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Once upon a time, there were no professional organizers.

When I started my business, in 1974, I knew of only one other person who found it as much fun as I did to set up filing systems and bookshelves and calendars. And this suited me just fine as I was/am nothing if not creative with my interests.

I had the most fun creating organizational systems for slightly neurotic people, i.e., clients whose idiosyncrasies led them to require unusual or innovative approaches. It was always challenging and rewarding to create new ways of pulling things together.

From these experiences, I distilled the basics of a personality-directed approach that ultimately became my Styles Approach to Organizing and now the Time and Space Style Inventory (TSSI).

Although I’m no longer an active organizer, I’m still fascinated by the profiles of organizer clients. What makes them tick? Why is one system or product better for them than another? How do you know EXACTLY what you or your client needs?

Fortunately, we have learned a lot more about human nature and specific profiles (such as hoarding and ADD) since the 70’s. I’ve loved seeing the progress. But there’s new research coming out all of the time.

Are YOU aware of your tendencies, preferences, and needs? Do you pay attention to what works in managing your time and space? Are you using the information available to design systems and choose products that match who you are? Are you current in your assessment?

The TSSI is a great tool to use to answer these questions. I’m very proud of my part in its development and am excited to see it beginning to become mainstream. When you have the opportunity, go to http://sanespaces.com/prm/tssifree/  and see what’s available now to help you out.

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Summer was  always my favorite time of the year for treasure hunting with the kids. And what kind of treasure were we after, you might ask. Answer: The treasures to be found inside our own house.

My readers know that I’m a big advocate of updating your life regularly so you stay current with yourself. One way of doing this is to explore your home to see what items no longer resonate with you, which is basically a clearing-out activity. Another way is to unearth items that you haven’t thought about in ages and experience the forgotten pleasures of reconnecting with something that still gives you joy.

I love doing this with children because their expressions of delight are so genuine. Watch their faces when they come across a forgotten book or toy that they loved and still love. My daughter, Lauren, was once going through an under-the-bed drawer and opened a box full of memorabilia from her grandfather who had passed away a few years before. I will always cherish the memory of the way she gently picked out his pocket watch and pressed it against her cheek.

Many of the wonderful things that we find have to do with special relationships with family, friends or pets. In my Organizing for the Spirit workshops, I used to have people bring in their treasures and was amazed at the variety which ranged from a collection of valor medals from World War II to a tiny china cup and saucer, to a picture of a very happy puppy. There was an audiotape of a band and chorus belting out, “When the Saints Come Marching In”, a wooden fish, an artificial orchid and a beach plum from Cape Cod.

In doing our family treasure hunting, I was also teaching the kids the value of revisiting their stuff regularly to assess how they’d grown and changed and how to understand how their stuff related to them today. This turned out to be an invaluable exercise in helping them prepare for the many moves they’ve undertaken since they left for college. I especially enjoy now seeing how they’ve decorated their own homes to reflect who they are at this moment in time.

So start when they’re young, do it regularly, and make sure that you, too, make time for treasure hunting. You’ll better appreciate the value and meaning of possessions that represent the best that life has to offer.

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it's never too late

Do you think that age 72 is too late to start over? Why? Why not?

A friend of mine is doing just that. It’s not by choice, but she’s grabbing hold of life with both hands and believing that she can re-make it into what she needs and wants it to be.

I’ve watched her evolve from someone who was seriously co-dependent and who suffered from extreme tunnel vision into a person who believes that anything is possible if you listen to your intuition and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even if you need two knee replacements to continue doing it.

My answer to just about every question these days is “Why not?” I truly don’t know what my limitations are and I don’t see why I should close off options that I’m not even aware of yet. Sure I may choose not to pursue something, but I rarely say “I can’t” anymore.
And yet, that was my default position when I was younger. If the question was too big, or if I was afraid of going down that road, I’d decline, purely on the basis of fear and supposed logic. Well, “what if…?” I would ask myself or whomever. “What if any of these million and one things that could go wrong DO go wrong? What then?”

And now this strikes me as very funny. I don’t know whether it’s my life experiences or my age or my understanding of the nature of things, but this is definitely funny now. The answer is, of course, “SO WHAT?” What IF something or everything goes wrong? Unless you’re in a life or death situation, how much does it matter?

For me, it always comes back to how much control I have in a given situation. If I have control, well then, I can exercise it. And if I don’t, then why spin my wheels? And if I exercise control, and something doesn’t work out the way I want it to, I can detach from that outcome and try something else.

Anything is possible, but I’ll never know what can happen if I don’t give it a shot.

And that’s why it’s never too late. My husband found his life’s passion at 57. I only began to think of myself as a writer at 63. My aunt started sculpting at 90.

It’s not about your age; it’s about understanding the purpose of your life here on earth.

If you believe that your purpose is to grow and thrive, as opposed to just survive, you’ll understand that there is no such thing as “too old”. Sure, you will encounter physical limitations, but you can keep your mind active and live in the present and get excited by just about anything, and that will always bring you to somewhere you’ve never been before.

This is my “why not?” philosophy and I don’t know of a better way to say it. It keeps me from judging and becoming cynical and jaded. It keeps me young and optimistic and hopeful about what I can do and enjoy and contribute.

Does any other way of living make more sense?

It’s never too late!

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It’s vital to know what brings you delight.

Now doesn’t that sound obvious? But when you’re busy, recalling what delights you or making time to experience those things is generally not at the top of your list.

I used to really enjoy the exercise in my Organizing for the Spirit workshop, when I told the group that we were going to make a list of 100 Things That Make You Smile. I was usually met with a roomful of deer-in-the-headlight looks as people responded with, “I don’t know if I can come up with 10 things, much less 100!”

I asked them, “When was the last time you tried to answer the question of what makes you smile?”

“Never?” was the general answer. And yet, if you had been asked when you were eight years old, you could have listed 100 with no problem.

Allowing yourself 20 minutes now to make this simple list is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Sit down with a pen and piece of paper and number 1 – 100. Then start writing. List ANYTHING that makes you smile, from watching your children sleep at night to Damn You Auto-Correct; ocean sunsets to sex; playing cards to playing tennis. Drawing, reading, cooking, time with friends. Wine. Puppies.

Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else to write. Then just repeat the last thing you wrote until something else occurs to you. Keep writing. When you’re stuck, repeat. Somewhere, at some number, you’ll have a breakthrough and remember things you used to love, that you still love, but that you’d forgotten about. Maybe they’re activities that you haven’t made the time to do anymore.

When you’re up to one hundred, stop. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of repeats.

A little later, go through your list and estimate how long it takes to “do” each item. Some will take only a minute or so, like rubbing your pet’s belly, and others, like a trip around the world, will take longer. Put the estimated time next to the item and open your planner book or program.

Then, put a few of the things that make you smile into your schedule. Mark them with a highlighter, and then see how long it takes for you to scratch them out because of someone else’s priority. 😉

This is probably what will happen until you realize that creating/scheduling time for what brings you pleasure is ESSENTIAL to your well-being. You don’t always get to have a balance between what you need to do and want to do, but you’ve got to give yourself a fighting chance!

Start small, if necessary, but make it a habit. Learn what makes you smile today, and act as if you’re as much a priority as anyone else on your To Do list. Your spirit will thank you!

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Trust life preserver4
A number of years ago, a series of unexpected events tossed me out of life Cruise mode, and into the cold rapids of uncharted reality. A good friend counseled me to grab onto the only thing I could–my faith that things would work out the way they were supposed to–and just hang on. In other words, use trust as my life preserver.

I’ve never forgotten this advice, and fortunately haven’t had to use it too often. But every time I do, I’m both amazed at and comforted by its power to get me through whatever requires navigation.

Crises test our beliefs, and I’m pretty sure that they occur when they do as a way of showing us what we’re made of; they make us walk our talk and demonstrate how far we’ve come since the last time our foundation was shaken. We’d much rather do without them, of course, but handled correctly, they can lift us to the next level of our growth.

Crises can range from small, unpleasant surprises to (literally) earth-shattering events. We may just be knocked off-balance, or thrown to the ground. But in every case, our feelings of security are at least momentarily derailed. And that’s what can prove to be so terrifying.

“This isn’t supposed to be happening,” we tell ourselves. “I didn’t bargain for this; I didn’t plan for it. I did everything I was supposed to do and knew how to do. It isn’t fair.” We’ve all experienced the shock and disbelief of events occurring, big or little, for which we don’t feel prepared. Our first reaction probably is to fight the unwelcome reality, but our success in dealing with it will, in large part, depend on how quickly we can move to the next stage–acknowledgement.

With acknowledgement comes the acceptance that yes, the event has indeed occurred. We are no longer on the boat; we are in the rapids. And we have a choice: we can resist by frantically attempting to swim backwards, or we can flow with the current and see what our options are. And to flow or float, we need a life preserver.

By accepting trust as that life preserver, we’ve enabling ourselves to relax and assess the situation without wasting all of our energy flailing about. We need that energy, and all of our wits about us, because sometimes we’re tossed overboard for a reason that’s not immediately apparent. Very often there’s something hidden in the depths that can be of use to us, but when we refuse to accept that a change or reversal has happened, we limit our ability to learn or develop or benefit from the knowledge we gain.

If you can trust that things do often happen for a reason, you’re in a position to see them from a different perspective, and look for whatever messages there might be for you.

I’ve found that many times we settle for what we think we can get, instead of going after what we really want. Or we underestimate our talents, or value, and don’t utilize those assets that would be so helpful to others. Or we assume that we know how things are supposed to work out, and ignore messages to the contrary. And, therefore we need to be tossed into the river from time to time in order to shake up our perceptions, and ultimately move forward.

Sometimes the message is that we should be doing things differently. Maybe we need to appreciate certain things more. Or certain people. Maybe we’re being told that our timing is not right. Maybe we have to learn the value of patience, or honesty, or kindness, self-love or humor. Maybe we just have to learn to weather adversity with dignity and faith.
We’re all here to learn our own special lessons and we can do so, much more easily and with more grace, if we heed those messages. At the very least, we should “look” for positive information in whatever form it might come. Not every cloud has that silver lining, but we’ll never find what could be there if we don’t seek it out.

Having trust doesn’t mean that everything will necessarily work out the way you want it to. Having trust does mean that you know that you are being supported through your ordeal, and that if you are patient and perceptive, you’ll find a way to persevere. You’ll come out stronger, maybe wiser, and hopefully with a greater sense of peace.

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