The Power of One

 

Remember the scene in City Slickers where Curly reveals the secret of life?

It’s this – one thing. He says, “You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.” You gotta figure out what your one thing is. It’s different for each of us.

There is something so peaceful in thinking about that. And something so empowering when focusing on that concept, especially in 2017 when the world demands that we multi-task, and that we have to do everything well. As women we feel the need to be the high-powered corporate exec and the most engaging mom to our children. If not, we might as well hide out and not show our face on Facebook. Our children are pressured to be great at sports, excelled in their school work and well rounded enough to play in the symphony. If not, what are colleges going to think?

It’s all too much. We get caught up in the complexities and frenetic pace of life. But every once in awhile that scene comes to my mind and I think, “What’s my one thing?” And how can I stick to that? I guess there have been a few times in my life when I had the opportunity to do just one thing: When I was a stay at home mom and my life was taking care of my kids, my home and my husband. When I was writing my books and for at least two days a week, that’s all I did. And again when I was recovering from a heart operation, my one thing was getting better so I could live. Sad that it has to take a health crisis to bring us to that but it is one of those times when the pressure of society is off. No one expected me at the PTO meeting, or to be working or to make dinner for that matter! I could rest and recuperate.

So how can we use the power of one to simplify and calm our lives down?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t volunteer for every committee, chose one that makes you happy.
  2. Help your kids chose one sports team or activity per season.
  3. If you have a lot of one category of clothing, chose one that you love, one that makes you look fabulous, like one great winter coat, black dress, bathrobe or hat. Let go of the rest.
  4. In your kitchen chose one set of dishes, one set of glasses and one set of utensils – donate the odd pieces and all other sets.
  5. Are charities hounding you to donate? Find one that moves you and give all of your allotted charitable contributions to them. Really make a difference.
  6. Household chores driving you nuts? Do only one per day.
  7. Does your whole house need an overhaul? Focus on one room at a time. Don’t stop until you love that room. Then move on.
  8. Do birthdays and holidays leave you stressed out from overbuying? Chose one special gift for each person. Put thought into it all year long and write down your suggestions.
  9. Invited to multiple parties in one day? Chose one and have a great time.
  10. Does your business offer too many services but none are doing great? Focus on one and become the highly specialized expert in that field.

See there are so many ways we can become minimalistic by paring down to one in areas of our life that feel overwhelming.

What can you get to one?

Getting over “overwhelmed”

secretary

If there is one word we organizers hear more than others, it is “OVERWHELMED.” Our clients are overwhelmed by: emails, paper, hectic schedules, work, kids activities, toys, clothes, you name it.

So how can we get over this state of mind, or state of being? There are several approaches.

  1. Write a list – This may sound like a small solution to a big problem, but consider this. All this stuff is on your mind and stressing you out in your head. If you make a list of what needs to be done, you can free your mind and make some sense of it. For example if you have projects at home, write them down in groups. Maybe inside projects, projects for the kids to help with and outside projects can be your groups. When the lists are made, then assign projects to a certain day or month. Great method for do-it-yourselfers.
  1. Call in a truck – Let’s face it, if you have a house full of clutter and you want to deal with it fast, you can call in a truck for either donations (like Purple Heart or Goodwill) or junk removal. Some junk removal companies will even sort through your stuff and donate and recycle what they can. All you have to do is point out what you want to go. Not a lot of tedious decisions to be made with this method.
  1. Sort, Purge and get organized – This is the method employed by most professional organizers. This works well for people who want to tackle one room or area of their home at a time. And for those who want to look at everything and decide what should stay and what should go. This will take time but with a third party to keep you focused it will get done.
  1. Learn to say NO – If you are overwhelmed by your schedule, then maybe a series of calls to get off certain committees is in order. I’ve had years where I’ve said yes to every volunteer duty asked of me and then I’ve had years where I completed my commitment and politely ducked out. Sometimes a year of doing nothing extra helps you decide where your priorities are. And with kids’ activities, I recommend one per child per season. They have to learn to make choices. You can lead by example in this area.
  1. Take a day off – Many of us work constantly. In fact, I heard the other day that we Americans only take 51% of our vacation days. So take a day off! Don’t wait for a major event to do this. A day off in the fall for a walk outside or day at the spa can be so rejuvenating. Or a day off in the winter to stay home by the fire and drink cocoa and watch movies can also be good for the soul.

How do you get over “overwhelmed?”

Simple Summer Pleasures

beach

Now that I am back from vacation, I’d like to share with you some simple pleasures that I find at the beach. My hope is that we can incorporate some of these into our daily lives, even when we are not at the beach or on vacation. As Hemingway said, “Paris is a moveable feast.” So too, is vacation. Simple moments can bring us calm, peace and help rejuvenate us in a hectic world if we are organized enough to make them a priority in our lives.

 

 

Simple Joys

  1. Biking every morning
  2. Going to a farmers’ market and eating that food in the next couple days
  3. Sleeping with the windows open so you can hear the birds in the morning
  4. Ice cream in the afternoon
  5. Having just enough food and clothing to get through the week
  6. Reading on the porch
  7. Cocktails with friends outside
  8. Outdoor showers
  9. Digging your feet in the sand
  10. No computers

I once saw a friend take a beautiful vacation picture of an island beach and pin it to her visor in her car. She said she looked at it every time she needed to take a little vacation – even if she was stuck in traffic. This is the same idea.

What are some simple pleasures you enjoy in the summer?

10 Steps to the Perfect Summer Party

I am currently winding down from a great Memorial Day weekend. The weather was great (although not as warm as I would have liked) and we had the perfect combination of things to do this weekend, including a play, some sports, our annual party and downtime.  If life could just be this perfect all year!

About 10 years ago my family decided that we would host a Memorial Day picnic and celebrate my two older kids’ birthdays at the same time. Their birthdays are mid May and mid June and to get this big gang together twice in the same month is a little difficult. Memorial day happens to land in the middle and we thought, “What a great way to kick off the summer season.” Because none of my family members have beach houses, this works perfectly. And the more we do this party, the easier it gets! I remember being frantic the first few times fretting about what food to serve, what kind of cake, where to put everything, and what if it rains? As an organizer, I strive for simplicity in all I do so a little experience and simplifying came in handy as we effortlessly had a party for over 30 people and still had time to enjoy our weekend. Now I can not take credit for all of this. It takes team work, and my husband and kids all chipped it to make this party go off without a hitch. Hopefully you can learn some tips to help you throw a great summer party this season:

1. Decide the date and start time and let everyone know via E-vite, text, or email. Ask for an RSVP 5-7 days prior to the party. This way you know how much food or drink to buy.

2. Decide on the menu, and opt for something that can be set out on a table, and then forgotten. Order food or purchase it a few days before the event. If it’s hot food, use a warming tray. Cold food – put a tray of ice underneath. If you have air conditioning, set up food and drinks inside so guests can help themselves. Don’t offer too many choices. Two entrees, two salads and a couple kinds of snacks are generally fine for any size crowd. Incorporate fruits & vegetables in a fun way so those who are vegetarians have options.

3. The day before or the morning of the party, do all food prep that can be done. Straighten the house – but only clean sinks and toilets. The floors will get dirty so clean those AFTER. If you have children or children are coming, put away anything valuable that you don’t want touched or knocked over.

4. One hour before the party, set up table cloths and serving bowls & trays. If someone is helping you with food, you can put a post it on each tray or bowl so they know where everything goes. Have one table for snacks/desserts another for main course and then tables with chairs for where people can sit and eat. Set up a drink area and label one cooler for beer/wine and one for soda if you are serving both.

5. Use disposable utensils and plates. Put a permanent marker with the cups so people can write their names on them and use one cup the whole day. Set up a regular trash can and a recycle can outside and label accordingly.

6. If you love theme parties, try www.myperfectparty.com. It’s a great way to coordinate the menu, decorations, drinks and games all around a theme. Once you purchase your “party in a box” you can use it again and again. This year, instead of our usually patriotic flare, we went with a Hawaiian Luau which was left over from my daughter’s Sweet 16 party.

7. During the party do a sweep through the house and throw out any trash you see. If serving dishes are empty, refill them or put them in the sink. Don’t clean until guests have left! As you do your sweep, chat with guests in each room. Ask if anybody needs anything.

8. At the end of the night., ask kids to clean up the toys scattered all over your yard or playroom. Blow out any lit candles. Once the bulk of guests have left, put food away in plastic containers, get dishes to the kitchen and basically consolidate the mess.

9. Load the dishwasher and run it. If you’re not going to hand wash dishes, at least rinse them and put them in the sink. Wipe down plastic table clothes and let them dry over night.

10. The next morning survey the outside of your house, put everything in it’s place. Wash dishes & linens and sweep and mop the floors.

If there’s an extra serving of food or piece of cake – take that as your reward and take the rest of the day off!

What are some of your tips for a great summer party? Leave a comment.

 

Letting Go of Routines

As we squeeze the last few weeks out of summer, I am torn. I look forward to the routines that come with the fall. For one, I know where my children will be from 8 am to 4 pm – school.  And I know who will be watching them- the teachers. During the summer, things are much more day-to-day as I work with clients and my husband often works from home. Our time management usually consists of a Sunday night briefing of all that is going on, followed by daily updates communicated by scribbling on the family calendar and texting during the day. More than once I have gone to pick up my teenager from camp only to see a confused face and hear,”Why are you here? I have a ride.” Ahh the stress of changing schedules by the hour! I will be happy when that is over.

But I’m trying to stay in the spirit of the relaxed summer schedule and adopt my boys’ attitude. They wake up with no plan. If they’re hungry they eat. If they want to watch TV or play games they do. When they’re hot, they go swimming. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. Ahh! to be young with no responsibilities. ..So I have on occasion been spontaneous this summer. If I did not have a client, I did my work early in the day and then said “Ok kids what do you want to do now?” Not a lot of enthusiasm as they’d rather I drive them to a friend’s than do something with them, but I have gotten them to see a few movies, go shopping and even go kayaking with me. These are the best moments of the summer.

Of course, the trick is to find balance because sometimes no routine means no work for mom and boredom for the kids. I have also heard, “What are we going to DO today?” And then I feel guilty if I’m working and they are bored at home.

I don’t have all the answers here. It is a constant struggle to balance work & family time, schedules and free time. But if you have flexibility with your work, take it! I tried to schedule all my clients this summer in the morning so I could be home for the boys in the afternoon. I could still be on the computer or phone but they could have friends over to swim. On my days off I tried to do something with them and on the rare weekend when we all were home and not scheduled, I try to do spontaneous family outings or at least meals together! I firmly believe one of the tricks to maintaining balance in your life is knowing when schedules are helpful and knowing when to let go. When you do, you also let go of stress and allow happy things to happen because you weren’t too busy to notice them.

 

What fun things have happened to you when you abandon your schedule?

Organize to De-Stress

Professional organizers often get called when a person is overwhelmed, at their wit’s end or when a situation has reached critical mass.  Their disorganization has caused them stress and they need an object third party to come in and tell them what to do. Everyone’s situations are different so my solutions are as varied as my clients.  However, there are some general rules or “absolutes” that I have found which organized people follow and disorganized people don’t.  I discuss these in my book “Absolutely Organized – A Mom’s Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and a Clutter Free Home.”  My reason for writing this book was to illustrate to people (specifically busy moms) that “You don’t have to live this way!”  If you are constantly running and never have time for yourself, if your house is in a constant state of disarray, if you are winging it every day without a clear idea of what happens next, know that it doesn’t have to be this way and you can change your situation.  Let’s talk about how and where to start.

The first thing you have to do is identify the worst or most out-of-control area of your life and start there.  Finish this sentence, “If I were more organized I could…” and let that become your goal and your motivation.  Write this down and post it somewhere you can see it every day. You may be motivated to have more quality time with your children, or have more time to yourself, or you may just want your house presentable enough to have company over, or organized enough to find what you need.  So decide what you want.  That’s the first step. Organized people are not afraid to make decisions and move on.

Secondly, make a plan. Mary Kay Ash said, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Jumping into a project without a complete plan is really just setting you up for failure. I find that even a few minutes of planning each day, saves a lot of anxiety and run-around in the long run.  If it’s time management – plan your week. If you have a house project or work project to tackle – plan the steps and write a list of what you will need.  Include other people to share the workload whenever possible.

Third, make an appointment and schedule enough time to work on this priority. Do you need a few hours every week? A few days set aside? Whatever time you need, schedule it in your planner. Nothing is going to happen by accident.

Fourth, remember your goal. When you are in the midst of a project and you are feeling disheartened, remember the goal.  It’s also a good idea to visually post your goal so you can remind yourself all the time what you are working towards.

Fifth, finish working on your project and move on. Don’t be a perfectionist. If it’s time management you need help with, try adapting one good habit at a time. Don’t try to change too much at once. If it’s a physical project, get the big stuff done first and then the finishing touches. Finish one project before you move onto the next.   Check something off your list and feel proud that you have accomplished it.  Reward yourself by doing something fun and relaxing.

 

Life in the Slow Lane

If you are a Type A personality, like me, then you probably like living life in the fast lane. Go, go, go all the time, being a mover and shaker. But what happens when your life suddenly slows down? Do you go nuts or just enjoy it? Right now I’m stuck in the middle and trying to decide.

Back in May I was diagnosed with a heart problem that required surgery. So I was told by the doctors to take it easy, slow down. (Easy for them to say! But what about a mom with 3 kids, a dog and her own business?) I asked them to define “slow down.” Were we talking bed rest or no extreme makeovers for my clients? Obviously work had to take a back seat. I continued to do some without heavy lifting and I just focused on my motherly duties as much as I could do. Then there came a time when even food shopping was too much for my heart. I slowed down even more, although feeling very old and fragile at that point. I didn’t like it at all, and couldn’t wait for this saga to be over.

So the surgery went well and my friends and family were an enormous help with the day to day. People picked up my kids, made us dinners and even took my dog! It was heart-warming and overwhelming. I learned so much in that time about taking it slow. So this was how the other half lived. You know, the people who are always so calm? the type who take their time doing thoughtful things like sending friendly notes, baking cookies, going to the park? I had often envied these people. I wish I had the time and the temperment to take it easy, smell the flowers and enjoy nature. Well, after a few months on the injured reserved list, I had become one of these people. I read books, watched movies, went to the park with my son, had lunch with my daughter and played games with my kids.  But one of the most enjoyable things I have been able to do in the last 3 months is take the time to talk to my friends. Usually in our frenzied lives, it’s a quick email or Facebook message to keep in touch, or a call to plan a get-together that happens all too infrequently as our children get older. But now I was taking hours to sit and talk with my old friends and family members, and I stopped worrying about the next thing on my list! Because my list had disappeared. Stay well, get better and enjoy life at home were the only things on my mind.  Summer was a perfect time for this to happen. For now, I want to just “soak up the sun” for a few more weeks and the hustle and bustle can wait ’til the fall. I’m sure by then my Type A personality will resurface  and I will be ready for the change of season.

Have you ever been forced to slow down? Did you enjoy it or fight it? Learn anything? Please share.