The Rhythm of Life

May 21, 2017

 

Some of you may already know that I love Ballroom dancing. It is a passion of mine and a hobby that I practice between 8 and 10 hours a week. I have a professional partner. He and I participate in Ballroom  Dance Competitions several times a year. My partner tells me to listen to the music and to help him match the pace of our movement to the rhythm of the music. Some music is fast, some slow, some moderately paced.

102, Julio Aguirre_M2016_30322

I was thinking about this the other day as I was getting ready to write this blog.

 

Have you ever noticed that at times the rhythm of our lives can be slow, almost annoyingly slow, and at other times the pace is so fast you can’t believe it – maybe even have a hard time keeping up?

This happened to me over the past two, or is it three, weeks.

It all started the 24th of April. Two friends of mine and I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. I am a long time Elizabeth Gilbert fan and was thrilled she was coming to Atlanta. The three of us met at my house – early because we didn’t want to get stuck in traffic and because it was free seating at the church. We wanted to be up as close to the front as we could get. Good thing we left early! Traffic was predicted to be bad so we used wayz which directed us around the stuck traffic and got to the church in plenty of time. Even so, there was a line out the door of the church.

We waited in line and at the appointed time were allowed into the church. We got our seats near enough to the front so I was able to get this great picture!

Elizabeth Gilbert

 I have a lot to say about Elizabeth’s presentation and will say more in another blog. This blog is about the rhythm of life. One huge nugget I took home with me was about connecting with people you meet casually. I try not to use the ‘hey, how are you’ phrase as I pass people. My usual greeting is a smile accompanied by ‘hello’. Elizabeth told us a story about a phrase she used while on her most recent book tour. She asked people she met ‘What are you most excited about in your life right now?’ and started conversations based on the person’s response.

 

A few days after this lecture. I went to the NAPO2017 conference in Pittsburgh. I decided before I left Atlanta that I would do something similar and ask the people I met at conference ‘what is one thing you learned from the lecture you just attended?’ This question started all sorts of  wonderful conversations.

Going back to the rhythm of life…

The NAPO2017 conference ended on a Saturday afternoon. I was home by the evening. My dogs were thrilled to have me home. They were not so thrilled to see that my suitcase did not get put away.

Thursday I went to New York City for a long weekend filled with sightseeing. I grew up in the city and had seen some of these places before but it was fun to go with someone who had not. We went to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller City, to the 911 Memorial Museum, on a boat to see the Statue of Liberty, we walked from the boat all the way through Manhattan to the Empire State Building and even took a pedicab. On Sunday, we met my brother and his wife for brunch. Following brunch, we went to see Beautiful (a Broadway show about Carole King). From there we went to the airport and back to Atlanta.

Top of the Rock

 

It was an action packed few days. My dogs were once again delighted to have me home and even happier to see the suitcase put away.

I’m staying put for a while and am looking forward to taking time to think about the things I learned at the NAPO2017 conference and at Elizabeth Gilbert’s lecture.

I’m so happy to have done the things I did over the past few weeks. The rhythm was fast. I moved from activity to activity and was fully engaged – mindfully present. I want to take time now to reflect on the things I learned and put some of them into practice in my organizing business.

Does this ever happen to you? Do you have times when it feels like you’re moving from one thing to the next without having time to reflect or pause? How do you deal with it?  Do you just roll with it or does it upset your balance?

I admit I really like the change of pace. I get bored when the pace remains the same for too long. Just as I really like the way the rhythm of the music dictates which dance we do I love having some days which are action packed and others that are less full. 

It would be boring if the music at a dance competition was always the same. We’d be doing the same dance over and over. Part of the beauty of dancing is the variety of the dances.

Part of the beauty of life is the variety of activities we can do. Yes, it’s great to have routines to return to but it’s also wonderful to have other things to engage our interest.

How about you? Do you like a change in the rhythm of your life from time to time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Parent Are You?

April 19, 2017

 

I believe all of us with children want the very best for them. We nurture them. We want them to grow big and strong. We want to give them things that maybe we didn’t have as children. Perhaps we grew up with lots of advantages and want our children to have as much or more than we had growing up. We also want our children to have terrific experiences – to travel, play sports, have friends and plenty of toys.

Is all this providing for our children backfiring on us?

Are we giving our children so much that we are not enabling them to do for themselves?

When our children move out on their own we DO want them to be able to take care of themselves. Are we giving them, teaching them tools to be able to accomplish that?

Sometimes, I believe, all this helping our children makes them rely on us rather than on themselves. When they are very young, it’s true, they need all the help and guidance they can get.

However, will they learn to pack their backpack with all they need for school the next day if we parents are always doing it for them?

I submit that it’s better beginning when they are 7 or 8 years old to ask them if they have everything they need for school the next day. You can even ask them to double check their room for anything they may have forgotten. In the beginning, make a checklist with your child of the things you know they will need for school every day. Ask them to review their checklist to see if they have everything. This way you, the parent, are not remembering for them. If, when they get to school and find they have left something at home please do NOT get in your car and deliver it to them. Let your child learn to bring everything with them. If you jump to their rescue and deliver the forgotten item to school you are letting them know that it’s not important for them to remember and be responsible for their own things.

Also, isn’t it better that your child learns these small lessons at a young age when the lesson doesn’t have far reaching consequences?

Hovering over your child and doing things, remembering things for them is called helicopter parenting.

Helicopter parents do not let their child do as many things on their own as is possible; even when the children are teenagers and young adults. These parents still make phone calls on behalf of their children.

Some of these children grow up to be young adults without coping skills.

Some of these young adults are not good at doing chores. Why should they be? They’ve rarely had to do any around the home they grew up in. They don’t know where to start when it comes to basic household skills like doing dishes, picking up after one’s self, laundry, dusting, and more.

For all you parents of young children start involving your children in basic chores. Let them help you do dishes, fold laundry, run the vacuum. Ask them to pick up their room!

I co-authored two books for young children (ages 3-5) on this very topic. The books are titled: Suzie’s Messy Room and Benji’s Messy Room. These books are terrific to engage small children in the chore of picking up their room. We (the authors) turned that chore into a game!

I was guilty of being a helicopter parent at times.  I remember helping my children pack their backpacks, packing lunches for them – to save time – because it took them FOREVER to get around to doing these things on their own. My children are grown now. One of my sons is really self-sufficient. The other relies heavily on parental help.

What kind of parent are you?  Try to avoid being helicopter parents, hovering over your children. Instead be kind, caring, considerate good providers teaching your children basic life skills so as they grow up and out of your homes they can rely on themselves.Mom and dauther holding hands

Do I Already Have It?

April 5, 2017

I read a blog post this morning from Joshua Becker, becoming minimalist, about shopping. He suggested that most of us have more than enough in our homes already. Joshua asks the reader to ask themselves ‘what if I don’t?’.

What will happen if you don’t buy another pair of jeans? Think about how many you already have. How many pairs of jeans are enough? That is another question for another day.

Today my question is: Do I already have it?  Sometimes we overlook things that we already have that can be repurposed to fill a different need.

I was watching the Today Show yesterday morning and a guest gardening expert on the show was talking about spring gardening. As many of you probably know, I’m a gardener. I just love digging in the dirt and creating beautiful gardens so this segment captured my undivided attention. This gardening expert was talking about starting new plants by seed – to save money. Great idea! An even better idea was to take a clear plastic egg container to use as a mini-planter. The small spaces to contain eggs are a perfect size to start each new seed. The lid captures the moisture to keep the little plants watered – it acts as a terrarium. And since it’s clear plastic it will be easy to see the little plants sprout. A new use for something you probably already have. No need to buy small pots in which to start your seeds.

When I had a tree cut down earlier this year I asked the men to save 3 sections of the tree for me. These sections of the tree are now placed strategically on my patio. I’m using one as a table and the other two can be places to sit or as plant stands. A new use for something that I had.

Many times before I go to work with a client they will ask me what should I buy? My response is always, please wait until we work together. I’m not sure yet what you’ll need and we may be able to use something you already have!

If you’re doing some spring cleaning please take a moment to think about these points before you go out to buy organizing supplies.

  1. Take everything out of the cupboard, drawer, closet – whatever space you’re organizing
  2. Sort the items
  3. Remove anything to recycle, donate, or toss
  4. Remove anything that you’re keeping but that doesn’t belong in that space
  5. Now, evaluate the remaining items
  6. Do you need some organizing supplies?
  7. Look around your house
  8. See if you have anything that would work
  9. If you do, great!
  10. If you do not, then make a note of the size container(s) you’ll need and the number before you go shopping.

Feel free to email me any questions you may have regarding an area that you want to organize. I’m happy to offer a few suggestions.

Ask yourself these two questions you begin your projects and you’re thinking of shopping:

  1. What if I don’t? (from Joshua Becker)
  2. Do I already have it? (from Diane Quintana)Thinking woman in glasses looking up at many question marks

     

Happy Spring

March 29, 2017

I’m so happy that Spring is here. I think it’s my favorite season followed closely by summer. I love watching the plants as they start this new season. The trees begin to have this haze around them, letting you know that something (leaves, flowers) is waking up inside their branches.

On my morning walks, I’m noticing all the small new things. Grass is greener, tiny leaves are starting to appear on the bushes and azaleas are painting the landscapes with the beautiful pink, white, and rose colored blossoms. I even saw a baby fox the other morning!

You may have read in one of my blogs from 2016 that I moved in August. Well, I left behind a gorgeous garden. I hope the new family is enjoying all the fabulous plants that are probably starting to emerge about now.

My current house had very little in the backyard in the way of plants. There were so many very large trees crowding out the foundation shrubs that had been planted.  And there was ivy everywhere. I do mean everywhere.

Little by little I have been working to transform this yard into a beautiful garden.  I had some trees removed. (Only the ones that were a danger to my house or that were diseased) This let light in. Some of those foundation shrubs are going to bloom! This is very exciting!!

I also hired a company to fix and enlarge the patio.

 The last step was to plant. This happened last week. I love that there are beautiful plants where there was just dirt during most the fall and the winter. I chose plants with different colored foliage which keep their leaves are year: some are light greens, some have a tinge of red on their leaves, some have green and white striped leaves. This provides a wide variety. Most of these plants have blooms but at different times of the year: some are spring bloomers, some are fall bloomers, and some are winter bloomers. This gives me something to look forward to year-round in the garden.

Yesterday, I sat outside in a lounge chair and just enjoyed the view. My dogs were happy laying on the patio in the sun and I was thrilled with my new backyard. I know I’ll be adding some more plants here and there. I’m already thinking about where to add hybrid tea roses! I  just love to dig in the dirt. I also know I’ll be pruning and weeding. Gardens need lots of maintenance and care. But, since I love gardening it will be an easy task for me to schedule the maintenance.

This was a huge project. If I could have snapped my fingers and magically made all the changes overnight I would have. This required planning, breaking the project down into several distinct parts, and scheduling. It also required patience.

 

backyard 03-2017 (1)

Are you working on a HUGE project? Does it have you operating in overwhelm? Talk to me about it. I’d love to help you break it down into manageable parts.

Home Inventory

March 1, 2017

infographics about home inspection checklist and tips

One of the best ways to prepare for a disaster at home is to have a complete home inventory. Do you have an inventory of the contents of your home? Have you ever thought about taking or making such an inventory and then immediately stopped because the thought of all the work involved paralyzed you? You know that an inventory is the absolute best way to prove what your house contains in case of theft, fire, flood, tornado or any other disaster. I do understand that the creation of an inventory is a ton of work! I had to handwrite my first inventory back in 1979 since my husband’s job required us to submit a complete inventory when we were moving to Thailand. Imagine handwriting something such as that! Wow!! Even now I shudder at the thought. As the years went on and we moved from place to place technology allowed me to put our inventory in a spread sheet and then there was a program created for just such a purpose.

The program I use now is very flexible. It is called HomeZada. It does so much more than just keep track of your household furnishings. When you are ready to do the inventory, it allows you to take a picture of the item, identify what room it is in, put the date purchased and from where – if you know that information and if it is a valuable item (sentimental or expensive) you can even say who should receive it upon your death. Additionally, you can scan the receipt for the item so you have an accurate record of the date of purchase and how much it cost. You can also take a picture of a room and identify the built-in pieces of cabinetry.

I also love the fact that this program allows you to record the maintenance of appliances and keep track of home improvements. No more searching for that information. You don’t need to wonder when the HVAC was last serviced or your home last painted. The information is right there at your fingertips. If you’re planning to sell your home, you can easily retrieve the documents which identify the improvements you’ve made to your home.

Since this program is cloud based you will be able to retrieve all the information from any computer anywhere in the world. So, if disaster should strike and your home was destroyed you would be able to show an insurance adjuster photos of all that your home contained. No guessing involved.

This is real peace of mind. What a relief. Even better the program is easy to use. I recommend tackling a home inventory project the way you would any other large project – a little at a time. You could enter the information one room at a time. Or, if you decided this was simply too much for you to contemplate you can hire a professional organizer to do the original data entry for you. This is a service I offer as do other professional organizers.

 I recommend updating the information once a year, or as you trade out furniture or complete a home improvement project. It is very important to keep your home inventory information current as stale information defeats the purpose.

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about the HomeZada home inventory program and how I may be able to with a home inventory project. Check out their website: www.homezada.com

 

Home?

February 23, 2017

House on wooden floor , home concept

What does this word mean to you? For me, it is more than a place. It is a feeling of belonging. A feeling that I am safe and at peace inside this place. I have moved many times to three completely different countries and to two very different regions within the United States of America and yet I’ve been able to create a home for me and my family in each spot.

So, I ask again, what does home mean to you? Is it the home in which you grew up? Will that place always represent home to you? If it does, do you also have a home in which you live most of the time?

Here’s another question for you to ponder: what does your childhood home contain that makes it feel so much like home? My childhood home is now someone else’s home. Whenever I went back to visit my mother it was the scent of her perfume that brought memories flooding back for me. Also, my mother was there. We would spend time together reminiscing. The other thing that made my childhood home so special to me was the familiar furnishings: photos, paintings, and furniture.

When we sold my mother’s house (my childhood home) I was able to keep a few of the items that meant something to me. I do mean only a few. I incorporated them into my décor so that I have a little bit of my childhood home mixed in with my adult home.

Do you want your home to contain a few memories? Would you prefer to create your own memories and leave your childhood home behind?

If you choose to bring some of the furnishings from your childhood home into your current home be selective. Be sure to ask your partner, if you have one, if they agree with your choices. One thing is for sure, you do not want to create additional clutter in your home simply because you want to bring part of the past into your present.

Ask yourself these questions:

1.       Does this bring back a special memory?

2.       Do I love it?

3.       Will this add to the overall atmosphere of my home?

4.       Will this fit in?

5.       Does it have a purpose?

If you can answer more than one of these questions positively then by all means bring some of your childhood home into your current home.

If you need to create the feelings of safety and peace inside your home take a look around and ask yourself what is bothering you about your home.

1.       Are things out of place?

2.       Do you know how to put your belongings away?

3.       Can you find what you are looking for?

4.       Do you have to do a major clean up before inviting someone over?

If you need to create order in your home so that it will be your place of refuge take the time to figure out where you want to start.

Please write back and let me know what home means to you. Let me know if I can help you in your quest to make your house feel like your home.

 

Face It! Life is Messy!

February 8, 2017

Recently I read the book titled: MESSY: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford. This book has really opened my eyes to all the ways in which the best intentions for tidiness and order can sometimes have a negative impact. My plan is to look at several sections of the book that directly relate to what I do as a professional organizer over the next few weeks.

I know, first hand, that life is messy. Things do not always happen as planned. I’m a huge fan of planning but quite often the best laid plans simply need to be put aside to let whatever happen. I started my work life as a preschool/primary school teacher. Teachers create lesson plans but many times the lesson can morph away from the planned lesson into something very different but equally beneficial – a unique learning experience. Something you could never have planned for but which just sort of organically happened. Sometimes it’s a wonderful thing and sometimes it’s a hard lesson to learn – not so wonderful. The trick is to let the lesson happen and not to insist that the planned lesson take place. That has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I usually wanted to bring the discussion back to its original intention. As the years went on and as I gained experience in the classroom I learned to be more flexible, to go with the flow, and to let the alternative lesson happen.

The book, MESSY, addresses this topic in the opening chapter. The author teaches the reader that some of the best performances have happened when the planned circumstances did not come together as the planner had intended. No, I’m not going to give you any specifics – you’ll have to read the book.

What do you do when life gets in the way, when it’s messy and your plan is foiled?

My son and daughter-in-law had planned for their wedding ceremony to be on a lawn over- looking the water. It was a picture – perfect location. The white chairs were set out on the lawn. There was a tent which was beautifully decorated for the dinner and dancing to follow the ceremony. The morning dawned with some wispy clouds. We thought nothing of it. The hairdresser came to give all us women in the bridal party gorgeous hairdos. I noticed it got a little overcast but didn’t pay too much attention. We were having too much fun getting ready for this wedding to happen.

Wouldn’t you know, it started pouring cats and dogs (as the expression goes) about an hour before the ceremony. Our guests were arriving and went straight into the tent. They couldn’t hang out on the lawn as planned.

We didn’t know quite what to do as there really wasn’t room on the dance floor under the tent to set out rows of chairs.

The Rabbi and the Priest suggested that the wedding ceremony take place on the dance floor with the wedding party in a semi-circle. Our guests could gather around. Those who needed to sit could sit at a table.

The rain stopped just as it was time to begin the ceremony. We stuck with our new plan because we thought the rain might start up again.

It was a beautiful ceremony. Made even more intimate because the guests gathered around, forming this almost magical circle around the wedding party.

We never would have felt that closeness out on the lawn with the guests seated in rows of chairs. It would have been lovely but what actually happened was even better.

Yes, it was a little messy and we, the two moms, were a little frantic at first but we let it be and it was better than anything we had planned.

Are you a planner? Do you have trouble going with the flow? Connect with me for support.

 

 

How to Say ‘No’ Nicely

January 25, 2017

An organizing friend of mine, Andi Willis, wrote a beautiful blog this week about giving herself Grace. It is a wonderful essay on the ability to be kinder to ourselves. We (many of us women) set high standards for ourselves and do not cut ourselves any slack.

I want to piggy back on this thought and talk about our ability to say ‘No’. I don’t know about you but most times when I’m asked to do something I typically say ‘Yes’ even when in my heart I want to say ‘No’. Does this ever happen to you? I get guilted into taking on projects that I know I’m going to carve time out to complete – time that I would prefer to set aside for an activity of my choosing. I hate to let people down and so will agree to take on the project even when I know it means postponing something else. Other times I get complimented into a task. Someone will say ‘you did such a good job organizing …(fill in the blank) please will you volunteer your time organizing… for us?’ It’s really hard to say no under those circumstances!

I’ve learned that saying ‘No’ selectively can be a form of self-care. It allows me the space to choose the activities to dedicate my time to.

Because saying ‘No’ is a very hard thing for me to do I’ve recently come up with some strategies to allow myself the time and space to say ‘No’ gracefully. These are not by any means new and different strategies. I think we’ve probably all used them at one time or another. I put them together and have multiple copies in strategic places so that I can refer to them when I’m put on the spot and can’t think of the best response.

I have one copy on a bulletin board in my office, another copy in my planner, and a third copy digitally in the notes section of my phone.

1.       Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you on ..(when you get back to the person you can say) I’m sorry, I’m not available.

2.       I’m not able to take on any more projects right now. Please feel free to contact me another time.

3.       As much as I would really like to be able to help you with … this is something I’m not comfortable tackling at this time.

Having these phrases handy has helped me better protect my time. They help me say ‘No’ without negativity.

Is saying ‘No’ a problem for you? How have you handled it? Write me back and let me know!

 

Hand writing Time To Say NO concept with red marker

 

 

 

Quarterly Goals

January 19, 2017

I had a meeting with my business coach last week to talk about my business in general and where I’d like to take it. Of course, I had a flip answer ‘To the Moon’ I replied. That drew the expected chuckle from her. She then said, ‘Really, what are your goals for this year – 2017’. I had no reply. I was deep in thought. I was thinking about all the areas that I want to improve regarding my business.. more speaking, sell more books, work with organizing clients, write my blog. I have an endless list. Being very smart, my coach then asked me to focus on just one topic and create a short term goal. Her question was what would I like to focus on this quarter?

I love this idea which is why I’m sharing it with you. Focusing on just a few things for just a few months makes the goal so much more achievable. Since the end is in sight I better create a plan and write down the steps I need to take, to make measurable progress by the end of March. I like this so much better than planning what I want to have accomplished by the end of December – 12 long months from now.

I encourage you to think about your goals in small chunks. Think about what you would like to accomplish between now and the end of March. Is there a house project? If there is, is it something would contract out or is it a project you want to tackle yourself?

Do you have a personal goal to exercise more? Now is the time to sign up for that gym membership! Or maybe you want to create your own exercise routine. Perhaps you’ll mix it up and create a schedule to walk so many times a week combined with an exercise class or two.

Do you want to cook at home more often? There are many different companies which offer pre-measured ingredients packaged meal by meal and are delivered to your home. You can check them out online.

A great short term goal might be to get control of your papers and filing system. Think about it. If you worked on that a little at a time between now and the end of February. You would accomplish two things. You’d have a paper filing system that is current and you would be able to tackle your taxes in March, enabling you to get them off your desk promptly.

Wow! Aren’t you just loving the thought of these short-term or quarterly goals?

My short-term goal is to focus on promoting the children’s books I wrote with my co-author Jonda Beattie. 

What will you choose to be your short-term goal? Write me back and let me know!

 

 

 

 

Limits?

January 11, 2017

 

Scattered clothes

Happy New Year! I’m so happy to be starting this New Year by writing a blog to share with you. I’ve been thinking a lot about limits recently and why it’s important to know what your personal limits are.

This has come up because some of my clients have had trouble determining how much is enough.

We all have physical limits that are pre-determined by the home in which we live. The closets and cupboards can create limits for us if we let them. However, we sometimes (and yes – I am including myself in this discussion) cram things into these spaces thinking that we can ‘make room’.

I have found that the best way to ‘make room’ is to remove everything from the cupboard or closet and only return those items which you absolutely KNOW that you use and/or love. The temptation is to push things around or to restack everything inside the closet or cupboard because it does take time to completely empty the space and make those decisions.

How does knowing your limit apply here? Well, if you’re headed out to go shopping and you come across a dress or a new platter and you know that your cupboard or closet is full and that you’ve reached the limit of what the space will contain easily. It’s easier to say to yourself something like “I know that if I bring something more into this space I will be removing things that I don’t use or love – do I want it badly enough to reorganize the space or can I decide not to bring it into my home”.

We also have physical limits in terms of what we can physically do. I can’t lift very heavy weights. I know not to try to lift something really heavy because I will end up hurting myself and I definitely don’t want to do that.

Can you change your physical limits? Sure, through diet and exercise or through modifications you may be able to change some things. For instance, I love to walk and I walk at a pretty fast pace. One of my friends walks with me sometimes. I used to have to slow my pace to accommodate my friend. Since we’ve been walking together regularly his pace has picked up and he can walk farther before asking that we turn around. His limit has increased.

We also have spending limits. Do you want to incur more debt to buy this one item or do you have enough at home? Is it necessary to spend this money or can you make the decision to tell yourself ‘not now’. Knowing your spending limits is key. How do you do this? You create a budget and check it regularly.

Another way to curb your spending is to only carry cash. I know it’s inconvenient but it is effective. Without a credit or debit card in your wallet you have to be mindful of your spending limit. I have more about the benefits of carrying cash in my book: Now What? A Simple Organizing Guide.

I talk to my clients about the physical limits their homes provide regularly and ask them to think about how much is enough. What number of ….(you can fill in the blank) makes sense?

Ask yourself this question and see if it helps you set limits within your home. Maybe you’ve already set limits for yourself? I’d love to hear about your limits and if the question: How much is enough makes sense to you.

woman is holding bill and credit card in hands