Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Learning to Let Go

I am almost 5 months into the New Year and my goals I set at the beginning of the year have started to fade. My energy had been zapped. I felt like a shell of the person I knew I could be. I really needed a kick in the proverbial pants. But then I got that kick, I took something big off my plate. Make that two big things. They were things that consumed my waking thoughts and ate up too much of my day. One was a personal relationship and one was work related. Both sucked my energy. They made me sad when I thought of them as I felt powerless to fix them. I really wanted to make them better. I tried everything I could. But then I not only cried uncle but cried and realized I needed to end both.

Ending things is very hard. I really didn’t realize how much of my day was consumed with thoughts of trying to make both situations better. I am a smart girl, I wanted to find the fix. I was dedicated to finding the answers, but I couldn’t.

My word for the year is authenticity and I found I was not leading an authentic life in those two key areas. I work for myself and I really am in control of my work. I have a strong marriage and great friendships and I am in control of my personal time. There really was nobody to blame but myself. I was the one who needed to take action.

But what I have found in the last week since ending both of the relationships, is that I feel whole again. I feel like my time is my own. My thoughts don’t wander and think about if I could have done something different. I am at peace. I know I did my best and I tried for longer than I should have.

Today I remembered a story about a table filled with full tea cups. In order to add another cup to the table, one needed to be moved. It didn’t work to stack them up as they would spill. You physically needed to move the cup off the table. But once the cup is moved, the space is clear. The space is clear to fill or to leave empty, the choice is suddenly yours.

For me I chose to leave the space empty until I knew that I was ready to have the space filled again. This time I would be the one in control over filling the space. And within the last two days I have had some wonderful things fill that empty space. I have been able to say yes to things I never would have had the energy to say yes to in the past.

Today I got a call for a wonderful opportunity connecting with some people that I admire and want to help. And yesterday I realized that I wanted to start taking part in events in our community again. Most nights I had been too tired and simply wanted to stay home and zone out in front of the tv. My brain had been working on over-analysis paralysis. Yes I may have made that phrase up. But seriously I would think so much about how to make the situations better that I couldn’t move.

We all know of people who are in over-analysis paralysis. Maybe they are like me and stuck in their head and can’t move forward. No movement seemed easier at times. But then I realized I needed to remove a few tea cups.

My one piece of advice is to do what my best friend did for me…she loved me and listened to me. She let me figure it out on my own terms. She didn’t demand that I make change. She didn’t tell me to get my act together and stop complaining. Ironically, she met me often for tea and talked through my decisions. She reminded me that as soon as I removed the cups from the table something wonderful would take their place. I just needed to have faith.

So this week take control of the time that is wasted that is housed in your head. Stop the energy of thinking how to fix hopeless situations. If you have tried your best, it is ok to move on. As my friend would remind me, it is never goodbye forever, it is just farewell for now. And just wait for something wonderful to take the place of what you removed. But take some time to relish in what was removed. Enjoy the empty space. Don’t be anxious to fill it back up.  
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pushing the Easy Button on Life

I love the office supply commercial where an easy button is pushed and suddenly a difficult life circumstance turns easy. We all have different areas of our life that are difficult for different reasons. Some of us are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Some of us are dealing with a job loss. Some of us are handling stress in other ways.

I wish in life we were given a limited amount of opportunities to push the easy button and have life give us the easy option to what we are going through. We would pick and choose carefully of when to push the button. I don't have many difficult times in my life but I sure would like to give my easy button away to others as I see my friends struggle.

While some are going through things that cannot be controlled, such as death, others go through really some self induced tough times. I watch some people struggle and I see others with the same tough life situations thrive. Why is it that some don't need an easy button and others if given one would use it on a daily basis?

What are the things that we can implement to make life move more smoothly? I watch some highly efficient people and I watch some highly inefficient people. The common thread I can find between the two groups is one thrives on drama and chaos and the other does not. I liken it to farming versus firefighting. Some seem to always be putting out the fires in their lives while others farm and nurture their relationships and life circumstances.

Here are some ways that I have watched efficient people farm and not need to use the easy button.

Outsource what you are not good at. Look at your life and think about what you are not good at. I am horrible at book keeping and paperwork in general. I also am not good at sorting our mail as I get easily distracted. However I discovered that my husband is really good at it. He does not get distracted when he sorts! He can give attention to detail that it needs, where I just throw it in a pile and hope I can find it when I need it. I save countless hours a week by having my husband handle our paperwork.

Stop doing what does not bring you joy. For most of this the list of joy suckers could be huge. For many of us it could be relationships with toxic people. If you have a friend that texts you on a daily basis or calls you and you feel yucky after the interactions, stop it. End the feelings of people bringing you down. Focus on what brings you joy!

Guard your time fiercely. Efficient people do not just give their time away. They are generous with their time if you make it past the initial threshold. If you do not make it past the threshold you can forget about it as they simply will not waste their time with you.

They easily say no. They do not have the disease to please by saying yes to things they do not want to do. Gone are the days of baking gingerbread houses for the second grade holiday party. My work around is if I am afraid of saying yes at volunteer meetings, I send my husband in my place. He does not have a problem saying no.

Stay off of social media platform. I see some people have a social life that exists solely on line. They get in political or religious discussions that go on and on. They look for friends that are having these discussions and they join the fray. I do much of my interaction with my team through Facebook groups so I need to be able to efficiently use it. My way to get around the online drama queens is to un-follow the person or hide them from my Facebook feed. I am protective of the people that I surround myself in life and online.

Stay off of electronics when not working. I use to joke with my husband that his mistress was his computer. That computer finds its way into our private moments and I will admit my cell phone is right there with his computer. We challenge each other to be mindful or our time together. Because having a real life conversation with someone is so important.

This week focus on where you can turn your attention to the easy button in life. Forget about the drama in your life and focus on what brings you more real life connections.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

We have all heard that saying as a child, liar liar pants on fire and lately this saying has been going around in my head. I think it started when I saw a piece from comedian Jim Gaffigan talking about the tooth fairy and the cost of the lost tooth.

It got me thinking about the lies that we tell our children. When did it get to be socially acceptable to lie to our children and pretend there is a fairy that will leave them money for doing something their body is supposed to do; loose teeth? I had a child who was a late looser of teeth and he didn’t lose his first one until he was in second grade. Each time a classmate would lose a tooth he would come home all sad. And then you get the pressure of the fairy leaving just the “right” amount of compensation. Ridiculous.

Don’t get me started on that Santa fellow either. What happened to the Santa that would love socks and an orange? I heard that Santa leaves things like expensive electronics at some houses.  Clearly Santa did not get the memo that my kids were good because he never left those types of things in my kid’s stockings. Lies we as a society tell our children.

But sometimes there are lies that we tell that are for the benefit of our children. I was recently reminded of this when my youngest was inducted into the National Honor Society as a junior. I was so proud of him as I remember the child who struggled with learning how to talk and read. He was pulled out for extra help with reading for his first couple of years in school. He started speech therapy before the age of two and he was diagnosed with a learning “disability” when he was in second grade.

I too was not a strong reader when I was first starting school. I remember being in a meeting with my parents when I was in first grade and my parents being told that I was no longer in the top reading group in my grade. I took that to mean that I was dumb. I was lying to myself. I told myself I couldn’t read so I didn’t even try. It wasn’t until I was in fifth grade when my teacher pulled me aside and told me I was smart and needed to read more challenging books. Her faith in me was all that I needed and my reading took off. The lie disappeared with the confidence of a teacher.

My son recently shared with me that he thought he was in gifted reading like his older brother. When he was pulled out for individual help he thought it was to do more advanced work. He wasn’t in the meeting when they told my husband and me that he was struggling. Instead we had a first grade teacher that said because we had a child with a late May birthday he will be a little slow at first but by fourth grade he will be all caught up. We never lied to him that he wasn’t a strong reader. We just treated him like he was. And he never knew the difference.

Another lie I apparently told my children was that with their particular learning “disability” that people with it become strong leaders in life. I never remember telling them that. But they remember hearing it and believing it. They embraced this lie and have become amazing leaders in their school and community.

As adults we continue to lie. We lie and tell ourselves that our home/boat/car are not big enough. As an adult woman I can tell you that we lie a lot to ourselves. We lie that our homes are not perfect and so we cannot have people over. I am here to tell you that nobody lives in the homes that are in the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog. I have been in homes that have tried to emulate the catalog, but there are kid’s toys all over the floor and spills on the counters and dishes that need to be washed. This is how it should be. We are human beings, not robots. I want to walk into the homes of my friends and see them lived in.

We tell ourselves the lies that if we get that new expensive purse will be happy. Or if we get that lake home we will be happy. We need to stop with the lies that society tells us and really dig deep and understand that having more does not equate to being more fulfilled.

I have a house that is easy to clean and maintain. I have clothes that are easy to wash and don’t require ironing or dry-cleaning. I have a car that has a few nicks and scratches in it. I have an easy going husband who requires little maintenance. I don’t stress about what society tells me. I do what it easy and convenient. That is what brings me joy. I am done with the lies that I use to tell myself that I needed to upgrade my house and car. We are still in our starter home and I am really happy. If anything we are at the point in our life where we will buy something smaller.

So listen to that voice in your head this week that is telling you lies. Is it to make you a better person or does it stress you out? If that voice is critical you need to tell it to take a back seat. If that voice speaks to you in a loving way and encourages you to do and be better, keep it going. The lies I told my children were not meant to hurt them, but to encourage them and have the confidence they need in life. Now if we could just get rid of that pesky tooth fairy!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Organizing Hacks

So, its spring and I am supposed to feel like getting my house organized. My family tells me I need to get organized. I would love to be more organized but I don’t know where to start. Oh and I have no time, because I am too busy?

Does this sound familiar. The lack of time and knowledge are the two biggest obstacles that stop people from clearing the clutter. Let’s try to tackle both issues at once.

First up is finding pockets of time which then will work for you to simply start removing things from your home. Once the clutter is cleared you can start to organize what is left. You do not need to take a week off from work for most organizing sessions. Yes it may be necessary in extreme cases, but if you are dedicated to just taking a few minutes a day, every single day, you will make progress in the right direction.

Create a new routine: Set aside time every day and make it part of your daily routine. For example, while you brush your teeth you walk around the house gathering items while you brush. Or you set the alarm to go off ten minutes early in the morning when all is quiet in the house and you can accomplish so much in a few minutes before the kiddos wake up.

Combine with an existing routine: Maybe you read a book at night before you go to sleep. Download the audible version and listen to the book and take that time to organize. Perhaps you always watch the Voice on Monday nights. Take the commercials and organize for a few minutes at a time.

Get reinforcements: Get the whole family involved. Remember we have to be taught to organize, it isn’t a natural tendency for many people. If you tell your children to go to their rooms or play areas and find 10 items they no longer use and place them in the donation bin, chances are they can do that.

Make a game out of organizing: You may need to set the timer and make a game out of it. When my kids were little we had an organizing song thanks to that purple dinosaur Barney. Even though my oldest son is in his twenties I can still sing it word for word. I wonder if he sings it when he is cleaning up.

Create a reward: We all like some form of external gratification for a job well done. Decide what your reward is and when the project is complete, go and celebrate. It could be a family movie night, massage or a pedicure. Decide what would motivate you and set that reward!

Pick a number: Decide on a number and every day you will discard that number of items. This is a great way to help reinforce counting with younger kids and for us older folks it makes us focus on the number. We trick our brain into thinking about hitting that number and are more willing to discard to get that goal.

Day of the month: Discard the number of items for the day of the month. So on the 4th day of the month, you get rid of 4 items. On the 31 you need to find 31 items. Never before have had you prayed that it was February with its short days of the month.

Let it be a personal decision: Just because you don’t like what the person is keeping or discarding let them make the decision. I have witnessed more parents discourage a child donating a toy because it was an expensive toy or a gift from a special person. We need to not transfer the guilt of why we hold onto items to our next generation. As Elsa says, “let it go….let it go…”

This week, pick a few of these to try with you and your family. Once the clutter is gone, the organizing is easy. If a drawer is half empty, suddenly all the clothes have a home. If the pantry has empty shelves, you can now organize by category of food. Just make the room and the organizing will start to happen, I promise.
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring Awakening Through the Decluttering Process

I think there is some physical connection with opening of the windows in our homes and letting fresh air in and wanting to throw stuff out of our homes that we no longer need or want. Entire communities have coordinated spring cleanup efforts that we gear up for. We want to live with less, but we simply don't know where to start.
I suggest you do a little bit each day. Nobody likes spending days organizing, not even me. We like to spend our time off of work with our families, not sorting our clutter. So this week take a few minutes each day and rid your home of clutter.
I have created 9 activities that I like to call Spring Flinging. Each activity should take you between 5-10 minutes. Save them up and do them all at once or do one or two a day. Grab a box and get ready to fill up for the donation center.
Silverware Drawer: When was the last time that you went through your silverware drawer? You will find take out silverware, chopsticks, clothes pins and a variety of things that are not silverware. Chances are there are even baby spoons in it and your baby is now 18! Clear out what you don't use and fling it!
Towels: Do you buy new towels but never seem to get rid of the old ones. You only need so many towels but why do we keep them? They take up space. We never use them but we save them and call them "rags"...but how many rags do we need? The towels in good shape can be donated. The ones that are torn or stained, donate to your local animal shelter. They don't care if they are stained.
Winter clothes: We sure hope that winter is over. Take the time to figure out what fits and what you want to wear next year. Donate what no longer works for you or your family. Wash and store everything that you plan on using next winter.

Unread Magazines and Newspapers: Do you have them? Do you read them? Do you keep them way too long? Today just get rid of everything that you have not read. You do not want to be looking at Christmas Cookie recipes in March! A rule of thumb is to get a magazine read and out of your house within 1 week. Take it to your gym, doctor’s office or retirement center after the 1 week is up.

Papers of Good Intentions: Admit it, you have it...a pile of papers that you are ignoring. You know that you need to go through them, but you don't have the time to go through them. Either take the time today to get that pile reduced or just toss it.....yikes!
Manuals: Raise your hand if you have a filing cabinet full of manuals? Chances are you have never looked at the manuals. And truth be told...if something happened to your snow blower you would go and do a search online to trouble shoot and not look in the manual....if you even know where it is stored. So be ok with flinging those manuals. Keep the ones for major appliances that would go with the sale of your house...but for the rest....feel free to fling.
Cords for Electronics that we are clueless about: We all have random electronic cords that we don't know what they go to. Today either figure it out or fling them! Big box electronic stores have recycling bins in the entry of their store, so be green when you fling.
Linen Closet: Often our linen closets are filled with mismatched sheets or sheet sets that don't even fit the bed size that you have. I have one set of sheets for each of my beds. When I wash them I take them off and put them back on so that I can avoid the dreaded folding of the fitted sheet.
Clothes that no longer bring you joy: Grab 5 items from your closet that you are no longer in love with or wear. Only keep clothes that you love and make you feel and look great wearing them. Even if you spent good money on them, they are taking up space....either consign them or donate them....simply get them out of your house. If you want to do more than 5....go for it.....think about other closets in your house as well. Set the timer for 5-10 minutes and get cracking!
Organizing can be done if it is taken in small bites. This week set your intentions to work on these 9 areas. You may find that once you get on a roll you keep on going.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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




Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Making a Plan in Order to Make a Plan

Sometimes I just need to laugh at myself. Here I am a smart woman who can make quick decisions for other people, but when it comes to my own, I get stuck. I even hired not one, but two business coaches to help me figure out my business life.

I have to laugh at how a simple decision can be made complex by my overactive mind. Here is a great example, our broken snow blower. It is not just a broken snow blower but a symbol of something much bigger, in my mind. The snow blower will cost $500 to repair. A new one that is similar in size and power costs about $1,300.

But if I bought the new snow blower I would be committing to living in my house for several more years. And if I continued to live in my house I would want to redo the bathrooms and put new carpet in. You see how my mind can quickly spiral out of control. All because of a broken snow blower.

Oh but wait, my mind continues. Because the last two winters have been low on snow I have this false sense in thinking that the rest of winters are going to be like this. And because I am an organizer who is trying to minimize my possessions, I really don't want to add a new heavy piece of machinery to our garage.

I think about the possibility of us borrowing our neighbors snow blower for the few times it snows enough to use a snow blower. Or hiring a service to remove the snow those few times a year. I also look at the fact that my husband and I are healthy and we can physically remove most of the snow ourselves.

While I didn't hire two business coaches to help me with making decisions about fixing or buying a new snow blower, I did hire them to help me with some pretty difficult decisions. But the steps to determine most decisions in life really are similar.

Give yourself grace: This tip was given to me by a friend as she heard me discuss the decisions I am wrestling with. I am so stuck in perfectionism that I am afraid of making the wrong decision. I want to do what is best for our family first and foremost. Me taking chances and working hard are not what matters as I don't mind doing that. Having the money to provide for my family is.

Confide in your key people: My husband is such an easy person to talk to as are my close circle of friends. Sometimes key decisions need to have different points of view. My business coaches are great at this as are my key friends. Gather your people and ask for input.

Make a list of pros and cons: The tried and true method of taking pen to paper and writing out will give you clarity. There is something about making that list. Seeing the columns side by side that will give clarity to the situation. There is power in that list.

Just let time pass: Sometimes we just need to let life happen and see if things settle down. Waiting to let time pass can seem like the easy way out, but it really can be the mature thing to do. I like making quick decisions, but sometimes time does heal and give perspective.

Getting rid of possessions can be just as difficult, especially if there is guilt or sadness involved. Guilt of money spent. Sadness of time that has passed as children outgrow toys. Sadness of a family member that has died and the possessions that need to be sorted. These same steps apply.

Making decisions can be challenging and often paralyzing. We get stuck in perfectionism and we can't move forward. We don't want to hurt anyone. We don't want to make the wrong decisions. So we stop and stress about even making the decision. Instead, stop and take a breath. Make a plan. And if making that plan requires you to first make a plan, be ok with that. I for one am giving myself some grace this week and making my list of pros and cons. That list will give me clarity that will help me create my plan.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paying Attention by Asking the Right Questions

Over the past couple of weeks I have been more mindful of the people in my life. I make sure my boys in college have their needs taken care of. I make sure that my husband and I spend quality time together. It has been hard, because for months I have been working more than ever. My work time is now including weekends and evenings. With all of my attention on work I forgot about someone near and dear to me, my youngest son.

He is a teen boy busy with friends and activities and is not home all that much. His life no longer revolves around me and I was OK with that. I was the one who was sad as I saw him grow and be with his friends more. It was natural and I was happy for him despite my feeling sad. But just because he isn't home much, does not give me permission to not be engaged with him when he is home. I always said in the back of my head that he is busy doing his own thing and he is just fine, but I was wrong.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks when I was taking one of those Facebook quizzes that has you to ask your children a list of questions. Well I asked the questions and I didn't like the answers my son gave me. He stopped me mid quiz and said that he didn't mean to hurt my feelings but he considers me either too in his business or absent. No middle ground. I knew exactly what he meant. When we were together, I really tried to squeeze every moment out of it. Obviously I squeezed too tight. 

So what is a parent to do? First I was mad. I was thinking that I have been primarily a stay at home mom for years, but now as my children are growing and having large college expenses I needed to work more. His two older brothers are now in college. My husband is in a new job and he works long hours as he navigates his place at work. And I have increased up my own work by about 300%.  Our family dynamic has shifted. 

Then I was thinking how unfair his criticism was of me. He did not hold his dad up to the same standard. My husband can leave for a business trip and it isn't noticed for days. But I am the mom and I was the primary caregiver when he was little. So I understand why he treats my husband and I differently. I cannot be upset with his feelings, but rather I needed to empathize. 

But then sadness took over soon to be followed by a need to fix the situation. He is still home for another year I can reestablish the connection. But action needs to happen in order to make it happen.

First up was creating a family meal time where we all gathered. Studies show that a family that eats together is closer. I can't have all seven days of the week, but I can have one. We chose our night and we decided to make it a meal that we go out to eat. We try to wait and have dinner with him every night. But when 6:30 rolls around and he isn't home yet we do eat. But on Wednesday's we wait. I hold those family meals as sacred. If I am traveling I make sure that I am home by Wednesday nights. 

The next thing I did was I started greeting him again when he walked through the door. I pride myself in always being home when he walks in the door. But I stopped greeting him. I was focused on the work I was doing. So now, even if I was in the middle of a project I took the time to stop what I was doing and come in the room he was in. I made sure that he felt my presence.

The other thing I started doing was reaching out via text. Usually when he texts me he asks me two things....what's for dinner....and...can I have some money? I want him to start texting me and asking how I am doing. But it needs to start with me. I need to set the example. This goes back to my earlier post of asking the question "how are you?"

Since we have implemented the Wednesday night dinner I have seen a change in my son. He is opening up more on what he is struggling with. I am loving that he again feels comfortable enough to tell me what his frustrations are. I needed to simply open the door and keep it open, no matter what. And if I ask the questions, I need to be prepared for the answers, not matter what. So this week, open the door and ask the questions, no matter what.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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

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