Falling in Love Again . . .

Often, we find interesting items when helping a client organize. Last month we helped a client organize her husband’s den. He had passed away a few years ago and she had been unable to tackle the room, with all the sad memories, on her own. As we worked, we created a box for any personal papers so she could look through them at her leisure. When I checked in with her a week later she had been reading them and been reminded of so many things he did before he became ill. She was very excited to tell me she “fell in love with him all over again thanks to organizing the room”.
I can’t claim being organized will always be that sweet but am proud to have helped this client remove the toxic memories of his end of life and focus on the good memories.

Sometimes work is a privilege

This week my team coordinated a move for a wonderful couple. We were so impressed with their attitude to all the chaos and change around them. I don’t approve of the way words like “bravery” are often thrown around but that is what I witnessed this week. They were leaving a home they built 41 years ago in a neighborhood with many good friends so there was a lot of sadness but it was tempered with a quiet determination to complete the move and begin anew in a retirement community. That’s where the bravery comes in – looking at something you have to do and knowing it will hurt but going ahead and doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do.
We felt truly privileged to be able to assist such wonderful people as they made their transition. Keeping their humor and appreciation of life’s idiocies intact in such circumstances speaks to their strength of character. What do you do when the grab bar in the shower is installed incorrectly and not safe? You could whine and moan or you can do what my clients did – shower together and laugh about it still being fun even after 50 years of marriage.
Coordinating a move is always a difficult job – there are just so many moving parts – but working for such brave people made the week a delight.

Getting Rid of Crutches

I just read this wonderful article by Leo Babauta – check out his website Zenhabits.net
I know people who travel with several huge suitcases and carry-ons for a short trip, even if there’s no way they’d use everything, because it makes them feel safer.

Others have a lot of clutter in their homes for the same reason — having more stuff makes you feel secure, more prepared, ready for the just-in case.

Many people are super busy, and distracted, because busy-ness and distraction feels productive, and isn’t boring.

Smokers don’t want to quit smoking, because it helps them deal with stress.

What do all these people have in common?

They rely on crutches.

The idea of crutches first occurred to me when I was quitting smoking — I realized I thought I needed smoking because it helped me cope with stress, and gave me pleasure. But cigarettes were just a crutch — I could deal with stress even without smoking, but I had to learn other methods of stress relief. I could get pleasure without smoking, but I’d have to learn something new.

I’ve learned. I now deal with stress easily without smoking — I meditate, drink tea mindfully, run and workout, go for walks, give myself more space in the day, let go of the expectations/ideals that are causing the stress in the first place. I find pleasure in all of these things, and in socializing with good friends, and in a good book, and don’t need to smoke to find pleasure anymore.

I let go of my crutches.

You can’t simplify without letting go of crutches either. Owning or bringing a lot of stuff for security, for example, is a crutch. Being busy so you won’t be bored, or so you’ll feel productive, is a crutch.

You have to find other ways of fulfilling these needs, without the crutches.

Some ways to do that:

Security. Do you need possessions or big suitcases of stuff for security? What I’ve learned is that the security of possessions is an illusion. You don’t need them. Instead, build a network of backup solutions. Need a tool or a wheelbarrow? Borrow from a neighbor or friend, and form a borrowing network. Need clothes for a certain occasion? Get them at a thrift store, borrow them, or make do with what you have. Having fewer possessions means you buy less, which means you’re better off financially, which means you’re more secure than someone who bought a lot of things.
Boredom. Do you think you need to be busy or distracted by the Internet to avoid being bored? Fear of boredom hurts many of us. If you learn to be mindful, there’s no fear of boredom, because every moment, in any situation anywhere, contains an infinite amount of wonder, new lessons, unforeseen beauty and surprises. You just need to pay attention. There’s no need for distraction, busy-ness, trying to do all the fun stuff that everyone else is doing.
Productivity. Does busy-ness mean you’re productive? No, it probably means you’re not good at making choices. To be less busy, you have to decide that some things are more important than others, and say no to the less important, so you’ll have time and energy to focus on the important ones. You can be un-busy, and productive, by giving yourself space to focus on what’s important, the high-impact things that make the most difference in your career and life.
Stress relief and comfort. What crutches are you using for stress relief? Smoking, alcohol, television, Internet distractions, food, shopping … there are lots of crutches that people believe relieve stress and comfort them. Unfortunately, these things often lead to more stress — smoking gives you health problems, shopping leads to debt, television and other distractions lead to inactivity and bad health. Better ways to relieve stress and find comfort (many mentioned already): meditation, mindfully drinking tea, exercise, taking a walk, taking a bath, journaling, talking with a good friend, yoga, doing something creative.
Love. Lots of people keep sentimental items, like gifts and items that hold memories. Basically, they represent love to us. But we don’t need those items for the love or memories they represent. The love isn’t in the items. They’re in us, and the people we love. Instead, let go of the items and spend some time with the people you love, or spend time journaling or thinking about the good times and the people you’ve loved. You don’t need the items to do that. Better yet, spend your time loving others now, instead of dwelling on the past.
These are just a few examples of letting go of your crutches. I’d recommend taking a good look at why you have so many things, do so many things, take so many things with you, and try to figure out what kind of crutches these are for you. Then figure out better ways to fulfill these needs.

One last thing: many people don’t let go of things because they’re afraid of making the wrong decision. If they can’t be sure of making the exact right decision, they don’t make any decision at all. This results in the piling up of complexity.

A better approach than this (which obviously doesn’t work) is to experiment. You can’t know the result of a decision for sure until you try it. So do little experiments, let go of things, and see if you really needed them. That’s one of the ideas in my Year of Living Without. But you can try smaller experiments, like a week or a day, and see what the results are. It’ll help with the paralysis of making the wrong choice.

Simplifying your life is a worthwhile endeavor. Letting go of your crutches means you discover more about yourself, and realize you didn’t need the crutches in the first place. You are empowered to find new solutions to your needs, and are free to shape your life as you will.

POSTED: 08.12.2013

Clear Clutter AND Help Animals

Here’s the perfect opportunity to donate some items. Paws In Need asked me to pass this notice along as their press release has not been picked up by any of the newspapers or media at this time.
As I’m always looking for ways to help clients release their unwanted items, I’m doing just that for readers in the East Bay.
Paws In Need (PIN) will be holding a one-day Yard Sale next Saturday, July 20th from 8 am to 3 pm in the side yard of Milfleur, a retail gift shop located in the historic Kottinger Barn at 200 Ray Street, Pleasanton. Proceeds from the yard sale will benefit local community animals.
The Yard Sale will have new and gently used items such as pet items, home and garden décor, jewelry, unique tote bags, kitchenware, a wheelchair, a sewing machine and cabinet, and much more.
Volunteers will be on hand Friday 7/19 from 10-2pm to accept any last minute items you would like to donate at the side yard at Milfleur, 200 Ray St. in Pleasanton where the sale will be held.
Each donation and item purchased at the Yard Sale helps to save local community animals from unnecessary euthanasia and works to eliminate pet overpopulation.
Yard Sale questions may be referred to Coordinator Rennie Tomley at renness.1@gmail.com.

Wear What You’ve Never Worn Day

Ellen DeGeneres did a very good job of describing how hard it is to go through a closet and not make excuses to keep things “just in case.” Her idea of having a special day where you wear all the lonely items – bridesmaid dresses, “bargains” you never found the event for etc. is hilarious.  

You know you have a problem when

you move the end table and find a flashlight, mail from 2002, a box of jewelry and a quart of motor oil.  One of the constant mantras when teaching someone to be organized is “sort by category – put like items together.”  Cluttered homes don’t usually have that underlying organization.  For example, MY Christmas decorations are in green plastic tubs in my storage area – even if I rushed taking them down in January and tossed them in quickly, they’d be a mess but still all be in the correct boxes.  For clients, this isn’t obvious so a category like Christmas decorations might be found in 10 different places in their home. Additionally, many of our elderly clients lose the ability to categorize.  This makes junk mail seem as important as a bank statement, old food piles up in the refrigerator and what was once a useful selection of bags for re-use becomes an out of control collection of clean (and dirty) bags.  As categorization disappears from a home, the groupings become more and more random – leaving me wondering “why would you even take a quart of oil into the living room in the first place?”  Luckily, in this case, no harm was done but the potential for damage is scary.