Archive for the ‘Paring Down’ Category

The Battle between Two Wolves: The Conflict of Decision Making

Monday, November 12th, 2018

The Battle between Two Wolves

One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said,

“My beloved grandson, the battle inside every person is between two wolves.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, false pride and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee gently grasped the boy’s shoulder and replied, “The one you feed.”

There are so many interpretations of this old Cherokee story.

This battle inside you can also be applied to the decisions you make to keep or eliminate “stuff” in your life.  When you’re faced with downsizing, and it’s tough to decide, which wolf will you feed?

Why You Can’t Get Organized: When Organization is a Phobia

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Clutter / Organizing

Is it “can’t” or “won’t” when it comes to summarizing the reasons people fail to organize their stuff? And does it apply to you?
“Can’t” implies inability.
“Won’t” is the lack of initiative or desire.

The five main reasons fall into BOTH camps: Can’t AND Won’t.

CAN’T – Don’t know how
Mindy (fictitious name) tells me “I just don’t have the gene to organize.” Could it be genetics that stop Mindy from organizing her important household stuff? Could it be a neurological issue? Mindy is a very creative (right-brained) individual.

For decades, Mindy has tried to read books in many failed attempts to follow guidance on organizing papers and assorted stuff. Does it sound familiar? She feels like a failure because she can’t maintain a system of organization. Plus, She rarely remembers where she puts her stuff.

Yes, many disorganized people complain about their memory. While cognitive decline is a real thing, finding yourself overwhelmed can affect thinking, especially, in my experience, with creative people. Reader, you may be chuckling as you recognize the trait in yourself, but you know it’s not funny. It can be painful. People spend hours each year searching for important information that they put “in a good place.” They spend more money than necessary to replace items that were put away but can’t locate.

Organizing overwhelms, and many smart people truly believe they’re hopeless. They develop bad habits, leaving things around their home and office because they think that the “stuff” will be visible to find at a later date. But nothing can be found when you need it. The lucky ones find help, or find a partner to assist, and to compliment this “missing gene.” Some, however, don’t let others in, and end up unhappy.

CAN’T – Can’t get started/ Can’t manage interruptions/ Gets Distracted
Starting a new project can be daunting.

Some people need to be in the right frame of mind to start a project, while others can “Just Do It.” If you are easily distracted, especially if the project is that dreaded ORGANIZING. Distraction can be a disorder and a house filled with stuff, with dozens of unfinished projects, may point in that direction. If you think you’re overwhelmed because of Attention Deficit Disorder, get an evaluation. The right treatment can make the job of organization a thousand times easier.

With or without ADD, many people don’t know how to begin to sort through all their stuff. When sorting through the past, the trips down memory lane can divert you off on tangents. It is a normal hazard when going through old things. It’s not hard to reminisce the day away.

Robert (fictitious name) wanted to transition his business. He had an office filled with papers: client material, marketing material, and personal papers. He also had a habit of making multiple copies of each paper to be sure he always had a copy. This compensatory mechanism made his office look like a sea of random papers and files.

The task of “organizing” the papers of the old business was impossible. He lacked the motivation to get started because he didn’t know how. And, so the business transition could not begin. The old business made Robert unhappier each day, and he was stuck. Each folder he touched stirred up old (good and bad) memories. He couldn’t get out of his own way to organize. Empowering himself to learn how to get started, and stay focused, helped change his life. Also, learning how to conquer his personal challenge of starting new things gave him a new confidence.

WON’T – Don’t feel like it
Yes, our feelings get in the way – with relationships and our relationship to stuff. Rhonda (fictitious name) refused to keep a calendar/date book because she wanted her life to be flexible, be a butterfly, do as she pleased. Often, any plans made in advance were forgotten unless a good friend called her to remind her. Now, that’s a good friend, but then again, maybe that “friend” actually enabled her fairy tales.

More often, her plans were cancelled at the last minute because something better to do came along. Bills went unpaid. Piles of mail, and assorted papers and household items, collected on tables, under tables, and inside cabinets. Rhonda did as she pleased, until her husband wanted to refinance the house. Their credit rating was so low because of so many unpaid or late paid bills, their refinancing was rejected. Rhonda only wanted to do things that were fun. She constantly compared her life to others’. She festered over the thought that someone else’s life could be better than hers. I could tell you how her life turned out, but this time, I’ll let you fantasize.

CAN’T – Have to clear up first
We think too much. Some think they have to clear the decks before they can plan or organize. They have so much stuff in the way, they think they have to clear away the “stuff” before organizing.

Angela (fictitious name) had boxes and files full of personal memories and professional accomplishments, all mixed together. She wanted to embark on a new job search, and needed to put together a resume. Angela wanted to use some examples of the materials located in these files as resume points. She was FROZEN. Angela felt that she had to go through EVERYTHING before she could even START organizing her resume. She needed guidance, and fortunately found that guidance so that she could begin her journey to find her dream job. Clearing and organizing go hand in hand. As you start to clear, you get a clearer idea of what is left to organize. Then, the organizing process will flow easier as you’re gradually familiar with your “stuff”.

CAN’T – Need the right “tools”
Every craftsman knows that “Good tools aren’t cheap; Cheap tools aren’t any good.” There are so many good organizing “tools” at varying price points. Have you been to The Container Store, Bed Bath and Beyond or Home Goods lately? You’ll find a dizzying array of organizing “tools” in those and other stores, as well as online sources.

Those who can’t organize, because they need to find the “right” tools first, are land locked in their stuff. Others may purchase a wide variety of inappropriate tools, adding to the accumulation of clutter.

Organizing is an ongoing activity. Oh, did you think that once you’re organized, you’re organized? The organizing process evolves just like we do. Our needs change, as do our systems. There’s never a right time to organize. We make the time.

If you learn to organize each day, just a little, a great deal can happen. Start with your bed, and move on to your work or your house. Tackle a little at a time, and learn not to be afraid of clearing, organizing and discarding. Soon it will become natural.

Finally, whether you CAN’T or WON’T organize your stuff, enlisting help will empower you to accomplish these and other Herculean tasks. Yet, once things begin to clear out, you’ll begin to feel freer, only to have the energy to do more. Organizational phobias do exist with multiple can’ts and won’ts. As with most phobias, the best way around them is through them.

(Reprinted from Mark Banschick’s blog in Psychology Today)

Why People Hold Onto Stuff

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Why people hold onto stuff

“Y is a crooked letter.”

This was my grandfather’s standard response to the basic question of childhood “Why, Grandpa?”.  My interpretation of that expression is that the answer is complicated.  And, when it comes to human behavior,  it almost always is.

Why do people hold onto stuff?

The answer is complicated because there are so many different kinds of “stuff “, and there are so many different kinds of people.  No two individuals are alike.   No situations are alike.  Each is unique in their environment, and although you may empathize, you cannot compare your situation to theirs, nor can you judge them.  You, the reader, may suggest “Why don’t they just toss it?” 

These are SOME of the reasons:

Lack of permission
Lack of instructions
Lack of knowledge
I didn’t know it had a deadline
Not aware of an alternative
I borrowed it, and don’t know if they want it back.
Out of sight, out of mind
I may need it someday
Hope
Future
Can’t waste
Someone else may need it
Belief that it is, or will be, useful
Sentimentality
Overwhelmed
Don’t know where to begin
Unable to bite off small pieces to downsize
Not ready; waiting for the right time
Not a priority
Fear of letting go
This is not the first thing on my agenda

I remember a client who received an envelope in the mail marked “Do Not Discard”.  She didn’t know why she wasn’t allowed to throw it out, and asked for my direction.  The envelope dictated “Do Not Discard”.  The envelope contained a promotional offer which she was not interested in, but the envelope dictated TO HER “Do Not Discard”.  Most people would ignore that demand, but she was confused.  The instruction “Do Not Discard” meant do not discard, period.  It’s a real story, yes!  So, you don’t believe that there are people who could think that way?  This case may be an extreme, but this is the perfect example of the #1 reason why people hold onto stuff.  Many people simply don’t feel that they have permission to get rid of things. They need to be reassured that they are adults, and it’s their stuff to do with as they like.

Clearing out a garage, a closet or a home often requires empowerment.

I had another client who presented me with shopping bags filled with mail (some unopened) and assorted papers.  She can’t decide WHAT to do with each piece, and asked me to explain what they were, so she could make the decision to keep or toss.  Lack of knowledge (“something MIGHT be important that I’m not aware of.”) or instructions (offer expired last month) kept her from making decisions. And this is the #2 reason why people hold onto stuff.  They simply can’t imagine how to proceed – it’s overwhelming. Attics, basements and garages are filled with boxes of past taxes and paid bills because the owners don’t know when they can discard or shred the material.  Pantries, refrigerators and bathroom cabinets are filled with expired food items, medicines and cosmetics.

Where do I start? What’s important? What if I make a mistake?

The future is a mystery to everyone.  “ I may lose the weight, and get back to that size.”  “What if I gain weight again, and need the larger sizes?”  “What if I need it someday?” “I once wanted to travel to those destinations.”  “I used to like to participate in those hobbies.”  These are familiar comments and questions from those who hold on to old clothing, accessories, papers, books and household items.  Closets, cabinets, files and drawers are filled with hope and future possibilities for many.

The environmentally conscious individual will always be concerned about waste.  They wonder if someone else could use the items they own.  Therefore, they will hold onto their stuff until they know the answer.

Some individuals cannot distinguish whether a book or collection is clutter or a treasure.  You might think of clutter as you might consider a weed in the garden.  But, some people enjoy weeds, a.k.a. wild flowers.  Defining irrelevance is not cut and dry. 

My grandfather knew that education is a necessary response to the most tough questions.   The answer to “Why” is complicated, and helping someone to let go of their stuff (or to organize their belongings), begins with learning more about themselves.

It’s a virtual cycle. Clear your mind and then reorganize.

Reorganize and in turn, your mind will feel clearer.

Plus, you may even remember where everything is!

(Reprinted from Mark Banschick’s blog in Psychology Today)

The Right Strategy for Paring Down

Monday, October 9th, 2017


“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”
– – A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh

Before you tackle your next organizing project, will you plan and strategize?  What motivates and inspires you?

I have helped 600+ individuals to successfully accomplish their organizing goals with solid plans and strategies.  I believe that there is no “right” strategy.  As your personality is unique from your friends and relatives, so are your styles to succeed.  We cannot compare our stuff with others’, nor can we compare our ways and lives with that of others’.  Each project and each individual is unique, and there are so many different strategies to pare down and/or organize your “stuff”. 

Recently, a new client asked for my help.   Sheila (fictitious name, real person) had experience paring down possessions, but this time it was too emotional for her to do alone.  Her mom had passed away, and the home needed to be cleared out.  Sheila was afraid that she would procrastinate and it would not get accomplished.  Her budget was limited, too.

Sheila accepted my first recommendation which was to complete a specific task on her own within one week.  Sheila completed her assignment successfully. She trusted the idea to work with me virtually to achieve ultimate success, and keep her expenses low. Her next assignment was also completed on time. I estimated the project to complete in six months, this was agreeable to Sheila.

With my feedback, advice and encouragement, Sheila was motivated and held accountable for her success.  Her organizing/paring down project was completed in 3 months….way ahead of schedule. The strategy, that I recommended to Sheila, worked! 

Part of our strategy was to start with easy decisions.  The easier the decision, then the organizing process flowed.  If you start with the hard decisions, one could get stuck.  I vote for easy, and small changes over time.  Leo Tolstoy, the great author of War and Peace, knew that great success was achieved by taking baby steps. He said, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”   Taking baby steps give us a chance to experience the changes in our lives.  When we give ourselves time to make decisions, (to keep or eliminate our things, relationships and/or relationship(s) with things or people), we have great opportunities for success.

The industry of Professional Organizing officially began in 1985 by a handful of bold women.  Today, there are thousands of professional organizers in the world, each having a specialty, unique personality, style and philosophy. Marie Kondo, a new popular author of simplifying, emphasizes that if “the thing” does not resonate with you, “it” no longer belongs in your life.  That makes for an easier decision to keep or eliminate. 

Be successful at organizing your space and your life.  Make thoughtful decisions to keep or eliminate, and organize the “best way” for you.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends gave everyone, at every age, a sense of joy, adventure, loyalty and accomplishment.  Allow them to be inspiration for your next organizing project.

The Rewards of Organizing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The Rewards of OrganizingThis story is true but the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the innocent.

Given a choice, would you choose freedom or burden?  Pierre chose to fly like a kite, free from the burdens of his “stuff.”

Pierre is 60 years old.  For decades, he ran a successful business and was the family member in charge of multiple generations’ history.  Can you imagine the collection of papers and artifacts that accumulated in his home, office and multiple costly storage rooms?

Each storage room cost Pierre $4,800 each year.  The thought of facing the contents of the room was stressful, causing daily anxiety.  He was determined to simplify his life but overwhelming feelings influenced his procrastination.  Finally, with lots of caring, non-judgmental support and the dedication of 5 hours organizing with me to sort through and make decisions, here are the results:

  • Emptied one storage room.
  • Found forgotten items to be used today.
  • Enjoyed various memories.
  • Connected and shared with assorted family members interested in artifacts.
  • Employed a shredding company to shred 25 boxes of old tax info and dated material.
  • Made charitable donations of supplies, electronics and furniture to a local children’s after school center.
  • Added tax deductions for donated items.
  • Received help from an intern in exchange for a well-deserved college recommendation.
  • Saved $4,800 per year on storage bills.

Pierre is now relieved of much stress and anxiety, feeling lighter, happier and energized.

As you can see, simplifying and organizing is not only freeing, it’s giving, sharing, connecting, and empowering; in addition, it’s making others happy and successful.  It’s also cathartic, emotional and strengthens relationships.  The costs of storing “stuff” are more than monetary.  They can take their toll on our emotions and relationships.

Pierre chose to take the time to reduce his burden and feel the freedom.  Can he tackle another storage room and gain more freedom and joy from the burden of excess?  I think he knows he can.

Now that you know what is possible, think about your “storage costs”.  Is it overwhelming?  Now, count to 10, and recapture your senses from the burden of your own overwhelmed accumulations.  Can you tackle your stuff, and rejoice in the same accomplishments that Pierre achieved?  The rewards of organizing and de-cluttering are beyond monetary.