Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Open the DOOR to Simplicity

Today I want to present you with a way to think about the entire process of decluttering and organizing, and achieving a more simplified life.  I like to refer to the process as DOOR, Decluttering, Organizing, Opening, and Routines. 

Decluttering is the first step.  It is also quite often the most difficult and time consuming step.  It can be difficult when you are faced with decisions to pare down either sentimental items or items you once loved, but no longer fit your life, and time consuming considering the enormity of how many items have snuck into so many households.  Marie Kondo is a wonderful example of an expert declutterer.  She has been inspiring many to discard any items that do not spark joy.  Whether you are "kondo-izing" your dresser, or following one of the many minimalism decluttering challenges , the key is to purge, purge, purge! I encourage people to not move on to organizing until a significant amount of decluttering has been done.

Organizing is the process of putting everything in it's place.  Evaluate where the best place is for each item, and implement tools where necessary.  Another Marie Kondo organizing example, her use of boxes within a drawer to corral like items together.  (Tip:  for a budget friendly option instead of her expensive boxes, cut down a cereal or cracker box and cover with shelf paper.) 

After you have Decluttered and Organized you may think you are done, but that is only half of the process!  Next is Opening.  Space will open up when you declutter.  Do not be afraid to leave this open space as is.  Leave more open space than you think is necessary.  In music compositions, the rests between the notes are often just as important as the notes themselves.  Likewise, the open space in your home can be very conducive to reducing stress.  Another space we need to make sure is open?  Your schedule.  We are so over booked with jam packed schedules.  How can we ever expect to recover if we do not have restful unscheduled Open time in our week?  Granted, there may always be unavoidable jam packed weeks.  Make sure to follow up those weeks with down time.  Fight for that down time if you need to.  Write it down, block off your calendar, and simply say no.  You can always say you "have an appointment" . . . with yourself or that you have a "prior commitment" . . . of unscheduled time. 

Finally, we round out this process with Routines.  I like to think of routines as the heart of the organizing process.  Without consistent routines, things get out of control.  There are the obvious things that need routines:  dishes, laundry, housework, administrative tasks, etc.  Don't forget things like purging!  Stuff has a habit of sneaking back in.  You might also want to make a routine of evaluating your space, schedule, and routines.  What works for you today may not work 6 months from now. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Put Your Plates Down! Simplify Your Schedule and Reduce Stress

Ah the analogy of the spinning plates.  How many plates can you keep successfully spinning all while maintaining your attention on the necessities of life.  Although this analogy can be applied to anyone, I know it  especially should echo for my fellow mothers who are currently raising kids.  We just have so many plates!  Of course there is the meal plate, making sure everyone in our family including ourselves get fed, the raising our kids plate, the relationship with our spouse/significant other plate, friendships plate, job(s) plate, home cleaning plate (not to be overlapped with the home organization/purging plate which can be a whole other category), kids activity plate, extended family plate, pet plate, health plate, spiritual plate, and a whole list of specialty plates which varies depending on each family.  Bottom line:  We have a lot of plates.  We drop a lot of plates, and that's OK!  I love when I see encouragement from one person to another saying, it's all good, I dropped that plate last week, let's pick it up together.  (Little Challenge:  Do that for someone this week.) 

There is no doubt that decreasing the amount of plates you have will simplify and reduce stress in your life.  But what do you do when you are just strapped and can't get rid of a plate?  Or maybe you see that it is possible to get rid of that plate, but you have to keep it spinning for another 6 months before you can put it down?  Let's do this instead:  During such times when we simply cannot get rid of said plate, give yourself permission to put the plate gently down for a while.  It doesn't have to crash and shatter into a million pieces that you will have to pick up (in addition to all of the other things you picked up today!).  Just simply put the plate down and pick it up later.  Also try rotating the plates you put down.  For example, on a Sunday evening you look ahead to what is on your calendar for the coming week.  The week is like Grand Central Station of events, volunteer commitments, and meetings.  There is just no down time to keep up with housework that week.  So, place the housework plate down for the week.  Be sure not to leave it down for too long.  Look at future weeks where you can put the events plate down and pick back up the housework plate.  Beware of the critical point you may find yourself hitting if there just does not come a week where you can put the events/activities plate down.  That then indicates that you need to make some decisions to find the plate a new home. 

Put more simply:  Declutter your plates and rotate the ones you have so they do not all come crashing down. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Simplify 2019: Technology: Is it Sucking Our Mindfulness Away?

This was not going to be my second weekly topic of Simplify 2019.  There are so many fun organizing topics I want to cover! However, I feel that this message is so needed right now and has been heavy on my heart.

First, let's define Mindfulness.  It has been described as the practice of paying attention in the present moment.  We know that addiction to technology and our smart phones has had negative consequences on our presence in relationships, driving ability, and even our communications with people we come across in public places. We just do not greet and converse with people like we used to - too many people have their necks craned down into their phone. 

One phenomenon I have observed:  people are in technological overload and are suffering the effects daily.  On one hand, it is amazing to think about the massive amounts of information at our fingertips.  I remember being a freshman in college when it was first made possible to get internet service in my dorm room.  I was totally amazed that I could sit at my desk and send an email to a friend in another state!  Wow!  Now, I can be sitting on a soccer field while processing work emails, ordering household goods, checking in with a friend, and watching a YouTube video on what Instant Pot recipe to try next - all within 1 hour!

You'd think we would be more on top of our life with such technological abilities.  However, I have observed, and experienced, that so many of us just get overloaded and so much falls through the cracks.  One cannot be mindful when this overloaded.  Then, we end up frustrating those we work with; co-workers, teachers, coaches, volunteers, anyone we need to communicate with and have some kind of "transaction" with.  By "transaction" I mean that the other person needs something from you in order to serve some part of your life or your family member's life.  They may need information, an RSVP, an item, a deliverable etc.  For example, a mom is checking her emails while in line at the supermarket.  She sees an email from her sons teacher come through with a link to the classroom sign up for the party coming up in 3 weeks.  She doesn't want to get out of the long line, figures she has plenty of time to respond, and will be back at the store within those 3 weeks and will look at the email later.  However, next time she checks her email, she has received more emails, and the teacher's email drops below the line of vision on the screen.  She is so busy, and it trickles away from her mind, even after she starred it or marked it unread.  The "transaction" was left incomplete.  A few days go by, other immediate tasks pop up and it's forgotten, lost in the huge information pile.  If you have had incomplete transactions like this, and if that relationship is important, or necessary in your life, take this as a beacon for change.  You need to change something now so that you don't let this stuff fall through the cracks.  Maybe you don't have time in your schedule to do the administrative work to support your family and home.  Opening up that time may seem absolutely monumental.  A kids activity may have to be denied, sleep deprived, a project dropped, a class pushed back, or a break from technology needs to be taken.  We want to do it all!

This phrase may seem a little harsh, but it's necessary.  Sometimes we need a push, a huge nudge from a coach to get us to accomplish a goal:  If you are not following through on the basic commitments of a part of your life, you need to give something up.  It is not fair to yourself, to your family members, friends, or to those who make that activity possible to not do your part.  I serve in a variety of volunteer leadership capacities and hear the excuses time after time:  I just didn't have time, we are soooo busy, I have x, y, z going on how am I supposed to do that?!  I get it, I truly do.  I myself have 2 kids a dog and family commitments, my husband and I both work full time, we both volunteer in a variety of roles, and I have this little Neat Doctor side gig.  Reflect on the past few years and ask yourself if you have given these excuses  (or even thought these excuses in your mind) for not following through on something.  If so, again listen to the beacon and change something so that you don't find yourself in this situation this year.  I have had to give up stuff to see this through in my life, and it can be really hard!  Believe me, you will feel the wonderful positive effects of simplifying.  You will be giving yourself, your family, and those around you the gift of less stress emanating from you, and more mindful presence.

Here is my challenge for you this week:  Really observe your relationship with technology.  Find a way to limit your relationship with technology, yet give yourself time to complete transactions that come through technological vehicles, and be totally present with the people surrounding you.  See what it will really take to be on top of your important transactions.  When you are NOT face to face with people, turn to technology.  Catch up on emails (and process any to-do's and transactions from those emails!), check in on social media, watch a Netflix episode, etc.  It's perfectly fine to feed your soul and passion via a technological vehicle, but evaluate if the technology is blocking you from those who you love and care about.  Ask yourself, am I doing a disservice to others by checking my phone right now?