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In our culture, I wonder if any other month of the year receives more attention regarding the state of our emotions than December. This month comes with a playlist of songs about wonder, being merry and bright, heavenly peace, and laughing all the way. Images abound with happy families gathered harmoniously around a tree or table. But what happens if you’re not “feeling it,” or experiencing just the opposite? It’s easy to miss our true feelings in the midst of holiday spirit.
Rest easy. While these long, dark days are upon us, it is a lovely time to pay attention to your soul. As a sensitive person, the mere suggestion that I should feel festive throws me into a place of resistance and disappointed comparison. From years past, I know this can turn into a long descent into depression—a valuable journey, but a challenging one. Instead, this winter I’ve begun turning to my journal almost daily to express my emotions and thoughts, rather than let them build up or fester.
After a few weeks, I noticed this activity bringing me a kind of peace I’ve been wishing for. This peace came not from any specific date on the calendar, but a willingness to listen to my soul. Paying attention to your emotions takes courage. And, while heeding your soul may not appear conventionally festive, the rewards are huge. Just imagine how the lives of three wise men changed when they listened to their souls’ calling and left home to walk toward a shining light in the sky.
What calls to your soul?
These long, dark days contain an inherent sacredness as we gaze at nighttime stars and pine for the return of our closest one. Listen for what calls to your soul. Listen to what you long for. And may what you hear guide you—through this season and beyond.
I’ve had the hardest time staying on top of the dishes lately.
On principle, my resistance to doing dishes comes from the belief that it’s a hassle and that my life was made for more important things than washing them. Oh, do I have an inner princess!
Reality has been getting in the way of these beliefs: plates, bowls, pots, and utensils stack up all around the sink and sit with cold, filmy water brewing god-knows-what. Inspired Spouse gives me the hairy eyeball, but says nothing (bless her). They’re my job. That’s our agreement. And no matter how I argue with dishes and about washing them, they still exist.
Three days ago, when I needed to remove stuff from the sink in order to fill a water glass, it dawned on me that I had to find a better way. But that way needed to include feeling less resentful of this task or I’d never do it.
Instead of grabbing a sponge, I went to my beliefs. What do I think about dishes? Is there anything I can change about my beliefs? This is important to consider because the procrastination means there’s an unmet need. I realized one of my challenges is the belief that dishes take away time from enjoyable things I want to be doing.
Instead of just washing them, I decided to change my story. Change the self talk. Instead of “this is a hassle and I hate it,” I told myself, “Doing dishes is simply part of my day.”
You know what? It’s working! Just by changing the story, my resistance has gone down dramatically. When I feel it come up, I repeat very gently, “This is just part of your day. Doing dishes is part of living.” Changing your story means using gentle self-talk, rather than harsh. Pragmatic messages, not critical ones. We change our behaviors when we feel accepted, not browbeaten.
Lots of experts talk about the value of carefully observing the stories you tell yourself. We so often react to our thoughts and beliefs, rather than to the actual task at hand. So, it can be quite miraculous to discover that it’s a subtle change that shifts a broken system, rather than some huge effort, expensive purchase, or “perfect” solution. It’s small, but huge.
With my dish epiphany, I’m finding it helps to combine the task with something I already do daily: make coffee. A pot takes about ten minutes to brew, so I jet through the dishes and — job done! — I have a coffee reward. By combining those activities, the amount of resistance I feel decreases dramatically.
At the heart of my dish resistance was a deeper need — a sense of purpose and some time for play. In the weeks ahead, I plan to meet those needs better so the daily tasks of living bother me less.
How about you? What’s your chore bugaboo?
I love making life as simple as possible. Love. For me, it’s like a game to find ways to spend less time on annoying, repetitive stuff so there’s more time to do fun, interesting stuff.
At the Inspired House, our strategy for stocking the pantry and fridge is to go twice a month to our gigantic, slightly-overwhelming (but awesome) grocery store for provisions. Great system.
Except. I noticed how much I started dreading those Monday night trips. Like a warm ooze, the feeling of dread would start creeping up on me in the mid-afternoon.
Oh, I don’t waaaaant to go to the grocery store tonight. (That’s my talking-to-self voice.)
This, despite the fact that we have nice, organized list on the fridge arranged in order of the departments of the store to make the process less annoying.
But I don’t waaaant tooooooo.
This, despite the fact that Inspired Spouse and I go *together* and tag team our shopping. She does produce, while I gather boxed and canned stuff. (We buy a lot of produce!) We’ve got a system! It’s not hard to follow, but the dread is still there.
Maybe we can go a different night. I’m tired/hungry/stressed/just need a night off.
Can you see what’s happening there? Now I’m just trying to wiggle out of it, trying to put off the inevitable.
One of the most powerful organizing tools I teach is noticing. Noticing means consciously observing your behavior, feelings, and desires. Noticing reveals information about where the friction in your systems are and what approach would work better for you. Noticing is the bomb. Don’t leave home without it.
What I noticed that particular Monday is how much I loathe the process of grocery shopping. Specifically, I resist: leaving the house, driving twenty minutes to our store, hanging out with all of humanity for about an hour, then schlepping so much stuff to the car and into the house.
When I noticed this, I realized I needed to change something in the equation.
The process of gathering all the various items in the center of the store (boxed, canned, and packaged goods), takes a lot of time. I wondered if it took less time to shop, whether I might loathe it less.
So I developed a theory (very scientific of me!).
I’m an Amazon Prime member and over the years have ordered a few food items like my favorite tea and supplements. I wondered: What if I did that more regularly and had it delivered to the house? In my research, I learned that we could subscribe to regular shipments of those middle-of-the-store items. My theory was it might shorten the grocery experience, and also actually save money.
So I tested my theory by running an experiment: I signed up for household staples like toilet paper and coffee. The Subscribe and Save interface allows you to set the frequency of items as well as move them to later shipments if you don’t need them. As time went by and we got our first few shipments, I tweaked the experiment. For example, I noticed we ran out of coffee before more arrived, so I changed it to arrive every month instead of every other one. All in all, it worked pretty well.
One frustration was discontinued items. We were getting organic raisins that were delayed at first and later cancelled. Our Very Specific Kind of Tampons also got cancelled without warning. These surprises required additional research to find replacements.
On the upside? In the last nine months of this experiment, I’ve marveled at just how many things we can order through this program. And we’ve saved money.
At the moment, here’s what we’re subscribed to:
What I’m planning to add soon:
Part of my experiment is noticing how much time we need between resupply which prevents wasting space and money. For example, I want office supplies (drool drool) in my subscription, but I’m waiting until the current supply is low to see how much time elapses between purchases.
If so, I recommend writing a list of the things you…
If you already use the Subscribe and Save option at Amazon, I’d love to hear about your experience. What works and doesn’t work for you?
I have an admission: I’m addicted to Facebook. When I open up the home page and see those little red squares at the top, a little thrill runs through me. Messages!
Facebook is my treat, the place I go when I’m bored, stuck, restless, sleepy. It peps me up. The people I follow make me laugh, think, and feel grateful to be alive.
So you can imagine my reaction when I loaded up the website yesterday and got a blank screen. Quickly, #facebookdown was a trending topic on Twitter (where many of us ran to for solace).
I was cut off.
At first I was afraid. I was petrified. (The first lines of that Gloria Gaynor song immediately came to mind!)
But then I thought about how much of my time I give to that site each day. The hours I spend feeling annoyed by people. The creative time I let slip away.
And I felt kind of relieved.
I was moved recently to read that even Pope Francis has an opinion about social media. Although he has a Twitter account, he is concerned about the incredible loneliness that so many people feel that social media does nothing to quell.
So instead of mooning over Facebook, I’m resolving to connect more with humans in person. That sounds strange as I write it, but we need each other. Loneliness is toxic. Let’s do more real hugging and fewer emoticons.
Are you with me?
The utter relief of a delay
Back in the day, this word was magic. Usually uttered by a teacher or professor, to me it meant a reprieve from the anxiety I felt from not having completed yet another assignment. Grace. (immense sigh of relief)
“Let’s push back that deadline” was also magic when I was an employee. My boss would determine the project could wait a little longer, sparing me from having to admit I was overwhelmed and unable to complete my part on deadline. My whole body would relax and the tension would melt.
“Snow day” was the crowning glory of pronouncements. Freedom! (happy dancing) Yessss!
No one knew how much relief these words brought me because I was so busy running around trying to make it look like I had everything together. The grace of an extended deadline spared me temporarily from the dread that something would bring my house of cards to the ground, exposing my secret.
If any of this sounds familiar to you right now, I want you to know you’re not alone and that there’s nothing wrong with you. If order is elusive and you feel like you’re walking that tightrope, you’re among good company. Like me. Like the hundreds of smart, creative women (and men!) I’ve worked with over the years.
Feeling overwhelmed, buried, and behind just means you’re creative, ambitious, and optimistic. You have a strong belief in yourself to do the stuff of your dreams. Did you know that? It’s true. All the clutter around you and the busy thoughts in your brain are just evidence of your desire to achieve something great!
However. When it catches up to you, it’s painful. Agonizing. Embarrassing.
But it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a person. You’re anything but. You’re amazing. A truly and completely amazing human being.
This is just a little note from my heart to yours to remind you in case you forgot: you can do this. You’re okay. Even if it feels precarious.
I mention this because I received three emails today saying, “I totally forgot that yesterday was the deadline for your workshop. I’m sorry to ask for an exception, but can I still join you?” My answer is yes.
Yes — because I remember what it was like to not remember important things. Yes — because I know how hard (even agonizing!) it is to ask for help, exceptions, and compassion.
Well, you’ve got it from me. I’ve been there, sister. If you’re not interested Declutter for Good, just let this message percolate into your heart and encourage you today. You’re not alone. No matter what it looks like on the outside, you’re really okay through and through. You’re amazing. #truth
If you are interested in Declutter for Good, I have a happy word to share with you: Extension!
Because so many requested it, I’ve extended registration to 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern today. If you’d like support clearing your persistently cluttered areas (and make the world a better place in the process), click the link below.
Sending love and encouragement to you, no matter what. <3
Can you picture it? It doesn’t have to be anything big, just an item (or collection of items) that’s been around a while, unused. It might be something just beyond your desk, or tucked away on a shelf or in a closet.
If you’re like a lot of creative people, a knowing comes up — a feeling about the rightness or wrongness of releasing this particular possession.
Sometimes it’s easy. You can toss it in recycling, and you’re done.
Other times, letting go is more complicated. Emotions come up with companion thoughts like…
Fear: What if I end up needing it again?
Guilt: I don’t want to waste it. What if the person who gave it to me notices it’s gone? And gets upset?
Shame: I should have used it. I should never have gotten it. This cost so much money.
Caution: I don’t know what’s in there and not knowing makes me nervous.
Resistance: I don’t want to deal with it.
Apathy: I just can’t.
Dread: It’s going to be hard. It might take forever. What if I never finish?
In my own life, letting go has been a struggle. On one hand, I crave that sunlit, clear space. On the other, creating it means letting go of stuff which sometimes puts me into an emotional tailspin.
What I’ve learned over the years is that a pile of objects can also be a collection of unsorted, unpleasant feelings. If you feel reluctant to stick your hand in that nest of emotional snakes, it’s completely understandable.
This is why starting is so hard.
You know how to declutter and clear. You’re just smart like that. But sometimes the very thought of starting a decluttering project overwhelms you before you can even begin.
One antidote is to play a variation of the Picnic Game. Do you know it? It starts: “I’m going on a picnic and bringing an Apple.” (Starts with A.) The next person says, “I’m going on a picnic and bringing an Apple and a Banana.”
Instead of tackling your stuff, start with imaginary clearing. See if you can list three or five items you’ve been thinking about letting go of and picture them clearly in your mind. Imagine them gone and notice how you feel.
“All beings want to be happy and avoid pain.” This teaching of the Dalai Lama’s also applies to your possessions. Not letting go is a way of avoiding discomfort. This is a good thing. Avoiding pain is an act of self kindness.
See if you can offer yourself these words: I’m okay. My clutter is no reflection on my worth as a person. I’m doing the best I can, and that’s enough. If that doesn’t resonate for you, imagine someone you love saying these words to you. Notice what happens.
I’m always astonished by how many people believe they’re the only one who struggles with letting go. If you can, find another soul who gets you. Tell him or her there’s stuff you want to get rid of in your physical space. Ask them if they can relate. No need to give or receive advice, just notice how it feels to discover you’re not alone.
Secrets are toxic to the soul. Telling the truth liberates you. I meet people all the time who are feel immense relief at discovering other smart, fun peers in the same clutter boat.
If all the stuff you didn’t want or need suddenly disappeared tomorrow, how would you feel? What would it be like for you to move freely and easily through your home? If you can, think of three words that would describe your desired emotions.
These are your intention. Starting with intention helps you connect with why you’re doing an action, which creates energy and makes the how easier. An example: “I choose to let go because I want to feel spacious, alive, and free.”
What emotions and thoughts come up when you think about letting go? I’d love to know more about your experience.
Note: Four days remain to sign up for Declutter for Good, my six-week workshop for practicing letting go with ease and heart in your home’s stickiest places. Registration deadline is this Sunday at 9pm Pacific. I hope you’ll consider joining me (a “pay what you can” option is available)!
Have you ever gone through one of those times in life when everything is realigning inside, and you don’t have good words to describe it until months afterward? While you’re living, driving, sleeping, things slowly shift toward clarity, almost imperceptibly. It can seem to take forever. Eventually, you come out of the woods, and movement starts to happen.
This process is normal, but we so often think it’s not — because other people appear so puttogether on the outside. You may assume you’re the only one feeling uncertain or directionless or stymied in life. You’re not. In reality, everyone is just making their way, a day at a time.
The hardest part is thinking you’re the only one. People who deal with clutter and overwhelm often feel isolated. They need support but don’t know how to ask for it or receive it. In turn, this thinking cuts you off from receiving the love and encouragement you need. It’s not “bad” to do this, by the way, it’s just important to notice if it works for you or not.
I can honestly say I’ve been there because I’m just coming out of these woods myself.
“Did I get dropped from your list somehow?” a friend asked me the other day. “I haven’t gotten your newsletter in ages.” I reassured her it wasn’t a glitch or her imagination. I’ve been working on a book this year and spending a lot of energy on it.
The cool thing? After six month of really slogging through Big Life Questions, last month I had an epiphany. Eureka!
I’ve always wanted to align my work at Inspired Home Office with my old career in non-profit management. Suddenly, while I was on vacation, something clicked: What if there’s a connection between your extra stuff and the many charities in need of books, craft supplies, office supplies, clothes, and more? What if it could work?! I got so excited about a new idea!
This fall, I’m combining my love for helping you clear out what you don’t need with sharing abundance with other people in need. A new class called Declutter for Good.
Best of all, I’m offering this new class with a pay-what-you-can option. Although there is an official price, if you can’t swing it for any reason, just send me an email with a note about what you can afford. Really. This makes the love come full-circle. Isn’t it time you get support with the stuff that’s holding you back?
Let’s connect soon so we can move out of the slog and into delight — together! Bring on the epiphanies!
I did it. My friends told me I was the last holdout, but I bought a nice cell phone (Samsung s3) this week and a grown up contract with unlimited everything.
I dragged my feet for a long time because I hate the heads-down culture I see evolving around me and did not want to become part of it. My impulse control is nil. Because my brain is wired for novelty, I dreaded the impact of carrying the Internet around in my hand. Actually, that’s the heart of it: a computer used to be something I went TO for information, much like a huge set of encyclopedias. It sat at a desk in a room you could leave. And leave behind. Carrying the font of knowledge and connection on my person seems like opening a vein and plugging in.
Relish is the word I use to describe my time in nature, in solitude, in writing. I can’t be the only one who resists being reachable 24/7. Now that I *can* text, I must check my phone for them. Must I now reply to email when it pops up, since I’m now able to? The door between technology and my life has suddenly disappeared.
This reaction is normal. Right now, the novelty and newness of this tool seems all-consuming, but in the weeks ahead, I’ll be able to create systems that help my life, not intrude on it.
For example, I’ve turned off every “helpful” notification, changed all the ringers and chimes to be soft and not grating, and have only shared the number with a few people. Yet, now that I can text, I’m sending more of them and checking in more often.
Still figuring things out, I’d love your thoughts. How does your phone affect your life (positively or negatively) and what do you do to moderate its intrusions? Your thoughts and ideas are welcome!
My recent Summer Special announcement brought a flurry of emails about organizing, decluttering, and other stuff you’d rather not think about.
One exchange about the declutter process was so poignant that I asked permission to share it here, in the hopes it might give you help and hope too.
Paula B. wrote:
I have a question for you, and I really don’t think there is an answer (!) or an answer that will work for me.
It has to do with decluttering when it is virtually impossible.
My two grown children are not yet fully on their own. They are independent and mostly out of the house, living elsewhere, but not yet settled anywhere where they can take all their furniture/boxes of books/clothing/supplies with them. They have no storage where they are, no room to call their own, etc.
So, the boxes sit in my house, in various rooms and piled high throughout the basement.
1. My garage is not big enough to accommodate everything
2. I don’t want to pay a storage facility to house them
3. Since I sometimes have water issues in the basement I don’t want to move the furniture to the basement
4. It is a lot of stuff. A lot of boxes. A lot of loose piles. not a huge amount of furniture but some antiques that need to be cared for carefully enough.
So, while I see this conundrum as impossible, I am wondering if you, or your readers, can somehow see something differently?
Goal: I’m not really looking for organizing tips. I’m really looking for a way to get the stuff out of my house, but still available for when my kids are in a position to move it all. A way that doesn’t cost money (that’s the clincher).
Any possibilities here?
Here is my reply:
Man, do I get that. It’s huge. I talk to people all the time who are storing things that don’t belong to them. It’s a kind thing to do, especially as a mom, but reading between your words I see there’s also a cost.
What hits me is the volume. The massiveness of it all. It must feel a bit overwhelming at times. I’m also struck by the fact that it’s at risk of getting damp, moldy, even wet (at least the stuff in the basement). That’s no small thing.
I agree that you don’t need organizing tips. You don’t even need to get organized. You just need that stuff out of your house.
And yet you can’t foist it on your kids, given their current situation.
Here’s what I see: the elephant everyone is stepping around is the assumption that everything in those boxes is important and must be kept safe. This may not be true. It’s likely that at least half of the stuff they’re holding is old, unimportant, even dated.
I’m not a mom, so I’m not qualified to give advice on parenting. What I see, though, is a need for determining *what* in those boxes is worth keeping. Although you may not be able to get rid of all them, reducing the actual number of boxes might give you the ahhhhh you’ve been seeking (and need). At least until they’re gone for good.
If you decide to go this route, expect some pushback (either from inside you or from your kids). They’re used to you keeping this stuff for them. Asking them to sort through it is may come across as a “mean mom” thing.
The fact is, it’s your house. You are doing them a favor. It’s 100% okay to advocate for yourself and your space: “I’m still happy to keep your stuff, but can we go through the boxes and get rid of anything you don’t really like or need anymore? I need less stuff in my house.”
Those are my thoughts. It’s not a final answer, of course, and if you decide to follow through on it, there’s a lot of work ahead of you (and them). What you gain in peace, spaciousness, and self-respect is priceless.
Note that Paula’s issue is as much about her desire to declutter the physical stuff as it is about struggling with the role of being responsible for all those boxes. It’s those unspoken assumptions that make other people’s stuff hard to get out of your space.
Paula asked if my readers had ideas. What would YOU do in this situation?
The post Q&A: When grown kids’ stuff seems impossible to declutter appeared first on Inspired Home Office.
It sounds like Jello and Hello, and it’s just as friendly. Trello is amazing. (Yes, I sound like a zealot. Sorry about that. )
I hardly ever use phrases like “have to” or “need to” because that’s not my style. I believe in you and your ability to decide what’s right for you.
But Trello? At least consider trying it. It’s a great solution for organizing the minds of busy, creative people.
Here’s my to-do list this week:
When something gets done, I drag it over into the Done category.
It’s like using sticky notes, except that it lives on your computer, tablet, and/or smartphone. Everywhere you go.
You can create lists like this for every project you’ve got. Here are some of mine:
I am getting so much done.
Yes, it sounds like they’re paying me to say this, but they’re not.
Here’s why I’m so thrilled and shocked and raving: my whole life I thought I was a “paper person.” Meaning, I thought I had to use paper and markers to get really clear about my to dos, goals, and projects.
What I really need is the capacity to move things around. Trello does this. I can move ideas and tasks, reordering them until everything works. Paper and markers are still fun, but I can’t take them everywhere with me. I can’t always move them around, either.
Every current project I’m working on now has a Trello board:
And when it gets down to the little fiddly bits, each card (a.k.a. task) has room for a checklist where you can put specific baby steps.
Like this for advertising our garage sale:
When I check off all four baby steps, I get a green sticker of congratulations.
Like Many online tools, Trello only works when you have an internet connection. Not everyone has one all the time, so if that’s you, think twice before using it.
Once an idea is on a Trello board, you don’t have to remember it. No sticky notes to lose.
I’m getting so much done.
Check it out
I’d love to know what you think!