Archive for the ‘kindness’ Category

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

 

 

 

Thank You?

December 28, 2016

Thank youMonday this week was National Thank You Note Writing Day. I never knew there was such a thing. That’s a great idea! To sit down the day after Christmas and write notes to thank friends or family for their gifts. Traditionally in my family we make a list of people to thank as we open their gifts and we plan to have our notes written by the middle of January.

My mother was a stickler for thank you notes. She was very particular and (when I was a child) she read my notes before they were mailed to make sure they were good enough. My mother had me writing notes for all sorts of gifts – not just Christmas gifts.

She taught me to write a note after spending a weekend with a friend. I didn’t actually write my friend, I wrote a note to my friend’s parents to thank them for hosting me for the weekend. This is a tradition I still enjoy. I write my friends and relatives as soon as I return from a trip. If you’re wondering why I do this, the reason is simple. I write to let my friends know that I appreciate their friendship and the time spent with them.

My mother also taught me to write a thank you note to express my thanks when someone has gone out of their way to do something for me.  It can be something like helping me with a project or including me in a family event.

Handwritten thank you notes are very powerful tools. First of all, they indicate to the recipient that you have taken the time to put pen to paper, written your thoughts, purchased a stamp, and made sure the envelope actually was mailed.

You may choose to write a personal thank you note to someone who has taken the time to interview you for a job. An email thank you is important because the person receives it right away. A handwritten thank you note is also a good idea as it shows the interviewer that you are sincere about your interest in the job.

There is a simple formula to use when writing a thank you note.

  1. Thank the person for the gift – be sure to say exactly what the gift is.
  2. Indicate how you might use the gift – if it is something to use.
    1. NOTE: if you don’t like the gift just thank the person for their thoughtfulness and skip from step 1 to step 3
  3. Tell the person something about yourself – what you are doing for your job, about your family or your home – maybe you are working on a home improvement project.
  4. Close your note by wishing the person well and repeating your thanks.

While it’s great to write thank you notes following this wonderful season of gift giving and receiving. I suggest that it’s important to write thank you notes whenever you feel like expressing your gratitude.

Write me back and tell me about your experience writing thank you notes.

 

 

 

Free To Be …

July 6, 2016

In light of recent Independence Day celebrations I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how thankful I am to be a citizen of the United States of America.

Yes, I was born here. However; I am very aware of the freedoms that we have as I spent a number of years living overseas in Asia. We are able to travel freely across the continental United States and to Alaska and Hawaii. We can speak our minds and not be worried we might be overheard, misunderstood, and taken off to jail or worse. We can practice our own religions or not – it’s our choice. We can change religions or not. We are free to do as we choose – as long as we are not disrupting the peace or breaking any stated law. We are very lucky.

I do not take these freedoms for granted and am very thankful and appreciative of all those men and women who choose to serve in our armed forces to insure that we in the United States continue to enjoy these freedoms.

I choose to celebrate these freedoms by mindfully acknowledging that if I am awarded these freedoms by living here in the United States of America then all those living here with me are also awarded the same freedoms.

I believe that by acknowledging and celebrating the differences between us, learning about the ways in which we are the same and the ways in which we differ, brings a wealth to each one of us. We can learn about other customs, other ways of dress, different religions, other foods and let our lives be enriched through these discoveries.

These are the things that make our country great. Letting each of us be free to be who we are not forcing anyone of us to follow a certain path just because that’s the way it is – without the freedom to choose.

I am a Christian, a mother to two children, a certified professional organizer, a certified professional organizer in chronic disorganization, an author, a speaker, a gardener, a ballroom dancer, an animal lover, a nature lover, a baker and more. These are some of the things that define me. Things I love about me.

Who are you free to be? IMG_0754

Pack Your Patience

December 23, 2015

Are you traveling for the holidays? Maybe you are visiting family or maybe family is coming to visit you?

Perhaps you’re spending the holidays with good friends? Whatever your plans be sure to pack your patience.

Traveling at this time of year whether you are traveling by plane, train or automobile can be stressful. Lots of people are on the road. Holiday expectations are high. I know that whenever I’m traveling during the holidays I simply can’t wait to get where I’m going and for the FUN to begin. Do you ever feel that way?

So, the slightest delay can put me on edge. It could be traffic related, or the plane is delayed or maybe my checked bag is slow to arrive on the baggage belt. I’ve learned over the years to breathe a little more deeply and to smile. This is where I pull patience out of my pocket. I know I will get to my destination eventually and I can hop right into the holiday fun upon my arrival.

If you’re staying with someone else try not to let your expectations get in the way of the actual plans. The expression: go with the flow comes to mind. Hopefully whoever you’re visiting has given you a heads up about the plans for the holiday. Letting you know about any parties, church activities, and other activities so that you have a sense of the schedule.

If you are the host consider posting a schedule of the events for the time they’re staying with you. Think about including some ideas of things to do in the area – sights to see – if they’ve never been to your home before. This will let your guests know what to expect and how they can participate.

A little knowledge is a powerful tool. It’s so helpful to know even the little things like how to start the coffee pot and where to find the extra roll of toilet paper!

Whatever your plans I hope you have a marvelous, relaxing, fun-filled and safe holiday!

Manners?

June 10, 2014

I was reading the June 2014 issue of Real Simple magazine this week. I love this magazine and always read it cover to cover. I find their articles informative, fun and often thought provoking. I was very interested in their article on manners. Actually, I was intrigued that they started out by talking about the word “Etiquette”. I have a book coming out later this summer and the final chapter in my book is titled “Etiquette and You: Why it Matters”.

Does the word “etiquette” fill you with fear? If you have read the article in Real Simple, you know that it’s not at all scary – or shouldn’t be. Etiquette is more about following socially acceptable conventions. For instance, remembering to thank someone when they’ve given you a gift, or let you stay at their home for the weekend, or even granted you an interview. Yes, I am talking about a handwritten pen and paper note sent via the United States Postal Service with a stamp. I have more about exactly how to write a really good personal and business thank you note in my book.

Other points the article raised were about when to use or not to use a cell phone. I was so happy to read that the authors of the article and I agree that the dinner table is no place for a cell phone. Conversation is a wonderful thing! Enjoy the time you’re spending with the person or people and don’t even think about checking your phone. Any message (phone or text) will be waiting for you when the meal is over. Be truly present at the table, turn your phone off and put it away. I believe you’ll find that you relax better and enjoy the food and camaraderie more when you are unplugged.

The article also talks about the place setting. Have you ever been asked or have you ever asked the question – Is this my water? I put an illustration of a place setting in my book because I get asked that question often. I know which is my water and you should, too. In case you’re wondering it is the glass on the right-hand side of the place setting, above your knife.

There’s lots more to this article, just as I cover lots more in my chapter. This is a good start. Are you curious? Next time you see newsstand carrying Real Simple magazine pick one up. You won’t be disappointed!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on etiquette. What does this word mean to you?

“Focus on What’s Strong, Not What’s Wrong”

September 25, 2013

I attended a conference last week hosted by The Institute for Challenging Disorganization in Denver, Colorado. I go to this conference every year. This group, of which I’m a member, always gets fantastic speakers and this year was no exception. One of the speakers, Lee Shuer, gave us all the above quote during his presentation.

Don’t you think that if people in general would focus on what’s good and strong and think less about what’s wrong we’d all be a little more content? Think about it. As a student teacher I learned that if I wanted to get a classroom of six year olds to lower their voices I would have greater success if I complemented the children who were using ‘inside voices’. Using positive reinforcement worked like a charm! This technique works equally well with teenagers and adults. My mom used to say “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. I, in turn, used to tell my children “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’. I still believe this to be true and practice what I preach!

 It all boils down to the same thing, doesn’t it?  Saying something nice is just as easy as saying something nasty. It might take a little more thought and creativity to come up with the nicer comment as, it seems, the negative comments come so quickly to our lips.

Since this conference was attended by many professional organizers, therapists, coaches and related professionals this quote resonated with us all. It was good to be reminded to bring focus onto our clients’ strengths. Point out to them the things they are doing well. Teach them how to focus on their strengths. For anyone, focusing on what is done wrong only serves to depress or dishearten the individual. This is not to say that things don’t go wrong sometimes but dwelling on those things is counter-productive.  Learning to move on, letting the negative things be over and done, is a powerful skill.

When a client wants to work with me to de-clutter their home I ask them to describe how they want their home to look and feel. Then we review  their priorities. Finally, we create a plan and work methodically through the different spaces – celebrating each and every accomplishment. Together we focus on my client’s accomplishments, even the smallest step toward a stated goal. This enables the de-cluttering to move forward all the while positively reinforcing and teaching organizing skills.

 

Wins!

August 20, 2013

Once a month I attend a meeting with several other women. Some of the women have known each other for years and years. They started out decades ago as colleagues and have maintained their friendships. They have a beautiful history together. I joined this group about a year ago. I’m just getting to know most of these women. However, two of the women in the group are colleagues of mine, fellow professional organizers. We three have known each other for about seven years. So, as you might imagine, it’s a very friendly group. This is my goals group. I am so thankful to be a part of this group!

As I said, we meet once a month. The meetings are generally in one of the member’s home and always are timed around a meal. Everyone brings something to contribute to the meal. It’s interesting that no one organizes the meal and it just works out. For instance for this month’s meeting 1 person brought a quiche, 1 brought veggies and dip, 1 brought fruit, and 1 brought chips. There was plenty for everyone and no duplications!

The meeting starts with a thought provoking inspirational quote. The member hosting the meeting finds and reads this to us. Then we start by going around the group and each person states what her ‘wins’ are for that month. Then we go around again and each person talks about what her goals are for the coming month.

I’m talking about this because this month was particularly meaningful to me and I wanted to share my thoughts about it with you. One of the members of our group said ‘I don’t have any wins this month’. The woman sitting next to her said ‘yes, you do!’ and she went on to elicit the wins from her friend.

We all do things that we must celebrate as wins. They may not appear on the surface to be things we feel we have accomplished but think about them again and we might say something like ‘I’m happy I did that’ or ‘ wow! that worked out well!’

Do you make a daily ‘to-do’ list? If you do, then you know the things you have done. Maybe some are routine tasks. Maybe you are working on a project and have broken that project down into smaller portions (measurable, achievable goals) and have completed a portion. Perhaps just getting through the day is an accomplishment.

Celebrate your wins. Remember them. Write them down and tell your friends. So often we talk about the things we haven’t done, want to do, or didn’t do well. I love being a part of a support group, my goals group. We celebrate each others wins and encourage each other.

Are you a member of a group such as the one I belong to?

If you aren’t, maybe you’d like to start one?

Thank you cards?

July 10, 2013

Do you write ‘Thank You’ cards? As I was driving along yesterday listening to the radio I was so surprised when an ad came on and the person speaking asked ‘Do you write Thank You notes?’ The person in the ad went on to say that his mother taught him to write a Thank You note when he was given something. Listening to this ad I was wondering where it was going? Have you heard this ad? Anyway, the person in the ad continued by saying he wanted to thank McDonalds. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to the rest of the ad. I wish I had because I don’t know what he was thanking McDonalds for. I was so taken with the idea that the advertising industry thought to include the notion of writing a ‘Thank You’ note.

I believe in writing ‘Thank You’ notes. So much so that in the second edition of my book I have added a section on how to write a good ‘Thank You’ note as well as why you should write them.

So, back to my original question… do you write ‘Thank You’ notes? If you do, is it because you feel obliged to write the note or is it because you really want to convey your gratitude to the person (or business) who gave you something?

Oprah refers to expressing gratitude in her magazine often. I can remember first hearing her talk about a gratitude journal. I thought it was a great idea to everyday, at the end of the day, write down three things for which you are thankful. I’ll be honest, I did not go out and buy a journal but hearing that idea did prompt me to everyday list in my mind some of the things, the blessings, I have in my life for which I am eternally grateful.

Writing a ‘Thank You’ note is such a small task. Yet, it can give someone a boost in their day to know that the recipient of a gift acknowledges the gift and is appreciative of the donor’s thoughtfulness. Why not take a few minutes, put pen to paper, and write someone today to let them know you are thankful for whatever it is they have given you? 

Live Now

December 19, 2012

I was at my local grocery store earlier today. Grocery shopping was just one of the many errands I had to do today. I took some time last night to organize my grocery list. I went through the recipes of the special dishes my family has requested for Christmas Dinner. I wanted to include some of the non-perishable ingredients on my grocery list. This will save me a little time next week and I’ll be able to do a little pre-cooking! I love my neighborhood grocery store. I know many of the people who work there. They are always friendly and helpful! One of these helpful people came to help me unload my grocery cart. As is our custom, we had a little conversation. She said, ‘It looks like you’re getting ready for Christmas’. I replied, ‘Yes, I am. Are you ready or getting ready?’ She looked at me sadly and said ‘No, I’m not. I miss my family. It’s just not the same without my family. So, I’m feeling a little lonely and sad. It’s hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit.’  I told her that I was sorry she felt that way. Many of my family members are far from me so I can truly empathize with my grocery store friend. In fact, one of my sons will not be coming home for Christmas. I’ll be seeing him for New Year’s, that’s some consolation, but I will miss him on Christmas Day.

Many people, particularly at this time of year feel a little sad or lonely – missing family members and perhaps shared family traditions. I don’t have a remedy or solution but I do have a couple of strategies.

One strategy is not unique. It’s a mindset. I try to live in the present, to enjoy and remember what has come before but to really live in the now. There was a time when I was almost exclusively focusing on the future and living in the past. I can recall saying to myself something like: I love the way we used to be able to sit outside, I can’t wait until we move from this apartment and I can sit outside with my coffee again. I would say this alot when we lived in a small apartment in Hong Kong. Looking back I really liked our apartment. The photographs I have of it are lovely. I know now that I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time because I was not living in the present.

My other strategy is to be a volunteer. When you are volunteering on a project, helping other people, you can not help but be happier. First of all, you meet other interesting people – always a benefit, and you work to make something better. Sometimes the work is hard but then when you’ve accomplished a pre-set goal or task you can go home and be proud of your work. You’ll sleep well from the physical effort and knowing you’ve helped in some way. That’s a good, rewarding and happy feeling.

So, if you’re feeling a little blue try doing a some volunteer work this will help you to focus on someone or something other than yourself. Remember to live in the present and appreciate all that you have – no matter what that is. After all, we no longer have the past and the future is yet to come. So, live now.

How Do You Show Gratitude?

November 20, 2012

As Thanksgiving Day approaches I have been thinking about all the many things for which I am thankful. The most obvious are my health, my family, my friends, my home, my hobbies, the community in which I live and the fact that I have a job I love. I appreciate all the blessings in my life but am I outwardly showing my gratitude?

One of the ways I demonstrate how thankful I am is to care for my home and garden. I make sure the inside of my home is organized. The items I treasure are displayed. Other items have homes in cupboards and closets. When I need these items I know where to find them and then when I’m finished they go back to their pre-determined home. My plants are watered. Infact, I go around most mornings with a watering can and admire the flowers or the new leaves that are pushing up. It’s easy to show appreciation and thankfullness for my home and garden because they require daily care, daily maintenance, in order to remain as lovely as they are.

What about my family and friends? Every now and then I promise myself that I will stay in better touch with my family and  friends.I have a large family – 2 brothers and 2 sisters, each of them has a family and we are spread out in the north east. I also have 2 sons and a daughter-in-law. My single son is in California and my married son in New York. I admit that I am in in close touch with my children but not as close with the rest of my extended family. This year I began a little weekly friends and family update e-mail. In the message I filled my family and friends in on things that are happening in my life. That lasted about 6 months or so. I skipped a few weeks and those weeks turned into a few months and before I knew it I had lost touch again. The truth is I treasure my family and friends. I am eternally grateful to have them in my life and appreciate the support they show me. I’m not sure they really know how I feel so because we are all so far apart, geographically, I will revert to showing my gratitude by reaching out in e-mails and phone calls.

I show my gratitude to my clients in the small extras I provide and by saying ‘Thank You!’ I do not take them for granted and am thankful for the trust they place in me by allowing me to provide them with my professional organizing services.

Every morning I watch the ‘Eleven Alive’ morning news broadcast. This station promotes what they call ‘Random Acts of Kindness’. I love hearing about the ways a reporter has helped someone in our community or something someone else has done to help a neighbor. It starts my day with a smile and gets me thinking about my behavior for the day. I believe that being kind in general is a behavior that is underrated. We all benefit from acts of kindness. It can be something as small as holding the door for the person behind you or something big like bringing dinner to your local fire station. These acts of kindness bring happiness not only to the recipient but also to the donor.

There is a man who works at my local grocery store. He and I exchange pleasantries when we see each other. He says ‘Good Morning, how are you?’ My reply is typically ‘fine. how are you?’ His answer never fails to get a smile out of me. He always says ‘I woke up today. It is a good day’. This reminds me that I am grateful for each day, that I should make the most of everyday, be thankful for all the blessings in my life and try to ensure that those I love and appreciate know how I feel.

Happy Thanksgiving!