Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

What to do with your stuff when later becomes now

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When it comes to the stuff in our homes, I believe a  continuum exists between two points  –  keep everything and save nothing. Most people fall somewhere in between.  Yes, there are extremes at both ends – those with a tendency to acquire an excessive amount and those with an equally extreme tendency to rid themselves of anything of value, sentimental or otherwise. But for most people, myself included, we all have sentimental attachments.

The other day I was wandering through my home and thinking about what I absolutely had to keep if I ever had to make the choice. As a professional organizer, it’s an exercise I practice regularly as a way to empathize with my clients.

It turned out the things I really felt strongly about were the items I have the most sentimental attachment to.  None of it was furniture, thankfully.  Mostly letters from my parents and close friends that could never be replaced. Photographs (the paper kind) from my childhood and “keepsakes” that I don’t need but that don’t take up much space either. I also have some written work that would be difficult to replace unless I took the time to scan it and for me, that’s not worth my time.

My husband has a box of important stuff related to his daughter, my step-daughter. And of course, I have a small  “treasure box” of memorabilia from our life together.

The only time I know I would go through this stuff is if I were moving or downsizing. Otherwise it stays hidden, for the most part.   But what does it mean not to have these things? Would it feel like my life had ended? What happens when you keep things with the intention of looking at them later and then find later is now?

Even if it comes unexpectedly, now should be when you get to re-read the letters, sort through the photos, recall the memories and maybe even tell the stories.  But now is often competing with time itself. The house has to be sold. The move has to happen. The remodel is about to start.  Sometimes, sadly, the owner of these things is no longer around for the task.

As an organizer, this is the most poignant part of my work; When I realize the meaning of that photo, award or stuffed animal toy only exists because of the person who imparted that meaning.  When it belongs to someone else, you can impart your own meaning, but then you are left with the same dilemma: Keep it or let it go?

I find it’s useful to consider the truth of these questions when later suddenly becomes now.

  • Would my life really be over if I let these things go or would I just feel that way?
  • Is everything meaningful or could I pick out just the things that are most important to me?
  • By keeping everything, am I placing a significant burden on my family to deal with later?
  • Am I keeping everything as an excuse to avoid creating new memories?
  • If this or that item should disappear would I miss it or attempt to replace it if I could?
  • Would taking a picture of it allow me to let it go if I had to?
  • Is there anyone who I know for certain who would want it (be careful with this one since you don’t want to obligate someone to take something they really don’t want).
  • Do I really love it or am I keeping it to satisfy someone else’s (perceived) need – such as when you keep it not because you like it but because it was a gift from someone you care about.

Life is like walking through a wonderful art museum. You get to admire and spend a little time with the art work that resonates the most with you. You may even be able to take pictures or buy postcards. But at the end of the day, you don’t get to keep what you saw. You do however get to remember how you felt.

Why you shouldn’t “get organized” in 2014

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2013 2014 in SandJanuary is the perfect time to plan your personal organizing and productivity goals but like most people you’ll probably never do anything about them.

Forgive me if that sounds a bit cynical but over the years I have realized a lot of people say they want to get more organized but don’t.  That’s because they realize it’s boring and tedious, which it can be unless you are naturally organized.

After all, who wants to think about organizing a garage or the year’s tax receipts when it’s all you can do to get out of the house in the morning?

Instead of resolving to “get organized” this year,  think about what positive change you want in your life and then connect that change to something you can control.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you want to do a better job at saving money.

Start by examining the ways you spend your money now. There are numerous and easy ways to do this. One of the simplest is perusing your bank account over the past year. Many banks provide a “quick view” of where your money went by category such as groceries, mortgage, gifts, utilities, tuition, etc.

Look for some of the hidden ways you spend money. For example, I had a client who owned four identical blouses, two with their price tags still attached.  Her clothes closet was so cluttered she didn’t remember she owned them.

After organizing her closet, she could easily see everything she kept stored.  No more time wasted looking for things she couldn’t find. No more getting late to work every day. No more money spent on duplicates.

When you discover how and where you spend your money, it becomes easier to adjust your budget and your spending.

Did you resolve to get healthier this year? Try losing a few clutter pounds.

I guarantee, when you let go of unwanted things in your life it actually makes you feel lighter. When you feel lighter you feel like being more active. The more active you are, the healthier you will be and feel.

I had a client who felt so much lighter after our work together organizing his home office, he started a regular jogging routine. Eventually he started running and last year he entered and completed his first marathon.

Is 2014 the year you change your job or career? Be innovative.

Keep your mind active any way you can. Whether that means taking dance lessons or organizing your model car collection. Make connections and start connecting the dots. What kind of people or ideas attract you?  Take small risks like joining a networking group (if you’re shy).  Do something productive.  Bake a cake.  Write a poem. Fix a broken appliance. Organize your closet. Anything so long as you can see and experience the result.

I know a woman who was unhappy at her job. In 2008 at the start of the recession, she found herself unemployed.   She spent the next few months doing all the things she had wanted to do while she was working but didn’t have the time or energy to do. She read books, took classes, did volunteer work and one night she organized her bathroom cabinet, just because she felt like it.

Four months later she started her own organizing business. That woman, by the way, is me.

So when you are thinking about your resolutions for 2014, don’t include “get organized” unless you know why you want to get organized?  Instead, consider what you want to accomplish and see if it’s something you can get by doing what you do naturally. 

Life is short.  At the end of your life, chances are you won’t wish you were more organized. If, however, getting organized gives you what you want, helps you save money, advances your goals, takes away your stress or gives you more peace of mind,  then by all means, do it.

Still feeling stuck? Come back next week to get some quick-start tips that will help you start your year off on the right track.

A Year of Transformation

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ElegantHolidayTable2013.

A year of transformation.  As you recall the most notable events of the past year, whether they be global, local or personal, why not take a moment to reflect on your life today, right now, in this moment. Because it will change.

If you’re not even sure where to begin, here are a few thought provoking questions to help you get started.

Did you accomplish what you set out to do?

Did you take the time to focus on what is really important to you?

Do you recognize the areas where you succeeded and where you would still like to grow?

Can you see how your contributions fit into the grand scheme of life?

Transformation takes mental and physical sweat, I once read. It also takes intensity mindfulness and focus. It’s not easy to know who we are supposed to be let alone know how to fully inhabit ourselves.  At the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to think bigger. It was time for LET’S MAKE ROOM to make room to grow.

I love helping people get organized, however, I felt I could accomplish more for my clients if I wasn’t working alone as much.  I also realized, after several people hired me to help them get organized to move, or empty a family home they were selling, or help them get unpacked, that there was a need LET’S MAKE ROOM could fill, especially in the San Francisco/East Bay Community where I live.

I realized, we could take the stress out of moving for busy families and other homeowners because we could fully dedicate ourselves to the process allowing our clients the flexibility and time to work or simply enjoy their lives, even when they didn’t live here.

Thus the idea of becoming a complete residential organizing service, one that would help people Get Organized, Get Moved and Get More Done, was born.

At first I resisted the idea of growing. I felt unsure of what it would mean in terms of my ability to keep ‘tabs’ on my little business. Then a series of big jobs came my way and I realized that I could no longer limit myself. Life presented me with a choice. Some people would say it was “luck.” I’ve always believed that luck is nothing more than an opportunity meeting with persistence.

Opportunity is like a strong wind you can’t escape from. You just have to hold strong and at the same time let yourself be carried forward, or backwards, or sideways.

Sometimes opportunity comes in the form of an unexpected loss or change. It can even be an expected change, such as growing older and you find yourself suddenly having to make a choice.

Pulitzer Prize winning Poet Mary Oliver writes about this in her poem entitled, The Journey:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Her words have followed me from my old career through launching LET’S MAKE ROOM. I have it posted on the wall next to my desk in my office along with a collage of other inspiring words and images.

And in case you’re wondering, they are not neatly hung in frames but rather displayed, somewhat haphazardly.  Sometimes that’s the way life is, even for an organizer.

 

The Yoga of Organizing

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My friend and Yogini extraordinaire, Deborah Saliby, called me on Sunday asking for my advice.

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Deborah Saliby, Yoga for Health

Deborah has been teaching Yoga for more than thirty years.  There are a lot of Yoga teachers out there but relatively few hold the special certification that she does in Iyengar training. The certification signifies that she has undergone extensive training as an instructor in a particular method of Hatha Yoga called Iyengar, named for B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the foremost Yoga teachers in the world.

Whenever I have a question about Yoga, I call Deborah.  The moment I feel like my body, mind and spirit are crying out for a little restoration, Deborah is the first person I think of.  On Sunday, however, after her class, Deborah’s mind and spirit were crying out for a different kind of restoration, in her home.  I am grateful she called me.

“I want to organize three closets in my house,” she told me,
“but I’m not sure where to start.” She asked if I would mind sharing some of my professional organizing tips.  “Of course,” I told her. I enjoy it when anyone calls me with a specific organizing question. To me if you are willing to ask the question, you are definitely in the mindset to get organized.

As a professional organizer,  the most common questions I get involve the how and where of organizing, as in “how do I do this?” or “where do I start?”  Typically this follows an extended period of gradual awareness which eventually transforms into “I really wish my (fill in the blank) was more organized. But it’s not until the defining moment when the thought, “today is the day I’m going to do something about it,” that change can occur.

For my friend Deborah that moment came after she got home from teaching one of the many Yoga classes she leads in Berkeley, California.

“So where do you want to start?” I asked. “I don’t know, she said. So I probed a little more. “Which of your closets bugs you the most, that is, which has the most impact on your daily life? “My bedroom closet where I keep all my clothes,” she said, with a little giggle, “you know how much I love to shop?”

“Okay,” I said. “So why do you want to do this at all?” She explained to me that she wanted to hold a sidewalk sale. “Yes,” I said, “that’s good, but why do you want to get organized?” I asked again. “Because I can’t stand looking at the mess in my closet anymore. I know I have a lot of nice things in there that I don’t want anymore and half the time I can’t find what I’m looking for. I’m wasting time and I want to be able to wear what I love.”

Deborah understood what was bothering her about her closet but even more she knew what organizing it would mean to her (not to anyone else) and she was motivated. Plus she had the added incentive of making a little extra money. I told her, “Yeah, you could sell all the clothes you don’t want anymore and with the money you make go out and buy new ones.”  We both laughed.

I offered Deborah a step-by-step plan to get all three of her closets organized.  I shared some strategies for how to overcome some predictable obstacles such as what to do with items that had more “emotional value” than “wear-value.”  I took her through exactly what I would do with her if I were physically doing the work with her and then I asked her if she had any questions. “Nope, I’ve got it.”

Before we hung up I told her to feel free to call me when she was done with the first closet.  Even though Deborah was doing this for herself, I wanted her to know that I was interested in hearing about her progress.

The next day, Deborah did call. She sounded really happy.  She told me how she had followed my plan including emptying the entire closet first, sorting items by category, parting with what she no longer used, wore, or loved and got rid of things that brought in bad “mojo.”  She reorganized the items she kept by type and color and put aside those things she plans to include in her sidewalk sale.  In total it took her two hours. I was impressed.

“How do you feel now?” I asked her, “Great! Just walking past my closet makes me happy.”Neat Closet

I offered Deborah some final tips about items she was still undecided about and suggested some ways to contain items on the shelves using what she already had around her house, before saying goodbye.

After we hung up I went in to my living room and took a big breath and stretched.  Thank you for that, Deborah.

Have a question about organizing? Getting ready to move or start a home renovation project and need to get things packed, donated and organized? Call or email me. I promise you’ll come away with something you can use.

As I told Deborah, I love to be a catalyst for change.

Confronting our monsters

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At 8:00 this morning, I had my own private celebration. It took place in my head.

An hour earlier I was driving and thinking about how terrifying it must be for some of my clients to do the one thing that scares them the most; To finally confront what’s kept them from moving forward in their lives because they feel overwhelmed and stuck and it’s showing up as piles of papers, boxes and who knows what else, on their desks, on the floor, in their drawers, everywhere.

I was thinking about what it means to do the one thing that scares you the most and to have the courage to do it anyway because you know you have to. Because you know not doing so will have far greater consequences.

For people who are chronically disorganized, the consequence of not facing their fears can be enormous.  For some it’s a loss of control over their lives. For others, it’s isolation. I know people who have lost their children, their spouses and their very security because of their inability to face their fears head on.  I also know people who have shown great courage and have discovered the meaning of making room in their lives.

My fears are about public speaking. And yet, as a small business person I know the value it brings to others in the form of information and sometimes even inspiration. But I do it quite frankly because I have to. Working with people in their homes and in their offices or helping them move is tactical but it’s also very personal. I know that if people see me and feel I am someone they can trust, and recognize I  have the expertise to help them, then they often will remember me when it comes time to organize their offices, or their bedrooms or help them plan and oversee their move to a new home.

The Paper MonsterThis is what I was thinking at seven o’clock this morning, on my way to speak to a group of fifty small business owners and entrepreneurs about how to face their fears, specifically about how to confront their own Paper Monsters.  I did this presentation a few weeks earlier and it had not lived up to my expectations  – perfectionism, my monster, rearing it’s ugly head, yet again –  and now I was getting ready to face him again.  Was I scared? Petrified, which is why at that moment I started thinking about my clients.

“If  they can have the courage to hire me, then I can damn well find the courage to face my fears as well, ” I thought.  And so I did. And it went fine. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. And that’s good enough. But to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. At least for today I can celebrate.

Tomorrow, I do it again.

My Top 10 Must Do’s

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What would you do if you learned you only had a year to live?

Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to me (at least not today) but I recently compiled a list of ten things I want to do in my life. I shared my list with a group of about 40 other women who also shared theirs during a monthly women’s social group I attend.

The idea of a “Bucket List” was made popular by the movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The movie is about two terminally ill men (portrayed by Nicholson and Freeman) on a final road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.”

I haven’t seen the movie but I would bet that the movie character’s lists don’t veer too far from what I heard from the women in my group.  Sure, there were some creative and unusual wishes: “Get the keys to every major museum in the world (and) go in at night and wander around with an art historian,” to “Witness a contact from outer space,” but mostly I was struck by how similar our lists were.

The most common themes included the desire to experience the natural world (animals, landscapes, oceans, parks); travel; grow old to see our children (including nieces and nephews) and grandchildren thrive; be healthy or live healthier (presumably as compared to how we are now); do something creative or adventurous; learn a new skill; contribute to our communities in a meaningful and lasting way; and most, if not all wanted to experience more love in our lives either toward those closest to us, toward those we hope to meet and not surprisingly, toward ourselves.

With the possible exception of growing older in health, it was reassuring to realize that just about all these themes are achievable and for the most part, well within our control.

Yet, sadly, many of us never even get close to living our dreams. Instead we get caught up in the demands of daily life, the burden of keeping up with too much stuff and too much information (seemingly urgent but rarely important) and the false belief that our heart’s desires can only be achieved through some miraculous intervention or enormous compromise.

I am a victim of this belief as much as anyone. So much so that when I tried to imagine how I would achieve my greatest wish – to take a trip on the famed Orient Express from London through, Strasbourg and finally to Paris and back, the only way I could imagine my wish becoming reality was to wait until I was diagnosed with some terminal disease and then cash in my retirement money to pay for it (since I probably would no longer have a need for a “retirement.” )

Here is my “bucket” list if you’re curious:

  1. Take a week long vacation on the actual Orient Express – London, Strasbourg, Paris, and back.
  2. Visit a wildlife preserve in Africa
  3. Vacation in the  North Italian coastal region of the Cinque Terre
  4. Write and have a book published by a major publishing house
  5. Meet Joni Mitchell
  6. Be on television, featured for my expertise.
  7. Learn to speak Spanish
  8. Go to Esalen at Big Sur and soak in the hot tubs overlooking the Pacific
  9. Get a dog
  10. See the Aurora Borealis (aka the “northern lights”)

The absurdity of my realization is the essential dilemma we all face. Do we choose a life of practicality, security and presumed “peace of mind,” or do we throw the dice and risk losing it all (whatever ‘all’ is) to experience our dreams but at the possible expense of our long term survival?

I wish I had an answer to this question. I don’t. All I know is that I only have one life to live (excuse the soap opera reference) and at the end of it I’m not going to wish I’d spent more time regretting what I never did.

How An Anti-Socialite Became a Joiner

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The famous comedian, Groucho Marx once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

I grew up with a family of non-joiners. This got passed down to me in many ways. I never was a Girl Scout (or a Brownie) as all my friends were. I didn’t attend Sunday school.  I never played team sports, except one summer when I joined my camp’s co-ed softball team and they put me in left field hoping I’d never have to catch a ball.   I never joined clubs in high school. I didn’t even attend my high school graduation, although once I volunteered to MC a high school fashion show but was  replaced by a young Puerto Rican kid who wore jeans with sharp creases that I envied. My mother never ironed any of my jeans. She was too busy working a full-time job as a copywriter.

So when I started my own business, I learned quickly that getting business meant I was going to have to renounce my family’s anti-social culture and become ‘a joiner.’

The first group I joined was the one for my industry, the National Association of Professional Organizers also known as NAPO.  I have been a member of NAPO for almost three years.  Just learning  there was a group for organizers was a huge relief. It meant that I wasn’t crazy to think I could make money helping people avoid or at least reduce chaos in their lives.  I was always good at this, but getting paid for it? Sign me up!

Joining NAPO was a great way to embody my new organizer identity and meet other like-minded professionals who, like me, discovered their passion for helping people find the space in their homes, offices and lives to focus on what truly mattered to them.

After NAPO, I joined another related group called the Institute for Challenging Disorganization or ICD.  ICD started as a subgroup of NAPO in 1992 but eventually split off to become it’s own organization. It’s focus is education and research about chronic disorganization, more popularly known as “hoarding.” Their mission is to help people with chronic disorganization, but they are also a great resource for professional organizers and other related professionals such as mental health counselors.  ICD offers its members free teleclasses on a variety of subjects related to the understanding, treatment and support of people who have been impacted by this sometimes crippling need to acquire and hoard. For me, as an organizer, it has helped me better understand my clients tendencies toward disorganization as I believe the seeds of hoarding exist in all of us.

I am also part of a group called EBUG. For months I couldn’t remember what the acronym stood for so I just called it East Bay Uncommon Girls. It’s actually East Bay UNITED Gals though I’m not sure exactly what unites us other than we are all women looking to have some more fun and friendship in our lives.

EBUG, which currently claims about 200 members, was started by a group of four friends so they would have more opportunities to socialize and feel less isolated after a long day’s work.  EBUG is known as “the book club without the books.” It’s perfect for someone like me who hasn’t read a piece of fiction since Clinton was in the White House. EBUG meets roughly once a month for all kinds of interesting and fun member-led events such as chocolate and wine tastings, kayaking, outdoor hiking, palmistry and Tarot card readings, movie nights, barbeques and belly dancing.

I originally joined thinking it would be a great opportunity to network without the usual pressure to collect business cards but it’s turned out to be so much more. I’ve made some great new friends (who thought that would be possible in mid-life?) and after nearly 25 years of living in California actually feel part of a community, not a geographic one but a community of smart, savvy, fun-loving women. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why it’s call United gals.

Earlier this year, I went to a networking event sponsored by the Mount Diablo Business Women, or MDBW,  a group whose mission is to enhance it’s members “business, social, professional, and personal well being.” I first learned about this group from someone I met at EBUG.

I confess,  I went initially because it was held at a really nice hotel.  I figured if the meeting was a bust I could still walk around the elegant, marble-floored lobby and pretend I was a guest. Instead, what I discovered was another great group of women, only these women, had taken the plunge to start their own businesses, like me.   MDBW is not so much about exchanging business cards as it is  about developing relationships and learning new skills and perspectives as fellow travelers on the road to success.  Besides, that the food is really good!

Then, this past September you could say I really drank the Kool-aid. I joined BNI.  BNI stands for Business Networking International.  It is the networking group of all networking groups. Their whole philosophy can be boiled down into their two word motto, “givers gain” or to give it a more street interpretation, ‘I watch your back, you watch mine.’

According to it’s website, BNI generated business referrals resulting in $2.8 billion worth of business for its’ members in the past year. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner, an author, columnist and networking guru.

I joined BNI for one reason. I wanted more business.  The meeting format is not for the faint of heart. Some have even called it ‘cult-like.’ I prefer to think of it as enthusiastically supportive. Each group works on a one-profession-per-chapter model to eliminate competition or the perception of it within each group. Before I joined, I almost joined. Two years earlier I had learned about BNI from someone I knew through EBUG.  I submitted an application (yes, one needs to be approved by the individual chapter members) then subsequently withdrew it because I just wasn’t ready.

Membership really depends on your ability to make referrals, and that requires knowing people and being in situations to know more of them. It also means being a serious business owner. The cost to join is steep (about $1000 a year) for a sole proprietor but I expect to make back my investment soon.   So two years after I almost joined,  the stars aligned to let me know I was ready this time around.  It came in the form of another organizer who told me there was an “opening” for an organizer at my group, which by the way, meets at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. every Tuesday. Still, I have to say that I am really glad I joined. Partly because I genuinely like the people – people’s true colors are vivid that early in the morning – and partly because they have a great track record of upholding the ‘givers gain’ model.  It’s like knowing you got the best seat in the house or got picked to play on the winning team.

Having never been on any team (with the exception of that camp softball league) I have to confess, in spite of my anti-social upbringing, I like it.  With all due respect to Groucho and my family, being a joiner, afterall, ain’t that bad.

 

 

7 Strategies for Downsizing Your Home

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DownsizingIf you’ve lived in the same home for 10, 20, 30 or more years, and decided to move into a smaller space, there is a term professional organizers and others such as realtors have adopted from the business world. It’s called downsizing.

In business, downsizing has a negative connotation as it generally means that people will lose their jobs. In the world of organizing, however, downsizing refers to a conscious and deliberate process of reducing the contents of one’s home prior to a move to a smaller space. Although the use of the term in this context is thought of as neutral, people who undergo the process of downsizing may feel otherwise. This is particularly true if you are older, retired or living alone as you will probably need to make decisions about whether or not to keep literally hundreds of items before your actual move day.

Complicating this fact, is that as we get older the part of our brain that helps us with mental tasks such as organizing and prioritizing, otherwise known as the “executive function,” does not work as well as it used to. This isn’t our fault. It’s just a normal process of aging.

When preparing to downsize in preparation for a move, here are a few strategies I recommend to help minimize the stress and uncertainty you may experience.

1. Plan ahead. Start thinking about and planning for your move at least 6 months before you put your house on the market. This could include talking to family members about your plans, determining your needs and goals for your next home and perhaps even researching or visiting other communities you are potentially interested in moving to.

2. Take the time to survey your belongings. Make a point of sharing memories and stories they evoke with those who have offered to help you get ready to move. You may even wish to record those stories in writing or with the use of a tape recorder well before you start packing.

3. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Delegate physical tasks such as sorting, categorizing, packing, transporting and moving to professionals or trusted friends. Elicit ideas and suggestions so you can benefit from the expertise and experience of others who do this professionally or who are knowledgeable about the process.

4. Keep only what you need, love or can’t replace. Don’t become a hoarder. Hoarding is distinguished from collecting in that collecting generally involves objects considered by others to be both interesting and valuable. Hoarding, on the other hand, involves keeping large quantities of things that appear to be useless or of limited value so much so that it compromises your ability to use your home as it was intended. The decision about what to keep and what to sell, donate, or dispose of is yours but only keep what you truly love, will use again or can’t easily replace.

5. Make your wishes clear from the start. If you prefer to be consulted with on certain decisions let others know that in the beginning. Talk openly about how you appreciate help and be willing to accept it when offered. However if you are feeling anxious, say so and take a break. The less anxious you feel, the easier it will be to make decisions you can live with.

6. Conserve your energy. While you think you may be able to work for four or five hours at a time, in reality you may only be effective for two. Commit to doing a specific number of tasks such as packing three boxes, instead of a whole room. If you enjoy it, do so while watching your favorite TV show or listening to music.

7. Don’t hold back (or apologize for) your emotions. Moving is stressful for everyone at any age. As you prepare for your move, you may experience everything from the joy of remembering a happy event to the sadness of grieving the loss of a loved one. Give yourself permission to feel these emotions and recognize that they are a normal response to the circumstances. Your emotions won’t hurt you but suppressing them may. If possible, talk to someone you know and trust who can listen and empathize.

Lis Golden McKinley, M.A., is CEO of LET’S MAKE ROOM, a professional organizing company serving clients in all five counties of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. For more information, visit their website at http://www.letsmakeroom.com or call them at 510-846-1976 to schedule a complimentary phone consultation.

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What a lobster can teach us about change.

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I’m going to tell you a short story about a lobster to illustrate what happens to us when we experience change and more importantly when we are called to take action in response to change.

As a lobster ages and grows, it needs to shed it’s shell. It does this by finding the safest place it can in the rough surf of the ocean and far away from other predators. As it matures, its shell starts to constrict around it’s body. If it didn’t shed its shell, it would suffocate and die. This means that until its new shell hardens, the lobster will be completely vulnerable to the elements. It has an instinctual need to risk its life in order to grow and thrive.

For many of us “change,” even when it’s for the good, makes us feel like that lobster.  We know we need to move forward but sometimes the thought scares us as much as being thrown into a violent ocean current.  Not changing can also mean suffocating in our own shells.  It’s no wonder facing change and taking action can be so overwhelming.

Change, though not a linear process, is like the lifespan of the lobster. It involves a process of feeling uncomfortable enough to make a change that will bring us to know ourselves better.  It involves several phases which I’ve narrowed down to six.

To read more about the Six Phases of Change, subscribe to Back On Track, the monthly e-guide from LET’S MAKE ROOM or email me at lis@letsmakeroom.com.