Tag Archives: Rock Scissors Paper Institute

Removing Energy Blocks Starts Clutter Clearing Avalanche

“I don’t know what I want,” said a new client in response to my question about her expectations for our feng shui organizing session. “I just knew I need to do something!” This client contacted me because she hated her house, which previously had been owned by her husband’s parents. And, she and her husband had been having significant health problems.

Over the next two hours we moved through the whole house while I made suggestions for improving the feng shui of the space. When we got to the last room, the guest room, I recommended that my client claim it as her own, to house her projects, books, her favorite art, anything that lifts her spirits. As is the case with many guest rooms, it had become a dumping spot for things associated with tasks that she didn’t want to do. At my urging we began the “Love It, Use It or Lose It” clutter clearing method to get her rolling on making the space her own. If she didn’t love or use an object, I recommended she lose it.

We cleared a significant number of books, discovered two beautiful silk paintings that had been buried behind linens, and unearthed her beading supplies. One bag held children’s clothing she had been given by a well-meaning family member that she’d been ignoring because she didn’t want it and felt she should. I gave her permission to release the clothing and anything else that had been given to her by others that she did not love and would not use. We also cleared out old papers associated with a past job and a past life. By clearing out stagnant items that no longer served her, we removed significant energy blocks.

As we worked, my client became more and more excited. When I left after two hours I had no doubt that she would continue to work to make her home feel more comfortable. However, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call just two days later telling me that she’d been clearing ever since I left, and had cleared all but one closet in her home. She had been on a roll, and was so excited about her progress. She was especially thrilled that a friend who was visiting remarked, “Your house feels so light!” She was amazed that her friend could feel the energy shift she’d created despite the fact that all the clearing had occurred behind closed doors.

This client’s stagnant belongings were a barrier to her being able to make significant headway in the process of creating a home she could love. When she improved the energy in her closets by eliminating stagnant objects, things she no longer loved or used, she unknowingly improved the overall feel of her whole house. Everything is connected! And, better yet, the positive energy she created gave her the motivation to keep moving forward to improve the feel of her house. Her plans include painting significant parts of her home and removing several pieces of furniture that she hates.

Want to get your life moving? Want your house to feel lighter? See if you can find the energy blocks in your home. A good place to start is with anything you’ve been avoiding. Just tackle it one obstacle at a time. Then notice what opens up in your life!

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
.

Clutter Clearing Can Be Comforting

I’m sitting in McDonald’s in Kilmarnock, VA, taking a break from watching the process of my step-father’s death. I’m attempting to take care of myself in the midst of a very painful phase of life–helping parents at the end of life.

Because it’s hard for me to write and work on aspects of my business, I’ve been doing what I teach clients to do when they can’t do what they think they should be doing. I’ve been clearing easy stuff. Today the easy stuff is emails that just aren’t important given what is going on right now. It’s amazing how easy it is to clear out emails that I usually pause over. I just don’t have the time or energy to consider all the discussion group emails, the networking emails, the offers of products to buy. And, I certainly don’t need them cluttering up my inbox!

I’m saving all the kind notes of support from friends and people who read my newsletters and blog posts. I want to thank each person for their kindness. I’m responding to emails regarding appointments, speaking engagements and other aspects of my business. Nothing else really matters right now.

Somehow clearing out the non-essential emails has helped me feel more in control of my life at this moment. I am certainly not in control of what is happening with my step-father. The hospice nurse said the timing of his death depends on his will, that it’s between him and God. I’m just an observer of a process that is so much bigger than me.

Clutter clearing can be comforting in difficult times.

Feng Shui Organizer Missing In Action

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for the past four or five weeks from my weekly blog, newsletter and emails.  During the holiday season, it is common for most of us to become blitzed with too many obligations, with too much to do.  I suppose I’m no different; however I have been unable to keep up my usual posts and communications, not because of the holiday, but for what I believe to be a normal stage of life.  Normal, but utterly lonely and overwhelming.

My priorities shifted abruptly at the beginning of December and much of my normal life is on hold. On the 4th of December my step-father’s mental status took a turn for the worse, landing him first in the ER, then the hospital, then a rehabilitation and nursing facility, then the healthcare unit of a continuing care facility and finally home.

During that journey I learned that not only my step-father, but also my mother have dementia. Since Mom and John live 90 minutes away, my step-sister and I had to determine the best way to provide them both the care and safety they now need. My step-father’s dementia keeps him primarily unaware of the changes in his life. My mother’s cognitive impairment, however, is more challenging. Because she is more aware of what is going on, she has felt threatened at every turn by the our attempts to make sure she’s safe and has what she needs to stay happy and healthy. Dealing with dementia has been an education in patience, creativity and asking for help.

After spending time in almost all levels of care available to senior citizens, we discovered that a company called Visiting Angels could provide 24-hour in-home care for Mom and John. And, we have enlisted the services of Hospice of Virginia to help John make a peaceful transition from this life to the next. Mom and John are now able to be together in their peaceful home by the water with their cat, Harley.

I have had to do things I had hoped I’d never have to do, like take my mother’s car keys, request her doctor to officially determine that she is not competent to manage her affairs, drive and live independently. My life has felt like a tragic game of chess. Every time I think I’ve made the best plans and life will fall back in order, I’m led down a new path with a new problem to solve.

When exhaustion has threatened to take me under, I have somehow found the strength, guidance and assistance to keep going, guided by love and a commitment to do the right thing for Mom and John, whether they like it or not. There have been many lessons and many blessings.

I’ve learned that what I thought was best for my mother wasn’t. I’ve been blessed with a positive connection with a step-sister I hardly knew. She came to my rescue a number of times when I needed a kick-butt approach to make something happen. We’ve been blessed with help from Mom and John’s neighbors and friends, and the home care of the Visiting Angels and Hospice personnel has been outstanding. So many of my friends have taken time from their busy lives to let me know they miss me and send their supportive prayers. And, I’ve been blessed with an outpouring of love from Bob, my husband of 21 years. His appreciation of what I’ve been going through and how I’ve handled this trip through aging parent hell and his willingness to walk beside me through the difficult parts of this journey have kept me afloat numerous times when my little boat was at risk of going down from the weight of responsibility and turbulent emotions.

This is a journey I would never have willingly chosen. It has derailed me from my life and my business. I had the worst Christmas of my life. My feelings have ricocheted between profound sadness, fear, impotence, frustration, rage and numbness. I’m weary not only from the intensity of feelings I’ve been flying through and the physical demands of many trips back and forth to Kilmarnock, Virginia, but also from having to be the healthy, functioning “good brain” for Mom and John through this difficult transition.

This is my life right now.  I recall meaningful sayings from important places, such as, “One Day at a Time,” “This, Too Shall Pass,” and “Let Go, and Let God.”  I remember these sayings as I’m taking over management of Mom’s life and while I’m coordinating with my step-sister to arrange and maintain the best care for Mom and John.  We’re working hard to help them live with as much serenity and dignity as possible.

All this is to say that, for me, family is first.  I will not be able to be consistent with my online communications for some time.  But I will return when I can.  I long to return now.

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.

Want Clarity About Your Goals? Wash Your Windows!

How clear is your view of the new year?

Are you struggling with making an important decision? Want clarity? Wash your windows! I’m not kidding! The windows are the eyes of the home. If your windows are clean you can see clearly. When you can see clearly, you can think clearly. I am living proof!

For months I have been struggling to get clarity about the direction to take with my business. My coach has made several suggestions. They were good suggestions, but they didn’t resonate with me. I ran numerous options through my head, over and over. Still, I couldn’t get clear.

Then one day, while flopping around in my “not knowing” state, I looked at the windows in our home and shuttered. They were filthy. They hadn’t been cleaned since we moved into the house seven years ago. Every time the sun shone through them I was reminded that they needed to be washed. My thoughts also went to, “But, we can’t afford to have it done.” Talk about scarcity thinking! Yes, they were large expanses of negative energy.

Both Bob and I HATE doing windows. And, the cost to get them washed always seemed to be more than we could manage. That day, as the sun streamed through the accumulated grime of too many seasons of pollen and dust, I made the decision to call a window cleaning company to get an estimate. To my surprise the cost was reasonable! I immediately scheduled the window washing. That simple action cemented my commitment to clarity.

My car windows were also filthy. Smudged with dog nose prints, I felt irritated every time I got into my car. One day I couldn’t stand it anymore. I drove to the closest grocery store and bought window cleaning wipes. I cleaned my windows right there in the grocery store parking lot. I couldn’t tolerate the lack of clarity a moment longer.

The day after I washed the car windows I met with a woman who helps me with marketing my programs. As we talked I was amazed to find that I knew exactly how I wanted to change my business and what projects I want to pursue in 2012. It was as if a dam had burst and the ideas came pouring out. After my marketing friend left, the ideas kept streaming out into a mind map and outline of my plan. I also felt a physiological rush of energy that couldn’t be explained by caffeine. The coffee I had that day was decaffeinated!

It’s the perfect time to get clarity about where you want to go in the new year. And, it’s also a great time to get your windows washed, since we’re about to head into the season of cold temperatures, gray days and challenging weather. You don’t need the irritant of dirty windows. Commit to clarity! Get your windows cleaned and watch your vision of the new year crystalize!

Clutter Clearing: The Importance of Accountability

You’ve decided that this weekend you’ll tackle the clutter in your bedroom. You know it’s affecting your ability to sleep peacefully. When you wake to it every morning you feel like such a slacker for allowing it to sit there and grow day by day. What a great way to start each day!

The weekend comes and once more you wake to your personal clutter nightmare. You tell yourself you’ll do it, but first you’ll have a cup of coffee and read the paper. Then you get a phone call from a friend asking you to go to a craft fair. The bedroom is waiting. You told yourself you’d do it this weekend. But, there’s always Sunday to get to the bedroom clutter. And, after all, you do want to have more work/life balance! Off you go with your friend. The bedroom clutter goes untouched for one more day.

Sunday arrives. You groan as you crawl out of bed and again look at the clutter. Today is the day. But, first you must go to church and then have brunch with friends. When you get home your husband wants you to help him with a project in the garage. To keep the peace and make progress in the garage you table the bedroom clutter clearing project for later in the day. Then the children need your help with a school project. The next thing you know, it’s time to make dinner. Once again, the bedroom clutter remains untouched. You tell yourself, “It’s gone this long. It can wait one more week.”

Sound familiar? Other than doing taxes or going to the dentist, almost anything is more appealing than clearing clutter. Clutter that has been sitting for any length of time has a static energy that makes addressing it seem like moving a block of cement. It’s energy is so negative. Moving it requires making so many decisions. That takes energy and focus, both of which are hard to come by in lives filled to the brim with activities and obligations. No wonder clutter clearing seems so overwhelming!

So, how do you make yourself do it? One way I get myself to follow through with onerous tasks is to tell another person what I intend to do and ask them to hold me accountable. What does “hold me accountable” mean? The way they hold me accountable is to check back with me to see if I did the task, to remind me that I thought doing it was important for my well-being and peace of mind. Holding me accountable is not nagging me, berating me or shaming me into doing the task. It is simply to ask the question and remind me of my intention.

For some reason when I tell another person I am going to do something, I am less likely to blow off the task. Who can you ask to hold you accountable for tackling a clutter clearing project in your home? Make sure whomever you choose is a supportive, loving person, not someone who will give you a hard time. It’s even better if that person also wants to make progress in some area of his/her life and also needs help with accountability. You can then be accountability buddies.

If you find you have difficulty identifying a good candidate for an accountability buddy, I will be offering a new accountability opportunity in the new year. Look for future posts outlining the details of The 12 Months of Clutter Clearing Challenge, a special program designed to help people get clutter clearing done.

Conquer Clutter Clearing Overwhelm: Get a Body Double!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transform Trophy Clutter: Create A Trophy Garden

Trophies: The New Yard Art

Trophies hold the energy of the accomplishments associated with them. Some people find it very hard to let go of trophies, even when they get old and ugly. I’ve recommended that clients reduce their quantity by only keeping only those that hold memories of the most significant achievements. I’ve suggested that clients take photos of their trophies and then discard them. But, today learned of a creative way to deal with the trophy dilemma.

Charlyne Meinhard, whose husband, died within this last year, was left with boxes of her husband’s chess trophies in her crawl space. The trophies had been awarded for chess victories in the years prior to starting a family and mark his having achieved a master’s level. They were prized possessions. Getting rid of them was never a question while her husband was alive. After his death, while in the process of regrouping after her loss, however, Charlyne unearthed the trophies and had a decision to make–keep the trophies or get rid of them.

Charlyne knew she didn’t want the trophies displayed in her home, but throwing them in the trash just didn’t seem right. They held the energy of her husband’s mastery in chess. They also held the energy of the early years of their marriage. She also knew her children might be upset if she got rid of them.

Her solution was to create a trophy garden. She carefully placed the trophies in the garden beside the driveway at the front of the house. That way she can see them when on her way in and out of the house. She told me that seeing them is a comfort to her. They remind her of her husband and make her smile. And, she told me,“They were a whole lot less expensive than other yard art!”

Charlyne also removed the engraved plates on the most significant trophies and plans to make bookmarks from them by attaching them to strips of fabric. They will become Christmas gifts for family members.

Got trophies? Transform them from a pile of junk into something that will hold only good energies of accomplishment and positive memories!

Attend Introduction to Enneagram Workshop to Improve Relationships And Your Space

You might be wondering why a feng shui and clutter clearing expert is sponsoring a workshop about the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a system of personality that describes nine fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling and being in the world. Feng shui teaches that everything is connected. Your understanding of yourself and others affects the quality of your relationships. The quality of your relationships in turn affects your energy. Your energy affects how well you tend to the condition of your space. So, there really is a connection!

I was first exposed to the Enneagram by Fred Boykin and Jack Killen, friends who were looking for volunteers to work with when they were completing an Enneagram certification program. It was unsettling to learn that in Enneagram language I am a 1, a Perfectionist. However, when I read about the typical feelings, themes and approach to life of a Perfectionist, and compared it to descriptions of other types, it was clear that I am a 1. With that information I was able to come to a new level of self-acceptance. I also became more conscious about what I do and expect of myself and others and was able to slowly make changes in behavior that improved both the quality of my relationships and my life.

I tell people that the Enneagram helped save my marriage. My husband, Bob, and I are very different types. Learning about his type helped me better understand him and accept him as he is. It also helped me become more conscious of his gifts and learn to appreciate the unique person that he is.

One of the best things I learned from the Enneagram training is that the best thing that Perfectionists can do for themselves is to play hooky. If you are a 1, a Perfectionist, you know that playing hooky is rarely if ever an option. There is always something that must be done, fixed, tended to. Stopping is a major challenge for a 1. I was given permission to stop and allow things in my life to be less than perfect. I have a hunch that that one piece of information may help me extend my life by a few years!

If you are curious about your Enneagram type, I urge you to join us on November 12 for a day-long Introduction to the Enneagram. Fred and Jack are enthusiastic, experienced Enneagram trainers. You will leave the day with information that can open doors to self-understanding, self-acceptance and self-love. From that foundation it is possible to improve all your relationships.

For more information and to register for the Enneagram workshop, go to http://web.me.com/debbierocks/Site/Enneagram_Training.html or www.RockScissorsPaperInstitute.com. If you register by October 30, you will save $20!

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!

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!

Clearing Clutter/Getting Things Done Connection

When I recently reflected back on the 11+ years that I have been working full-time as a professional organizer and the two to three years that I have been writing regularly about my organizing experiences and lessons I’ve learned, I realized that there are two areas of the organizing process that I enjoy most: clutter clearing and helping people get things done. I am both very sensitive to energy and visually oriented, therefore I am very affected by the negative effects of clutter. And, I’m a task-oriented person. I like to get things done, finished, settled, decided. So, it makes sense that clutter clearing and getting things done would be my primary areas of interest.

After I pinpointed my primary organizing interests I began to think about the connection between clutter clearing and getting things done. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Clutter is a physical block to getting things done. The negative energy of clutter blocks both the thinking and the inclination to get things done.
  2. Clearing clutter makes it possible to see what needs to be done and frees energy to make taking action possible.
  3. When clutter has been cleared it is easier to plan what needs to be done and to problem-solve how to get things done.
  4. Some clutter is the physical evidence of tasks that have not been done. For example you might leave the paint can and brush out in a room to remind you to touch up a painted surface.
  5. Unfinished projects can have the same negative energy as clutter.
  6. Getting things done reduces clutter.

Clearly clearing clutter and getting things done are intertwined! Go clear some clutter today and make it easier to get things done!

Conclusions:

  • If people made a commitment to keeping their spaces clutter free, they would be more productive.
  • If people were more productive, there would be less clutter.

Want More Energy? Clear Clutter!

Yesterday I had the honor of helping a lovely twelve year old girl, “Anna”, clear clutter from her bedroom. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why is that an honor?” It’s an honor because she welcomed me into her personal space and gave me permission to guide her in her decision-making. When I help people clear clutter, the energies in their lives shift and change for the better. It was an honor to be on that journey with her.

As we began working, Anna was reserved and somewhat aloof with me. That behavior is very common when I first begin clutter clearing with new clients. It was especially reasonable for a child working with an adult she hardly knew.

The way I work is to ask questions about the items in the room, starting with the biggest and moving on to the smallest. As we moved through that process it was fascinating to observe Anna morph from a self-contained soul sitting curled up in a little ball on her bed, answering my questions in a perfunctory manner, into an excited young colt bounding around the room gathering up items to evaluate and discard. Her shift from no energy to boundless energy was impressive.

I can’t remember the specific moment when Anna’s energy shifted. I have a hunch that it happened when we moved a small dresser from her closet to make more room for her to work in her closet. The dresser was a significant block to her being able to easily access her clothes and put them away. Moving it seemed to move Anna energetically from an overwhelmed, discouraged child into an enthusiastic young woman. From then on she worked with me with gusto, speed and focus. It was such a pleasure to be in that process with her. My challenge at that point was to contain her enthusiasm so we didn’t get ahead of ourselves in the clearing process.

In three hours Anna’s clearing transformed her room from that of a little girl to that of an adolescent. With her mother’s blessing I gave her permission to decide which items would stay and which would be donated, trashed or moved to another location. While having the right to choose was no doubt empowering and motivating for Anna, releasing huge quantities of books, toys, clothing and several large pieces of furniture was what shifted her mood and her energy. She was so relieved and excited to have the burden of too much stuff removed from her space. Anna now had room for her evolving adolescent self to grow and thrive. I predict she’ll have a great school year!

What things in your space are blocking your energy? If you have clutter, you are blocked in some way. Clear that clutter and watch your energy re-emerge. It’s worth the effort!