You CAN be organized and clutter free. Yes, you!

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Imagine this:

  • Your to do list works for you, not against you
  • Everything in your closet is clean, ready to wear and appealing
  • You open a drawer and immediately find what you were looking for
  • Your home office inspires and energizes you to do your best work
  • Horizontal surfaces are clear and inviting

You can have this. Truly.

I can help you break through the mass of overwhelmingness.

I’ll guide you patiently and compassionately to get the peaceful, functional spaces you crave.

I’ll create systems specially for you to make it easy to keep your life clutter free and organized.

Does that sound appealing? Great!

Get started by getting my Organizing Made Easy kit. It includes:

  • Answers to common questions about getting organized.
  • The free ecourse, Seven Steps to Successful Organizing
  • A special report, “30 Minutes to Less Clutter on Your Desk.”
  • A free 20 minute phone consultation with me.

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Podcast 086: Design thinking

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This is Podcast 86 and it’s about design thinking. I got reintroduced to this concept by Chris Wilson, the founder of Unstuck School, at a workshop he gave recently. He leads a program called Design Your Year that uses many creative ways to define and achieve your goals, one of which is not calling them goals. I just talked about that in podcast 84, about how scary and intimidating goals can be.

One concept he shared with us that I found really interesting is design thinking. Current design thinking is based on stages defined by Herbert Simon. I quoted Simon unknowingly back in podcast 45 when I talked about the idea of satisficing. Satisfice is a portmanteau of the words satisfy and suffice.

It means that people make decisions based on information and resources they have available and that’s good enough. They can’t have all the information and all the resources or use them properly if they did, so they do without. Satisficers are good at limiting their options in order to make effective, timely decisions and take action.

Okay, back to design thinking. The five stages Simon identified are empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Although they’re called stages, they don’t always happen in order and sometimes they loop around. Each stage informs the others.

The first stage, empathize, is certainly important when I work with clients. To me, it means that I need to get to know what my client values and desires and suggest courses of action based on that. This is the opposite of coming in with a prescribed method and imposing it. Instead of jamming a square peg into a round hole, you discover the shape of the peg, which might not be square OR round, and then carve a hole that fits it.

It also means I strive not to make assumptions about my client’s situation but, as coaches are trained to do, come from a position of curiosity and discovery. That way, my client is free to describe what’s happening without having to define or rationalize it.

But what I want to talk about is how to empathize with yourself. Often, people want to get organized or declutter or be more productive because they see a lack in themselves, or they feel judged by others. While those feelings may motivate you for a bit, they aren’t great for the long run. It involves looking outside yourself for solutions and that’s never going to get you the right solution.

In the design world, if you’re creating a product, for example, you want to approach the issue by finding out what motivates and engages customers instead of developing a product by guesswork and hoping people want it.

Empathy is a great word to use here. When you empathize with yourself, you get out of yourself a bit to observe with compassion. This helps you understand and explain what you feel to someone else. Feeling what you feel is important, but you need to be able to get some objectivity about those feelings in order to express them in a way someone else can understand.

When you empathize with someone else, you try to put yourself into their shoes and experience the world as they do. You see that they have experiences and feelings that are similar to yours, even if you are very different people. Feelings of similarity cause you to want to protect or help others.

With self empathy, you want to help yourself because you have compassion for the situation you are in. The exploration you’ve done leads into the next stage, which is define. You might define the problem as “I need a better system for managing paper so that I get things done on time and don’t waste time looking for what I need.” That’s much different than “I need to organize this desk because it’s a cluttered mess.”

I always say organizing is a means to an end, not a valuable thing in itself. That end is the thing you define yourself. It’s too soon to start uploading apps or embracing techniques or buying containers. People often want to leap into the solution before they clearly define the problem and it makes the process longer and more confusing.

For the above mentioned scenario, you want to explore further what’s happening. Ask: what all this paper is? Where does it come from? Is this a new problem? Is something making it worse? All that information will help with stage 3, ideate.

I’ll talk about the other 3 stages next week. In the meantime, what you can do right now is practice empathizing with your own particular situation and see it as an issue to be resolved to benefit you, not to satisfy others.

Podcast 085: Mastery

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This is podcast 85 and it’s about mastery. A new client dubbed me the Clutter Master. It made me smile because I just watched a kung fu movie the other night where two men vie for the title of wing chun master. Imagine me holding my hands board straight and moving my arms gracefully into position to attack my enemy: clutter!

I do know how to master clutter. I do it for myself and I teach others. What’s important to remember is that I continue to defend my title every day. Clutter challenges me every day, just as it does you. Hai ya!

I know people tend to think that a clutter coach’s, or clutter master’s, home is absolutely pristine. Not a thing out of place. Like a page out of Martha Stewart Living. Well, it looks that way sometimes, but a lot of times it doesn’t. Sometimes I’m very busy for days on end. Sometimes I’m sick. And, I confess, sometimes I just don’t feel like it.

So there you have it. I’ve burst your bubble. I am not perfect. But truly, you should take heart from this news. I don’t succeed at staying organized because I have some special gene or an uncanny ability to spontaneously and instantly create order. Sure, I know more about organizing theory and techniques than the average person and I have more ability to effectively manage my time. But those are things that I’ve learned, and you can too.

My podcast is totally about teaching you that stuff. I strive to come up with different approaches and new ways of looking at old problems so you can have an “aha!” moment and get past whatever obstacle is in your way. I talk about resistance and motivation and how to get out of your own way.

But no matter how many episodes I post, there’s still the matter of putting all these ideas into action and making them part of your life. That’s the tough part, right? That’s true for pretty much everyone.

I’m planning to offer a group coaching program this year to address this issue. When you’re at the point that you’ve learned a lot about HOW to declutter and manage time better and get yourself organized, but it still hasn’t happened the way you need it to, the answer is to get regular support. That’s the secret sauce that coaching offers.

I have coaches myself. I don’t do this all alone. Coaching is invaluable to me in getting things done that I want to do but am not, for some reason. And for when I’m doing something and I’m running into problems that have me stumped. And for when I feel discouraged and want to give up!

A former coach of mine once drew me a diagram. She put a line across the center of the page. Under the line were my hopes, dreams, plans and wishes. Above the line were completed projects, written books, delivered programs and happy clients. Punching through that line is the big task. You are creating a reality from a dream. All reality starts from dreams, but getting from point A to point B is not so simple. It involves mastery and mastery involves practice.

You are already on that journey because you’ve identified places where change is needed and you’re pursuing knowledge and skill to do that.

Here’s a quotation from George Leonard. He wrote a book called Mastery, although this quotation is from another book: “At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.” That’s what I’m talking about. Organizing is a journey, it’s not a destination you get to once and just stay there. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a practice.

The master is also a student, always. I learn from my clients all the time, and I’m constantly reading and observing and thinking about how I can help my clients better and how I put that knowledge to work in my own life.

I play Japanese taiko drum. I started about 12 years ago. I remember that about a year or so into my practice I felt like quitting. I’d learned all the basics. I could play some songs. But I noticed that my arm wouldn’t always move the right way when I willed it to and to this day, my bachi twirling is pretty sub par. I got discouraged by that and decided to quit several times.

For some reason I didn’t. I had a feeling I had plateaued. I was bored and frustrated but I convinced myself to continue. Then I started getting better again. I gained mastery over some techniques. Note that when I say mastery I mean that I became competent and could do this new thing reliably.

Then I started to get bored again! It took me awhile, but I realized that this was going to continue to happen. Once I relaxed into that, I started to appreciate more the small amounts of progress I made. And more importantly, I felt glad that there was so much more to learn, because I really love playing taiko!

That was a big mind shift. Being happy that I didn’t already know everything! The fun of learning and the excitement of increasing my mastery even a little bit. I don’t expect you to fall in love with getting better at organizing and pursue it with the zeal of a zen monk.

What I do suggest is giving yourself a break about not being there yet. If you are on the journey, you’re doing it. Every time you get back on the horse, you’re doing it. Your mastery is increasing and you can see the results. That’s what I want for you.

What can you do right now? If there’s a particular organizing skill you’ve been trying to master, or a habit you’re trying to form, look back and see how much progress you’ve made, and appreciate that. Even if it’s tiny, you can count it and let it pull you forward.