and feels fragile, I have noticed that my sense of what is possible for me in the future is growing. Just addressing that one broken part of me has begun shifting from an “I can’t” energy to an “I can” energy. Why is that? Because I fixed a part of my body that was broken. I know my hand will no longer be deteriorating into debilitating pain. It is healing and will be strong again. If it will be strong, so will I.

I wasn’t consciously aware of the extent of the psychological weight caused by the progression of arthritis in my hand until I took action to address the problem and eliminate it. When I was feeling broken and powerless, my thinking and view of myself was contracting. When I took action to repair what was broken, my thinking and my view of myself began to expand. It manifested in feelings of optimism and joy. I began taking action to realize my intention to include more music and art in my life. I took a painting class, my first oil painting class since college. I rented an oboe and registered for classes to learn how to play it.

The more healthy and whole I am physically and psychologically, the more empowered I feel. The more empowered I feel the more likely I am to take positive action. What is broken in your life that if fixed would give you new life, motivation, inspiration and could lead to positive action on your behalf? What is your first step to fixing it? What’s possible if you do fix it? How will fixing it empower you to go for what you really want? 

Support Speeds Clearing Out Parents’ Homes

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

Mom and my step-father, John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productivity: Plan Your Breaks Carefully

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women Get Stuck! Is This You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women In Transition — A Growth Opportunity

You are trying to get back on your feet after a painful divorce. You are planning to retire and are contemplating how to spend your time in retirement. You are grieving the loss of a spouse or a child. You want to quit an unfulfilling job to pursue work that is more in alignment with your values and passions. You are recovering from an illness and know that you need to make significant life changes in order to live a healthy life. But, how can you get through the challenges of these periods that seem so daunting?

Life transitions are times of change whether by choice or circumstance. Typically they are periods in your life when you feel uncertain, perhaps disconnected from yourself, and sometimes stuck because it’s scary to go from a familiar way of being into something new and unknown. However, transitions are also times of opportunity to create new awareness about what really matters to you, your choices for forward movement, and possible steps to take to get to a better place.

Times of transition are often accompanied by swings of emotion — fear, overwhelm, excitement, depression. It is not uncommon to get hung up in negative emotions, to complain about how long transitions last and how lost you are, to feel frustrated with a lack of mental clarity and, to be stuck.

Many people in transition will isolate themselves from others. They mistakenly believe they have to find their way on their or that getting help from others means they are weak. Going it alone only prolongs this uncomfortable state of being. Also, in isolation you are more likely to become wedded to inaccurate perceptions and limiting beliefs because there is no one to question them or offer alternative ways of thinking and doing.

One way to navigate through transitions more quickly with fewer stuck points is to hire a coach. A coach can help you reconnect with yourself, identify your options for forward movement, help you develop a plan of action, and provide emotional support as you find your way into a new segment of your life journey.

Are you in transition? If so, make this time of transition a productive period of growth and personal development by hiring a coach to walk with you as you find your way through uncertain and unsettled times to a better place. I offer a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session so you can experience the benefits of being coached. Schedule your frees session now!

Good Feng Shui Following the Death of a Pet

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

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

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

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

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

Clear Old Newspaper Clutter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transform Refrigerator Clutter Into Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productivity: Where You Sit Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clutter & Soul Starvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know yourself. Feed your soul. Prevent clutter.

Artists: Improve Your Studios for Success

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

A studio housed in a garage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

enjoys working in.

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

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

Planning Is an Intentional Thought Process

Planning can take you from wanting something to attaining it.

If I really want something, like I did when I wanted to become a Certified Organizer Coach®, I first do research to identify what is required to achieve the goal, and given what I learn, decide if it’s a goal I really want to aim for. Next, I plan how I will make that happen. For example, I ask myself the following questions:

  • How will I pay for it?
  • When will I start the classes?
  • How will I fit the classes, the practice coaching sessions, and other work required into my schedule?
  • What challenges am I likely to encounter?
  • What options do I have for handling challenges?

Planning is an active, intentional thought process that helps me go from wanting something to having it. It is the thinking required to organize myself first to determine if achieving my goal is possible, and then to outline the steps I need to take to achieve my goal. Once I’ve planned, I’m prepared to take action. Achieving the goal is the end result.

ADHD: Benefits of Planning with a Coach

I coach women with ADHD. Part of the coaching process is to identify an action at the end of

Planning with a coach increases the chances that you will take action.

each session to do between sessions. In the next session I check back with the client about what happened. Did they take action? If so, what happened? What did they learn? What worked? What didn’t? If they didn’t take action I inquire about what happened that prevented taking action. Did they forget to take action? Did they choose not to take action? If so, how did they reach that decision? If they didn’t take action, what else were they doing?

It is not uncommon for ADHD clients to return to sessions and report that they didn’t do what they said they would do. Why not? Often they committed to an action but didn’t do anything to hold that commitment in memory. It was as if the action was a floating leaf that touched down because it sounded like a good idea, and then blew away out of awareness just as quickly.

I initially worked with clients on how to more effectively anchor commitments in order to increase the possibility of follow through. However, just remembering what they’d committed to do wasn’t enough to motivate them to take action.

So, I went a step further and asked questions like, “When will you do this?” “What’s the benefit of completing this task?” “What steps will you need to take to make this happen?” “What barriers could prevent you from doing this?” “What resources are available to help you do this?” When I’ve helped clients plan in this way, they were more likely to report the following week that they had taken action. It seems that the planning we did together helped to anchor their commitment in memory and made doing the action easier to face and follow through on.

Planning is a process that can be difficult for people with ADHD due to executive function deficits. Saying you will do a task is easy. Breaking a task down into step-by-step actions, considering the when, where, what, how and what ifs necessary to take action are not. Planning done in partnership with a supportive other can be just the mental fuel necessary to take action.

If you have ADHD and have difficulty starting and completing important tasks, perhaps difficulties with planning are blocking action. Coaching is an option that could help you practice planning and take action with support. To learn more about how you can be more productive with coaching, schedule a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me.