Ch- ch-cha-changes

Changes are inevitable – both the positive ones as well as the ones that challenge us.  How’s that for stating the obvious?  Sometimes we know the changes are coming – we change jobs or move.  Other times changes happen suddenly – an accident or event that is unexpected.  Some changes are quick while others can be indefinite, as with health issues.  There are changes that span the spectrum as far as their impact – from relatively minor changes to ones that turn our lives upside down.

If only this was the complete break down for changes – except that each change we encounter can be different and affect us uniquely.  The way we experience changes can be just as unpredictable as the changes that happen in our life.  And there’s also the way that we personally handle changes – some people react with grace and flexibility while others can get flustered and struggle.  We can also move between these, as this too is a continuum.  It’s not as simple as only reacting with ease, as it takes time and energy to adjust, so we cycle through feelings.

How do you react to changes?  What kinds of changes do you simply roll with the flow versus changes that provide a greater challenge to handle?  When we know our strengths and our weaknesses, we can then consider how to do our best in reacting to the changes.

Consider the person who struggles with sudden changes – short notice changes – bringing up anxiety or stress.  They know life can throw curve balls, where plans can go awry, and they don’t want to react so strongly.  Working to accept the abrupt changes with more serenity is great.  It’s also not the only approach, as you recognize your own reactions.  Recently I had a client share that she doesn’t handle sudden changes well – and by sharing that she was helping both of us.  Not only would I understand if she faced this situation while I was there, I can now do what I can to minimize any surprises.

What do you tell yourself about how you deal with changes in your life?  When we’re successful, we can dismiss the process we went through in adjusting to the changes or we can appreciate our strength and grace in dealing with the changes.  On the other hand, the changes that are more challenging can elicit self-criticism.  Our struggles can become evidence of our “failures” in life rather than simply a more complex situation that’s pushing us to adapt.  We’re all more prone to identify the bumps we experienced over the areas where we succeeded.

Is there ever a time to be critical of yourself – about how you weren’t perfect?

  • it was a “tiny” change
  • it was a change you knew about in advance?
    • and even planned for adjusting to this known change
  • it was a change you wanted and acted to bring about

How does it serve you to be critical?  Does it help you to cope more successfully for the future changes?  I’d imagine that it mostly deflates the flexibility and grace you do have and undermines your self-confidence.  And this isn’t to say that the self-critical-ness isn’t going to still pop up– it’s not as easy as flipping a switch to turn it off.  It is about what you do when that voice gets loud.  If you can recognize it as your interpretation – your perception – and you might be biased; you can start to lighten up on yourself.

Tackling organizing projects are changes you’re working to bring about – it’s your choosing – and that doesn’t automatically make it smooth and easy.  It can seem like it’s so small in the grand scheme of things – and yet that doesn’t mean it won’t bring challenges – even in the midst of the lightening and successes.  Therefore, consider things going on in your life – are there changes you’re adjusting to – even without thinking about it in that way?   Please allow yourself to be right where you are in your own ch-ch-cha-changes!

Temptations of Purchasing

About a month ago I became aware of the large increase of catalogs arriving.  “Aha, it’s that time of year again.”  From this point, I can have any number of reactions – from apathy to curiosity, sometimes I even feel annoyed.  Of course, their job is to convince you to spend your money with them – at this time of year, with their offers of saving money and finding the perfect gift.  Yet it’s not just this holiday time that we’re surrounded with offers – their hope of being tempting.

How do you think about the approaches and offers all around you?  Do you consider the strategies they’re using?  Do you know what and when you are more prone to giving into the temptation?

If only it were simple to have set rules for making intentional purchases and avoid collecting clutter.  Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some strategies for doing both of these things – yet, with all the variables, they’re not likely to be foolproof.  The more we understand our own dynamic – the factors that impact our buying more things – the easier it will be to catch ourselves.

There are times that the idea of an item being scarce can be a challenge for me – “uh oh, I absolutely love that, it’s on sale which means it might be going out of stock (or is less expensive), so I should just get it.”  Once I became aware of how this situation of an apparent scarcity (or “good” deal) can lead me to impulsive purchasing, I can now catch myself most of the time from buying into the perception of scarcity.  I realized that it was more important to me to be able to take the time to process and evaluate buying items, then that if it was in fact not available (if I even went back to get it) it was “just not meant to be.”  This is one of my strategies – in response to one of the marketing strategies that can entice me.

For me with the idea of scarcity, it only applies to some things.  When it is in the clearance area of a store, I practice skepticism about why something has made it there.  Yet I learned that the hard way – I picked up too many things over the years that were flimsy.  Just because something is marked down doesn’t mean it’s really a savings to buy – if the item is poor quality, it won’t work or last long anyway – so it’s a waste of your time and money.

The marketing aspects that can tempt me are not necessarily the same ones that lure you – just like the approach we take to handle it will be different.  If we don’t pay attention – learn from our experiences – we will spend money we don’t need to and have that much more excess stuff around making more work for us.

It’s not just as simple as the marketing – the things retailers are advertising and trying to tempt us with.  We also have an internal sense of when something is too much – whether it would match anyone else’s view or not.  So, consider if you later regret how much you spent on x, y, z, etc.  Do you need to adjust your internal sense or apply it only within certain limits?

Then there’s also how our personality, mood, and feelings influence how we buy or not buy as well.  For me, it also affects my tolerance for shopping at all – sometimes the last thing I have any desire to do is walk into a store unless I have an immediate need.  Then there are other times that I want to look around and explore.  Once I even said, “I want to go into the “clutter” store.”  Then I chuckled – both at the desire to go into the store that seemed cluttered and how I labeled it – automatically.  Here’s the window that somehow drew me in – and after going in, I admired a few things, considered if anything wanted to come home with me, and left happy – exploring and not purchasing.


cluttered store front full of items

The “clutter” store I wanted to go into.

We all have opportunities to buy things we don’t need and end up not using or appreciating those things.  And more than the opportunities, we all spend on our money on these things – at least sometimes.  This isn’t about how much money you do or don’t have – since you can collect clutter at dollar stores just as easily as higher end boutiques and the excess stuff still requires your attention, at some point.  We can choose to consider the things influencing our purchasing and explore how we can do that in ways that are truly supportive of our life.

Giving Thanks

This is the time of year when we tend to think about being grateful – at least if you’re not already practicing gratitude regularly.  After all tomorrow is Thanksgiving – a day we often associate with sharing the things we’re grateful for – before digging into the feast.  Yet, it seems as a society we’re thinking more and more about gratitude – and the value gratitude has on our own lives.  How often do you take time to consider what you are grateful for?

It can be all too easy to downplay and dismiss the value of expressing your gratitude – after all you’re busy and the things going right don’t require your attention, either in remembering or for problem solving.  One day is enough, isn’t it, for sharing the things you’re grateful for?

Although we certainly don’t want to forget those things in life that need further attention from us, there is value in remembering all the things that went right, that there were things that we can be grateful for.  Human nature is to focus on the negative, yet this just reinforces the ruts in our brain that can limit our thinking and perspective.

Earlier this year at the ICD (Institute for Challenging Disorganization) conference, one of the speakers talked to all of us about “Living Stress Free.”  Lots of things can contribute to our stress level and the way they interact then has a further impact.  Therefore, we can reverse the path to stress with some practice and tools.  And you probably guessed it – one of those tools is expressing gratitude.

His recommendation was at the end of every week to count your blessing with these 2 steps: 1) recall 3 things from the prior week for which you are grateful and 2) acknowledge 3 things in your life (not time constrained, but overall) for which you feel blessed.    He went on to share that research suggests that this practice translates into people with less depression and stress and that they are more likely to make progress on important personal goals.

New to me was that there is some evidence that counting your blessings once a week is more beneficial than doing it every day.   I found contradictory information on this in my research – and overall that there is no consensus yet about the frequency.  There seems to be no debate about the value of being grateful – of making a practice of it – as long as you don’t get so habituated to it.  Consider the feelings that accompany being grateful – those are part of what benefits the brain.

Sometimes it can be challenging to find things that you are grateful for – whether you’re experiencing depression, a series of tough life events, or whatever else it might be that interferes with identifying the blessings in your life.  Every organizing client that I’ve had has had areas where they are successful – though they don’t always recognize it.  Search out the parts you are succeeding with – I insist there are some! 😉

Due to my worldview, the obstacles and struggles I’ve faced in my life are blessings – they helped me learn and grow.  So even in the midst of a struggle, I can be grateful.  That doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated or challenged, simply that I have confidence that it will in the long run be a blessing for my life.

Similarly, you can feel gratitude for the goals and desires you have.  Where would you be without those?  If you’re dealing with a cluttered living space and desire more order – can you acknowledge the strength and blessing of wanting it to change?  This focuses on the positive – which will support us in moving forward.

We’ve probably all heard that “Thanksgiving was never meant to be limited to one day.” When we make a habit of gratitude we shift things for ourselves – we’re more resilient, more realistic about our self-worth (rather than pessimistic), and it helps us live mindfully in the present moment.  With my approach of experimenting – if you find yourself resistant to the idea of making a practice of gratitude in your life, test it out.  Commit to 2 weeks and just do it – and then observe – how do you feel? Has anything changed? In what ways?

Technology – Digital Pictures

Technology is here to benefit us.  At least it’s supposed to and we can do our best to not let it take over.  This can be challenging – as I’ve talked about many times before.  Recently it occurred to me that taking pictures with our phones, tablets, and digital cameras is a good example of technology here to support us.  It’s also an illustration of how when we’re not careful, we forget to only use it to our advantage.  It’s important for us to use this wonderful technology of digital pictures to supplement our memories.

Pictures can be one of those things we all have a lot of – and often it’s not as organized as we’d like.  As you’ve probably heard me say before, one of the factors of getting organized is the quantity you have to deal with – and with digital pictures that quantity can quickly become overwhelming.  And then when you consider you probably have both physical and digital pictures to organize – it can be paralyzing to consider organizing them – and the organization aspects are topics for other blogs.

This technology of being able to take pictures digitally has many benefits for us.  There is no cost for taking the pictures – we don’t need film, let alone rolls and rolls of it on hand, just in case.  We don’t actually have to spend money getting our pictures developed, although we might choose to have some printed up and those will be ones we know are good and worth the time, money, and effort of getting the physical copies.  We have the immediate visual feedback about whether an image was captured – did someone blink at the exact wrong moment – and give us the chance to try again (and again and again).  Then there’s the possibility of catching each and every adorable expression of your grand-kids.

On the other hand, this same technology also makes it easy to take the pictures and avoid doing else with them.  It might even be a case that you might not really even look at them after taking them – the excitement of picking the developed film up to discover what was captured doesn’t apply with digital photographs.  And then the options for organizing them can be quite a bit more overwhelming and procrastination becomes easier – they’re saved and you can always do it later.  Just because these digital pictures don’t take up our physical spaces doesn’t mean they’re not consuming space and that space carry its own risks also beyond fire and water.

The most important thing is that there’s a difference between living the experiences and capturing it all to relive later.  When you have the camera (or photo capturing device) out taking pictures, you are only partially attending to what’s going on around you and missing the experience of being fully present.  Your memories are more likely to be of taking the pictures, not of the event itself.  This isn’t to say that taking pictures should be eliminated – rather that when we’re not careful it’s easy to get caught up in trying to capture the experience rather than relishing each experience and getting some pictures to highlight that.

As a client and I recently talked about, would you rather watch the beautiful sunset and savor it or try to capture the beauty of the sunset in a picture to remind yourself in the future?  This is definitely something I struggle with – oscillating between the extremes of regretting what I didn’t capture since I didn’t even pull out the camera to the other end of realizing that I’ve taken 350 pictures in the last 2 hours.

Let’s be honest – who wants to look at 500 pictures of your daughter’s birthday party or your vacation to the Everglades?  Will you even want to look at that many pictures in a year, 5 years, or 25 years?  And I’m a bit tongue in cheek since I’m probably one of those who would enjoy looking through that many pictures.  Yet, even though I do like looking through tons of pictures, I can also share that I avoid looking at pictures – physical as well as digital – since it will take time to look at them all.  This means that they’re not being appreciated and cannot remind you of your lovely experiences – it has ceased to benefit you.  Imagine what it would be like to have a manageable number of pictures that do their simple purpose of reminding you of this and that experience – is it difficult to picture that?

There’s a balance between being fully present in the moment and capturing some images for the joy of reminiscing in the future – and what that balance looks like for you is not likely to match what it looks like for me.  What matters is becoming aware of our tendencies – do you want to savor the moments more as they happen?  Taking pictures is technology – whether we’ve thought about it in that way or not – and just like in all other arenas, the goal and purpose is to support you and your values.  Don’t be lulled by the possibilities – make technology work for you.

Consider Setting Resolutions – or Not

There’s a certain amount of dread I find as the New Year approaches.  I feel an obligation to talk about resolutions and goals, as this is the expectation for this event each year.  Part of me wonders how many of you actually set New Year’s resolutions.  Or how seriously you take them.  As time passes, I have a sense that people sitting down to make their list has dissipated over the years.  It seemed like everyone did it when I was kid and you needed to be prepared since someone (more likely several people) were bound to ask you what your goals were for the coming year.  I’m not sure how many of us view this event the same now.

And let me be perfectly clear, I am all for setting goals.  I’ve mentioned before that I just personally resist this once a year on January 1st list making.  I strive to incorporate it into my life, throughout the year.  I do dislike how we have the potential for undermining our confidence by setting goals and not meeting them.  This feels extremely contrary to the intention.  What I want for all of us is positive self-regard, the feeling of being successful in all our life.  Anything that challenges that needs to be reevaluated in my book!

So, let’s talk about goals here.  You probably know all the guidelines – start small, set concrete and specific goals that you can measure, and keep the list short.  I’ve even written about these things before in Goals, Already?

Yet I can’t help but wonder, maybe we half-heartedly set some New Year’s resolutions simply expecting that they probably won’t happen.  Most people I’ve talked to know about the above guidelines for being successful in setting goals and yet when they’ve set goals, they’ve neglected to develop their goals far enough to apply those guidelines.  That’s part of why it occurred to me that New Year’s resolutions might have become almost an almost rote task for some of us.

Probably the biggest thing for me is that taking steps to reach our goals can’t be so easily proscribed.  I remember years ago I desperately wanted to lose weight.  I went through phases of wanting a quick and easy fix since I blamed some medication for my weight predicament.  Then I accepted that there wasn’t going to be any quick fixes and made some beginning efforts at exercising.  Those often faltered with the realization of how far I had to go – even 5 minutes on a stationary bike was exhausting.  Then finally I was able to commit to the process, starting small with specific goals at 5 minutes each time 3 days a week.  That progressed to 1 hour 5 days a week and guess what – the weight came off.

Except that this goal had to move through various stages before it was truly prepared to be my goal.  It took me a long time from the “I want to…” until I was ready to set small and specific goals.  That didn’t correspond to any set date on a calendar.

And this really is the crux of why part of me dreads writing about setting New Year’s resolutions, I don’t want to propagate that you need to set goals at this time of year.  You don’t need to be ready to make changes this moment.  Changes take time and you really need to be prepared in all ways to begin to make those happen.

Therefore, if you are ready to make a New Year’s resolution, go for it.  If you’re not, then cheers to you too.  And remember the other part of New Year’s is to review your successes over the past year – I hope there were many. Happy New Year and I hope it’s a fabulous one.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Here I am about to state the obvious – my blog always comes out the day before Thanksgiving.  This causes me to have mixed feelings – I want everyone to be focused on enjoying their day.  There are times to be thinking about our habits, our organizing, our time management, and etcetera.  Then there are times when it’s time to set that aside for a while – other priorities are more important.

One of the things I talk to people about is setting priorities.  When everything holds the same value, everything can lose its value.  Think about it in terms of stuff – if you are so surrounded by things you love, how can you love everything when you can’t see or find it?  This applies just as much to our interests – if you want to do everything, you need to figure out what exactly you want to focus on first.

Even more importantly, you need to decide what can wait – when it’s time to set something aside – either permanently or just for the time being.  This is part of what causes someone to feel overwhelmed – the feeling that there is just so much to be done and not being able to leave something undone.

All of life is a journey – like organizing – there’s not an end point.  There’s always more to be done, more to organize, more to improve, and on and on infinitum.  It’s part of what makes life so interesting.  It’s also exactly this that frustrates our efforts.

My vision of this is walking down a road, coming to the familiar crossroads, and choosing a path.  Sometimes this path is about setting something down for a while – I leave that thing, the interest or desire, by the side of the road – because it’s just an image, I know I can pick that interest back up again after I’ve traveled for a while.

Often the holidays are full of routines – we always get together with so and so on Thanksgiving.  As with virtually everything I talk about – I encourage you to figure out your own needs and values – for Thanksgiving as with anything else.  It can be challenging to align your priorities with your life, yet it’s important to do.

Treasures from Others

I enjoy trying to share my excess stuff with others – friends first and then to one of the stores.  I approach friends and ask, “Is this something you’d like to have?”  With one particular friend, let’s call her Joanna; she almost always takes whatever I’ve offered.  After a handful of months, I noticed stacked in a corner the sugar and creamer containers Joanna had taken most recently. The last thing I want to do is add to someone else’s clutter.

Stuff from other people comes into our homes – one way or another – from gifts or sharing or inheritance.  We all have them – things from those we love that don’t quite fit our personality or style.  Sometimes these are the most difficult items to make decisions about.  It holds some value in one way or another for us.  Is it simply the memory?  Is it guilt?  Is it a sense of obligation? Or is it something else entirely?

When working with clients, I often ask them after hearing that it’s from someone else, “Do you think this person would want to add to your clutter?”

I know this is the last thing I would want – it turns out I gave a gift to someone who was bothered by part of the design of it, I told them emphatically to pass it along to someone else, PLEASE.

William Morris known partially for his involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” If something is not useful or beautiful to you, wherever it came from, is there a reason to keep it?

The last time I visited, I saw it sitting in a corner.  On some level it made me sad since they shared how they don’t love it, yet because it was a gift from me, it stays.

Maybe I have too noble expectations of people – that they too would not want to contribute to anyone else’s clutter.  It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone would want someone to keep a gift that isn’t adding value to his or her life and space.

We each get to make decisions for our own life – is it worth it to have things around that don’t make you happy?  Keep the lovely memory of the gift, the care from the person giving the gift, and let the item itself move into someone else’s life who might treasure it dearly.

Book Review: Making Peace with the Things in Your Life

With the extreme numbers of organizing books available, this book was on my radar, though cannot be sure where it would have landed if it hadn’t been included as part of the coaching program I took.  We weren’t required to read the whole thing, just a section – though once I had the book I was reading it.  Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You – and What to Do About It by Cindy Glovinsky, M.S.W., A.C.S.W. is quite possibly one of the best books on organizing I’ve read.

This book takes a different approach than many organizing books out there – it’s designed to help you look at the internal stuff that happens around Things in your life.  Often when dealing with all the stuff that surrounds us, we target the physical items first and this doesn’t always work well – the stuff keeps returning.  Cindy Glovinsky is trained as a psychotherapist and walks the reader through many aspects to explore around the problem with Things.  It’s designed to get you ready to use all those other more typical organizing books available.

One of the aspects that I really appreciated was that early on she talks about chaos and order – how “the two interweave in a perpetual, ever-changing dance.”  She spends a little time talking about how these are both part of our universe and serve a purpose.  Here I go again, my passions – the balance, the self-acceptance, the inevitable changes of life – this is part of life.

You might have noticed that when the word Things appears, it’s always capitalized.  This is done throughout the book to draw your attention to it and change your perspective on the stuff around you.  Generally I dislike the device of using capitals in such ways, though I found that it did shift my perspective.  The word itself is wonderfully vague so it can apply to any of us, with whatever it is that we have.  Her language and use of aliens and characters convey her compassion – for others and yourself.

If you want quick and easy answers, this book is not for you.  It takes you through the major tasks needed to make lasting change. The book is broken into 4 parts – Part I: assumptions about Things; Part II: systematic inventory of Thing habits and Thing feelings; Part III: possible causes of Thing problems with suggestions for coping with them; Part IV: putting what you’ve learned into action.  In the introduction she acknowledges that figuring out what is going on for you with Things is hard work and that it might feel like this is a lot of trouble to go through, yet “[O]nly action informed by insight can lead you out of the circles.”

As with many things – from time management and scheduling to organizing and beyond – there’s a need for the foundation.  I look at David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) as foundational work for scheduling and managing time (at least so far in my reading), which means that Franklin Covey might not work for you until you get the basics of GTD.  If you struggle with handling your stuff well, Making Peace with Things in Your Life is a great foundation on which to start.  Then you might move on to the books dealing with physically handling your stuff and space.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! :)

It’s the night before Thanksgiving.


There are better times to be considering ways to be more organized.

There are better times to be considering improving your time management.


This is the time to be getting ready to enjoy your Thanksgiving, whatever you do.

It’s a great time to be continuing to think about the things you are thankful for.


Here are some quotes to inspire you…
I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home. I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.  ~ Nancie J. Carmody


As we express gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  ~ Marcel Proust


A grateful mind is a great mine, which eventually attracts to itself great things.  ~ Plato


Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.  ~ Robert Caspar Lintner


An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.  ~ Irv Kupcinet


Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.  ~Native American saying

Gifts – Giving and Receiving

Here it is the beginning of October and Christmas decorations are appearing in stores.  I was going to share this later this year, yet with the décor bringing Christmas to mind, we can start to think about what we will give this year.

When my husband and I were first together, we’d go crazy at Christmas.  We had so many gifts under the tree for each other.  They were mostly things that other wanted, and hence not really clutter.  Then something happened.  A Christmas came and when we talked about what we each wanted it turned out that the list was tiny.  Suddenly we were satiated and many things started to seem like clutter.  At this point, we decided to change things.  Now, we only exchange stocking gifts – though often the items don’t actually fit inside the sock!  We also decided to think about larger, household type gifts.  We set a budget and each year decide on a larger joint item.  One year it was a new couch and chair for the living room; another year it was a DSL camera.

I encourage all of you to find ways to make the most of this holiday season.  If you suddenly find yourself feeling like you’re getting a bunch of stuff that you don’t actually need or want – consider ways to change it up.

It’s common in larger families to draw one name and exchange that way, so you don’t need to spend tons of money buying something for everyone.  I’ve also known families who just buy gifts for the children.  Some families are open to buying gifts from a wish list, while others are against that idea.  You need to find what works for you and your family.

I love the idea of buying “experiences” for people.  One birthday, my husband bought me horseback riding sessions, how fabulous since I don’t get to ride as much as I would like.  This can be especially wonderful for grandparents who might go overboard at Christmas.  Instead of buying toys galore, you get a family season pass for a museum or the zoo.  You get them lessons for something that interests them – martial arts, music, sports, or whatever that offers them experiences.  It’s something they cannot outgrow since they create memories and can be cherished always.

Like with so much, don’t be afraid to reevaluate how things are working.  After a couple of years after my husband and I had been only doing the stockings – it started feeling stale.  We still really liked the idea of limiting our gift giving to the stockings, so we made up a “treasure hunt” of items.  We created a list of categories to try to find – so there needed to be a bed or bath item, a spiritual item, 2 pieces of media (we do love our books and music!), and several other categories.  Suddenly opening our socks didn’t feel stale anymore.  For now, it continues to work, though when it doesn’t we’ll talk and figure out what we might need to change.

We often do this after Christmas, while it’s fresh and make plans for the changes in the following year.  Of course, by doing it that way, you need to remember when it comes around the next year!  You can change the way you approach your gift giving and receiving at any time.  This is a great time to consider what you want to do this year – with store decorations going up; they begin tempting us to spend our money.  What do you want to give this year?  It’s never too late (or early) to make plans so you can make the most of the holiday season and appreciate its real purpose – to appreciate family and be grateful for what you have.