Monday, October 17, 2016

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist Mother

{Photo of my three boys playing in the rain. I was taking the perfect photo and I was not in the rain with them. I should have been!}
I have something to confess: I used to be a perfectionist as a mother. I was the mom who didn’t allow her kids to watch certain shows or play certain video games. My boys needed to play with toys that did not involve a battery. I read to them and I would buy them any book they wanted. I enrolled them in gymnastics, dance, music classes, early education classes, ice skating, t-ball and golf. In essence anything I thought that would make them better adults and more well-rounded learners. I stopped learning unless it had to do with my kids.

And that was the problem, I lost myself along the way. The boys always had haircuts and clean clothes. While I wore baggy t-shirts and mom jeans. The boys looked great. Me? Not so much. I was exhausted trying to be the perfect mother.

Our home was always picked up. The toys were organized and the books lined the shelves by categories, like you would find in a library. The toy bins had labels with words that the boys could understand. I even hired an organizer to help me and she walked in and looked at me like I was nuts, I perhaps was. My husband would come home at night and help the boys pick up their toys from the day, always going in the right bin or basket.

But once again, I had lost my identity. I was first a student and then a law student then a wife and then a mother. That was my role. Now as my youngest is set to graduate from high school this spring I am a little nervous to find out who I am after mother. Yes I understand that I will always be a mother, but my participation will lessen as the years go by.

I got a note last week from a reader who likes my honesty when I write. Another woman approached me at the airport and she had heard me speak and said how my permission to not be perfect really resonated with her.

So I give this as a warning to all the young mothers out there who are watching their friends and families through the lens of social media; we only post our best selfies and best adventures. Few people are posting about their baby having a blowout and having to be naked in the grocery store because they forgot to pack the extra outfit.

I am grateful that social media wasn’t around when my boys were little as I am afraid I would have been the mom who disclosed too much despite being a perfectionist. Like “dropped husband off at airport for conference in sunny Florida as we expect a blizzard and he didn’t service the snow blower before he left, but I do have two kids with double ear infections. Hate him.” Or “showered once this week, forgot to wash my hair!” Perhaps this gem, “made supper, it was a bag of fun sized snickers.” These are all real things that happened to me.

While my kids continued to look great I continued to be exhausted, I was a good faker. I really feel for the moms that are trying to be perfectionists now. I say stop. Please stop. You will lose who you are even more than I did. You will find yourself trying to get that perfectly staged photo at the pumpkin patch and miss playing with your kids.

From a recovering perfectionist I give you permission to do the following things:

Put the phone down. Make eye contact with the kids and maybe pick up the phone to play music and have a dance party.

Make a mess. Clean it up later. Go and play in the rain!

Get rid of the toys your kids don’t play with. Keep it simple. Kids get overwhelmed with too many choices and so do I. Heck I can’t even figure out what to order at Starbucks and I don’t even drink coffee!

Put your hair in a ponytail one day and schedule yourself for a blow out the next day. It feels great to have someone shampoo and blow dry your hair.

Be real and surround yourself with real people. I surrounded myself with people who were not real and they brought me down and made me feel inferior. The older and wiser me wishes someone had told me to stop being friends with those types of people.

Find exercise by going for walks with those real friends and discussing the struggles in life. If going to a gym overwhelms you don’t go. But I do know of moms who love going to the gym so that they can shower by themselves.

Feed your family simple food and don’t worry about posting your gluten free, soy free, free ranged organic chicken soup made with bone broth. Yes, that’s a thing. And yes it is ok to have snickers for dinner once in a while, just balance it with an apple and broccoli.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 
Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Give Yourself a Gold Star

Once we leave the tender years of elementary school it seems the accolades decrease exponentially. Gone are the certificates proclaiming you lost a tooth, or recited the alphabet. Sure our kids are given many participation awards that at times it becomes irritating. But where in life did we cross the line and decide that we would no longer be acknowledged for our little victories?

I want to start a revolution of rewarding and commenting on the little things in life. For example in yoga class this week we practiced laughing. After class two women came up to me and told me I had the best laugh. Now that is an award I want….girl with a great laugh!

When my three boys were little my husband would come home and the house would be a disaster and I would look at him with that exhausted look on my face. I would have liked the award “kept the kids alive today!” The house looked like a tornado had gone through it. The fact that nobody broke a bone was a win and there were days I really wanted to be acknowledged for it.

For some even doing little things is really a big thing. Some struggle to get out of bed or walk into a room with strangers. I want to give them a gold star for showing up!

When organizing, people think it is a success only if the whole project is complete. Not true. Each step should be celebrated! Took a box in for donation… star! Focused on an area for 10 minutes and sorted….blue ribbon!

I wonder what would happen if we started commenting and congratulating ourselves and others on the little wins in life?

Don’t be afraid to be self-congratulatory. There are times when we need to draw attention to the positive. I am not one to shy away from asking for what I want. I will say to my husband, “Sure would be nice to have some flowers for a job well done!” He appreciates the hint and I am not embarrassed nor resentful to give him the reminder.

But don’t become that person who needs to be congratulated for everything and goes to social media for approval. Most of the time this should be done with your close groups of friends and not your 1,257 Facebook “friends.”

I want to see a spread of compliments to the adults we interact with. I saw an older woman with a cute pink bow in her hair yesterday and it brought a smile to my face, I wish I would have stopped and told her so.

Take that minute and notice what your spouse did that you just over look. Loaded the dishwasher like a rock star without being told; high five! Have a best friend that finished updating her resume and taking the leap of applying for a new job; thumbs up!

My husband has to get a tooth pulled in order to get a replacement tooth, time for the tooth fairy to visit! Wouldn’t he be surprised? I wonder what the going rate is for an adult who needs a tooth pulled. Perhaps the value is what our dental copay is.

Be genuine in your observations and you will find that the accolades will start returning to you! So this week take time to observe what brings a smile to your face and speak it out loud to the person who created the smile.
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 
Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is Your Time Mangement Style?

I think when it comes to time management there are two types of people; firefighters and farmers. The firefighter takes care of things as they come up, trying to quickly extinguish and then moves on to the next fire. The farmer plants and tends his crops. Making sure that they have enough water and fertilizer and are well cared for.

For me I vacillate between the two roles depending on what is going on in my life. When I left my previous company I left my firefighting tools behind. I gladly embraced the life of a farmer. I have one child left at home and I am going to savor his senior year in high school. I began saying “yes” to more activities in our community.

But as all farmers know, you don’t have control over certain things. I found that I was quickly thrown back into my role of firefighter despite my best attempts to stay a farmer.

This week I had my week all planned, even my workouts. But then life threw me a curve ball and I quickly was thrust back into my role as a firefighter.  

What I found was I did not miss my time as a firefighter. I lost my ability to easily roll with change. My patience was at an all-time low. I was quickly irritated. I found myself waiting to pick up my son at school and when he didn’t immediately come out I was angry. Who was this person? All I know is I didn’t like her.

My husband and I discussed the differences. I think when you are in the role of firefighter you are so busy focused on the current fire that your attention is very focused on the task at hand. You don’t have time to worry about the other things that are going on.

If you find yourself in firefighting mode here are a few key things to focus on so you can be the best firefighter possible:

1.       Concentrate on the big things. You may need to put aside some of the minor things in life. You will need to say no to some obligations. You will need to be hyper focused on your time that you have and use it wisely.

2.       Stay hydrated and well nourished. Now is not the time to ignore fueling your body. You need to be smart with what you put in your mouth. I find myself too tired and I grab things that are quick and easy. Just know that there are convenience foods that are healthy. Grab those. And remember to drink plenty of water and stay away from sugary beverages.

3.       Stay active. Keep your body moving and don’t spend hours at a desk. Take your lunch hour and go for a walk. See if you can have some walking meetings. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking will help when you are in firefighter mode.

4.       Focus on quality sleep. Turn off electronics and distractions at night. I have an evening setting on my phone where the screen is not as bright and it has more yellow tones to it. You can program your phone to only allow phone calls from certain people to come through during the evening hours.

5.       Start your morning with a few minutes of quiet. Say a prayer, meditate or give thanks. Just taking a few minutes really will help you start your day on the right foot.

6.       Delegate the non-essentials. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Now is not the time to be afraid to reach out for assistance. You don’t need to do it all and now is not the time to be a martyr.

7.       Plan your next day the night before. Do as much planning as you can. Go to bed knowing that you are prepared as you can be.

If you are like me and find yourself reluctantly in the role of firefighter, it is important to keep the above things in mind. I know I am anxious to return to my role of farmer, but in the meantime I will be the best firefighter I can be!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Skinny on the Organized Closet

I have been having conversations this week with people who are transitioning their summer clothes to their fall and winter clothes. I love this time of year as I transition to a new set of clothes. Life is more interesting when you have seasons to work with. Gone are my maxi dresses and in are my jeans and ponchos.

Not only do we have the seasons of clothes that fill our closets, we also have the different sizes. So the question becomes, what to do with the clothes that are too small but we don’t want to part with?

You know those clothes. The skinny jeans you wiggled into once for a party and have not been able to zip since. That skirt that you bought two sizes smaller with the hopes of losing that last 10 pounds and being able to wear it again. Or that shirt that you wore in college that was your all-time favorite.

What do we do with these clothes that are whispering to us, begging to be worn again? I say take a look at the emotion that they invoke. For me I see the clothes that are too small and I want to go and eat a cookie. That is not the attitude I need in order to fit back into those jeans. Looking at them day in and day out becomes counterproductive in my quest to fitting back in them.

Here is my rule of thumb: if you are more than two sizes away from your ideal size I would remove those clothes from the closet. For me I had room in another closet and I moved them downstairs. This removed me looking wistfully at them every morning.

An idea I also like is to box them up and put a goal date on them. Put the goal date on your calendar and start to take action.

Don’t set unrealistic goals with yourself. An unrealistic goal is not going to be motivating. You will give up on day two if it is set too high and if you are like me go and eat a cookie. A good goal is to lose one to two pounds a week. Keep that in mind when setting your date for your clothes.

And what about those clothes that are too big now that you have lost weight? Get them out. Get them out as fast as your grow out of them. If they are a reminder of how far you have come, keep one or two items. But if you are storing them for the “someday” you gain the weight back, that is the wrong attitude. Box up those clothes and run to your favorite donation center and feel great!

Ideally you want a closet that has clothes that are the perfect fit and the perfect season. Work through your clothes and pull out the ones that do not fit. If you are not quite ready to part ways with them, start boxing them up with a “wear by” date on them.
Really take a good look at each item. I know for me my closet has very few wool items in it. No matter what the size, wool and I are not friends. Start working your way through your clothes until you are left with the ones that fit and bring you joy for the season!
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 
Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Focus on the Joy

During my experiment with saying "yes" to things in our community I found that I also had to be firm in my "no's" as well. Too often we are drawn to saying yes because of outside factors. I have watched my friends and I say yes for all the wrong reasons.

Perhaps it is that Catholic guilt that I am wired with. Or perhaps it is that stoic German heritage that doesn't like conflict. Whatever it is, I sometimes find I struggle with saying yes when I really want to say no.

What I have found is that if I focus on the word JOY it seems to be easier for me to say no. The word joy can mean many things to people. But for me it simply means does it bring a smile to my face or make my heart sing? If it does one of those two things then I say yes.

Yes there are those things in life we want to say no to, but often we have a sense of obligation. But take a look at that obligation and can you find joy in it?

This past spring I went to the funerals of two of my good friend's fathers. It was a round trip of 600 miles for each funeral and I did it in a day. Was there a sense of obligation in going? Perhaps. But it was so much more. These were my friends. We stand with them when times are hard. Did I find joy in it? I really did. I loved my friends so the obligation disappeared and it was easy to make the trip. I took time to visit my favorite high school English teacher during one of the trips. The other I went and said hi to my dad for a few minutes before I made the return trip home. I found the joy.

My youngest son asked my husband and I to chaperone his homecoming dance on Friday. Having to spend a Friday night telling kids to behave is not my idea of fun. But the fact that he asked me brings me joy. Plus I know that I will make my own fun. Saying yes to this obligation made my heart sing.

When I hear my friends challenged to tell people in their lives no, I bring them back to the word joy. When they feel a sense of obligation I hear them lamenting the fact that they have to go and do something. Clearly they missed the joy conversation I just had with them.

I understand that we don't want to hurt feelings. But to me I would much rather you tell me no right away then give me a reluctant yes and resent the time that we spend together.

When I set my hours for my organizing clients I limit them to afternoons three days a week. I found that if I took clients in the evenings or weekends I would resent it. I would go to their homes reluctantly and was not giving my best organizing service. Now if I show up in the afternoon I am full of energy and ready to attack their project. But it took me time to figure out what hours work best for me. Do I get calls for people who want help on the weekends? I sure do. But I have found that for most people they can rearrange their schedule to accommodate an afternoon.

One of the hardest things for me to say no to were the toxic relationships in my life. I watch as a friend continues to try to bring me into her drama. I refuse to be drawn in. Friends will ask if I saw what this person posted on Facebook. My answer is always no as I don't go to that person's social media sites. I have learned to stay away from them because they do not bring me joy. Yes there may be the occasional cute puppy video they post. But for the most part it is postings about how cruel the world is. Sorry, that type of stuff does not bring me joy.

The beauty of social media is that you can turn it off and walk away. If you see something you don't like, say no. There are features that you can hide posts for a person. You also have the power to hit the unfriend button. If you are seeing things that do not bring you joy, turn the social media channel. For me I follow the people that make me laugh or inspire me. The ones that post political rants are hidden from my view. I have created my own social media channel with happy positive people and that brings me joy.

So this week focus on the word joy and the yes and no will no longer be a focus. Let joy lead the way!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Two Weeks of "Yes"

I recently finished a book by Shonda Rhimes entitled "Year of Yes," where she spent a year of saying yes to things she normally would have said no to. I was intrigued by the book as I remember her getting interviewed on the book tour for it and how she stated she had lost a tremendous amount of weight during her year of yes.

Whenever a woman loses a significant of amount of weight in a healthy way I want to learn more. But reading this book was more than about learning how she lost weight, it was about how she overcame her fear of being an introvert.

I think it would surprise most people to learn that I consider myself an introvert, more likely an extroverted introvert. (Yes I probably just made that term up.) I hate walking into events not knowing anyone. Sure I can have conversations with strangers. But that moment of walking in with a room full of strangers causes me anxiety. I will sit in my car and wait for a friend to show up. I will not walk in by myself. Often I simply will stay home and not go because of the anxiety. I prefer a one on one conversation than a room full of people.

Don't get me wrong, I like to go to things, but I often say no if I have nobody to go with. I have to admit I have this crutch that gets me through most social events, his name is Ray and I have been with him since I was 16. He is willing to go to things with me. He is a great sport. But he is really a true introvert. He would choose staying home as his batteries are recharged by being in silence.

What this book did for me was to challenge me to really start to say "yes" to things I normally would say "no" to. The amount of things that I have been saying yes to is allowing me to see my community with new eyes. I am meeting new people and learning new skills.

In the last two weeks I have been asked to be a part of a few fundraisers, I said yes. I have been asked to chaperone my son's homecoming dance, I said yes. I have been asked to attend a cruise for a friend's wedding, I said yes. I was asked to speak as a leader on a training call, I said yes. I was asked to attend a meeting on a local collation on hoarding, I said yes. I was invited to a sorority alumni event, I said yes.

What all of these "yes's" made me realize is that it is up to me to be an active member of my community. Most communities have many opportunities if we just look. This week I am going to go to the library and see what they have to offer. Churches and community education have so many options. Start reading billboards at coffee shops to see what is going on. Read local magazines and newspapers for community events. 

There are reasons that we need to be a person who says yes. Personally I am working through my anxiety. But we also become a vibrant active community who gathers when times are good and then can gather when times are bad. I am going to continue my experiment of saying yes throughout the winter and see what happens. And if you see me out by myself at an event know that I walked into that event by giving myself a big pep talk in the parking lot!

So this week find what takes you out of your comfort zone that you can say yes to. Is it that junk drawer that needs to be organized, the phone call to a friend, the medical appointment that needs to be scheduled, the gym membership that needs to be purchased? Take a look and say YES!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Time to Slow Down

The other day I realized that my online reading habits have changed. I used to read all the way to the end of an article. Now I read the first sentence of each paragraph and if the first sentence grabs my attention, I will read to the end of the paragraph, but rarely do. 

And then last week I had a conversation with my book editor. She said I need more white space and have shorter paragraphs. She is a well-known editor and so I took her advice seriously.

I reflected back on my writing and often I had seven sentences in a paragraph. If I was to read my own stuff, I would miss much of it due to my current style of reading the first sentence only.

But then I got to thinking of other areas of my life and what I am just getting an abbreviated version. 

Start with my marriage. I listen with half an ear. I ask how my husband's day was but I am not really listening. I don't speak geek. I have tried. We have been together for 30 years. Believe me, I have tried. He now gives me the cliff notes version of his day and I try to listen and not think about what I am making for dinner.

And then I look at the stack of books I am currently reading but not finishing. Oh and I also have a few books on audible that I am listening too as well and not finishing. And I like listening to podcasts too. But I have to admit, if the podcast is over a certain length I won't listen to it. The short ones I can complete. 

I remember asking a friend who was a doctor if I had ADD. She told me no, that I simply have been a busy mom of three with no time to slow down. 

So this fall I am challenging myself to slow down. To savor my house and my life.

I started this weekend by starting an organizing project in my own house. Not only did I complete it but I expanded it to three rooms. Normally I would just quickly attack the project and leave it undone for months at a time, usually throwing the unfinished items to sort in a basket for another day. But sadly another day never came.

This weekend the rooms were done and it felt great. Items were dropped off for donation. Pictures were snapped and sent to my kids who are at college to see if they wanted anything. Returns were made to stores for items that needed returning. And items that needed to be given to people were boxed up and mailed off! Such an amazing feeling. 

I went on a walk today and listened to my audio book. While I drove I had my audio book playing. I am bound and determined to finish this book before I start the next one. Ironically the book is titled "Year of Yes" all about saying "yes" to things that you would normally say "no" to.

The last two weeks I have been scheduling time for coffee and lunch with friends who I have missed. I am now a professional listener. I ask questions and simply listen. I put my phone away. Unless I take a photo of us, then my phone comes out. I am slowing down.

In a society of instant gratification and thirty second cat videos, I ask you to slow down. Join me and let's start a revolution of slowing down. All it takes is a deep breath and a willingness to start. 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon

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