5 Beautiful Shades of Gray

5 Beautiful Shades of Gray

When it comes to creating a beautifully organized home you love, sometimes a fresh coat of paint is just what you need to breathe new life into your space.

I'd like to introduce you to color expert and local badass mama Becki Burke of Becki Burke Creative! I asked to put together her list of must-have colors for your home to bring energy, peace and sophistication to your newly organized space!

(Part 3) "Take Action" Wednesday: Home Organizing in 15 Minutes or Less...The Kitchen Gadget Drawer!

(Part 3) "Take Action" Wednesday: Home Organizing in 15 Minutes or Less...The Kitchen Gadget Drawer!

Without fail, the kitchen drawer with all the “miscellaneous gadgets” is a breeding ground for chaos. 

I’m imagining pizza cutters, avocado slicers, garlic presses and a graveyard of Pampered Chef impulse buys that seemed like a good idea at the time. 

It’s not your fault -- how is anyone supposed to make so many oblong pieces of plastic and metal live in harmony in one measly drawer? 

Not to worry, we can turn this drawer around with some quick thinking and a hard dose of reality.  Take this challenge and you’ll find serious joy from a drawer that opens and closes without something getting stuck (#adulting!).

(Part 2) "Take Action" Wednesday: Home Organizing in 15 Minutes or Less...Coffee Mugs!

(Part 2) "Take Action" Wednesday: Home Organizing in 15 Minutes or Less...Coffee Mugs!

Ever find yourself thinking you must be running a coffee shop with all the coffee mugs you own?  Have 3 different coffee makers, just in case, finding it hard to make a decision on letting one go?  

Well you’re not alone! 

Drinking coffee is such an important part of most of our days (caffeine please!) and with that comes lots of stuff!  And I totally get it, it’s hard to let go of that broken coffee mug with your child’s face on it, or that 8-cup coffee maker that your mother-in-law insists on using when she stays with you. 

It’s not about getting rid of everything, it’s about being realistic about what your coffee-drinking needs are so you can reclaim some of that prime real estate for other things, and keep your home organized!

"Take Action" Wednesday: Home Organizing in 15 Minutes or Less...The Kitchen Junk Drawer!

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Every time I’m helping a client organize their home, I’m amazed at how much we can get done in just 15 minutes.  It’s all about making forward progress!  Added up over time, you will have made huge waves in reaching your #homegoals and you will feel so much lighter and in control.  

Let’s do this!!    

So here’s your “Take Action” organizing assignment for today:  The Junk Drawer

This is one of the most common “waste of space” areas I see in clients’ homes.  It is called a junk drawer after all :)  It’s also the quickest fix and the final result is oh-so-sweet!  

Just a Few Quick Steps:

  1. Take a “Before Photo” so you can remember what it used to look like :)

  2. Dump everything out onto the counter

  3. Sort everything by category (electronics/cords, office supplies, hardware, tools, money, etc.)

  4. Decide what you want to keep in this drawer. You might consider using this drawer for essential office supplies, essential tools, sunglasses and other frequently used items. Whatever you decide, create an intentional plan that takes into account your family’s lifestyle and what actually needs to be in this drawer vs. what can be put away in it’s actual home. For example, a screwdriver and tape measure might make sense in this drawer, but not specialty tools that are rarely used.

  5. Trash the junk and relocate the stuff that won’t reside in the drawer to its home elsewhere in the house.

  6. Purchase a drawer organizer (if needed) to keep everything in it’s place. I love using these from Amazon or something similar will do! It takes 2 minutes to order, so easy!

  7. Give the tour! Make sure your whole family knows the plan and reward them when they put things back.

  8. Take your “After Photo”!

Now enjoy your freshly organized junk drawer, way to take action today!  Be proud and excited of your forward momentum.  And if you’re in love with your final result, I wanna see the photos!  Just reply to this email :)

And next week, we’ll be focusing on an item in your kitchen that tends to take over without us even realizing it…see you then!  

Live beautifully, 

Jen

Lifestyle Based Nutrition with Madison Khanna

Lifestyle Based Nutrition with Madison Khanna

Welcome to the very first of my Interview Series with some amazing female experts around Charleston, discussing unique and holistic approaches to living a happy, healthy and low-stress lifestyle!    

Today I'm excited to share my recent interview with certified nutrition and wellness consultant Madison Khanna of Appetit Nutrition

Proper Organization to Bring Out the Best in Your Kitchen

Proper Organization to Bring Out the Best in Your Kitchen

One of our Lead Organizing Stylists recently moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a five-bedroom house, after months of house hunting.  As happens pretty frequently, she and her husband ended up choosing the home with the biggest kitchen since two of her top priorities were having a properly-sized pantry and enough counter space to prepare dinner for the whole family (and guests!).

The F.A.T Approach to Keeping Your Office Organized

The F.A.T Approach to Keeping Your Office Organized

The tornado warning on my phone was wailing, as my husband and I rushed to prepare a space in the closet.  We were hunkered down for Hurricane Irma and preparing for the worst.  Right at that moment, I realized I needed to protect our most important paperwork, but unfortunately, it wasn’t all in one place.  Around and around the house I went, grabbing all the essential paperwork.

5 Professional Organizing Secrets to Getting Settled In Your New Home

5 Professional Organizing Secrets to Getting Settled In Your New Home

Let’s face it.  Moving and unpacking a new house is about as fun as walking the dog in the rain.

Of course, it always starts out like a scene out of HGTV…

House hunting.  Visions of starting fresh in a new home.  The excitement, the possibilities.

But then reality hits. 

Boxes everywhere.  “Honey, where is my (insert important item you never anticipated needing but now need more than ever)”.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy May, and soon to be Mother’s Day :)

In that spirit, I want to thank Lowcountry Parent Magazine for naming us the Winner of their 2017 Mom’s Choice Award for Best Professional Organizing company!

We’re humbled by each bit of recognition we receive, but this one is particularly meaningful. 

There’s a special place in my heart for Moms who just have too much on their plate to keep up with household organization.

Working with these women makes me feel like I’m contributing something deeper than just organizing “stuff”. 

I feel like I’m freeing up their family to all be more connected, and to be better versions of themselves because they aren’t so stressed out by chaos in the home.

Those are the projects where I leave for the day worn out, but smiling from ear to ear. 

Last week, I told you about the UCLA study finding that clutter causes a rise in the release of stress hormones in parents AND kids.

Well, we’ve got the opportunity to change that, and I think about that every time I arrive for a session.

With Mother’s Day coming up so soon, it makes me think back to my own Mom, who worked (and still works) as a nurse in Columbus, OH. 

She worked the craziest hours and gave everything she had and more, so that my brother and I could have an easier life than she had growing up. 

I think back now and see that she was overworked and under-appreciated.

In many ways, that seems synonymous with the moms we work with. 

One of the common calls we get is from Moms who are juggling a million things and just need some relief. 

The mess, the chaos…it makes them feel bad about themselves as mothers.  Understandable but not fair. 

We know that the moment a Mom asks for help, it’s empowering, not defeating. 

Everyone else gets to delegate.  Why not her?!?  She’s simply saying to herself, “I have too much other important stuff to do and this just doesn’t make the cut”.

We appreciate these Moms who reach out to us, vulnerable and eager for help.  And it feels incredible to know they appreciate us back :)

So thank you to my Mom, and to every Mom, for the love and sacrifice you put into the world.

A Fresh Perspective

Spring is here! 

The clocks are turned forward, the weather is breaking, and everything just feels more…alive.

I’m reading a booking at the moment called Feng Shui that Makes Sense by Cathleen McCandless.  It’s opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of how to create an incredible home environment. 

McCandless focuses on what she calls “practical feng shui”, which is simply the study of environment and how it affects people.

So this month, I’m going to walk you through a feng shui-inspired process of studying your own environment and seeing how it might be affecting you.  Enjoy :)

The “feel” of a space is a funny thing.  Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on why you like spending time in one space, but you avoid others. 

What ends up happening in a home is the spaces that don’t resonate with us either don’t get used (I’m talking to you dining room!) or we don’t feel at our best when we are in them. Anyone who’s ever worked in an office with gray cubicles and cold lighting knows what I’m talking about!

If we’re going to breath new life into those tired spaces, though, it’s really important that we see them with a totally fresh perspective. 

I find it’s really difficult to take an honest look at things that are part of the fabric of our everyday life, though.  They become so much a part of us that we sometimes forget that these details are totally our choice.  (Kind of reminds me of the time I went brunette after a lifetime of blonde.)

This fresh perspective is a key part of why I’m able to make such big changes in my clients’ spaces.  Certain things in your closet, for example, pop out at me, when they’ve long since been tuned out by you.  Happens to me in my closet too : /

But the more you’re able to capture that “fresh eye”, the more you’ll be able to inject your own magic into your spaces.  You get that fresh eye through mindfulness - being attuned to the present moment and the little details that make up the “right now”.

If you do yoga or practice meditation, you’re already familiar with this.

You can use these ideas to figure out the spaces in your home that need attention.  Let’s talk about how.

The first step is to take 5 minutes and relax.  We rarely just stop everything, so that right there is likely going to be a perspective shift.

Take some deep breaths and turn off all distractions and just focus on what’s happening right now.  When your mind wanders to the past or the future, don’t worry about it, just go back to focusing on right now.

Then, keeping a clear mind, walk out to your front entrance and
enter your home through the eyes

of a first-time visitor.  What do you notice?  Pay attention to how the entrance makes you feel.  Welcomed?  Invited?  Like the entrance to a happy home?  Or something less inspiring?

Subconsciously, these are the emotions getting triggered every time you walk into your home.

Repeat the process (including the mindfulness exercise) in each room of your home.  When you step into the shoes of a stranger and walk in, what do you notice?  How do you feel?  Again, pay attention to things that you usually don’t notice and write down your thoughts so you don’t lose them.

In my experience, the top 3 things you can do to enhance life of a space are:

  1. Declutter.  In 2012, UCLA concluded a multi-year study which found that clutter and chaos in the home triggered an increase in the stress hormones released into the body.  Clutter pulls down everyone in the family.  On the one hand, that’s a little scary.  But on the other hand, it’s powerful to know that simply by getting rid of junk and properly storing the rest, you can make an enormous change in your family’s quality of life.
     
  2. Add plant life.  In Feng Shui that Makes Sense, McCandless cites research that shows plants in your environment reduce stress, promote healing, increase productivity and provide a greater sense of well-being.  Not bad for a $15 investment! 

    This alone will enhance any room and change your experience in that space.  So find yourself some plants, big or small, doesn’t matter.  You can put them on your desk, in your kitchen, at your front entrance, you decide!  But it will change your life.
     
  3. Change furniture placement.  This is a deeper topic than we can cover here.  But the main idea is that you want to notice how your furniture is arranged and whether or not that’s helping or hurting how you feel in that space. 

About a year ago, Doug and I moved our couch from being in the middle of the room to being up against the wall.  It created all this open space in our studio, and now the couch faces the room and encourages engagement, where before it closed things off.  No expensive purchases, just some time spent thinking about alternatives and making a change.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great start.  If you embrace a fresh perspective and look at your spaces using the criteria above, you’re going to open the floodgates with ideas of how you can transform your home and the way you experience it.

Have an incredible April :)

With love,

   Jen

Reflections from India

As they say, back to the real world…

Doug and I returned recently from our two-week adventure in India to attend the wedding of two close friends.

This month’s newsletter will be a bit of a different (and abridged) format.  I hope you enjoy!

===

Hearsay is a funny thing. 

Much of what we heard about India leading up to our trip was cautious, at best. 

Summed up, it was “be VERY careful”.  Things like…

Scams are rampant, beggars are everywhere, even reaching their hands into your pockets to fish out rupees.  Taxi drivers will rip you off and/ or take you to the wrong places on purpose. 

The merchants are aggressive.  Every meal poses a risk of violent illness.  The wild dogs can be overwhelming.  The Indian Mafia is alive and well.  Police are in on it and may need to be bribed.

I’m pretty sure our list of things to watch out for was longer than our list of things to do.

But the reality looked nothing like the information thought we knew.

We found the Indian people to be the warmest, most patient, genuine, happy, connected culture that we’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. 

While that may sound like an exaggeration, I can tell you that, in two weeks, Doug and I never once had anything resembling a negative interaction. 

Think about how incredible that is! 

Never heard anyone complain.  Never saw anyone being rude or angry.  Never felt like we were being taken advantage of.

Instead, our memories are of laughing and dancing in the car with taxi drivers who barely spoke English, being welcomed into secluded beach getaways for late night dance parties, posing in pictures with fascinated locals, and a contagious love of life and people that seemed to flow through every encounter.

As we flew back home and started to process everything we’d seen, Dougand I came to a couple realizations, one obvious and one not so obvious.

First, after seeing the patience and positivity of the Indian people, even in the face of poverty and lack of material comfort, we started to think that maybe they’re onto something. 

In America, our blood pressure goes through the roof for the smallest things.  Like if the line at the grocery store is too long.  Or the car ahead of us doesn’t turn right away at the green arrow.  JEEZ, what is he doing?!?!  LOL

But what do any of those things matter in the larger picture of our lives?

I believe now more than ever that patience is the key to health and happiness

Letting go of the things you can’t control, and living in and appreciating this moment, instead of rushing into a future that’s always just outside of our reach.

As a culture, Indians seem to choose their state of mind admirably.  Stress, anxiety, happiness or peace of mind are all choices we make in our thoughts and through our reactions to the happenings of the world. We tend to create all this drama and stress where there doesn’t need to be any. 

Coming home from this trip, Doug and I have become hyper-aware of our

little complaints and working to replace them with appreciation.

In a few short weeks, I can tell you that the impact touches just about every area of our lives.

Our second realization was related to organizing, since, well, I’m an organizing nerd!

It had to do with the misleading information we got before our trip to India…

I bet a lot of people who would really love India will never take the trip because of how it’s portrayed.  A trip to India seems so “extreme” and they don’t think they have it in them.

I see a similar thing happen in the world of organizing.

Most people don’t think they have it in them to become organized.  It’s like this far off distant land that they’ve read about in books and seen on TV, but one that they don’t ever expect to visit themselves.

There’s lots of misinformation floating around that scares people from ever trying.  Things like…

…You’re either born organized or you’re not.

…It’s impossible to be organized with kids.

…It’s a full-time job to stay organized.

…Getting organized means looking a Container Store commercial.

In reality, none of these things are true.  They’re just someone else’s limiting beliefs that you can choose to accept or reject.

Organization looks different for everyone.  Your trip is what you decide it will be!

Organization the intersection of style, function and feel.  If your space is pleasing to your eye, functional for your life, and inspiring to your being, then you’re organized.  Regardless of whether you’ve done pretty bins with color-coded labels.

As someone who’s “taken the journey” myself and with countless clients, I’m telling you that you do have it in you.  Not just to have me come organize your space, but to internalize the organized spirit of calmness, coolness and control. 

Sure, we probably need to help you declutter first.  But, trust me, you won’t miss the stuff you get rid of.

Yes, we definitely need to design systems that work hand-in-hand with how you live.  But keeping up with them is simpler than you think.  And one experience of the “other side” is all it takes to realize that it’s actually more work to be disorganized than it is to stay organized.

So ignore the naysayers (especially the one inside your head).  Forget the reasons it won’t work.  And decide to create your own experience of “organized” that re-writes everything you thought you knew!

With love,

    Jen

Get an Extra Hour Every Day

“They’re getting dressed all by themselves in the morning,” she said. 

“Do you know how much time that saves us?”

A recent client was telling me how the organizing we did in her 4- and 7-year-old children’s closets was saving her and her husband at least 15 minutes every morning.

I like to think of organizing systems as plugging leaks in a bucket.  When the kids can get ready on their own

in the mornings, it plugs a leak in the family “time bucket”.

These opportunities are everywhere, although they can be tough to see in our own lives because we’re too close to the situation.

Take this example:

All your Polos are stuffed in two drawers.  They used to be folded, but we all know how that goes.  So, every time you want to wear one of those Polos, you need to iron it, which takes 10+ minutes to do.  If we just find room in the closet to hang them, they’ll be ready to go right away, saving you a few hours a month of busy work.

What if you could find, and plug, three leaks in your bucket that cost you 20 minutes a day?

You’d have an extra hour of time every single day…to take a bike ride, to play with your kids, to meet a friend.

Take a second and think about what would make your day go off with out a hitch?

Let’s focus on the things that are under your control, because we have the power to change those.

Once you know what the big issues are, just communicate them to me.

Because the right organizational system will streamline those trouble areas or eliminate them completely.

Odds are, you either don’t have or don’t want to spend the time to do it yourself or spend the effort learning what to do AND implementing it! That’s why it hasn’t gotten done already.

I’ve seen a trend really picking up steam — people wanting to completely let go of the responsibility to stay organized.  They know life is easier when they never have to think about it. Just one more thing they know is taken care of without any effort or time on their part.

That’s why more of our clients are opting for Monthly Organizing Refreshes.  Because even the best systems deteriorate over time without proper maintenance.

Doug’s reading a book right now called, The Power of Full Engagement, and one of the big ideas in it is that we’ve only got so much mental bandwidth. 

The more “open” things that are on our mind, the less available energy we have to devote to any one thing, and the more likely we are to feel overwhelmed.

All that to say, the Monthly Refresh can take organizing off your mind for good and eliminates that constantly “open” to-do. 

Your home stays up to par with your standards, without you spending any time thinking about it.

So, this month, pay attention to those “leaks in the bucket” and reach out to me for more details about the Monthly Refresh Program!

With love,

Jen

P.S. Happy Early Valentine’s Day to all the lovebirds out there :)

Starting Fresh in 2017

Happy 2017!

The New Year is such an exciting milestone of deciding what your new self is going to look like!  I really believe that what you focus on expands, and as we start 2017, I want to help you focus on the right things to make this the most organized, “in-control” year of your life!

Just as important as it is to let go of belongings that you don’t love or need anymore, it’s also vital to let go of negative feelings from the past about poor organization.  One of the most unproductive things you can do is look in the rearview mirror and beat yourself up over past mistakes.

I want 2017 to be the year of your Fresh Start!

Because after working with hundreds of people on getting organized, my genuine belief is that everyone has the ability to be organized and stay organized.  Even if your garage has

been packed floor to ceiling with junk for years!

If your environment isn’t organized, it’s definitely not because there’s a fixed piece of your DNA that reads “clutter bug”.  It’s actually for one of two reasons:

Reason #1: Your organizing muscles are out of shape.  

Organizing is a skill that takes practice.  I started a project with a client recently, and in the first session I told her about my vision for the space that would beautifully match her goals.  She couldn’t believe I could see that end result in the midst of all the clutter.  But the reason isn’t that I was born with an innate talent for organizing.  As I’ve shared with you in the past, I actually struggle at times, too, to stay organized.  The reason is that I work out my organizing “muscle” on a daily basis.  So now, the solutions and the systems come almost without me even thinking about it. 

The more you work out your organizing muscles, the easier it will come for you.  I like to think about it like this:  If you never paint pictures, and then you paint a picture that doesn’t look great, would you say you’re a hopeless painter?  I wouldn’t.  I’d say you’re out of practice.  Same goes with organizing, so I encourage you, as part of your Fresh Start 2017, to work out those muscles more!

Reason #2: You’re missing a reliable structure to guide your organizing efforts.  

When you have systems to follow, it takes so much of the guesswork and effort out of the equation.  Of course, it requires a little more work upfront, but the awesome thing is that you really only have to do that work once, and then it keeps paying you back in saved time and frustration. 

To use the painting example again, a little while back, Doug and I went to Wine & Design to paint a picture of our dog Amber.  Neither of us are accomplished painters, but we ended up producing “masterpieces” (in our minds at least :).  How is that possible?  It was a paint-by-numbers type of set-up so the structure was already there for us.  We weren’t just relying on our limited creative juices.  Not only was the end result better, but we had more fun along the way, because a lot of the hard decisions were already made for us through the existing structure.

And if you’re a client of mine, you know these two fundamental truths about staying organized:

First, the less stuff you have in your home, the easier it is to stay organized.  Every single client I work with, the first and highest priority item is always to get control of the amount of stuff in the home.  If you get serious about this part, everything else becomes way easier.

And second, everything must have a home, and that home should make sense in terms of location and storage space.  The things you use a lot should be easy to access and located close to where you need them. 

I want you to have an incredible 2017 where you feel empowered in your home!  So let’s forget about all the past struggles and look forward to a year of taking charge and creating the home environment you always dreamed you’d have!

With love,

Jen

’Tis the Season

I was at a client’s house recently and saw an invitation for her son’s most recent birthday.  It asked for donations to their favorite charity instead of birthday gifts. 

He already had more than enough toys, and the last thing she wanted was 20-30 more toys cluttering up the playroom. 

Especially knowing that many of them would only be played with a few times, if at all.

It was no coincidence that her house also happened to be very much under control and organized, even before I came in to help. 

You’ve heard me talk a lot about being proactive versus reactive…

How being proactive about the stuff coming into your home will give you the feeling of control that we all crave.

So…Christmas is here again and this is one of those times where it’s really going to pay off to be proactive beforehand! 

You Decide What Happens
This Christmas!

I remember one Christmas when I was 8 or 9 years old, all my aunts and uncles got together and decided that they weren’t going to buy presents for everyone else’s kids anymore. 

That first year, us kids were like “what the heck is going on”.  But by the second year, the new tradition was in place and we hardly even noticed the difference.

This really comes down to an important question to ask yourself this Christmas…

Am I buying gifts for people out of habit, or, worse yet, obligation?

Maybe your habit is to buy a ton of toys for your kids.  Sure, you know they already have too many.  And if you step on another Lego in bare feet, you might lose it.

But Christmas = Toys… right? 

Maybe it has in years past, but one of the most powerful mindsets you can adopt is that ‘what HAS happened doesn’t have to determine what WILL happen’.

How many of last year’s Christmas presents are still in circulation this year? 

Most of the parents I work with defeatedly tell me that few, if any, of the toys from last year have seen the light of day since spring!

So, if not toys, then what?

If you’re like me, you love the feeling of giving, especially to kids.  It’s cool to be able to do that for them. 

Maybe some of your favorite childhood memories are of opening toys on Christmas morning.  After all, Christmas truly is the season of nostalgia. 

Or maybe you want to (and are in the position to) give your kids the kind of Christmas that your parents couldn’t give you.

Whatever it is, I don’t want to take that away from you!  But I think if we work together, we can elevate the experience you give to the people you care about.

Ultimately, you teach your kids what to value through the gifts you give them (and the gifts they see you give other people).

Give them money, they’ll value freedom of choice.

Give them toys or other “stuff” and they’ll value having a lot of stuff.

Give them experiences and they’ll value seeing what the world has to offer.

This is a huge teaching opportunity for you, and it’s lessons like these, repeated year after year that set the tone for how your children see the world.

So before you buy your next gifts, ask yourself,

What am I trying to accomplish with this?  What message am I sending?”

My guess is that you want to show your kids you love them.  You want them to feel the magic of Christmas.  You want to see them happy.

But there has to be a better way to do this than more doodads for the playroom?

Let’s think…

What has your child been wanting to do since forever?  What would be an experience that she probably wouldn’t stop talking about for years?  What have they been wanting to learn that usually isn’t in the budget?  What have you been wanting to do together but haven’t gotten around to yet?

Stuff isn’t always the enemy.  Sometimes it can bring people together…

I remember very few of the toys I got on Christmas morning as a child.  But I do remember putting together model engines with my Dad. 

That made me feel connected to him in a way that a popular new toy never could.  It also stoked the kind of “builder/ figure it out” mentality that’s served me really well as a businesswoman.

When you’re buying presents, ask yourself if this is going to bring the family together, or serve some really positive purpose for your child. 

That gives you control over this holiday.

You won’t end up spending a fortune on a bunch of toys that only get used a few times before going into the “toy graveyard” we call the playroom closet.

The holidays trigger a lot of stress in people, myself included. 

But so much of that stress comes from a feeling that the things you don’t want are inevitable. 

You know, things like…

Better get out the stretch pants because I’m gonna be gaining some weight!

Not sure where all these new toys are gonna to go, but the house is already a mess, so whatever.

Here’s Uncle Leon politics at the dinner table again.  Why is my family so crazy? 

Ok, maybe that last one is out of your hands ;)  But everything else is what YOU make it!  You decide, every single step of the way.

I see a lot of families that have made these changes, and the difference is dramatic!

If that’s you, then congratulations.  If not, then this is your year.  Make it happen :) 

#ProgressNotPerfection

And that’s my recipe for a peaceful Merry Christmas!

He Said, She Said

 
 

She said: “We’re not getting rid of that suitcase.”

He said: “But it’s taking up so much space and it kills me every time I have to look at it.”

She said: “My parents gave us this suitcase and it means a lot to me that we keep it.”

He said: “Right, but the zipper is broken and there are holes in the fabric after our last trip.  It’s an eyesore!”

She said: “We’re not getting rid of that suitcase until we buy one to replace it.”

He said: “That’s crazy.  We have two other suitcases that are way nicer and work just as well, even though they’re smaller.”

She said: “Small suitcases don’t always work for me, you know that. 

I have to bring more stuff on trips than you do.”

He said: “This seems like a great time to simplify then.”

She said: “Why are you making such a big deal out of this one thing?”

He said: “It’s not just this one thing.  But I’m making a big deal about it because we don’t have a ton of space for the things we love and here is this massive suitcase that I don’t like and you tolerate, and it’s taking up a bunch of space in the closet.”

She said: “Fine.  You want to throw it away?  Do whatever you want, throw it away. But it really upsets me off that you aren’t listening to me.”

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I’d like to tell you that was a scene from a mid-day soap opera, but in fact it’s almost word-for-word of a “friendly conversation” between Doug and I about a large suitcase in


 our closet.

We donated it after getting home from a trip in mid-September.  A few weeks later as we drove to the airport for another flight, the topic came up.  Doug thought it was all water under the bridge.  Maybe I did too.  But at that moment, I realized I hadn’t moved on.  I was still upset.  Holding onto negativity about “stuff” that I felt forced into getting rid of.

This shouldn’t be happening to me, right?  I mean, as a professional organizer, all my ducks should be in a row.  House perfectly organized, clutter quivering in its boots when I enter the room.

I like to think that’s mostly true, but organizing challenges still come up for me, like I’m sure they do for you, too.

I realized a few things from this situation, though, that made me better, and I’d like to share those with you.

First, for both Doug and myself, this wasn’t really about a suitcase.  It was about each of us feeling like the other wasn’t being heard.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will close someone off more than making them feel like they’re talking to a wall.

I knew I wanted to keep the suitcase and I had good reason for it too! 

He “knew” it was an eyesore, and there was no outcome other than getting it out of the house.

Neither of us really listened or totally cared what the other had to say.  We were too busy carrying baggage from the past.

See, Doug’s always pushing us to get rid of more stuff.  I’m pretty sure he could wear the same outfit every day, use the same one dish and cup for every meal, stuff like that.

So he sees me (yes, the professional organizer) as bringing clutter into the house.  For him, the conversation about the suitcase was really about the other clutter that bothers him in the house.

Let me be clear, we live in a 550 sq. ft. studio apartment.  There is (understandably) very little storage space.  We have drilled down to the basics in some serious ways - getting rid of the TV, trading out a large sitting desk for a standing desk, major purging of all non-essentials.

Even with all that, though, I feel like Doug pushes me to get rid of stuff before I’m ready.  It’s happened before and I didn’t like it.  So when the conversation about the suitcase came up, I wasn’t going to play ball, no way.  Even if he had a valid point, I felt like I needed to hold my ground.

For us to find common ground, we had to let go of the past.

Second, in organizing and in life, we have to appreciate our partner’s differences.  No one wants to be with a carbon copy of themselves.  In fact, consciously or subconsciously, we often choose mates that are our polar opposite.

If you’re a highly detailed, super organized mind, I’m willing to bet your partner is a little more carefree and go-with-the-flow.  Neither is better.  Both are necessary to a balanced relationship.

A lot of the baggage we carry towards our partners comes from them seeing the world differently than we do.  Doug, in his super-logical mind, couldn’t possibly imagine why we would allocate precious closet space to a large item in poor condition.

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t see why we shouldn't just wait until it was a good time to buy a replacement.

Different strokes.

You might think this sounds like relationship advice.  But I more think of it as communication advice.  And communication is one of the cornerstones of keeping your house organized and feeling happy about it.

Why shoulder the entire burden on your own, when it could be spread out amongst the family?

But that sharing of responsibility only happens when everyone in the family feels like their voice is being heard. 

What about making sure your own voice is heard?  Should you just forget about that?

Well, not to get all “woo-woo” on you, but I’ve found in my life, and in working with clients that the best way to be heard is to listen.  Make the other members of your family feel like their voice is important even if, especially if, it’s different than yours, and they will be more accepting of the things that matter most to you.

I want to close by sharing a really simple and powerful empathy exercise called “Walk a Mile” you can do when you feel like you can’t bridge the gap.  This will be crucial if you’re organizing one of those touchy spaces (i.e. husband’s hobbies ;) where you haven’t been able to find much common ground.

“Walk a Mile”

  1. Switch perspectives and mentally take on the role of your counterpart (otherwise known as your spouse).  Have them do the same.
  2. Make 3 arguments for THEIR side of the debate, talking in their voice, as if you were them.  Put thought and emotion into it.  Try to prove your own perspective wrong.
  3.  Have your spouse make 3 arguments for YOUR side, in the same manner as above.

That forces each person to step into the shoes of the other person, and a resolution will be much easier to agree on.  The more seriously you do the “Walk a Mile” exercise, the more magic you’ll create in your household and beyond.

Have a great Thanksgiving and talk to you next month!

With love,

Jen

The Mask We Live In

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How much impact do you have over the men in your life?

I saw a thought-provoking Netflix documentary recently called The Mask You Live In.  It deconstructs the ideas of masculinity, and through interview and research shows the ways that boys are taught to be men, often with negative consequences.

This documentary made me realize that, in a lot of ways, being neat is not an ideal trait for men.  Boys are taught this from an early age.  Things like, men make the messes, women clean it up.  Men have a lot of hobbies scattered about.  Men leave dishes in the sink.  Men drink out of the milk carton.  Men aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.  Men aren’t bothered by clutter or chaos, because they’re tough, and to be bothered would mean they have feelings.  And everyone knows real men don’t have feelings and don’t believe in woo-woo stuff like how a space “feels”.

This is what we see, this is what we’re taught, both verbally, and through observation.  A neat man is at risk of having his manhood questioned.  Think about TV shows and movies.  When’s the last time you’ve seen a real “man’s man” be neat and orderly?

Boys model this and grown men have internalized it.

Most people who hire professional organizers are women with a husband and younger kids to care for.  They feel overwhelmed by everything on their plate, and they feel like they’re on an island when it comes to maintaining the house, because they don’t get much help.

But when you think about why the boys in your life might not be participating in staying organized, it probably goes beyond laziness or trouble focusing.

Most of us men don’t realize we have these beliefs about masculinity and neatness.  But we can feel when something conflicts with our identity, or who we think we’re supposed to be, and we avoid it.

Let’s take a totally separate example.  What if your son or husband was into poetry instead of, say, sports?  How would his male peers treat him or talk to him?  As men, we’re aware of the social danger of this, so the boy in question would probably try to forget about poetry and go play or watch sports with his friends instead.

It’s not much different with organizing or neatness.  Boys sense the social risk in that behavior and they follow the groove our culture has carved for them.

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that Jen and I own an organizing business, and that, yes, I really believe in being organized, and what we’re doing with the families we work with.

Some people even snicker a bit.  Most little boys don’t dream of one day getting into the field of home organizing.  Neither did I.  But I’ve never been someone to follow the beaten path.

The “so-what” here is two-fold.  One, be patient with your men.  They didn’t decide the “rules”, they’re just playing by them, and they might not even know that they are.  Be aware of how certain things you ask them to do might be conflicting deep down with how they see themselves and how they want to appear to other people.  That’s not an excuse to be a slob.  But it’s something to acknowledge.  Just as it helps me to remember that I’ll never truly understand the female perspective.

Second, challenge them not to just play the “role” of the guy who doesn’t really care what the house looks or feels like.  Encourage them to blaze their own trail of what it means to be a man.  That doesn’t mean abandoning who they are or what they love.  Instead it’s about opening up to new ideas outside the box.  Especially when those ideas are important to you and your peace of mind.

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching The Mask You Live In, possibly with the whole family.  You’ll have a whole new perspective on the men in your life.

Until next month,

Doug

Here Already?

Do you ever wonder why we seem to care more about our homes being neat and clean for guests than for ourselves?

I had a girlfriend over a few weeks ago, and a familiar cycle played out once again…

Hours before she arrived, I’m going full speed, straightening up and organizing everything I can get my hands on.  I’ve got Doug scrubbing baseboards while I reorganize under the bathroom sink. 

We’ve got to sweep, we’ve got to Swiffer.  Ahhh!!!  What about that corner I’ve been meaning to organize but haven’t got around to?  It’s gonna have to go in the closet for now.

You might think this only happens to you, but even as a professional home organizer it happens to me too. 

The struggle is real!

The blessing and the curse of living in a 550 sq. ft studio is that there aren’t a whole lot of place to hide stuff.  If I lived in a 3000 sq. ft house with nooks and crannies everywhere, I totally understand how the problem becomes too big to handle.

Doug’s always saying, “They’re our friends, why do we need to impress them with such a clean house?”  He clearly doesn’t get it.

Vain or not, I do care what people think when they walk into my home. 

Especially because they know I’m a professional organizer.  I’ve got a reputation to uphold :)

All this got me thinking about the holiday season, and how the anxiety of hosting is coming up in a lot of

homes.  Another year passed, life got crazy and the holidays are right around the corner.

When you mix the interesting family and in-law dynamics with the pressure of hosting, things can get dicey.  We’ve all been there at one point or another…

Closets stuffed floor to ceiling with stuff to worry about later.

Drawers loaded with junk you don’t have time to think about right now.

Andddd, we’re just going to go ahead and lock the door going into the garage so no one accidentally ends up in that disaster zone!

Here’s my realization:

 

The problem isn’t just at the holidays. 

It’s just most visible during the holidays because you have potentially judging eyes of family and friends in your space.  You’re seeing disorganization issues and challenges from the entire year come to a head in a few days.

So what’s the fix?  It’s as simple as being proactive vs. reactive.

Reactive is working on your space last-minute, for the benefit of other people.  Proactive is when you do it for yourself, before things get out of hand.

You want to feel proud of where you live.  Not just for other people, but for yourself, too.  For yourself especially.

If we let outside circumstances dictate our lives, we’ll constantly feel like we’re behind, hanging on by a thread, out of control.  When we care more about what other people think than we do about how we feel, we give up control of our lives.

I’m just as guilty of this as the next girl.  It’s easy to workout every day and eat healthy when you know you’re going on beach vacation in a few weeks, right?  But then your diet gets shot with all the amazing food during your trip and it’s tough to pick up the good habits again once you’re back home because that outside motivation isn’t there anymore.

You know what I’ve noticed with the majority of my organizing clients?

They’re actually organized people in many ways.  That’s why the clutter and disorganization in their home bothers them so much.  If they were disorganized at heart, they wouldn’t really care.

So, as an organized person (or one that values organization) you deserve a space that speaks to you - the whole year, not just when family’s in town.  Because what they think for a few days while they visit isn’t nearly as important as how you FEEL the entire year where you live.

Sure, that ideal space gets created partially by pretty baskets and containers and other organizing solutions.  But the bigger part of the equation is YOU.  Your mindset and the way you think about your things throughout the year.

This year can be the last time that cleaning and organizing before the holidays seems overwhelming. 

Yes, you’ve got to stay on top of organizing throughout the year to keep a mess from building.  But I hear incredible stories of progress and growth from my clients all the time.  They tell me about how easy things have become by following the systems we put in place and internalizing a new simplified and decluttered way of life.

All of a sudden, staying organized becomes their rule rather than the exception.

It can happen for you, too, if it hasn’t already.

I’ll be spending the last three months of 2016 working with families on their space, but also on how they think about their space so that new habits are created.

If you’d like an organizing partner in this department, I’d love to help you too :)

The holidays are a special time of year that should be spent relaxing and connecting with the people that mean the most to you, not stressing out about household stuff.

One thing I love about my work is that I’m constantly forced to improve myself so I can give you new, valuable ideas to use in your life.  In a lot of ways, we help each other grow :)

Here’s to being on that journey together!

With love,

Jen