Monday, September 10, 2012

Recently I was asked for 'three secrets of the organized.'  I thought I'd share what came to mind:

Secrets of the well organized:

1.     They make decisions. 
Every orphan item in your home represents an unmade decision. Decision-making is not only the engine that drives getting organized it’s where the power lies.
2.     They know how to make and use lists.
It’s helpful to write down everything you wish to accomplish.  But it’s important to understand the difference between critical items and those that can be scheduled for a later time.
3.     They start small.
It takes 21 consecutive days of repeating an action before it becomes a habit. Start making your bed every day. Put your keys in the same spot the minute you walk into your home. Seemingly simple actions like these build self esteem and positively influence those with whom you live and work.

As I look at this list I really believe it holds the key to success. Do you have piles of anything in your home?  The big culprits are clothing and papers.  They are nothing more than delayed decisions stacking up to remind you that you need to decide the fate of these orphans. It may indeed be difficult at first if you are used to delaying decisions but after a bit you'll find it's quite addicting.  Why?  Because decisions hold power and the ability to control your environment. We can't control others but we can keep what we own and use under control.  Try it.  There is no downside!

I have an entire chapter on the power of lists in my newest book 'The 8-Minute Organizer.' How to make them and how to use them will help you be instantly more effective in life. One big Master List carried with you day after day will only produce guilt.  It's too easy to feel like a failure.  Lists are great tools but you need to understand how to make and use them. A hammer is a great tool but it's useless if you don't understand how to use it.  Right?

You'll discover that getting organized isn't Rocket Science.  It's actually fun and VERY creative. Dive in.  What have you got to lose but all those pre-conceived notions that have been weighing you down for decades.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Keys to Remember When the Urge to Merge Hits!

I think we're most powerful in life when we see connections.  No activity becomes a moment of drudgery if it is part of a greater whole.  At the end of my current blog post for Psychology Today which is dedicated to the importance of chores for kids,  I wrote:

Being able to take care of a home has many applications beyond chores for our children.  We become better houseguests.  Who doesn’t love a relative or friend who spontaneously takes out the trash after dinner?  In the current economic climate we may find ourselves moving back home with our parents or welcoming relatives who have fallen on tough times.  Don’t we all appreciate the ‘housebroken’ adult who makes his bed, does his own laundry and leaves the bathroom in pristine condition? 

What about the college freshman faced with life in a dorm?  I’d rather be the mom of the kid who teaches his friends how to do laundry than the one who drives home most weekends so I can do it for him.  And of course there are first apartments, marriages and travel.  The merging scenarios are virtually endless each full of twists and turns in the ancient story of harmoniously bringing together divergent styles, possessions and life habits.  I’ve got lots more tips in my new e-book called The Urge to Merge.  Let me know how you like it and how it helped your family.

Living with other human beings is tough even when we love them!  What can we do to make life easier when we've been thrust into a situation with folks whose styles are very different from our own?  Here are three things I think work a bit of magic.

  • Commitment 
Everybody in the mix needs to be on the same page and headed in the same direction. It's got to be a 'we're all in this together and we want to succeed' effort or else petty grievances, jealousies and resentments may rule the day.  And they never take us to a good outcome.
  • Communication
Human beings are borderline hilarious in their ability to convince themselves that they know THE way to accomplish a task.  Doubt me?   Try loading the dishwasher at someone else's home and see how well you do!  The family culture will have a set way to put dishes away.  (There's a scene devoted to this madness in the movie Rachel Getting Married that captures the drama beautifully).  There will no doubt be 'rules' about how to load the trunk of a car, do laundry and cut grass.  Instead of assuming that your house mates are crackers open a dialogue. After all, we're all assuming we do it right.
  • Compromise
I saved the best for last, didn't I? Have an open mind.  You want to use your grandmother's good dishes for Thanksgiving and your new husband assumes his grandmother's dishes are superior.  Remember that there are several big holiday meals during the course of the year.  You will have ample opportunities to showcase both grandmas dish sets.  Why not set a schedule now so you take the guesswork and the hurt feelings out of days that are meant to be festive? Sharing space affords us ample opportunities to compromise.  

Children Will Listen

Stephen Sondheim was right: children will listen, watch and absorb lessons we never intended to teach. The three C's will on the other hand give children useful life tools.  And you don't have to lecture.  You just have to set the example by using them effectively. The three C's are tools that can be taken to school, used in friendship and dating and ultimately used in the boardroom as easily as they are used in the home. Think about that when Uncle Harry has put the butter on the 'incorrect' shelf in the refrigerator or Cousin Susie has cut bizarre patterns into the grass. 

At the heart of this discord is very often a fear: we don't necessarily believe we have invented the perfect way to do things; you're convinced you were taught the perfect way by mom.  The problem of course is that our mom wasn't capable of nurturing the world so a lot of moms and assumptions are behind most arguments.  I think that blind allegiance to anyone or anything doesn't work as well as a willingness to create fresh new solutions.  After all there is every hope that's exactly what mom would encourage us to do!

I've got a new e-book that deals exclusively with all the ups and downs of merging households.  It's called The Urge to Merge because throughout our lives we're doing just that ~ from your baby brother taking over your room to the kids coming home from college there's a whole lot a mergin' going on out there.  Why not do it with grace, intelligence and wisdom?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Creative Visualization ~
    .... the unexpected organizing tool!

We live in a cause & effect world.  

Are you drowning in chaos?  News flash: you created it. Every time you throw another piece of paper onto a pile, toss an article of clothing on the back of a chair or banish something to the garage, you are working that chaotic set-up as if you enjoyed the results.  It is amazing how loyal people can be to systems that destroy their ability to work efficiently.  

You can shift your mental, emotional and physical worlds to create a reality that supports your goals rather than continuing in one that thwarts your best efforts at every turn. After all if YOU created what you see now YOU can create something different and better in its place.

With creative visualization you have the opportunity to see your new reality in your mind's eye before you bring it into physical reality. Teenage girls enjoy imagining what a special date will be like.  Young professionals picture an important business meeting going in their favor. Pregnant women try to imagine their delivery and the new child about to enter their lives forever. A young jock will envision a big play on the football field.  

You get the idea.

In other words creative visualization may sound exotic and foreign to you until you realize you've been doing it all your life. When it comes to your organizing projects why not see yourself easily completing the steps involved? Why not imagine yourself enjoying the newly organized space? See clearly how your new circumstances benefit others in your life.

You're probably more adept at imagining the worst possible outcome.  Change your focus and yes, you can change your environment and your life.  What have you got to lose? Nothing but wasted emotional energy and a lot of unwanted stuff.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Story of the Grunions ~

Grunions are small fish who appear once a year off California beaches.  It is possible to catch them in containers they way children back East might capture fire flies in a jar. Many years ago a friend of mine told me this story. "When I was 18 I took a girl to my high school prom in my father's brand new Cadillac. After the prom my date wanted to go to the beach and capture grunions.  Like any dutiful 18 year old boy, I took her and we quickly scored a bag of the tiny fish.  We tucked the treasure into the glove compartment of my father's car.  There were several stops before the night ended and you can guess what happened.  The grunions were forgotten! Within two weeks the unmistakable stench of dead fish emanated from the glove compartment.  Needless to say, my father almost killed me!"

Now what does this have to do with your piles of papers or your messy closet?  Everything! My friend was a therapist and used this story to illustrate the importance of dealing with our emotional issues.  "If you don't," he would say, "they'll fester like the unseen, rotting fish and have a profound effect on your life." Piles of messy clothes and stacks of untended papers will swirl their chaotic energy around you like an evil spell.  It will be difficult to think clearly.  You will feel mildly depressed when you're in your home or work environment.  It will be hard to work there whether your task is washing dishes or drafting contracts.

What's behind your chaos?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Are you like my mother?

My mother instilled in me the need to be orderly.  I have never thrown clothes on the floor nor left dishes stacked in the sink. Had I done so in my mother's house, even as an adult, her sizable Lebanese hand would have whacked my bottom soundly. Interestingly, my mother was driven by a different set of needs than I was when it came to our personal environment.   She was overly concerned with what other people thought about her. The parts of the house that you could see where absolutely perfect.

However the inner structure was in chaos.  I was appalled by the state of my mother's closets and drawers.  "What difference does it make?" she would say. "No one can see the mess!"  This is where we parted philosophical company.  I never saw a difference between the inner and the outer environment.  I wanted everything in order because it made me feel calmer.  Work was easier to accomplish in this ordered universe.  Filing for me wasn't a problem because I set the files up to yield their treasures and absorb additional information. I didn't have stacks of orphan papers on every surface of my room.  Getting dressed was a creative adventure because all my clothes were neatly organized in categories and by color.  In my mother's "perfect to behold" bedroom, clothes lived in secret chaos.  They were thrown into dresser drawers or jammed into her closet.  You get the picture.

As a professional organizer I view the entire space as one unified whole that is capable of influencing our ability to function. 

Next time: The Story of the Grunions

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Do you delegate and mentor or shoulder the responsibility of the home and office?

Recently I was reminded of the time my regular assistant was out of town for a few weeks.  She and I function as one.  I can say 'Please organize the closet' and offer no direction.  I know in advance she will do exactly what I would in this situation. Of course we've been working together for over 10 years and at the start there were a lot of discussions!

I had someone help me during the time Tanya was away who is organized and had worked with me from time to time in the past. She wasn't a stranger to my ways but we were by no means a well oiled team.  What a lesson I learned! The reason we feel we can't let go control and need to do it all ourselves is because we are not good mentors.  We assume people will fill in the blanks and understand all the details. Delegating is as much about mentoring as mentoring is about communication.

When we teach others we not only free ourselves we better understand the task at hand because nothing is left to chance. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Banish 'Sneaky Clutter!'

I have a new personal project. 

As you might imagine I love to surf the web doing research. What do people need to know? Who are the other top organizers? Are there any new books I should know about? I am also a passionate animal advocate and I love to travel. There's lots to learn! 

As I surf I very often sign up for newsletters. But lately I feel that it can be overwhelming. I realized this week that some of these e-mails have got to go. But websites don't want to lose you so hitting the unsubscribe button often takes you to a series of steps that must be performed before they release you.  Some companies ply you with guilt when you hit the unsubscribe button. 'Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?' 'How about less frequent e-mails?' On and on it goes until I feel as if I'm breaking up with some guy who doesn't 'get' that it's over.

And that's my project for this long holiday weekend: I'm sifting through my in box very carefully and releasing the majority of the information that comes to me. I started last evening and guess what came up for me? A feeling of loss! I've changed my viewpoint and now I feel excited and very relieved. What did I change? I moved from a feeling of loss to one of anticipation. I'm making room in my in box for newsletters I haven't yet discovered. I am excited.

Your in box is a place for sneaky clutter. Would you like to join me this Memorial Day weekend? If you devote 8 minutes a day by Monday morning your in box will be a lean machine ready to focus on whatever is next and best for you. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

February ~ Cuddle and Create

As this holiday approaches I'm always mystified by our outward focus as a society.  We concentrate on what we can do or pretend to be in order to attract the so called love of our lives. Watch TV for an evening and you will discover that the right shampoo, automobile or detergent is the secret elixir of love.  But if we are hollow inside what are we offering and who will we attract? It would be exhausting and near impossible to play act for an entire lifetime, don't you agree?

Getting organized isn't a task for a few afternoons a year.  For me it's a life skill and part and parcel of who I am as a human being.  Have you been to the movies lately or watched a new television program? A set designer has worked with the director and the writer to create a physical setting that tells the audience a lot about the character(s) without a single word being spoken. What does this mean to you?

Take a walk around the block and come back and see what your environment is saying about you. It may be time to get organized this holiday so that the message you are broadcasting is one of high self-esteem and healthy self-love. If your relationship is in the early stages wouldn't that be a wonderful message to broadcast and receive?  In One Year to an Organized Life I've got a bevy of projects for you to choose from and an entire month devoted to the bedroom. I hope yours is a true sanctuary.

And if you're part of an old married couple see what you can do to the environment to spiff it up.  Personally I think that new sheets are a lot sexier than a garment meant to seduce that will be off my body in minutes.  In the same vein stacks of books around a bed aren't very inviting.  Why not invest in an inexpensive bookcase and give those treasured friends a proper home. What obstacles to intimacy do you find in your bedroom when you look with 'fresh eyes?'

Let me know if you tackled any projects in your home in honor of St. Valentine.

What type of information would you most like to find here?

June 2009, in China

June 2009, in China
At the Summer Palace outside Beijing

About Me

My photo

I will always be grateful I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  It was a rich atmosphere that introduced me to different races, creeds and professions.  It seemed that anything was possible if you were willing to work hard to achieve your goals.

I'm a yogi which means that my spiritual path is that of yoga principles that have been handed down for over 5000 years. Yoga is an ancient philosophy based on the Gita, the sutras of Patanjali and yes, the Bible. The postures are a key element as is meditation. We honor all paths.

I got my first dog when I was 6 years old after a full year of begging.  She was a collie and her name was Queenie.  As an adult I've had 2 golden retrievers.  A female named Miss Katie who came into my life when she was 3 months old and an ancient male golden who came to me when he was 15.  I'd like to have a Great Dane next but we'll see what the universe has in store.

I've been organizing clients for over 24 years and writing about it for over ten.