Tips and musings on organizing your way from chaos to calm

Letting Go

August 13th, 2013

One of the keys to organizing is being ready to let go. It’s not just about letting go of objects, but of the possibilities the objects represented. The paint set you “meant” to use, the shirt you thought you would wear somewhere. etc.  The person you meant to be.

Sometimes letting go can feel like giving up. When you let go of things hanging around that no longer reflect your current interests, you are making space for new opportunities, new passions to pursue.

So let go, lighten up, and enjoy today!

ADHD and Avoidance

July 20th, 2012

You might have noticed that it’s July (late July in fact) and I haven’t blogged here since February.  I love writing and, as an ADHD person, never have a shortage of ideas. So what gives?

Perfectionism and anxiety, those same 2 nasty culprits that seem too often to rear their ugly heads.

I tell myself things like, “You need at least 2 hours to sit down and write this,” which isn’t particularly realistic when you’re the mom of a 3.5 year-old. Or I hem and haw over the “best” topic to write about and have difficulty navigating my way through all of the thoughts floating around in my brain.

In my mind, I’ve written 3 books on the topic of organization, including one specifically around ADHD. In practice, I have a head full of ideas, a relatively neglected organizing blog, and zero books. Even typing this makes me feel ashamed, I admit. I can’t believe how time has passed and how long I’ve been making excuses about something I truly love to do. The irony is incredibly funny and painful at the same time.

So much of the frustration of being ADHD is knowing you have the ability to do something (and the desire) while simultaneously struggling to follow through on that very goal.  Reminds me of the title of a great book on ADD, “You Mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?”

It’s not that I’m not productive. In fact, I’m one of the busiest and most productive people I know.   There’s much more, though,that I would really like to be doing.  As my 40th birthday approaches (slowly, slowly), I’m beginning to panic ever so slightly about all that is yet to do – that I still want to do.  Deep down I believe I could excel in about 10 different careers, ranging from district attorney to stand-up comedian.  Currently, I’m balancing about 3 – professional organizer, gluten-free consultant, and mom.  Still, though,  I know I spend too much of my time on the unimportant, urgent stuff and not nearly enough time on my passions and activities that  give my life  meaning.

I suppose we all feel overwhelmed in many ways. It’s the nature of the beast.  Yet, ADHD compounds that feeling to the point where you are truly running in place. When you’re ADHD the reasons for poor follow-through are many: lack of mindfulness, perfectionism, anxiety, distractiblity, difficulty with impulse control, and a love of interest, variety, and complexity. I find at times that even washing a sink full of dishes is too boring so I need to stop half way through, do something else, and come back to it 20 minutes later.

The shame and anxiety also make it hard to be honest about my struggles. Here I am, a professional organizer with a doctoral degree, and yet I struggle with some of the very same challenges my clients do! My house isn’t cluttered, true enough. But my mind is, and the frustration I feel about my lack of progress on my professional and personal goals is palpable and depleting at times. I try to remind myself what I tell the people I help – that I’m a finite resource, I don’t need to please others, it’s okay to be imperfect, it’s not too late, my life is full of love and meaning even if I do nothing else, and I am more than my flaws and weaknesses.

I also tell my clients that the best antidote to anxiety is action.  The more I wait and worry and self-criticize about my lack of blog posts, the more I guarantee that I will feel more anxiety, worry, and even self-loathing.  You know, “What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I just…?”  So, I’m doing it.  Blogging my way out of shame and into the satisfaction of knowing that if I give myself permission to be imperfectly me, I CAN get things done!  Now, how about you?


Image courtesy of

Free Shredding at Staples – Limited Time!

February 14th, 2012

Got free shredding? 

Staples does – at least through February 29th!

For a limited time, you can bring up to 5 pounds of shredding to Staples and their partner, Iron Mountain, will shred it for you at no cost.   That’s right.  FREE.

Happy shredding!

Got late night anxiety?

January 21st, 2012

Look familiar?

Trouble sleeping or staying asleep? 

Here is some excellent common sense advice on how to prevent or manage ADHD-fueled late night insomia.   Great info for ANYONE who suffers from insomnia or has difficulty falling back to sleep due to too many thoughts or anxiety.

It reminds me, once again, of how important the mind-body connection is.  Wishing you restful sleep!

Photo by graur codrin

The Think Big and Do Bigger Challenge – Big Thing #1

November 16th, 2011

Last month I launched the Think Big and Do Bigger Challenge.  I committed  to setting a goal each month and sharing the outcome with you.  As my clients often tell me, getting started is the hardest part.  That certainly was true for me.

I spent the first week of the month trying to decide what “Big Thing” I would even do.  My husband suggested I write the Table of Contents for an organizing book I’ve been talking about writing.  “Too big right now,” I told him.  “This has to be both big AND attainable within a busy one month period.  Being realistic about my time and mental energy feels increasingly important, especially if I want to set myself up for success.  “Big” is not necessarily time-consuming or complex.

Finally, a light bulb went off as I thought about what would give me more peace of mind AND has been on my To Do list far too long: completing Emergency Preparedness Kits for my family.  Not having done this by now has been a source of shame, guilt, and embarrassment for me.  I’m a professional organizer after all.  I’ve published articles on emergency preparedness and given talks on it.  I’ve helped my clients make their own kits.  Well, you know what they say about the shoemakers kids.  And so it goes.

Now that I’m a mom, I knew it was time to get serious about being prepared for anything.  It took me about another 2 weeks to write my list and go shopping.  I bought a bright purple 60 gallon bin for our house, and 2 smaller ones for the cars, and all the supplies I didn’t already have at home.  I pulled into my driveway feeling lighter, brighter, and more in control.  All good things.

Initially, I was frustrated with my pace.  Wasn’t I procrastinating by waiting til the end of the month to get this done?  Somehow taking too long felt like a kind of failure, too.  Second light bulb moment:  I wouldn’t have gotten this done at all without the Think Big and Do Bigger Challenge. You know why?  By publicizing my intention I created accountability. The perfectionist in me cringes at over-promising and under-delivering, so by publicizing my goal I knew I would be more likely to do it.  Now my mind feels more at ease and  my family is safer.  Big sigh of relief.

I’m half way into my next big thing, and I’m overjoyed at what I’ve accomplished so far, but you’ll have to check in again next month to to make sure I finish.  I need you to keep me on my toes!   Try doing the same in your own life with a friend or organizing buddy.  Two can be a powerful number.

What Big Thing will YOU do this month? 

High Tech Tools that Reduce Paper

November 11th, 2011

Does this look familiar?

Here’s a neat article called 13 Tech Tools for a Paper-Free Life.   There’s even an easy-to-watch  video presentation.

If you try any of these tools , let me know what you think.  Out with the paper, in with the fun!

Fall back and rest up!

November 5th, 2011

Don’t forget to “fall back” tonight and set your clocks back an hour.   Enjoy an extra hour of rest!


Cross the Finish Line One Step at a Time

September 2nd, 2011

The other day I said to my husband, who’s my sounding board for most of my organizing-related thoughts, “I have 2 kinds of clients: those who struggle to get started and those who struggle to finish.”

This got me thinking about the relationship between follow-through and clutter.   Physical clutter (the remnants of incomplete or ignored projects), feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy, and problems with time-management all result from our starts and stops.  So what is it about getting started or finishing that is so hard?  Here are some simple explanations and strategies to help you jump start your productivity and cross the finish line, one step at a time!

Problem #1

People avoid acting on tasks or goals that seem complicated.

What’s the solution?

Break each task or goal down into bite-size, manageable parts.

For example, if you want to redo your garden, you might first focus only on your backyard.  Then you might make a list of plants you like, research shade and sun plants on the computer, consult with a gardener, and sketch some draft designs.  Each of these steps, in turn, may lead to another small step (or series of steps).  Don’t get overwhelmed by the number of steps some tasks might require; focus on just moving though one step at a time.  You will get there!

Problem #2

People  avoid acting on tasks or goals if they are ambivalent or unsure about the ultimate value of the those tasks and goals.

What’s the solution?

First, make a master list (what I like to call “the mind dump” ) of everything you think you need to do – big, medium, and small tasks alike.  Leave this list alone for the moment.

Second, aside a couple of hours to work on goal-setting. Trust me, the hour or two you spend on goal-setting will save you many hours down the road.  In other words, it’s worth your time.

Begin by defining your core values in simple words and terms.  Who are you and what, at bottom, matters to you?  Then, consider what goals you have that support these basic values.  For example, setting a goal of exercising more supports your core value of a healthy life.  Now, return to the task list you made above.  Cross off anything that doesn’t support your goals and values, even if it serves others.  Prioritize the rest under a larger goal.  This will remind you of the motivation behind each task and create a more lasting incentive to bring the task to completion.

Third, now that you’ve reflected on your goals, add any additional action you would like to take in support of them.

Finally, schedule the top 5 actions on your list and honor that blocked time as if it were a doctor’s appointment.  This ensures you are spending your time on the things that really matter to you.

Word to the wise: don’t resist scheduling specific time in the calendar to work on your action items; some structure enables us to to achieve our goals in the midst of busy and distracting lives.  This, in turn, enables us to have greater peace of mind and feelings of success.

So, remember.  Simplify, reflect, and prioritize.  The finish line is in sight!

Got clutter? Here’s where to get rid of it!

May 5th, 2011

The path to clutter is paved with good intentions, or so sometimes it seems.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who starts a project but struggles to bring it to completion.

In fact, my clients tell me all the time how challenging follow-through can be. In quieter voices they tell me how ashamed they are about it.

Often, it only takes a little more time, information, or energy to finish what’s been started but something holds us back.  A common practical issue I come across is that many people simply don’t know where to donate or recycle certain things, yet feel obliged to store them until they do.

So this blog post  is dedicated to sharing 2 great resources that will help you get rid of the lingering clutter and allow you to finally check those items off your To Do list.


When my son turned 2-years-old we bought him some fish (we named them “the 6 Henrys”) as a present at our local Petco.  Many trips back to Petco to ask about everything from aquarium rocks to obtaining replacement Henrys (sigh), resulted in us noticing a large bin at the front of the store for donations for animals.

The Petco Foundation accepts donations of animal food, supplies, and related items at most Petco stores.  All you have to do is bring your donations and drop them in the bin – easy breezy.  What a nice way to create more space in your house and help support animal health and safety in the process.  The Petco Foundation also has programs for accepting old cell phones, as well as cars, boats, and even planes!


Best Buy just might also be the Best Recycler.  Every single Best Buy location accepts electronic recycling.  They safely dispose of TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, cell phones, all those pesky cable wires, and more, no matter where originally purchased.  And they do most of it for free.  So liberate your kitchen counters, garages, junk drawers, bedrooms (gasp), and other rooms of that ugly electronic recycling you’ve been diligently storing for too long.  And tell your friends.  Trust me.  They’ll thank you!

If someone you love keeps everything (and keeps getting more)…

April 20th, 2011

…you should attend this upcoming talk by Michael Tompkins.  Tompkins’ talk, “Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring,” will be held on May 4th from 5:30-7:30PM at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco.  If you want to help someone you care about whose stuff is impacting their lives for the worse, this might be just the thing for you.

For those of you who can’t make the talk, Tompkins is also the author of a great new book by the same name.   It’s about real help for real people.  Check it out!