Flexible Planning for New Moms

As a new mom of a three-month old girl, I’ve discovered that motherhood is a true joy, daytime naps are life saving, and planning for the unexpected is a highly-valuable skill. I’ve been learning how to nurse my little one and change diapers while trying to get dinner on the table each day. My mommy learning curve was delayed when a postpartum hemorrhage put me in the ICU for three days. For more dramatic details, read my post My To-Do List Can Wait (I’m Alive and My Baby Is Here). But now my new life is becoming more routine. My sweet baby and I have worked through the newborn challenges and are enjoying smiles and even a few giggles.

So what advice would this professional organizer mom offer to all new moms? Don’t expect much sleep, don’t expect to get much done, and don’t expect organizing perfection. I’m especially speaking to type A planners (like me). Be flexible in your planning and scheduling. Basically, let go of unrealistic expectations and enjoy the moment you are in. Your independent life is in the past, but in it’s place is a beautiful bundle of joy that will melt your heart. Cultivate that relationship. It’s a special one that can not be replaced by a trip to The Container Store. Your life will be forever different, and that means your priorities will be different too. You can’t get it all done anymore. Trust me; I’ve tried and it just leads to frustration. Take time to enjoy your baby. Enjoy your husband. Enjoy your family.

I will leave you with one organizing tip: Write down everything! Or put reminders in your phone. In your sleep-deprived state, your mommy brain will not remember anything. You don’t want to forget to buy more diapers – it’s not a good day when you run out of diapers. :) If something truly needs to be done, then make a note of it, literally.

Happy organizing to all new moms out there! More importantly, I wish you joyful, unforgettable times with your precious baby.

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Simplify in Three Areas: Your Solution for Stress

Americans are stressed out.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, three out of four doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments, and 44 percent of stressed people lose sleep every night. The effects of stress can be devastating to health – physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But you didn’t really need to me to quote statistics about stress to know that you are stressed, did you? You know it; we all know it. The pace of modern life, the overwhelming amount of information and technology, the work load on the job, not to mention the violence of daily news, both here and abroad, make for a culture of unending stress.

The question is, what do we do about it?

Simplfiy Your Solution for Stress

We cannot reduce our exposure to stress in every area of life, but we can change our circumstances and environment to some extent. We can change the things we have control over. As a professional organizer, I have a unique perspective. I help people reduce their stress by simplifying their lives. Living simply in all areas of life is one of the best ways I know to decrease stress and increase happiness. How do I help my clients accomplish this? You can simplify in three main areas: your stuff, your schedule and your relationships. Stuff is the easiest to deal with; relationships are the most difficult.

Simplify Your Stuff

According to researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families, the more stuff we own, the more stress we feel, especially for women. The more we fill our homes with possessions, the more our bodies pump out the stress hormone, cortisol. When we reach the point that our clutter controls us, it becomes a burden. Do you have a room in your home that feels out of control? Does your entire house feel out of control? If you are feeling that stress, it’s definitely time to simplify. Your solution is to get rid of things you don’t want or need, things that are not adding value or worth to your life. The more you give away, the better you will feel. I’ve seen this happen countless times when working with clients. Reduce your stuff, reduce your stress.

Simplify Your Schedule

Another area of life that can overwhelm us is our schedules. Many people wear their busy schedule as a badge of honor. I hear them say, “Life is busy. I just can’t keep up. My schedule is so full.” I feel like it’s the American way, to always be busy. But are we truly happy when we are so busy? What about taking time to reflect and think about who we are, rather than what we do? If you are feeling the pressure of your schedule, stop for a moment and think about why you are so busy. Don’t worry about what other people do or say. The pace of your life does not have to be at break-neck speed. It could be just a stage that will pass. We all have times that everything seems to happen all at once. But if you are constantly “on the go” and don’t see relief in sight, your solution is to let go of tasks and commitments that do not line up with your life priorities. Make time for fun, family, and relaxation.

Simplify Your Relationships

People can also be a source stress. When simplifying your relationships, I’m not talking about selling your children to the highest bidder! :) I’m thinking of the people in your life that you can choose to not associate with – the bossy mom in your toddler’s play group, the negative co-worker that always hangs out in the lunch room, or the angry dry-cleaning lady. As you identify stressful people, find ways that you can “take a break” from seeing them. Find a different play group, eat a short lunch at your desk and then take a walk with your favorite co-worker, or drive an extra five miles to do business with a cheerful dry cleaner. Your solution is to say goodbye to people that stress you out and to surround yourself with people that inspire and lift you up. I know this is not possible in every case, but you might find that you have more choice in this area than you realize.

What is your stress level? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your stuff, your schedule or your relationships?

Simplifying can reduce stress and bring you more freedom and peace. Getting organized in these three areas could bring you more sleep, save you a trip to the doctor, and in the end, lessen your overall stress. May God bless you with discernment as you make decisions to reduce your stress, and let me know if I can be of service as your professional organizer.

Give Thanks for Simple Things

give thanks titleWhat are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?
  • Your retirement account?
  • Your 50-inch flat screen?
  • Your luxury yacht?
  • Your super busy schedule?
No, we are usually thankful for simple and significant things in life like:
  • Our spouse and children
  • Our friends
  • Warm meals
  • Heat and hot showers

I’m not saying it’s wrong to be thankful for your job, your safety net, or even your luxury boat. But every year I come to Thanksgiving, I become more aware of what things are really important to me. And it’s not my TV. This November holiday puts me in a more reflective and sober mood. It makes me want to live a simpler, less complicated life. What about you? I’ve read several blog posts recently with this theme in mind. I want to share them with you.

Why I Took My Kids’ Toys Away (And Why They Won’t Get Them Back)

The Disease of Being Busy

Why I Told My Husband He Could Walk Away

Thought-provoking, indeed. These articles harken back to a time when life wasn’t so busy, so complex, or so disorganized. I think part of the solution here is to start and continue saying “no.” It’s difficult to do, but sometimes so necessary. For our physical health, for our mental and emotional peace, for our families and children.

  • We’ve got to say NO to busy schedules and too many activities, even fun ones.
  • We’ve got to say NO to bringing more “stuff” into our homes and offices.
  • We’ve got to say NO to people that want us to be involved in the latest fundraising effort, political contest, or volunteer opportunity, even ones we believe in.

We may be questioned for saying “no.” It’s not the American way. But that’s OK. Think about it this way. What kind of lifestyle or values are you passing down to your children? What kind of things do you want your girl or boy to be thankful for when they are 20, 40, or 60 years old? How busy and over-scheduled they were, or how much fun they had playing in the woods with their friends?

Of course, we can say “yes” sometimes, and we should. Caution: just be careful how many things you say “yes” to.

What are you saying YES to this Thanksgiving? What are you saying NO to this Thanksgiving? What are you giving thanks for?

My Favorite Organizing Quote

My favorite quote actually comes from an architect.

“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
-William Morris

The best way to organize your home or business is to SIMPLIFY. Take time to write down your priorities and then let go of things that are not useful or beautiful. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What is important to you?
  • What is your vision for this space?
  • What is your mission statement for this room?
  • When was the last time you used this?
  • What is your purpose for this paper?
  • Does this item have a home?
  • What is holding you back from letting go of something?

Once you begin to define the purpose for your spaces and possessions, organizing becomes easier. Only keep things that fulfill your priorities and goals. Everything else is probably clutter. It really is that simple. If you cannot define or create a purpose for something you own, then it is detracting from your life, not adding to it!

Purposeful possessions make life more meaningful.

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Fewer Toys, Happier Kids

How many toys do your kids play with everyday? 4, 10, 20? My guess is that they tend to play with the same ones over and over, their favorites. What about the rest? My other guess is that the rest becomes clutter in your home.

I recently read an intriguing article on Becoming Minimalist, a blog dedicated to reducing “the stuff” in our lives. The writer contends that children lead happier and more creative lives when they have fewer toys. His points are thought-provoking and convincing. My favorites – kids become less selfish, kids experience more of nature, and kids live in cleaner, tidier homes. Love that one!

When we live with fewer things, I believe we are happier, whether we are 3 years old, or 70. Instead of being bound to our stuff, we learn to be more resourceful, imaginative, and thankful. We also place more meaning on relationships with friends and family.

So how do you reduce the clutter of toys? Consider these options.

  • Reduce by giving away to charities. Needy children would love to play with your child’s old toys. Invite your kids to participate in the act of giving, so they appreciate their own wealth and the needs of others.
  • Rotate the toys you have. Pack away some toys and place in storage. Every three to four months (or by season), take them out and pack away a different set. Your kids will feel like they have new toys each time you rotate a set.
  • Ask family and friends to gift activities and certificates, instead of more toys for birthdays and holidays. It’s my view that children receive too many toys from their grandparents and extended family. Ask them politely to think of creative alternatives during gift-giving times.
  • Buy quality toys that can be passed on. Instead of more plastic, purchase fewer but long-lasting toys that you can pass down to the next generation.
  • Become an expert in what your child enjoys. Discover what your kids find joy in playing with and focus on that. Maybe they like riding their bike, digging up worms, or trying on dress-up clothes. I encourage you to choose more activity-oriented play time, and only buy things that engage their minds and bodies.

How have you tried to lighten the burden of excessive toys in your household? I’d love to hear from you. I also invite you to read the blog article here, Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids. Now go give away some toys!

The New Normal

Whether it’s unexpected or planned, life events can sometimes throw us into chaos for a period of time until we can adjust. Sometimes it’s a birth, marriage, illness, accident, move, or new job that causes stress, good or bad. That adjustment time is when we discover how to operate within the new circumstances. This is what I call living in the “new normal”.

These past few months, I’ve had friends and family go through really hard times, and I’ve been glad to help when I can. For them, they are learning to live in the new normal.

These times are always a good opportunity to evaluate what’s truly important in life. For me, it’s relationships with my family and friends. It’s also a chance to look at everything else in life as just stuff! Letting go of that stuff and organizing it brings us one step closer to our priorities.

What in your life can you release or organize to concentrate on relationships? Here are some examples. Some of these things are about saying yes, and some of them are about saying no.

  • Organizing a garage into a game room so that you can facilitate play with your grandchildren
  • Organizing your kitchen so you can teach your daughter to cook
  • Organizing your work schedule, so you can spend more time with your kids
  • Organizing your meal planning, so you can get healthier and live longer
  • Organizing your commitments, so you are not burned out at the end of the day
  • Organizing your kids’ schedules so that they are not over-committed to too many activities
  • Organizing your office, so you can find paperwork easily and not waste precious time

Often times, crises will cause us to adjust quickly so we are in a better place in life, but I hope that you don’t have to go through a life crisis to adjust to a new and better normal.

What can be organized in your life to increase your relationship quota?What’s your new normal?

My sister, me, mom and nephew!

New Year, New Start

I love new beginnings! They are an opportunity to reflect and be thankful for what we’ve learned in the past. But ultimately, they are about a fresh start. New years are a great time to leave behind old habits and begin forging new paths.

What have you recognized about your organizing habits that you want to change? What room or space do you want to transform, so that it is more pleasant to live or work in? How can you simplify your schedule so you can spend more time on the people you love and the things you really want to do?

How can 2013 be an more organized year for you?

I can help. This year, I want to help more people get organized. You say, oh, I can’t afford it. You may not be able to buy one of my 10 or 20 hour organizing packages. But how about a one-hour consultation to give you ideas? Maybe all you need is a kick-start to begin a year of organizing transformation. I have never walked into a space without some ideas to share with my clients. As a professional organizer, I can see the future potential of a room. My excitement about your space can give you motivation to make changes.

However you choose to make organizing changes in your life or spaces, I wish you the best in 2013!