Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Blog Has Moved!

Last September I moved into a new apartment.  I downsized from 1200 sq ft to 700 because I had fallen in love.  His name is Charlie.

He's a pretty special guy.  Charlie is a miracle dog.  He survived distemper.  He was bounced around the first 6 months of his life from a shelter to a rescue to a loving home and then back to the rescue and then to an animal hospital for isolation during a drug trial for a new distemper drug and then back to the rescue...Whew! He lived with a dear friend of mine for almost 3 months while I looked for an apartment that accepted pets. At last just before he turned 8 months he moved in with me.  He's just beginning to realize that the bouncing around era of his life is over.  He's got a mom. And he's Home.

I've started blogging at my new web site www.ReginaLeeds.com.  I hope you'll check out the new posts.  There was a lag for a few months while I wrote my new book.  It's called Right Size! Right Now!  It's about downsizing and preparing to move.  It came out of my immediate experience and I'm very proud of it.  It will be released in June, 2015 but there will be leaks along the way. Moving other people has been one of my favorite tasks since I started my business 25 years ago.  In my personal space I felt I had the items I truly wanted and needed.  But when you lose 500 sq ft you need to lose furniture and items you thought were sacred possessions.  The funniest thing for me is that I don't have a free sq inch.  If I see a piece of furniture I like or a painting or photograph that makes me happy I have to realize I don't have any free wall or floor space. It's not a big deal.  It is an adjustment.  The less you have the more you appreciate what you do hold dear and the freer you are. That's my takeaway. I'm still practicing what I preach as The Zen Organizer.

I did initial blog posts at my web site about two of my books.  Today I started a new series introducing you to vendors I use and recommend to my clients.  These posts will be once or twice a month. I want you to start early for holiday shopping and of course I just know that someone is having a birthday, wedding or anniversary in your life. Every time I post a new piece I'll pop back here to invite you to check it out. This week my referral is to the wonderful folks at UncommonGoods.com.  I've shopped there for many years.  They have high quality items and many have a touch of whimsy that so appeals to me.  This week I found out they are based in my hometown Brooklyn, New York. How great is that?!

If you have any special blog topics you want me to address please feel free to write to me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day: A Tribute to the First Zen Organizer

This is a photo of my mom holding me on a visit to her family.  I was a sickly baby who nearly died right after I was born and my mom was told to keep me warm.  As you can see she took those words to heart! I'm guessing this was September or October and no one wears a snow suit during those months but there I am all bundled up against the Fall breezes. Ironically I'm always cold and have trouble staying warm.  Can it stem from those days? Just kidding ...

My mother figures prominently in many of my books because she was indeed the first Zen Organizer. Her mantra was 'There is a place for everything and everything should be in its place so the next time you need it or want it you will be able to find it.'  Mom couldn't stand wasting time looking for an item. She did have a funny quirk I never understood.  The public spaces were always pristine and perfect.  We had no piles in the Brooklyn brownstone of my childhood. But in drawers and in closets it was a free for all and my mother explained it this way: "Why should I care what it looks like? No one is going to see it but me." I felt those personal spaces were just as important because order there was a way to express healthy self-love and high self-esteem. After I became a professional organizer I was even more convinced this is the truth and I urge all of my clients to create order and peace in every nook & cranny of their environments.

My mother never procrastinated. Once a task was on her To Do list she was on it like white on rice.  She made me tackle homework assignments the second I got them. She assured me I'd be grateful to have free time later on.  Feeling last minute pressure was as big a waste of time to her as searching for lost keys. My mother was the queen of categories and realized their power. She was more sentimental than I am and saved a lot of things I would toss in a heartbeat.  In fact I did toss most of what she saved after she died.  What was I going to do with all of my notebooks from grammar school? I was her only child, an accident and a 'late in life' baby.  Whatever I touched was sacred to her and remembering her desire to hold on helps me counsel parents not to repeat her mistake.  What would you think of a 40 year old adult who wanted to haul out his or her first grade notebooks for you to see? You get the idea. Her talents and her failings in the world of organizing made me a better teacher and organizer.  

Looking at old photos is  an amazing experience because you have a chance to view people from a fresh perspective. My mother wanted a different kind of child and I was hurt by her inability to love me for me not for the person she hoped to create.  When you want a doctor or a lawyer and your only child announces she wants to be an actress and a singer there's a divide that must be healed.  My mom died not long after I left college and we never had time to heal but I look at this photo and all I can feel is how much I love her.  I miss those big Lebanese hands wrapped around me giving me a bear hug. I had no clue she was preparing me for my life's work. Thanks, Mom.  I hope you know how grateful I am.  You were indeed the first Zen Organizer!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Best Time to Buy Organizing Tools

Here's an image from The Container Store's website.  Isn't this a Zen closet?  In recent years when I arrive to create such a space for a client I very often find they have a vast collection of organizing tools. Some have been purchased for the project at hand while most were purchased because they were 'pretty' and my client was convinced that 'one day they would come in handy.'  Organizing tools are the new clutter. And it's not uncommon for them to have their own closet!

In my One Year to ... series I suggest you do the eliminating and categorizing before you go shopping.  If you purchase a box of 100 hangars and later discover you only have 45 items to hang, what will you do with the overflow? This example applies all over the home to all types of projects.  Whittle down.  Put like with like.  Do a literal count.  And then go shopping!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rewards: Think Outside the Box

Yes, those are bug drawer pulls from Anthropologie.  Stick with me.

Rewards are very difficult to schedule for many people.  I love Anthropologie and their design sensibility.  When I found these in my morning mail I thought they would make a fun reward for someone who had just organized a bedroom or kitchen or ~ wherever your flight of fancy takes you!  

Who said a reward had to be something like a hot bath, trip to a day spa or a new dress? A reward can be something that will remind you of your accomplishment every time you see it or use it.  Rewards like this also delight everyone with whom you share your home.  

If you find rewards difficult to schedule try and change your perspective especially if you have children. Let them grow up feeling worthy.

If you buy something fun like this please send me a photo of the finished project.  Your creativity can be a boon to others.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Power of the Past

The man who called me made me smile.  He told me clearly what the problems were and how they had to be addressed.  I wondered why he needed me?

Sometimes we get stuck and the reasons are not obvious. When we met I could feel his energy.  There was something about the task of organizing his new office that had a big emotional charge.  I needed to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and get to the bottom of the mystery.

When I work with clients our conversations are the equivalent of journaling.  Slowly the story was revealed: he had been in business with a friend who betrayed him.  Setting up a new file system and archiving material from the past were filled with painful reminders of a time he wanted to forget. Once we connected the dots there was a release.

Do you drag your feet about organizing some part of your home or office?  Grab your literal notebook or create one at SpringPad and free yourself from the energetic and unconscious ties to the past.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Create your Zen Organizer Journal at SpringPad

Yes, it's true: I'm using the same visual two days in a row.  

Yesterday I referenced SpringPad's amazing ability to cut down on paper clutter.  (Please remember that there is such a thing as digital clutter!).  Today I'd like to invite you to get the (free) notebook I created for my followers at SpringPad.  Noodle around the site (using your smart phone or computer) and start to get a feel for how this program can serve you. It's like having a virtual assistant without paying a fee.

In all the One Year to ... books I suggest you use a notebook, right? Well, who said it had to be one you hold in your hands?  Why not create a digital journal at SpringPad and use it as the perfect place to answer the journal prompts in my books? You can also create grocery lists, chore charts, packing lists et al and tweak them over time as your needs change.

Here's the link to get your creative juices flowing!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Going Paperless Can Reduce Stress

The Top 5  Reasons Why Going Paperless Can Help You Reduce Stress

Theres is a lot of discussion these days about how technology can add stress to our lives. But just like anything else, there are always two sides to the story, and it’s true that technology can also be very helpful. One way you can use technology to improve your life is by going paperless. Digital organization tools like Springpad are great for replacing paper. You can use it to create to-do lists, jot down notes or create recipe books, just to name a few of its features. Plus, it does it all without using a single piece of paper - all you need is a smartphone, tablet or computer! Here are the top 5 reasons why going paperless can help remove stress from your life:

1. All of your notes in one place
Paper is easy to misplace. We often make multiple to-do lists, only to lose track of one or more of them and having to recreate them from memory. This can cause unnecessary stress, forcing you to worry about where everything is. When you replace paper with digital tools like Springpad, you can keep all of your tasks and notes in one place, so you’ll never have to wonder where you wrote down that shopping list.

2. Reduces waste
Man-made waste has become a serious problem in the modern world and although paper recycling has become more prominent, the issue still remains. Going paperless limits your contribution to this problem, which can improve your overall happiness. Do good, feel good!

3. Easy to search for old documents
Using your computer to save documents instead of keeping them in boxes or drawers can help make your files easier to find. Reduce stress by not having to worry wear you’ve filed away old papers.

4. Saves space
Getting rid of all that paper means getting rid of the things you used to store them in, which can free up a lot of space in your home. Maintaining clear spaces where you live is wonderful for you overall well-being and happiness.

5. Saves money
Paper costs money. When you go paperless, you’ll rarely ever need to pick up stationery, notepads or extra writing utensils again! All those little costs add up, but getting rid of them will free up a little extra money to save or use for the things that matter most!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Organizing Tip of the Week (Is your purse heavier this time of year?)

At some point during an organizing session I will inevitably pick up a client's purse to either hand it to her or move it out of the way.  It always weighs a ton!  I tease my clients and say that if I just stop for a minute and 'pump the purse' I'll have toned biceps.

But super heavy purses are no laughing matter.  They place stress on your shoulder and neck.  I'm all for keeping chiropractors in business but not for this reason. Follow the Magic Formula and dump everything out in a clear work zone.  Usually that's the dining room table or your bed. Start eliminating what you don't need to carry.  File your receipts.  Toss those empty gum wrappers, stale candy bars and whittle your make up and hair accessories down to what you realistically need for a quick touch up.

Now create categories.  Keep them together with something like the above tool you can insert inside your 'big bag.'  But let me say that this solution doesn't work for me.  Why would I need a purse inside my purse? How much does it weigh before I add a single item? You catch my drift. I like zippered pouches that will hold my individual categories. You can find a nice selection at The Container Store.

I've written about heavy purses before but it bears repeating during this season when most people are schlepping extra sweaters and shoes or boots. If you have to transport a bevy of items at least divide and conquer: keep valuables and cosmetics in your purse and those seasonal items in a carry all.  Your back will thank you for the divided load!

I promised career news in my last post and here it is for those who took the time to read to the end:  I'm working on book number 10!  It's called Downsize Your Life and is all about doing better with less and  managing a successful move to a new location.  I spent 6 months last year changing my own life and location.  I'm oh so ready to help you do the same!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review Resolutions ~ a late January ritual

I am surprised to see I haven't written a post since Thanksgiving! I needed a break to refresh my body, mind and perspective in order to offer you the best material possible.  Now as they say ... I'm back! Did you make any New Year's Resolutions?  Have they gone by the wayside or did you surprise yourself? As exciting a night as New Year's Eve is it's only one midnight of many, right?  You always have a chance to begin again. Don't get stuck in self recriminations just get going again!

I decided to work on four things this year.  I hope you don't mind if I share my personal goals with you for 2014.
  1. After a decade off I started to cook again and host intimate dinner parties.  Cooking was once a passion and now I am enjoying old favorite recipes and slowly experimenting with some new ones.  I've been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 30 years (that means I eat eggs and dairy but no meat, fowl, fish or poultry).  I'm toying with the idea of going vegan out of respect for my animal friends who suffer so much on factory farms.  
  2. When I was just out of college I was fluent in French. I adore the language, the people and the country but the years pass and with no way to practice I was reduced to pleasantries. I have no doubt that I sound like a five year old when the opportunity to speak arises. I decided to study again just for the love of the language with no particular goal in mind and certainly no thought of ever being fluent again.  Voila! I made the commitment and what should come to me but a great, free language app called Duolingo.  I'm giving about 10 minutes a day to practice. We'll see where I am in a year. You can learn several languages with this app and it's fun.
  3. I decided to learn how to read music but I gave myself a start date of March 1st so that I wasn't overwhelmed.  I shared this goal with friends and guess what happened?  I was gifted with  an electronic keyboard and directed to two websites that teach music on the net.  I'll check them out and once I get started I'll let you know my progress.
  4. I saved the best for last. I've always adopted dogs who were at least a year old because puppies are a huge responsibility.  Last year however I fell in love with my Charlie when he was 6 months old.  He turned one on the 19th of January and we're in the middle of a year long adventure.  I have a private trainer to fine tune our relationship and we go to a group class so he can master the basics. It requires patience and practice every single day. I want Charlie to have a 'job' because I think every being functions better when they have a purpose.  Will we do rally together?  Will he turn out to be a service dog?  Will he charm the media on my behalf?  It's all to be revealed.  Right now 'Sit,' 'Down,' 'Stay' and 'Leave it' are all we can wrap our minds around.
What are you learning, changing or dreaming about this year?  Whatever it is an organized approach will make your journey an easier one than if you're flying blind on emotion. Let me know what you are up to! Tomorrow I have some career news.

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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.