Tag Archives: Richmond

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.

Staying Organized: A Mother’s Legacy

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

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

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

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

The Urge to Purge Following a Death

Missing John Arrix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In response to my recent post about Christmas clutter clearing, one reader shared two great ideas for clutter clearing that can help nursing home residents have a happier holiday. She gave me permission to share her ideas with you.

  1. Instead of recycling or tossing extra unused Christmas cards, offer them to the residents of a local nursing home to save them the expense and the hassle of buying cards. You might even consider including stamps with the cards to make it easy to write a note and mail the card. Nursing home residents have limited space, so saving unused cards from year to year is probably not possible. They are likely to welcome your offering of cards.
  2. If you decide to discard ornaments because you no longer use them, purchase a Rosemary Tree or Norfolk Island Pine, often available at your grocery store during the holiday season, to decorate with those ornaments and ribbon remnants. Then, offer the tree to a nursing facility. Those live trees and your ornaments can then bring smiles to the faces of the residents.

What wonderful ideas for transforming clutter clearing into meaningful community service! Clutter clearing doesn’t have to be an onerous task if it results in helping you reduce stress and in lifting the spirits of some often forgotten members of your community.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

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

10 Tips to Make Christmas a Clutter Free Event

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Are You Choosing Workaholism & Busyness?

When you’re young your time is scheduled for you: school, playtime, doctor’s appointments, piano lessons, etc. When you become an adult some of your time may be scheduled for you, your work hours, for example. Even then you get to choose the kind of job you seek with its corresponding work hour requirements. And, you get to choose what you do with the rest of your time. Time is an important commodity in our lives, something that requires constantly making choices and deciding how best to use it.

Why is it, then, that many people feel compelled to regularly fill it completely with activities and obligations? Why is it so difficult to leave spaces for rest, for play, for spontaneous activities?

Could it be that you have not learned to accurately assess the time requirements of the activities you choose? Perhaps the ideal life that you seek takes more time to achieve than there are hours available day to day. Or, are you so programmed by our culture that rewards over-functioning even at the cost of family relationships and physical health that nothing less than being overcommitted all the time seems laudable?

Stop and think about how you spend your time. If you feel dissatisfied with the harried pace of your life and the paucity of pauses, playtime and rest, remember that you are in the driver’s seat of your life. You can’t control every time consuming demand that comes at you. But, I’ll bet you could excavate some “me” time from your busy schedule, time that has no agenda, if you work as hard at that task as you do at fulfilling all the obligations that eat your time.

It’s difficult to change when what you are doing is swimming upstream to cultural norms like busyness and workaholism. But, it can be done. The quality of your life depends on it!

PS If you schedule regular “me” time for rest and play, you’re likely to find you are more productive in the rest of your life!

Clear Desk Clutter to Ground Yourself and Regroup

After two very stressful days this week, including car trouble twice, two speeches to give, getting sick to my stomach during one of the speeches, and being greeted by four piles of dog poop in my office (sick dog) after the “getting sick” speech, I found myself clearing off my desk the morning of the third day. Why? Because my brain was mush after dealing with stressor after stressor in rapid succession, all the while maintaining my professionalism and respectful treatment of everyone who crossed my path, even the car repair guy I had to visit twice in two days.

I realize that clearing off a desk is a stressful activity for many people, but doing it helped me clear the residual mental crud from my head, the papers and other fallout from those two crazy days as well as get clear about my current priorities. Being in crisis mode required that I concentrate on the challenges of the moment and consequently, I had to temporarily disconnect from other aspects of my life. The process of clearing the desk clutter gave me the opportunity to bring my work and personal life back into focus. Because my desk is the repository of papers and other reminders of what is current in my life, reorganizing it and clearing its clutter is a task that immediately grounds me.

Is it time for you to clear your desk to get clear about your life and priorities? I highly recommend it for immediate grounding and stress reduction!

Small Steps to Clutter Clearing Success

You’ve probably heard that the way to get a big project done is to break it down into smaller steps. However, I’ll bet there have been times when you’ve cursed the advice-givers because even breaking projects down into smaller steps can be a daunting task in itself, especially if you are not a linear thinker. For example, you may freeze up in that task because there could be a right and wrong way to break things down into smaller steps.

Two different women in the last week shared their success stories with me about how they tackled clutter clearing by taking small steps in a way that worked for them, without the usual overwhelm. The first told me that she chose one small task to clean up her cluttered kitchen and did it. For example, she’d tell herself, “I can put all the food away,” and do it. Once that was done she’d say, “I can gather together the papers scattered everywhere,” and do that. Using that method she’d work her way around the room until order was restored. To succeed with her method, it was important that she focus on the one small task and not get sidetracked by everything else that needed to be done. She also needed to ignore the big picture of her kitchen chaos that surely would have overwhelmed her and brought her cleaning and clearing efforts to a screeching halt.

The second woman told me that rather than tackle the overwhelming task of clearing her kitchen, she used the purchase of new glasses as a catalyst for purging older glasses. She brought in two new glasses and planned to get rid of two. Instead, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she could easily get rid of seven glasses. She was also successful in getting rid of several items from her closet. Instead of tackling the whole closet, she just looked for items that obviously could be purged. Those included items that no longer fit, that she no longer liked or that she hadn’t worn in quite some time.

You too can be successful at clutter clearing if you focus on identifying small steps that you can do and doing them. Small steps successfully completed add up to big results over time!

Have Realistic Organizing Expectations

In my twelve years of professional organizing I’ve run into many women who are still trying to keep house just like “Mom” did. So, what’s wrong with that? After all, Mom was the role model. There would be nothing wrong with that if Mom’s life was comparable to the lives of women today.

When I look at my mother’s reality compared to mine, there are major differences:

  1. For most of the years that we three children were at home, she did not work outside the home. Therefore, she had much more time to manage all the tasks of running a home.
  2. The pace of life was much slower than it is today, therefore it was easier to keep up with all the chores of running a home. Easier, not easy. It’s never easy to keep up with the demands of raising children and running a home.
  3. There was no instant access to people with voicemail and email, so there were fewer social contacts to make on a daily basis. Mom wasn’t accessible to others at all times, as is the norm today.
  4. There were no computers to distract them from getting things done. Not only that, but there was no need to learn to use new technology like computers, cell phones, email, Ipods, Ipads, etc., activities that take time, focus and energy.
  5. There were fewer activities for children to participate in, therefore children played closer to home and did not require as much transportation.
  6. Academic expectations and involvement in extracurricular activities were such that children still had time to contribute to maintaining the home by regularly doing household chores.

So, given those differences, does it make sense to aim for the same level of organization and home maintenance by the same means? In other words, should women still be trying to do it all by themselves in addition to working outside the home, having more to do because of voicemail, email, computers, etc., more running around to children’s activities and events, and less help? No! That’s a setup for feelings of chronic inadequacy, chronic fatigue, and hating life!

What do I recommend? By all means, don’t compare yourself to your mother! You have two choices: get more help or lower your expectations. Remember that times are different and it’s imperative that you do things differently to achieve the results you want. One of the biggest mistakes moms make these days is to carry too much of the load of home maintenance. Husbands and children get off easy because moms pick up so much of the slack.

Stop it! Ask for help! Hire help! Doing so is imperative today, not optional, given current realities. You have a right to rest, play and leisure time too! Do it! Your health and the quality of your life and that of your family depend on it!

Organizing Priorities in a Health Crisis

I was recently asked to address the issue of what to do about staying organized when you’ve been leveled by some type of illness. What an important subject! You may have your house all organized and clear of clutter and then break your leg. How on earth can you tend to your house when it takes all of your energy to get to the bathroom and feed yourself, much less do anything else?

My first recommendation is: ASK FOR HELP!!!! I know that’s hard to do with tapes playing in your head that say, “You should be able to do everything by yourself,” and “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else.” Contrary to popular belief, the people who care about you often get pleasure out of being able to lend a helping hand from time to time.

When I say ask for help, I not only include friends and extended family, but also the people who live with you. They may be accustomed to living in their own orbit, but a healthy functional family is one in which all members contribute, especially in a time of crisis. In particular, ask family members to be even more vigilant about cleaning up after themselves and helping to maintain order in the home.

My second recommendation is: keep paper under control. If paper gets out of control, you are more likely to have negative consequences, like missing a bill payment. It will also take much longer to dig out once your recover from your illness or injury if paper is part of the mix. Paper is one of the hardest things to organize. It also takes more time to organize than most things. And, the energy of paper will shut you down faster than any other kind of clutter. If you do no more that separate out bills from other papers, throw away junk mail and stack up all other papers, like those that require an action or filing, dealing with paper once you are up an around again will much easier to do.

You will have physical challenges from time to time that make it difficult for you to maintain order in your home. Be gentle with yourself at those times and do whatever you can to restore order as soon as possible once you recover. That may require getting some outside help if the challenge you are facing is beyond what you are capable of doing in a timely manner. If you leave your house in disarray, its condition is more likely to deteriorate further which then can become a health risk in itself.

Stay Organized Even When Hit By a Hurricane!

There is still much external chaos here in Richmond, VA, the remnants of Hurricane Irene’s wrath. The damage done by high winds and fallen trees is visible everywhere. Some people still have no power, phone or cable service.

It is impossible not to be affected by that chaos, those disruptions to day to day functioning. The energy of brokenness abounds. Most of us are unconscious of the effect of that negative energy. We are too busy trying to get back to normal in our homes, with our work, with public schools opening soon. There is also the uncertainty of when services will be restored, when school will start given the delays caused by the storm.

When things feel so out of sync, when the negative energy of brokenness is everywhere, it’s very easy to let your day to day maintenance activities slide. After all, you have no hot water, why bother washing dishes. Those dominant negative and unsettled energies attract more of the same. They stress us and make us less likely to attend to cleaning up, putting things away, maintaining order. It takes extra energy to make yourself do the things that you would normally do to maintain order in your home.

If you follow the lead of those negative, chaotic energies, you’ll find yourself inclined to ignore tasks you know you should do. Do them anyway. Consider them an investment in restoring order. So, you can’t make the power come back on any sooner. You can’t get cable up and running. You can’t get the tree branches hauled away soon enough. You can maintain order inside your home. You can process your mail. You can hang up your clothes even if you can’t do a load of laundry. Resist the urge to stop because the power is out or your yard is torn up by a fallen tree. You’ll be glad you did when you are enjoying a calm order in your home environment instead of a nightmare of your own making!