Podcast 091: Make your bed

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This is Podcast 91 and it’s about making your bed. First, I have an announcement. I’m going to start a group coaching program for productivity, time management, prioritizing, procrastination and decluttering. The format will be virtual so it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can still join in. I’ll conduct a live one hour session once a month about a topic, like procrastination.

Students will share what they are working on and I’ll offer real time help and accountability coaching. There will be a private Facebook group and email check ins. I’m launching this program with a special price of $99 a month with a three month commitment. Registration hasn’t started yet, but do contact me if you’re interested and I’ll put you on the list. I’m at Claire@cluttercoach.net.

Okay, on to the podcast. Here’s an excerpt from a commencement address given by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven a few years ago.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

I think that’s pretty inspiring.

Some of you may know that making the bed is one of the five simple steps you can take to create a relaxing bedroom, the subject of one of my books. The full title is Five Steps to a Relaxing Bedroom and you can find it on Amazon and on my website, cluttercoach.net.

First, making your bed really is one of those things that’s easy and quick to do but also has a satisfying payoff. It gives you a pleasing sense of accomplishment. Second, even if your day hasn’t been miserable, it may have been long and tiring. When all you want to do is lie down and rest, you feel more pampered when the bed is already made. It’s an act of kindness to do for yourself.

Third, those little tasks build up and create great progress. Just starting is much easier when it’s just making the bed. Once you’re in motion, it’s easier to keep going. You get over that initial hump, whether it’s resistance based on feeling that a task is too overwhelming or will take too long or isn’t high priority enough. After you start, those concerns drop away and the fulfillment of being in action takes over.

What are other ways you can make your bed, say, sitting at your desk tomorrow morning? To figure that out, look for tasks that are 1) fairly easy to do, 2) don’t take much time, 3) that you do regularly and 4) that you know will be substantially productive, either from past experience or because they need to be done to make progress on a project.

The first bit is important and often overlooked, although it seems so simple. Sometimes people avoid doing tasks because they truly don’t know how to do them, but more often it’s a matter of wording and scope. As I’ve mentioned before, many to do list items are too vague or are actually projects.

Say you have to generate a weekly report. It’s a pain in the neck and you don’t like to do it. It feels like pushing a boulder up a hill. But if you break it down into a series of small tasks, little steps, your resistance will be less. This could be creating a template that you plug information into. You can start gathering that information differently, putting it into a format that will fit into the template without extra work from you. And, one of my favorite time savers, stop relying on memory for what should happen next.

I use a template to do my podcast every week. Sometimes, I confess, I don’t really want to do it. Looking at the list of steps makes it feel much more doable. There are many steps, involving posting in different places and tagging and uploading images. But I know from previous experience that I know how to do all those things and they go quickly once I get started. Focusing on that list instead of letting my resistance take over helps a lot.

What you can do right now: think of some ways you can start making your bed tomorrow. Develop those habits and notice how much they help you and set you up for further success.

Podcast 082: Piggyback new habits

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Today is a historic day! My topic is Simple Way #52 , Piggyback new habits, and it’s the last chapter in the book. Yay! This is podcast #82 so I’ve done plenty of shows on content that isn’t in the book, probably another book worth.

To celebrate, how about a contest? The prize is a PDF copy of the book. You want to win this book! It will help you with your new year’s resolutions to get more organized and decluttered and use your time better, right? I know there are a lot of you out there who are getting value out of listening to my podcast. Over the last seven days, Soundcloud says I’ve had 2,943 plays! I love that. Thanks, guys.

Here’s the idea: Go to my Facebook page and write a sentence or two telling me what idea or technique you’ve learned from my podcast that’s been the most valuable to you. I’ll give away three copies of the ebook to people who write in, randomly chosen. Sound good? Go to Facebook and find me at Clutter Coach Claire. Good luck!

Okay, on to today’s topic. When you want to develop any new habit, it’s very helpful to piggyback it onto a current habit. That gives it some structure to lean on. It means you don’t have to start from 0.

Say you’re working on a new organizing habit, such as getting your personal mail handled daily, pair that up with a task you’re already in the habit of doing. This is a fairly low energy task, but it does take some time to do properly, so consider those requirements. Try attaching it to your dinner clean up. You tidy up the kitchen after dinner and then you go to your mail sorting spot and tidy that up to, as it were. If your home office is in the kitchen, all the easier to do.

A simpler example is starting to floss your teeth regularly. The most obvious habit to associate this with is brushing your teeth. If you’re not doing that every day, well, I can’t help you. Put your floss with the toothbrush and toothpaste as a visual reminder. The visual reminder and the pull of your regular brushing habit will make it easier to insert this new activity as part of your evening or morning routine.

When you’re in the habit of doing something, it actually feels odd not to do it. That’s the feeling you’re going for. You want not to think about it, to do it automatically.

At work, you might want to develop a habit of filing every week so there’s not so much paper clogging up your office all the time. You could tack this onto another habit or existing calendar item such as a weekly staff meeting. When you get back to your office from the meeting and before you start another activity, spend 10 minutes filing.

As with Simple Way #50, which I talked about in Podcast 68, you don’t have to start from scratch. Leverage your already installed habits. Let the existing habit be the reminder for the new habit. Once they become associated in your mind you will automatically do them both. That association is key. It’s what makes you feel incomplete if you don’t do both things.

Ingrained habits are one of the most powerful organizing tools you can have to make your life more organized. The time you save gives you more time to spend the way you want.

The less time you spend questioning whether you should do something is time that you save. That kind of decision making also depletes your energy.

The cool thing about developing new good habits is that you can use the same tendencies that make it hard to break bad habits. Humans tend to stick to the default. At so many points in our day, we need to make decisions. We have to automate many of them so we don’t feel overwhelmed.

When it’s a bad habit, that means defaulting to having another cup of coffee instead of seeking out a cup of tea or other beverage. We’re used to it and even if we don’t think it’s a great idea, it’s just much easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

When it’s a good habit, like knocking off some filing every week, we’re wearing a happy groove. The cue of returning to your desk from the weekly meeting eases you into that next step without resistance or rethinking.

Right now:

Choose a habit you want to develop and see which existing habit it makes most sense to link it to. Use visual cues as reminders.

Fewer decisions = more willpower

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Willpower takes energy. You can use it up and wear it out.

Guess what else uses up your energy? Decision making.

Any decision making. What scarf to wear, how much cereal to put in your bowl, what parking spot to choose. All the little decisions you make all day, every day, take energy.

So if you’re trying to make a change, develop a new habit, you need to save up that willpower to use on that, not waste it on mundane decision making.

What can you do? Find ways to automate decision making. There are decisions you can’t avoid, and ones that are fun to make, such as what to have for lunch. But plenty of others can be put on autopilot, such as a standard measure of the same cereal every day. This translates into a more automated shopping list too.

Another strategy is to give yourself fewer options. Choose 3-5 (this seems to be the magic range of options) favorite scarves for the month. You can choose a different set next month (or just get rid of those scarves you never wear).

Every morning, you’re only choosing between a small number and using less mental energy.

It’s been shown in studies that just thinking about options without having to choose between them is much less stressful. Try daydreaming about what you might have for lunch before you arrive at the decision point to prime yourself for an easy decision.

Pay attention as you go through your day and notice what decisions you make that you can avoid or restrict your options for.

The “just do it” habit

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I aim to get on the treadmill 3 times a week. Do I do it?

Well, there are some days when my schedule tramples that plan, and other days when I just can’t force myself into it. I do go most days, though, and that’s partly because I give myself permission to quit.

Once I get my workout clothes on, I’m likely to get out the door. Once I’m out the door, I’m likely to get to the gym. Once I’m at the gym, whatever I do is a win.

Even if I give myself permission to stop after just 10 minutes, I did 10 minutes. That’s far better than not going at all because I can’t put in the full 25 minutes.

How often do you put off exercise, or anything, because you can’t do it “right”? This is perfectionism, my friends. Avoid it at all costs!

Remember that done is better than perfect. Also, striving to stick to my 3 times a week routine, even if I don’t do the entire routine, helps reinforce that habit.

Habits are your friend

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What are the best habits? The ones that work for you.

Why do they work? Because they are tailored to you in all your quirky glory.

It’s said that the early bird gets the worm and that early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. But, frankly, I am not a morning person. Never have been.

When my mom woke me up for breakfast on school days she usually had to try several times. I slept like a corpse. By contrast, my sister was often awake already, before Mom came in the room.

But I’m a productive person and I get things done. So, there!

Figuring out what habits and strategies work best for you can be trial and error, or remembering back to a time when you were regularly successful. It can also help to do some self investigation about what kind of person you are. 

On her wonderful website, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes a lot about habits. In fact, she has a book about forming habits coming out next spring that sounds terrific. 

She has a bunch of quizzes that allow you to identify yourself as a certain type of person. Kind of like astrology, but more helpful. Actually, I always thought astrology was helpful in that it gave you a list of qualities you could accept or reject; another way of investigating yourself.

Knowing your “type” in various contexts can also help you know what advice to take and what advice just won’t work for you. In the first example, I’m an “owl.” All those healthy, wealthy and wise folks are “larks.” Good for them!

Knowing that I’m an owl, I am now free to ignore advice that says I will be more productive if I get up before everyone else and work without distraction. What would really happen is that I would stare blankly at the wall and space out, or feel grumpy and focus on wondering when I could take a nap. 

It’s after 10 pm as I’m writing this. :).

And now, a haiku:

Habit is your friend
Unobtrusive and helpful
Always there for you

Organize your bedroom

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magazine organizing basketWouldn’t it be delightful to walk into a serene, welcoming bedroom after a hard day’s work? It would invite you to relax and nothing else; nothing to put away, nothing to distract you from chilling out.

The way it is now:

The bed is unmade, clothes are slung over chairs and doorknobs, newspapers and magazine are on the floor, the bureau and nightstand are littered with stuff. People, this is not a room conducive to relaxation!

The good news:

I’m going to give you three quick and dirty tips to get that fancy hotel room feel in your bedroom. This isn’t the full-on, let’s organize overhaul I’d do for a client; you don’t have time for that. It’s just a way to experience how terrific it feels to be in an organized bedroom.

  1. Make the bed! The bed is the biggest piece of furniture in the room. If it’s disheveled, the entire bedroom looks disheveled. If you do only one thing, do this.Simplify your bed making by using a thick quilt or comforter that you can just twitch into place. Warm Things on College Avenue in Oakland always has great deals on comforters and covers.
  2. Hang the clothes. Getting dressed in the morning can be a challenge. To keep cast off clothing under control, install hooks on the back of the closet door, or inside wall. Get big ones, so you can hang a lot on there till you’ve got time to put them properly on hangers.Bonus: get another hamper for your closet if it’s too much trouble to take dirty clothes to your main hamper.
  3. Ditch the paper. Ideally, you want to round up all the newspapers and stick them in the recycling (instead of fooling yourself that you’re going to have time to read them later). Station a big, decorative basket near your bedroom door for that purpose. If you can’t bear to throw them all out, get another container for next to the bed, not on top of the nightstand.Containerizing is one of your best weapons against clutter. Check out local favorite Cost Plus near Jack London Square for baskets galore.

Christine Arylo on self love, success and clutter

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Creating an organized space makes it easier for you to lay your hands on the things you need and helps you be more effective because you now have time for the important stuff. It's also an essential part of taking care of the most valuable person in your life, yourself. Christine Arylo, coach and author of the new book, Choosing ME Before WE, graciously took some time from her book promotion schedule (you can hear her speak on June 2nd at 7pm in Oakland at Great Good Place for Books) to do an interview for my blog.

Christine is also an inspirational catalyst who uses the power of self-love to help people liberate themselves into the life they really want… or as she likes to say “Dare to Live and Love YOU!” 

Clutter Coach:
Sometimes clutter results from not deciding where to put things, or just not spending the time to put them away. It's a common problem. But what if you're using clutter as an excuse not to move forward in your life, or to insulate you from discomfort?

Christine_Chair_Cropped Christine:
The clutter we surround ourselves with is the symptom, it’s not the disease itself. The clutter is the outcome of something deeper going on within ourselves, and often times it’s protecting us from something we don’t want to be with… or it’s slowing us down from actually getting what we really want in life. If you have a clutter filled life, you have to stop and ask yourself, “What is behind this clutter? What is it a symptom of? What inside of me am I not willing to be with or look at?” And then attack that problem. The clutter will clear itself up from there. If you only attack the clutter without addressing the underlying issue, the clutter will just keep coming back.

Clutter Coach:
It can be scary to commit to a goal like getting organized if it's a big shift from where you are now. Who will you be once you're organized? Will you lose your creativity? How do you deal with the identity issues that come up with any major change, no matter how positive?

One simple fact: structure actually creates more freedom not less. When you have form and structure in your life – such as getting organized – you create more space and that creates more freedom, not less. And within freedom, you are inherently more yourself, not less.  This lifetime is about letting go of all the ‘stuff’ that isn’t really who we are – fears, society expectations, bad training, ego, obligations, etc. – so that we can be free to be who we really are. If you can keep that perspective, that your life is a series of steps that brings you closer to your truest essence, it’s a lot easier to take each change one step at a time, stopping to integrate what you’ve learned about yourself along the way.

Clutter Coach:
Habits can be ruts we get into that prevent us from seeing what's really going on, or they can be welcome time-savers that allow us to focus on the important stuff. How can we become aware of our habits so we can evaluate them clearly and choose the positive ones?

Notice what continually works well and what doesn't. Then look for the patterns that cause those results. That is where you will find your habits. Obviously, if your habits are producing good results, keep doing them. For the habits that create unpleasant or unwanted results, it’s time to create a new habit, so you need to cut a new internal rut. Literally, you have to retrain your brain to act differently, to follow a different pathway. It takes time but if you treat it like building a new muscle, it can be a lot of fun. The following four step process is one that I use with all my clients and with myself:

  1. Awareness:  You see the truth of your behavior and the outcome it produces. You take responsibility and commit to change.
  2. Reflection:  You still do the habit, but afterwards, you look back and say, “Oh, I did that again. Here is what happened. Next time, I would like to do …”
  3. Change in the Moment:  You notice the habit while you are doing it and you interrupt it, choosing instead to do something new.
  4. Integration: The old habit has been replaced with a new habit, and you no longer have to think about it.

Clutter Coach:
How can becoming accepting and loving of ourselves help us battle that sneaky little demon, perfectionism?

Success begets success, so when you feel good about yourself you will naturally create more things that result in you feeling good about yourself.  Perfectionism never leads to success, only distress, so it’s a habit you want to give up for sure! You can do that by doing two things. 1. Set realistic expectations for yourself that you can meet. 2. When you meet them, celebrate! The more you acknowledge your small wins the more they will add up to big wins. Before I go to bed each night I actually say out loud at least 5 successes I had that day. It sounds so simple, and it really does make a difference.

Clutter Coach:
What's your personal favorite organizing trick?

If it doesn't have a place to go, find it a home. I notice that
whether it’s my email box or my desk, what causes clutter more than
anything are those things that are homeless. So I immediately create a
place for them to go – whether it’s a new email folder on my computer
or in my filing cabinet.

If you find yourself living among clutter, working harder not smarter, or running around like an energizer bunny gone mad, your life is running you, instead of you living it. Don't feel bad, you’re not alone – we’ve been conditioned to live that way. But do be smart and realize that you need to learn some new habits, skills and super powers to deal with the realities of the 21st century. Also be smart enough to find people and resources that can guide you – none of us can do it alone!

About Christine Arylo
A new kind of self-love expert, Christine Arylo, inspirational catalyst, traded in twelve years of creating powerful images for brands like Visa and Gap, to inspire people to bust through their limiting self-images and self-expectations. As an author, speaker, and coach, Arylo is an expert at helping people to get the success and happiness they want by living and loving their most real and wise selves first. She is the author of Choosing ME Before WE, Every Woman’s Guide to Life and Love, and the founder of the international Madly in Love with ME™ movement. She has appeared on national television and syndicated radio shows across the country, and her opinions have been featured in places like the San Francisco Chronicle, Glam.com and Daily Om.

Don't Put Off Shredding

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Here's chapter three of my new book. Every Wednesday there's a new chapter. You can read them here, or buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #3

Almost every day you get mail
that’s got sensitive information in it that should be shredded. Don’t
stack it up somewhere to shred later! Shred
it right away.
Otherwise, you end up with a shopping bag full
and the idea of sitting next to the shredder for an hour is not very
attractive (it’ll be too loud for you to watch TV at the same time).
Get a quality shredder (one that won’t jam or freak out over staples)
and put it where you usually sort mail and paper. Then you can shred as
you go.

What you shred depends on your personal comfort level. Some people like
to shred anything with their name and address on it, but that’s a lot
of work and will not do much to protect your identity. The important items to shred are
ones with your signature, social security number or any account number
(this includes credit card offers). Additionally, anything with legal
or medical information about you should be shredded.

Right now:
If you haven’t gone through today’s
mail, look at it now and see if you can find something that needs
shredding. Then shred it!


Quick Decluttering Tip

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Decluttering, also known as getting rid of stuff you don’t want or need, is something you should do every day. Tossing out the junk mail counts; I’m not talking about clearing out your closet. It’s a good idea to do it everyday because then you get in the habit and don’t have to think about it so much. You also become attuned to looking for clutter to get rid of.

Important point: each time you declutter an area, look at it long and hard. Memorize the way it looks. Make a mental snapshot of what is there. This will help you see at a glance what doesn’t belong so you can get rid of it.

Very often, clients call me when the clutter level has gotten so high they’re lucky they found the telephone. They’re not lazy or messy, but they don’t have the habit of dealing with clutter when it’s new. It’s such a small amount every day, they reason, it seems perfectly okay to handle it some other time. Then, before that day comes around, they realize that those small bits of clutter have congealed into a solid, sticky mass. Uh oh.

You probably already know where your clutter gathering spots are. Typical ones are the kitchen counter (the gorgeous recycled glass counter shown above is from Vetrazzo), the dining table, the foyer table and your desk. Try this: go to your favorite clutter cache and pick up three things. Now, do the right thing with each one, whether that’s recycling it, putting it away (if you’re keeping it, it needs a real place to live), giving it back to its owner or tossing it out.

Another way to do this is to get in the habit of handling one thing each time you pass a clutter nook. Still another way is to go around to all the cluttered areas with a big box and loading everything into it. Then, sit down somewhere where you have sorting room and go through everything. Then walk around putting everything away.

Choose a method that appeals to you, or try them all. They all have the same end result: decluttering.

My new organizing guide is here!

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Cover-2Here’s the press release.

Oakland, CA. On May 11, 2015, Claire Tompkins, the Clutter Coach, released her new book, Five Minutes to a Relaxing Bedroom, on Amazon. Compact and to the point, this book is designed to be read quickly and acted upon immediately, like an instruction manual.

No one has any time anymore and that’s not likely to change. Yet, we all want our homes, and particularly our bedrooms, to be peaceful, uncluttered refuges from the pace of modern life. This book is how.

The book is a quick read. It’s not A to Z organizing; it gets straight to the point. You can read the book, put it down, and start using the techniques in your bedroom right away. There’s no learning curve. Real-time practice is what gets results.

Pull quote:

“Your eyes want to rest. They’re done with input for the day. They want harmony and calm so that all you need to think about is, well, nothing. You know how relaxing it feels to go into a nice hotel room, or a beautiful guest room? That’s what you’re aiming for.”

There are many good, comprehensive organizing books on the market, but their scope can be intimidating. This book focuses on a single room, the one you spend the most time in; the bedroom.

Getting and staying organized requires actual hands-on doing, not reading or planning. This book is a training manual. If you can master the five simple habits in the book, you are set to tackle a larger organizing project.

Habits can be simple but not easy. For that reason, the scope of the book is small; just one room. It may not seem like much, but mastering a few small changes and integrating them into your life is actually a big deal. Taking on a small amount at a time is important for success.

Activities done habitually get done faster and almost automatically over time. That means more time for fun!


Claire Tompkins is a professional organizer and clutter coach in Oakland, CA. Her clients over the past 15 years include architects, stay at home moms, writers, entrepreneurs and more. She has been blogging since 2006 and has posted numerous articles and guest posts online, and has written a guide called “52 Simple Ways to Get Organized” available on her site at www.cluttercoach.net.