Criticism is often embraced like the gospel truth, eating away at our confidence and self-worth. Yet why is it hard for some of us to accept compliments? Do you cringe or deflect praise? Or do you lap it up? What’s all this got to do with organizing.? Read on.Read More
In alignment with my upcoming workshop at New Renaissance Bookshop in NW Portland on August 1 at 7:00 pm, it inspired me to think about ways to convey the message for those who are too far away to attend or whose schedules will not permit attendance. This month’s blog is a cursory exploration of the energy of our stuff. For those who register for the event, they will receive a hands-on demonstration of the impact of our possessions, ways to sift through and disentangle ourselves. If you are a fan of the New Renaissance Bookshop and/or wish to learn more about the physical and emotional energy of stuff affects us, please join me on Thursday, August 1 at 7:00 pm.
Have you ever walked into someone’s home and the atmosphere was charged with energy? The vibes might have been celebratory from recent graduation festivities or darkly tense owing to a feverish fight. Two images pop into my mind when I think about the energy of places. The first is my husband’s late grandmother’s home. Her warmth and light radiated throughout her surroundings. Oh, the aromas of her freshly baked breads. She ALWAYS apologized for not having food in her home when we arrived. Then she disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a platter of cinnamon bread, zucchini bread, and nut bread. Heavenly. I loved visiting.
A less pleasant image is the heaviness that I feel stepping off an airplane when I travel from the west coast to one particular airport on the east coast. Walking down the jetway, I notice constricting in my shoulders, neck and stomach muscles. The agitated sensory overload is striking. The intensity is foreboding. Oddly, the same reaction occurred as I was typing this paragraph.
Energy is all around us. Well duh. We learned in elementary school about atmospheric energy resulting in lightning, thunder, cataclysmic winds, tidal waves, and merging tectonic plates jarring the earth. Natures forces at work.
Now let’s scale it back to a more micro level. Homes. Rooms. Desktops. Sofas. Knickknacks. A stuffed animal. What’s that energy like? I have a stuffed bear that sits upon my dresser. Why this place of honor? Three times a year for 2 years, I zipped along lonely stretches of highways (sounds like song lyrics) from the east coast to the midwest for grad school. My bear, my co-pilot sat seat-belted in the passenger seat keeping me company. I serenaded him with songs on FM radio until reception was lost and regained. As semis passed and drivers noticed the bear, they would tug on their pull-cord horns, and with hand gestures signal for me to ride in their wake which conserved fuel for this budget conscious student. The jetstream made my car feel as if it were floating. Honestly, I totally forgot about that last part until I started typing this blog. See the energy and memories that were stored in that bear?
Can you feel the difference in the 2 photos? Stare intently at each one. Do you notice any sensations? My shoulders and neck sure did. I want to jump into the screen and straighten up the first desk. That’s what neatniks do. Conversely, I feel a sense of serenity as I look at the Scandinavian modern desk, the surface that is actually visible. I can imagine wafting scents from the diffuser. Clary Sage, Sandalwood, Patchouli rich with properties to reduce anxiousness.
Is the bottom photo too barren for you? Keeping a surface that clear might not be reality or it may create a sense of discomfort. I find that happens with clients who need the security of stuff. Objects provide a blanket that keeps them safe. Until…
Close your eyes. Imagine it’s a cold night with a furnace on the fritz. You nestle under a blanket. But you can’t get warm. So you fetch another blanket, then another, then another cocooning yourself until you finally feel the warmth of all those layers as you drift off. During the night the heater eventually kicks on still malfunctioning now sending the thermostat to a searing 98 degrees. You awake in a sweat, deeply entangled in those blankets attempting to free yourself from the mummy-wrap. It won’t loosen. What does that feel like? Smothering? Suffocating? Helpless? We look for comfort from our things. Our blankets, stuffed animals, photos, crafts, clothing accessories. And they do provide a yummy sense of comfort when they’re in balance. But like everything when the scales tip, they can make us uncomfortable. Interestingly, sometimes we don’t notice our discomfort until triggered like the thermostat example.
Thanksgiving. The appetizers, entrees, desserts, beverages beckon. We want to try them all. Are you the type to sample little bites of each dish or indulge with luscious portions of your Thanksgiving favorites? Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, wine, pies, coffee or tea. You might wander back for seconds maybe even thirds. You stop indulging when you feel sated. Then Aunt Louise arrives with her coveted chocolate satin pie drizzled with chocolate sauce and artistically arranged dollops of whipped cream. Rich, velvety, and like hell you’re going to say “no” unless chocolate is not your thing. So you take a few bites. Then the sedative effects of the turkey’s tryptophan, alcohol, and coma-inducing sugar steal your oomph. Time to loosen the buttons on your pants to accommodate the bloating and queasiness and fight off head bob’s as you pretend to engage in conversation. Too much of a good thing eh? How quickly we go from comfort and enjoyment to overdoing.
If you are a collector the same thing can happen at home. You wake up literally and figuratively one day realizing that the amount of accumulated stuff is stifling, free space is limited or non-existent. Possessions own the house while we clamor for space among the clutter. When this happens it is time for an energy shift.
What is the energy like in your home? Is it welcoming and embracing like a gentle hug or does it make you wish you were somewhere else? Your home should be your favorite or at least one of your favorite destinations.
Try this experiment even if your home is not overrun with objects. Keep in mind that all of our possessions have either a positive, negative, or neutral energy.
For one week, each time you walk into a room, pick up one object. Just one at a time. Hold it. Feel it. Does it evoke memories? Do you feel any physiological reactions? Racing heartbeat? Muscle tension? Or a smile?
Listen to your head, heart, and gut
How does that item make you feel? Caveat, we all retain some things that are non-negotiables. These are items that not only don’t bring us joy, but harbor negative energy yet we have to keep them. Tax records are certainly at the top of that list if you retain paper copies. Thank you IRS for encouraging at least 7 years of clutter. Personally, I believe each year should be a one and done, but that’s my 2 cents (and what can that buy these days?? Nada). As you wander you might find a piece of jewelry that reminds you of your first crush flooding you with warm feelings of desire. That may be a keeper. Alternatively, if any negotiable objects (i.e., not tax documents) give you the creeps, churn your stomach, and raise your blood pressure but you have kept them out of guilt or obligation, it might be time for a rethink. Do you want your home to be a repository of guilt, negativity, and physiological warfare?
Grab an empty box or bag and place each item that makes you feel bad into the box or bag. However, please note, that if the item belongs to someone else in your household check in with them before disposing otherwise, leave it be. When the receptacle is full, sort for sale, donation, recycling, or trash. You might need more than one receptacle if you are truly desiring an energy shift in your home. The process may also take longer than a week. But by spreading it out, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed. If you have the time, you can set aside a few hours or a whole day and concentrate on one space in a room, one room, or a few rooms depending upon your unique situation.
4. The neutrals
Most of the items will likely be neutrals for which you believe you have no emotional attachment but they serve a purpose. Yet on a deeper level, if these things make your life simpler, say a knife that cuts your food, then their energy may be more positive than you think. Not sure, think of the converse, unless you wish to use your fingers to savagely rip your food apart in front of your spouse’s boss, then the knife may actually be a positive. The same with the snow shovel or the laundry basket. When you come across anything that you have no idea why you keep because you have used it only once since you married 35 years ago, then maybe it’s time to say “au revoir.”
To me, the art of organizing is getting in touch with what is truly important to us for attaining and retaining, then determining optimal placement for those objects to enhance our productivity, enjoyment, and relaxation. If an item does not serve some sort of purpose (which includes making us feel good), then determine ways to dispose in the most socially and or environmentally responsible way. Sorry to say, sometimes the landfill is the only option. What that means is we should be mindful about end results before purchasing whenever possible.
Organizing is really that simple. Personally, if anything in my home is wreaking of negativity, it is not welcome here (aside from the tax documents).
Create the energy in your home that makes you feel marvelous.
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Do you frequently miss deadlines? Are milestones unnerving? Do you struggle to stay on track?
Let’s end the frustration. When facing a big project or pesky tasks with or without a deadline looming, try this. Find a calendar buddy. What’s a calendar buddy? That’s someone who will allow you to share their calendar for accountability. When you are accountable to someone else, you are more likely to view the assignment more earnestly.
I encourage my clients who are struggling to cart away their discard items to schedule dates on their calendars. Pencil in upcoming household hazardous waste (HHW), E-waste, and shred events. Load filled donation boxes into their cars so the next time they pass their favorite charity store, they can drop off the goods. But what happens when intentions are bonafide, but follow-through is problematic?
When commitments are made to straighten up closets, garage, or pantry but they concede uncertainty about their ability to complete the assignment, I suggest adding the task to my E-calendar. I am impressed by the success as this process sets up a new level of accountability. In exchange for posting on my calendar, I let them know that I will be treating this as if it is a “REAL” billable appointment. There is the expectation that they will be present, and that I am depending upon them. As they do not wish to let me down (or themselves), they have been diligent about completing their assignments.
There have been cases where extenuating circumstances have arisen, and we have rescheduled. Those situations have been rare, and they have had the forethought to inform me that changes were necessary. This warms my heart because it means they are not just blowing it off. To keep them on track, my calendar sends auto-reminders to them. The first goes out at the time the appointment is set to let them know it’s official and the cost of my time if they were billed. Another is sent a week before the due date, then 24 hours ahead, and then on the due date as a final “you’ve got this.” We all need reminders, some of us need more than others. Sometimes they beat the calendar and send me excited messages letting me know that they are celebrating a big win and a sigh of relief.
You may think it is silly to get jazzed over something so trivial as a donation run, but I have to say that it truly is a major feat for someone who has been staring at items for months, maybe years not sure how to take the first step, and unable to make a move. When they finally get those boxes or bags out of their space, the relief is palpable and shedding that excess weight allows them to enjoy their work surfaces, their rooms, their homes with greater appreciation.
As for me, you can bet I am either celebrating along side them or virtually because it is a notable win for me too because it means they “get it” and with this new skill set they will continue to do so. And if they need a tune-up in the future, they know I will be there for them to help make readjustments.
See if you have a willing calendar accountability buddy when task accomplishment is just too darn big and uncomfortable. If possible, select someone who will be gentle, non-judgmental but firm with you. No sense in making you feel bad or letting you off the hook too easily. Then treat them to a steamy latte or an icy margarita at the project’s conclusion to share your appreciation and success.
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Where is away when it comes to our trash? Well, surely not in my backyard (NIMBY)! Obviously none of us wants a landfill near our homes but trash has to go somewhere. The less we produce and the more we reduce, then less is disposed.
As many of us clean up and clear out this spring, recycling and waste reduction guru Betty Shelley provides us some insight into how we can best honor Mother Earth during this Earth Day month while also reducing our environmental footprint in a way that saves us time, money, and peace of mind. Betty has so much useful knowledge to share with us all. Enjoy this month's Practical Sort's blog interview with Betty Shelley.Read More
For $1 million would you give up everything you own for 21 days, sleep naked on a bare floor, and run au naturel through the streets to carry on with your day?
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