Ahhhh, can you hear it? Stop. Listen closely. Is that the sound of an empty house? Oh my goodness! Are you actually at home – alone? That’s right folks. The kids are back to school and that morning cup of coffee hasn’t tasted this good in almost longer than you can remember.
Thank you Fall for showing up – right in time to save us from completely losing any semblance of sanity! While you sit for an extra 5 minutes, enjoying the sound of silence and taking another sip-o’-joe, you may begin to look around.
What you are looking at is the aftermath of summer:
Amidst everyone else’s debris, there are some of your own items that need attention, yet it’s hard to know which and where they are. Here are 3 suggestions from a Professional Organizer and mom of three grown children:
Take these three small steps and enter Fall confidently prepared to harvest the rewards of the season.
People hire organizers because they feel their lives are out of control and they are unable to get organized on their own. Frequently the problem is simply having too much stuff to organize. Often the weight of too many possessions can wear us down. When our space is cluttered and dis-organized it can impact every facet of our lives.
When the burden of too much clutter is lifted from our shoulders, we can feel physically lighter, more energetic and less stressed. This relief can lead to increased work productivity, greater enthusiasm and better relationships.
The question we need to ponder is why do we purchase so much in the first place? There are a number of explanations for this compulsion. Often, we simply want to possess the latest and greatest stuff because we think it’s fun to own! We live in a consumer culture and we often validate ourselves by what and how much we can accumulate. Consumerism and materialism are promoted by advertisers in print and on TV and computers in the form of commercials. According to Annie Leonard who wrote, “The Story of Stuff”, the two main activities Americans engage in are watching TV and shopping. We are bombarded by advertising and are exposed to approximately 3,000 ads per day. We see more ads in a day then people saw in a year 50 years ago. Couple that with the fact that the average house size has doubled since the 1970’s and it becomes easy to see why we accumulate so much “stuff”.
Sadly, in order to maintain our lifestyles of consumption, many people are working 50+ hours per week. We work until we are exhausted and depleted and then we shop to make us feel better. We return home too tired to do much else than watch TV and the cycle begins anew!
Is this the way we really want to lead our lives? If so, fine. If not, then it’s time to rethink our goals and blithely step off that hamster wheel of consumption and examine saner options.
If you’ve ever wondered, do organizers really practice what they preach?
I am here to say, YES! In my case, I follow 4 basic rules*:
1. Decide where things live
2. Return items to their “home”
3. Follow In One/Out One
4. Build routines around maintaining systems
The third rule, In One/Out One, is the least appreciated and most neglected by our clients, even though it offers the best defense against clutter build-up.
Here’s a personal story of how it recently went down in my house.
First you have to know that I LOVE citrus. Fresh lemon juice goes into every salad dressing. Fresh lime juice refreshes most fruit bowls. Many of my fish recipes require fresh lemon, lime or orange juice. So my juicer has been a staple in my kitchen. I love that it not only does a great job, it also attaches to a measuring cup – which makes it easy to know when I have enough.
Pictured below on the left, it had a primo spot in my most accessible gadget drawer just below my prep counter. Until…
My husband, an aspiring minimalist, bought me a new juicer. He had researched to get me “the perfect gift.” I was skeptical, even though for him to buy something it MUST be great. I could not imagine HOW anything could replace my beloved juicer.
It would have to at least be:
• super easy to use
• simpler to clean
Well, my new citrus press is all that AND bold and bright. In being so colorful — I smile every time I see it.
But it took me some time to let go of my trusted fave…2 weeks, in fact. I call it the testing time. Some “old” items deserve this reflective time.
Honestly, it took me a week to open the package and try the new “citrus press.” I felt like I was cheating on my trusted go-to.
Once, I tried it, I set an alarm on my calendar to remind me to “consider if keeping new juicer” and a few days later “decide if still need old juicer.”
When you replace something, even if you are committed to In One Out One, you don’t HAVE to let go immediately. But you must put a time limit on making your decision. (It’s too easy for items to stagnate, clog your drawers and attract more clutter.)
Since I was using these gadgets daily, it didn’t take long to know I was in love. As for my “old” juicer, it still has life left in it. My son is a decent cook at college — so guess who just inherited a new fave? 🙂 When he graduates, I will gift him his very own citrus press!
* Remember I said these were 4 rules that I think every Professional Organizer follows?
It’s true of any organized person.
• You don’t have to be a professional organizer to be organized.
• Some people are MORE organized than their organizer (GASP!)
Yes…it’s true. Not every organizer is the MOST organized person you’ll ever meet.
• Professional Organizers know how to help YOU solve your organizational overwhelms and clutter-crisis.
My birthday is Ground Hog’s Eve (Feb 1st). That means I get a do-over for whatever New Year’s Resolutions I haven’t followed through with. I get to make new resolutions for what I want to change before my next birthday. But this year I decided not to make resolutions. I decided to set intentions instead.
Resolutions too often include words like “don’t, won’t or never.” Intentions are focused on the future and can be stated in the present tense every day. After my morning meditation, I frequently set an intention to be grounded and focused throughout my day.
Intentions can become habits. A habit is defined as “an addictive behavior that is hard to give up” but an addiction does not need to be viewed negatively. For example, I am addicted to my grandchildren. The more time I spend with them the more time I want to spend with them.
What would happen if I became addicted to new habits? To become addicted, the first thing I need to do is to explore how I will benefit from my new habit. In sales, we are taught that when we convey the benefit first, ask key questions that lead our prospect to reply “yes” or to nod their head affirmatively, the close will take care of itself.
In December I set an intention to allow more time to get places and not squeeze one more thing in before getting out the door. Then I decided I couldn’t wait until January to put this into action because rushing to get out the door was stressing me out and negatively affecting everyone around me.
It isn’t an intention anymore; it’s a new habit. The benefit of allowing myself more time to get places and get out the door on time is that I don’t feel stressed about forgetting something important or anxious about being late. I am more grounded and focused throughout my day.
Habits create different types of energy. Good habits create positive energy that flows. “Bad” habits create problems like clutter and disorganization; a stagnation of energy, productivity and efficiency.
As a Home Organizer I look for the cause of the clutter and chaos in a space and often I see it is because of “bad” habits like not processing junk mail or not breaking down cardboard boxes when they are empty. When I am finished with a client, I make recommendations to help them to create new habits that will keep the clutter from re-accumulating and will maintain the serenity that organization has created.
One of the biggest challenges in life is to walk your walk and talk your talk. I intend to do that starting now and not wait until New Year’s Eve or Ground Hog’s Eve.
I am a parent of two older teens, one in the first year of college and one in the later years of high school. As an organizer, my kids grew up with structure and routine, in hopes of them learning to be organized as adults. Our home was organized, our mornings ran fairly smoothly, and homework was completed without any issues. There were a few sticky points, such as screen time and bed time, but for the most part, our daily lives ran smoothly overall.
Now that they are older, the organizer mom in me still wants to help them be the most efficient they can be. But the cognitive side of my brain knows that now is the time to let go, and let them make their own decisions. I should only help them when they ask me for it. However, it is very difficult for me to sit back and watch them make mistakes such as scheduling two events for the same time, or running late for something. But I know the only way they will learn is by my stepping back and giving them the control to manage their own time, schedules, and things. They will make mistakes, and learn from them.
As hard as this is for me to let things go, I am getting better at it. I still sometimes find myself jumping in when I shouldn’t, and they both let me know when I am intervening where I shouldn’t be. I just take note of this, and try to not make that mistake again in the future.
I am sure I am not alone, being a parent during this transitional time. I wish all of you the inner strength and patience to step back, and let your teens develop into the wonderful young adults we all want them to be!
As an ADHD specialist, I frequently have the privilege of meeting couples where one partner has ADHD (or ADD). As they lead me on a tour of their home, it’s not infrequent that the spouse without ADD makes comments such as, “I don’t understand why she can’t keep this place tidy!” or “He’s attached to everything and refuses to throw anything out!”
I feel immediate compassion for the accused partner. Having ADD is challenging enough; living with someone who refuses to accept the diagnosis or has little understanding of the brain-based disorder adds another layer of difficulty.
I’m not a therapist but if given the opportunity, I like to point out the wonderful qualities of their ADD mate. Chances are, if you have ADD you possess a host of awesome qualities. Maybe you’re creative, a talented singer or writer. Perhaps an academic or a super successful salesperson. You probably have a wonderful, warm and bubbly personality which attracted your mate to you initially. Alas, as the years go by, the partner without ADD starts to focus on your lack of focus, disorganization, your tardiness or other weaknesses.
There are many well-written books on ADHD. If you’re reading this and the above scenario feels oh so familiar, I recommend my all-time favorite book, Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D. Hallowell (who has ADHD) focuses on the positive, on the huge potential of the person. I find his approach refreshing and helpful to both partners.
What if you’re still single and looking for love? Hallowell dedicates a whole chapter to describing what kind of mate is best if you have ADHD. Here’s a short excerpt that brings tears to eyes each time I read it:
“Someone who loves you for who you are. Someone who gets a kick out of you. Someone whose voice lifts when he/she hears it is you on the other end of the line. It is helpful if the mate can educate (him)herself about ADD and not take the blunders that the ADD mate makes personally or as if they were done on purpose. ADD is not an excuse, but it is a powerful explanation.”
As Valentine Day approaches (and at the risk of being too sappy) I share this poem (also from Hallowell’s book)
By Cherie Dawn Mills
You are my hope.
You meet me where I am and love me there—
not pushing, nor blaming, but only rejoicing
with me, or lending me your handkerchief.
You gently hold me earthbound in the blackness
of my fears, or during my endangerment from
flights of fantasy.
You do not fear the depths of my weakness,
nor the heights of my strength,
You ever see in me the wondrous possibilities
that my sins and sorrows and daily concerns
have caused me to forget.
Your love empowers me to give my love to others—
to mold the dirty clay of my feet into
sparkling angel wings.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all,