Forget New Year’s Goals. Try This Instead.

I’ve written before about how our brains are wired to forget all that we’ve accomplished and remind us of tasks left undone.

While this is a handy little biological back-up system it also reinforces our human tendency to be forever focused on what more we have to do, the next goal we need to master, the next rung up the (endless) ladder to success.

Over time this can result in a stressful, pressure-filled pace of life. Without ever stopping to reflect we miss out on celebrating what we have achieved and more importantly we miss out on the present moment.

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Forget New Year’s Goals. Try This Instead.

Shopping Guide

The holiday season is here and Black Friday has come and gone and Cyber Monday is completed. Why talk about shopping now?

Developing good shopping habits will save you money.  Now is the time of the year when you can get lots of practice developing good shopping habits.

Buying for the Wrong Reasons

  • It was on sale
  • Too good a bargain to pass up
  • I may find a use for it some day
  • Someone else I know may need it one day
  • It feels good to shop

I am sure we have all experienced these reasons for purchasing items at one time or another.

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Shopping Guide

My Favorite Planning Tools (and How to Avoid The Perfect Planning Tool Trap)

Elements of a Good Planning System

Everyone loves planning tools.

Whether it is an app, daytimer, fancy software, or regular old notebook there is so much potential and hope stored inside that fresh new system.

A new tool offers you the chance to wipe the slate clean, reset your priorities, and make yourself more efficient.

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My Favorite Planning Tools (and How to Avoid The Perfect Planning Tool Trap)

E-mail Running your LIfe?

Are you so distracted by e-mail that you can’t get anything done?

1.  Turn off the audio reminder of e-mail arriving in your inbox so you won’t be distracted from the task you are trying to complete.

2. Set aside two or three specific times of the day to check your e-mail and respond to quick items with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Schedule, in your agenda, longer e-mails to be answered when you have more time.

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E-mail Running your LIfe?

An Organized Home for the Holidays

Autumn is the perfect time to clear the decks and prepare to deck the halls. By planning ahead, the chances improve for smoother sailing as you cruise towards the finish line.

Before you begin, take the time to devise a well-thought-out strategy. Define clear and achievable goals and then formulate a plan of attack. Success often lies in the details so the effort made at the start will pay off later.

There are certain things on any list that can get done earlier than others. For instance, guest bedrooms are prone to turn into dumping grounds when not in use. Skip the usual last minute routine and invest the time into clearing out the clutter and finding a proper home for the rest.

This will no doubt lead you to other areas of the house so keep following the trail and repeating the process. Before too long, the results of your labor will show which may just give you the momentum to slide in safe before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve.

As the level of clutter declines in a home, a sense of control and calmness increases exponentially. Given the hectic pace that usually accompanies this time of year, there is no better gift to give yourself this holiday season.

For more information on this topic, visit Preparing Your Home for the Holiday Season – End Holiday Stress! from the

Simplify Your Holidays: All I Want For Christmas Is….

I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time grasping the fact that Thanksgiving is just 3 weeks away. Then Christmas is right on its heels! Every year it seems like the Christmas season sooner arrives sooner and sooner. I blame the stores who put out Christmas merchandise before Halloween. Even yesterday (11/4) I drove through a town that had all of its Christmas trees up and decorated! In the words of Peter Walsh, it’s all too much!

So I suggest we make a theme for the holidays this year and that theme is Simplify. I’m tired of so much stuff, so many decorations, so many useless and unappreciated gifts. Do you feel the same way? Here are a few things we can all do this year to simplify our holidays.

christmas gifts

End the Giving for the Sake of Giving

Does your family or workplace do a gift exchange? Years ago both my mom’s family and my husband’s immediate family exchanged gifts. We drew names at Thanksgiving and then exchanged gifts sometime during the holidays. It was always difficult since none of us lived near each other so we had very little idea of the other person or family’s preferences and needs. Finally someone in both families spoke up and said “Let’s drop the gift exchange and just enjoy each other’s company at the holidays.” What a relief and it has been wonderful ever since!

If you are part of a gift exchange with family or at the office but feel like you are all just going through the motions, make this the year you stand up and say “This isn’t as fun as it used to be. What if we all just went out for a great dinner instead?” I’m not saying to be a Scrooge and not give gifts at all, just simplify your gift giving process. Your sanity and your wallet will thank you!

Christmas decorations

Delete the Decorations

No, I’m not saying don’t put up your Christmas tree, but rather as you decorate this year consider paring down a bit. At the very least you could do this process that works well for me. Decorate your home however you want. Then take a long, hard look at any decorations that you didn’t use and are still in the boxes. Perhaps this is the year you let those go by donating them to Goodwill or some other worthy charity. Or if they are in really bad shape, donate them to the landfill. Fewer decorations means less to store and less time spent decorating and underrating. And more time is something we all could use this year!


Corral your Calendar

This is the time of the year that most of us have more social obligations that we would really like. From children’s school concerts to office parties to the neighborhood open house, there are so many events vying for our attention. Take a minute to list all the events you have coming up in November and December. Decide what are must dos (your daughter’s band concert), what are nice to dos (your best friend’s Christmas cookie exchange) and what are events that you would rather avoid at all costs (your annoying co-worker’s annual drunken Christmas party). Attend the events that you absolutely must go to and ones that you truly enjoy. For those events that fill you with dread every time you thing about them, respectfully decline. Most people will understand. Just be sure to RSVP in a timely manner. After all that is the polite thing to do.

A simplified holiday season sounds like such a wonderful thing to me. Instead of rushing and stressing, I plan on spending time with my family and pondering the true reason for the season. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Meal Planning Made Easy – Is it Possible?

Meal planning can seem like a difficult chore.  Try making it into a game.

Shuffle the Deck

Compile recipes for 20 to 30 easy-to-prepare main dishes and the same number of side dishes and desserts. Cut them out of magazines, download them the internet.  Get together with friends and each bring 10 recipes and share them.

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Meal Planning Made Easy – Is it Possible?

A Surprising Reason You Are Stuck in Overwhelm

There are a lot of reasons we get stuck in overwhelm.

Not too long ago I recognized another cause of overwhelm that is operating beneath the surface for many of the people I work with. It is not only the source of overwhelm but of guilt, disorganization, and even shame.

This cause is so common that I’ve given it a name: Always Available Syndrome.

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A Surprising Reason You Are Stuck in Overwhelm

I Can’t Find My…

Can't Find My Stuff

In my work as a professional organizer, I’ve heard that the average person spends anywhere from 10 – 55 minutes a day looking for stuff. As we all know, time spent trying to find what you know you have is frustrating! Typically, there are three primary reasons why this happens.

You Haven’t Designated a Home

The most common reason we “lose” items is that we haven’t taken the time to intentionally designate where they will live. As a result, we put them down in a variety of places, which makes them hard to find. By defining a specific resting location for commonly used items, you can significantly reduce the time you spend searching. Some commonly used items that you need to assign a space for include:

  • Glasses/Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • Cell Phone (and charger)
  • Purse/Briefcase/Backpack
  • Wallet/ID/Driver’s License/Passport
  • Pen, pencil, highlighter
  • Scissors
  • Flash Drive
  • Earbuds

Remember to think this through for your home, office, car and anywhere else you go. For example…

where will you put your sunglasses if you wear them into a store? 

where will you put your phone when you are at school? 

where will you keep your wallet when you are in your car?

You Put Things Down Mindlessly

For some, the struggle is less with establishing a home for items and more with returning them to their rightful spot. This is understandable…we walk in the door and the phone is ringing or someone needs our immediate attention. As a result, we tend to mindlessly put things down without taking note of where we are putting them.

Changing this habit is largely an issue of discipline. A few tricks to force yourself to put things away include:

  • Speaking out loud when you put an item down. “I’m putting my keys on the counter.” If this is the RIGHT spot for the item, you’ll feel good about it. If it is the wrong spot, you may guilt yourself into not putting them there… and even if you don’t, you will have audibly reminded yourself where you put the keys.
  • Asking others to hold you accountable for putting items away. For example, tell the kids they get a nickel every time they catch you not putting your glasses back in the holder next to the sink.
  • Focusing on one belonging at a time. Spend a month focusing on the one item you most frequently lose track of.

Stuff Gets Covered Up

A third common situation is when we put something down and then someone else comes along and covers it up with another object. Paperwork is the classic example. You put a school form down on the counter, and within an hour it is covered with the mail, the newspaper and the loose change your spouse emptied out of his pocket.

Unfortunately, we can’t always control the behavior of others. Therefore, the best way to avoid having your belongings covered up is to resist putting them where they can easily be piled upon. Hang them up, file them, put them away in a drawer… whatever it takes. In addition, make sure every family has a space somewhere in the house that is “theirs”… no one else can put stuff there except that one particular person.

*     *     *     *     *

If there is one thing we can all use more of, it is time. Who needs to waste it looking for stuff?

What tricks have you found helpful for keeping track of your belongings?

photo credit: Hello Turkey Toe via photopin cc

Behind-the-Scenes with “Overwhelmed” NYT Bestselling Author

I had the good fortune to sit down with Brigid Schulte, a wife, mother, award-winning journalist with The Washington Post and the author of her new book: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, Play, When No One Has The Time.

In this heavily researched book, Schulte takes us on a journey around the world as she uncovers the roots of why we feel so harried and overwhelmed as a culture and what we can do individually and collectively to shift away from the devastating pace at which we are living.

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Behind-the-Scenes with “Overwhelmed” NYT Bestselling Author