Make space. Find peace. Feel joy.

Starting as NAPO-St. Louis President (again)

21 May 2015


On Friday, I started a one-year term as President of NAPO-St. Louis, our local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. I’ve been an active member of the chapter since its inception in 2006. In fact, I served six years on its board of directors, first as Membership Director, then President, then Immediate Past President. I retired from the board in May of 2012, but agreed to return for a term as President this year when there wasn’t someone else available to step forward.

It’s an interesting feeling. I love my NAPO chapter and have enjoyed attending every meeting. (I have probably missed five chapter meetings in the last nine years.) I loved being a board member. And I loved being a non-board member, watching from the sidelines. I was happy to step into the presidency again (though I agreed to serve only one single-year term) because I want to help the chapter, which has given me so much.

I kind of feel like a different person than I was in 2008—less than three years into my business—when I first became NAPO-St. Louis President. I’ve matured, gained confidence, developed an intolerance for needless effort, and developed some serious leadership skills through leading my organizing teams on a regular basis. I’m also a lot more busy with paying work than I was back then, which leaves less time for volunteer work.

NAPO-St. Louis, in turn, has matured a great deal. Under the leadership of Denise Lee, CPO® of Clear Spaces LLC, who served as President for the past three years, the chapter has flourished and grown.

My goal for the coming year is to apply my philosophy of Let it be easy to every aspect of the board’s activities. I want us to work together effortlessly toward common goals, even if the goals aren’t particularly lofty. We’re going to catch our breath this year and build ease into the process of board service whenever possible.

If you’re a professional organizer (or an aspiring one) who lives in the St. Louis area and you aren’t a member (or haven’t visited) NAPO-St. Louis, I encourage you to join us at a meeting. Also, if you own or represent company that provides products or services that help the organizing process, please consider joining us as an associate member. I think you’ll find it an amazingly warm and supportive group with a whole lot to offer.

Linking new habits to old

18 May 2015

A few years ago, I wrote a post about how I was able to create a habit of doing an unpleasant (but necessary) task by linking it to something I was already doing. (That habit was cleaning up the back yard after my dog.)

At the moment I have no dogs to pick up after (alas), but I was just marveling again at how I was able to quickly establish a habit, simply by linking it to something I’m already doing every day.

At the risk of oversharing, I’ll mention that I have toenail problem and have decided to try take care of it by soaking in a solution of apple cider vinegar and herbs, something that worked for me some years back. I use the Herbal Nail Fungus Soak from Long Creek Herbs, an herb farm here in Missouri.

That requires me to soak my foot daily for three to five minutes. Ideally that happens right after I shower. If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I’m punctuality challenged. Adding a three-to-five minute task to my morning routine felt like it might be an uphill battle.

It’s been 15 days since I started and I haven’t missed a day yet. And that’s because I linked it to something I was already doing in the morning.

Earlier this year, I started using the app Elevate on my iPhone. It’s one of those brain-game apps. Like many people my age, I worry about losing my cognitive abilities as I age. So I play three Elevate games a day. I enjoy them and they’re good for me, so doing them was an easy habit to develop. The hardest was remembering, but I’ve added “Do Elevate tests” as a repeating daily task in my task management app, Things. (More on Things in a future post.) After a few months, doing my Elevate tests in the morning was pretty ingrained.

So, to glue the new foot-soaking habit into my morning routine, I simply decided to do the Elevate tests while I soak my foot. They take roughly three to five minutes to do. I have my phone with me in the bathroom when I shower. (I listen to music when I shower.) So after I shower, I dry my hair and put on makeup. Then I sit and soak my foot while doing my Elevate tests. I look forward to the tests, so I don’t forget about them (and they’re on my task list). The best part? The foot soaking is not adding any minutes to my morning routine!

If you’d like to add a task to your day, consider what else you’re doing daily that you might link it to. It’s amazingly powerful!

Worth repeating: Simple fix = big results

14 May 2015

I am so proud of this innovation, which transformed an ugly sight into a beautiful one in my rearranged office a couple of years ago. I’m still enjoying it on a daily basis. If you have an eyesore in your space, see what you can do to change it up.

I rearranged my office furniture last weekend, the most notable shift being moving my desk 90 degrees. I also moved a stand that holds a laser printer and Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, so that the stand now backs up to my desk.

It’s great because it allows me to hide cords. But there was a negative side effect: When I sit at my desk, I now have a view of the back of the printer and the scanner. The problem with that is the scanner back is covered with electrical and warning labels. They’re not only ugly, but sort of urgent and stressful. That absolutely wasn’t going to fly. Check it out:

The back of my scanner covered in labels

In a moment of inspiration—the type of inspiration that doesn’t usually come easy to me, so I’m particularly excited about it —I thought of just the thing to turn this situation around.

My friend, Sally Brown of Roll Over Rover Threads is an amazingly talented illustrator. Her pet-related designs decorate her fabulous t-shirt line. I help her every year at trade shows and am in love with these designs. So I simply went to her website and (with her permission) copied some of my favorite illustrations into a Pages document. (Pages is the Mac’s word-processing program.) They illustrations were in squares and four squares in a row was just the width I needed. I printed them out on my color ink-jet, cut out the strip and taped it to the back of the scanner, using double-sided tape. I used two removable Avery labels to cover the areas between the two cords.

Here’s the result.

Back of scanner now covered in pretty illustrations

When I look up from my keyboard, I now see beautiful illustrations that make me happy and that are infused with the love and support of my dear friend, instead of ugly manufacturing labels.

It was such a simple fix. And it changed everything.

Take a look around your space. Are there any simple improvements you could make to make the space more beautiful and comfortable?

NutriBullet: The solution to my breakfast problem

11 May 2015

Breakfast has long been a challenge for me. Once I leave the house in the morning, I’m often with a client for four hours or more. It’s important that I don’t get hungry; I don’t think well when I’m hungry. So I need breakfast that sticks to my ribs.

I’m often running late in the morning. Despite getting up early, I try to cram a whole lot in (like blogging) before leaving the house. And, as I’ve admitted here, I tend to be punctuality challenged. So cooking a hearty breakfast usually doesn’t happen.

Enter NutriBullet. This small blender (or “nutrition extractor” as the company calls it) breaks down fruits and vegetables into a highly palatable and drinkable smoothie. And it’s really convenient, because you make the smoothie right in the cup you’ll drink it out of.

I don’t love green vegetables, but I know they’re important for me to eat. When I visited my friend Shannon Wilkinson last month, she served me fruit-and-veggie smoothies and I discovered that if the balance is right, I don’t even taste the vegetables.

Here’s a picture of the pre-blended smoothies Shannon made us.

NutriBullet: the solution to my breakfast problem

I bought my NutriBullet at Costco for about $70 on April 22. Since then, every day but one (my husband’s birthday), I’ve had a smoothie for breakfast. The NutriBullet came with recipes and guidance on ingredients. Mine typically have greens, berries (either frozen or fresh), a banana, yogurt, chia seeds (for protein and essential fatty acids), and water or sometimes coconut water. I take my vitamins while drinking it and I’m not hungry for about four hours.

Here are some of the ways NutriBullet has revolutionized breakfast for me:

  • The smoothies are delicious.
  • The smoothies are nutritious.
  • Breakfast is quick! Making a smoothie takes less than five minutes start to finish.
  • Clean up is really easy.
  • I can puree any extra greens and freeze them in an ice cube tray so I don’t have to have fresh greens on hand (thank you of that tip, Shannon).
  • It’s easy to keep frozen fruit in the freezer too.
  • If I’m running really late, I can take my smoothie to go (my system came with different tops for the cups, including one that has a flip top).

Honestly, this is one of the best purchases I’ve made in a long time. It’s solved my long-standing breakfast problem in a healthy way. Score!

Getting past the barriers to getting started

7 May 2015

Shannon Wilkinson

Shannon

My friend and colleague, Shannon Wilkinson is an amazing life coach. She helps people get past the emotional barriers that stop them from doing what they want to do. I frequently encounter people who really want to get (or stay) organized, but can’t seem to get started in doing the necessary work. I asked Shannon to write a guest post addressing this. If it resonates with you and you’d like Shannon’s help getting where you want to be, check out her Unbelievable Ease coaching program.

Getting Started

Do you struggle to create (or maintain) order? You may need to declutter emotional barriers first.

Recently, a client of mine shared that she struggles with keeping her kitchen as clean and orderly as she’d like. It suddenly became a more pressing issue because some workers would be over in the next week to make needed repairs.

What seems like a fairly straighforward task, was overwhelming her. She was struggling to even get started.

As with most situations like this, there was a lot more going on than some dishes in the sink.

When she thought about cleaning the kitchen, she imagined it as a HUGE overwhelming project. The dishes became evidence of her failure as a housekeeper. Thoughts zipped through her head of how hopeless she was, if she couldn’t even keep the kitchen clean.

The thing is, none of this happened consciously. She just knew that when she thought about cleaning up the kitchen, she felt bad. Really, really bad. It’s not hard to imagine why it was so difficult for her to get started.

How you think about your stuff — what it triggers in your mind — is one of the factors that can make dealing with it, creating and maintaining order, such a struggle.

When you consider a some decluttering or organizing you’d like to do, but can’t seem to get started on, what happens?

Do you picture your piles as bigger than you, insurmountable? – What if you imagine you could hold them in your hand.

Do you feel like clutter is evidence of your failure? – What if you let it simply be inanimate stuff that hasn’t yet been put away.

Does having undone projects start a chorus of berating voices in your head? – What if you turned down the volume, and changed the tone to a loving friend.

These are the kinds of techniques I used with my client. It dissolved the overwhem so she could take action.

Noticing how your mind responds to clutter or lack of order is a great way to get started. Experiment with these ideas, changing your thoughts to be neutral, or even inspiring.

If you’d like more support so you can take action and get to where you want to be, check out Unbelievable Ease, a coaching program for big dreamers who want to become big doers.

Creating an instant heirloom with Montage

4 May 2015

I’m big on suggesting that you don’t give Mother’s Day gifts that will end up being clutter. (See my post, Worth repeating: Don’t give your mom clutter for some non-cluttering gift ideas.)

I usually give my 80+-year-old mother something consumable that won’t linger in her condo. But this year I did something different and I’m really pleased with the gift. (My parents don’t have a computer, so there’s no way they’ll read this and spoil the surprise.)

I used Montage to make a photo book for her, full of current-ish family photos, most of which were taken on a recent visit I took to visit my parents with my niece and nephew, who live in Australia. Their visits are understandably rare, so these family photos are precious.

I was thrilled when the Montage book arrived. It had two features I love:

  • High quality materials: It’s a hard-cover book with thick pages that lay flat
  • It was eally easy to create

The deal with Montage is that you upload the photos and the website “auto-magically” places them in the book. You can fiddle around with them if you want. You can select different designs. You can change formats a bit. Or you can let it be easy and take what is presented to you. I pretty much accepted the layout presented, with just a few tweaks.

The gift isn’t inexpensive—Montage books come in three sizes and prices points and I went with medium.

I created the gift—one that will become a treasured heirloom after my parents are gone—in under 30 minutes. And it arrived in about three days.

In order to use Montage, you have to cede some control. That was fine with me because I don’t have the skill set to design a great photo book. If you prefer more control, you might want to check out Montage’s sister company, Mixbook, which gives you a lot more design tools. (That’s where I started and was delighted to find a link to Montage there.)

Choosing my Apple Watch

30 April 2015

Yes, I’m an Apple fangirl. I love my iPhone. I’m on my second one. I love my iPad, too; I’m also on my second one. And I’m on my third MacBook. And back in the day I had at least two different iPods.

But I’m not an early adopter. My first iPod was the first version, but I didn’t buy it for six months after they came out. (And I loved it.) My first iPhone was the 4S. And I didn’t get my first MacBook until 2008.

But once I saw the initial announcement about the Apple Watch, I really wanted one. Sure, I know the first gen won’t be as great as future generations. But I still want one. I managed to wait twenty days after orders first were taken before I ordered my own. It will arrive in June and I’m very excited.

One thing I’ve always loved about Apple products is that the choices tend to be limited. Not so much with the Apple Watch.

First I had to choose the size of the watch face, but for me that’s a no-brainer because I have small wrists. I went with the smaller one. Then I had to choose from three different models, the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. (It was easy to rule out the Apple Watch Edition, which starts at $10,000.) At first, I settled on the Apple Watch, which has a stainless steel body, and from there I had to choose among four watch-band styles. And virtually every band style has a color choice. So many choices!

Perusing the website, I fairly quickly narrowed it down to the 38 mm Apple Watch with Milanese Loop band. (That’s a mesh band and it’s innovative and beautiful.) It costs $649 but I was willing to pay it. But I thought it would be prudent for me to see one first, so I made a try on appointment. Gotta love Apple.

I’m so glad I did, because once I tried on my watch of choice I found that it was quite heavy. I tried on a lighter Modern Buckle leather band and liked it. And for the heck of it I tried the Apple Watch Sport version, whose case is aluminum, rather than stainless steel. The watch case is much lighter. Its band, which is a neoprene-like material they call Fluoroelastomer, felt lighter too. (I read the weight specs after I placed the order, and the sports band is actually heavier than the Modern Buckle leather, but I think the lighter case makes a huge difference.)

The nice, patient Apple Store worker took a picture of me in both the bands, which really helped me with the decision over the last few days.

Here they are:

Choosing an Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Sport on my wrist

Choosing an Apple Watch

The Apple Watch with light pink Modern Buckle band

I left the store torn. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I would benefit more from the Apple Watch Sport. It would be easier for me to wear while exercising and I wouldn’t have to worry about the band getting sweaty. (All the bands are removable and interchangeable, but the sports band is washable.) And I dress quite casually for work, most of the time. (Exercise clothes when I’m leading teams of organizers, which is what I do primarily.) I talked it over with my friend and colleague, Sheila DeHart and felt really good about the decision.

Once I narrowed it down the Apple Watch Sport, all I had to do was pick a color—I chose a nice neutral white. My decision made, I went to place the order this afternoon and was delighted that my choice also resulted in savings! My Apple Watch Sport will be $349, as opposed to $749 for the Apple Watch with the Modern Buckle. Less than half the price for the watch I chose independent of price. Woo hoo! (The nice thing is that all the choices have to do with the outside of the watch. The functionality of each model is identical.)

So I have from now until June to figure out all the ways I’ll use it. (They’re popping into my head constantly.) I look forward to reporting about it here!

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