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Pleasure at Christmas Is My Priority

Years ago while working with an energy healer I learned that I have great

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

What brings you pleasure at this special time of year?

difficulty allowing pleasure. I was raised by two people who worked first, played later if they played at all. Hard work was revered in our house. Plus, when my parents’ marriage began to go downhill, working hard distracted me from my fear and sadness. I worked hard at school, at home, at work, in my private life, and at anything that mattered to me. It was always difficult for me to lighten up and have fun.

When I became aware of my challenge allowing pleasure I decided to do something about it. I started by intentionally lightening up and taking pleasure in the festivities of favorite time of year — the Christmas holiday season. It was a good place to start because it was a time of year that included many things I already loved: Christmas music, spending time with family and friends, baking sweets to give away, showing people I love them, and Christmas colors and decorations.

I deliberately simplified what I did to prepare for the holidays each year to lower my stress and make it possible to be more present to those aspects of the season that touch my heart — lights, music, warm connections with loved ones, familiar decorations. I became more mindful and discriminating about social events I would attend. I enjoyed activities I loved and eliminated those that seemed like work.

Now, when I think of the December and the holiday season my heart smiles. It’s a time of year when I give my hard-working, driven self a break. I see fewer clients. I ease up on my expectations of myself to be consistently productive, and I follow the lead of my heart.

Choosing to allow pleasure at the holidays has made it possible for me to be gentler with myself all year long. I am a first child, which comes with challenges like perfectionism, drivenness, high standards, and a harsh inner critic. I still have a long way to go toward balancing work and fun all year long. But, thanks to my annual pleasure fest in December, I am making progress.

Does pleasure (other than alcohol induced pleasure) even show up on your radar during the holiday season? If not, set your intention to experience some type of holiday pleasure each day of December no matter how busy you are. Make pleasure your focus this holiday season and reap the benefits all year long!

Dispel Christmas Pressure! Simplify!

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” That is the subject of many conversations angel-564351_640among women at this time of year. I was thinking about that question today, and the perspective it anchors. It keeps the focus on the tasks that must be done before the deadline of December 25, like a race to the finish line. Just thinking about that quest creates feelings of pressure and even dread inside me. No wonder some people hate the holidays! It’s just associated with more work to do, not pleasure.

I have always loved the Christmas season. The season, not just the day — the music, the bright lights, the special foods, getting together with friends and family, showing my love and care with gifts and cards I send to those I love. However, I once was like so many people, running as fast as I could to that magic deadline, only to feel let down once I got there. Instead of enjoying the season, I was focused on completing tasks, worrying about whether I’d get everything done on time, and not having much pleasure or fun.

One day I woke up to the fact that the way I was doing Christmas made it impossible to be present to the possible joys of the season. I had a choice to make. 1) Keep doing what I was doing and continue to feel stressed, irritable and burdened. Or, 2) modify what I do each Christmas so I can have time and energy to be fully present for all the joys of the holiday season.

I chose option number 2. My focus is no longer on the deadline of December 25. It is on enjoying the traditions, the feelings, and the opportunities for meaningful connection all through December. This is what did I did to get off the autopilot of stressful Christmas preparations.

  • I stopped putting up a big tree (it took me a day to set up just the tree), and I now have three smaller trees that I keep decorated. All I have to do to put them up is to remove the plastic bag that covers them during storage.
  • I downsized the number and kinds of decorations I put out. I kept only those decorations for which I had a strong heart connection, and I eliminated annoying, difficult to put up decorations like candles in the windows. 
  • I reduced baking from several different types of cookies and sweets to
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    Cracker Candy

    one very simple recipe that everyone loves.

  • For many family members I only give token gifts or gift cards instead of numerous gifts.
  • I pair boring tasks like addressing and writing notes in Christmas cards and wrapping presents with tasks I enjoy like watching a Christmas movie or a special TV program.
  • I stopped attending holiday parties I didn’t enjoy.

I still have a Christmas to-do list, but it’s not my main focus. It is no longer driving my mood. I keep my eye on and devote my energies to enjoying the pleasures of the season. I go to Christmas concerts, schedule time to connect with special friends, listen to Christmas music as I drive and work around my house, sit quietly in my decorated space. And, guess what? The tasks that I want to get done (gift giving, card writing, baking, decorating, etc.) get done with less stress, less rush and more pleasure.

What can you do to shift your focus from the pressured rush to the December 25 deadline to enjoying the special opportunities for connection and pleasure that are available during the whole holiday season? You do have a choice!

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.

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.

 

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!

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.