Small Steps Can Lead to Lasting Change

This radio piece is a helpful discussion of using small steps to create lasting change in your life. I wanted to share it here because I think that our moods have strong ties to the so-called "little things."

Sid Garza-Hillman is talking about healthy eating but the idea of "small step change" is applicable to almost everything in your life. The theory is that if you want to improve how you feel it may be as simple as changing a few very small things that are part of your every day.

It might be about what you eat but as far as I'm concerned this link is helpful from all kinds of perspectives. It's just as likely to be about how you spend your time or the clutter in your environment. I'm dealing with that - I live in a small house; I have too much stuff and we're remodeling. That's just such a bad combination.

I found consolation in knowing that Garza-Hillman has clients who can only take on an assignment to drink a glass of water every morning. He says that's a fine place to start.

I'm ready to start selling off some of my art work that is cluttering my house and trading in some books I need to admit that I will never, ever read. My small start is to put the books in a pile and to list the art on my etsy site. What do you need to start on?




How to Deal With Email Overload or Burnout


I just read this great article on "email burnout" and thought I'd share it here. I'm so worn out on email - how about you? I made the effort to delete more than 8,000 emails I had "filed" in my inbox last month. It was freeing but also made me realize just how time consuming the search/sort/delete process can be. After that brief afternoon of "inbox zero," I saw 100-125 messages come in each and every day. It's impossible to keep up.


The "unsubscribe" option isn't foolproof. My favorite auto-response from a museum told me that my email address (which they send their email to) wasn't in the database and couldn't be removed. I've asked UPS Store of Roseville, Minnesota umpteen times to remove me from their email list but to no avail. I used that UPS Store one time - to overnight my signed divorce papers two years ago - and now I have to remember that moment each and every week when they have a sale on mailing tape. I hate that. But I digress. Here's a link to Oompf Labs great article on email burnout. Enjoy!



Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays CEO


Hoarder Update: Going from room-to-room?

Heidi Rettig, Still Life No. 1 (2008) is an encaustic mixed-media piece on panel.


I'm still working on my hoard. I've made a great deal of progress which has been helpful, mostly, for figuring out all the things that are left to do. My super clean office space is now a bellwether of sorts. Desk (or any other kind of) clutter now points to action needed in other areas. My filing cabinet, for example. Also the miscellaneous piles and items that don't have "a place" and just get shuffled from room-to-room. That shuffling is so much more obvious in a half-organized space.

The space that has become my art room works fine for collage but not for sewing. I'm not convinced that sewing and paint should be in the same room at all - but still reluctant to take over yet another room for my projects when the only private space my husband has is his bathroom and the six inch landing above the microwave. Like the pioneers, I will have to make do. That means the art studio - like everything else - will have to be carefully considered by function.

That's the hard work for me. I've got to think and think and think things through to figure out how and when I use certain items so that I can arrange them efficiently. What I find is that the organizing tools purchased before thinking things through are actually a big part of the problem. The shelves with fabric drawers do a great job of hiding my art supplies from view - but they also do a great job of rendering them into a useless jumble. It's tough to donate perfectly good furniture but that might have to happen.

There just isn't room in this little house to store it for "someday." That being the source of most of this clutter to begin with. And perhaps part of the challenge of doing all this work is that I've never been able to plan for now. My mother always discouraged us from hanging things on the walls or making decorating choices that were anything but beige. She believed that these perfect beige walls would enhance the resale value of the home when that time came. Which always seemed imminent. We never imagined we'd move her into a nursing home after 30 years in the same house. The beige carpet was worn bare and the walls weren't perfect either. I can't speak for my sister but -- coupled with other things my mother said and did -- I never quite relaxed into my life in a way that allowed me to make plans. Or decide what I wanted my home to look like or how it needed to be set up. At the moment, the number once clutter-y item in this house is my own unhung artwork. There's something not right about that.

I finished this encaustic piece in...2008. It sits on a shelf but should really be on a wall with some of the others. I must learn to use the hammer.


Dealing with Emotions When Sorting Clutter, Family Photos and Heirlooms.

organizing with boxes and labels

I'm still sorting my stuff. It's been more than a month and I would guess that I'm only half way there. Wherever there is. You know. The place where everything has a label and a shelf and a reason for being there in the first place. There.

A friend told me that before she and her husband moved in together she had taken boxes of stuff to the dump without even looking inside to see what was in them. I guess the fact that I'm still thinking about it so many years later means that what she did scared me a little bit.The deeper I get into my own project, the more I envy such a decisive action. What progress have I made, really, by sorting through all the old photos and letters?

Just two more boxes of personal papers wait on my nightstand for sorting. Every photo in every little box gives a little tug on the heart strings and after so many weeks - I find it quite exhausting. There's a part of me that would love to just pick them up and throw them away.

And then there is the art studio. It's difficult to pick up so many half-finished art projects and accept that they will NEVER be completed and can and should go in the trash. It says something about you, artistically speaking, when that happens. Or at least it feels like it does which is maybe the same thing.

All the same, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. The effort in the office made it into a sunny, pleasant spot to work. I want to feel like that all over this house, eventually. And so that is driving me at the moment. Distracting me from so many other worthy tasks - because those tasks might become easier if I can clear my space. But a month is a long time to get distracted - it's time for me to get to work.

And no - that photo isn't of my space. That's from a post on Apartment Therapy called "Organizing with Boxes." Click through to check out other, visually unachievable ideas.


The One Thing You Need Less of Right Now by Courtney Carver

I shared this article over the weekend on my Facebook page and it seems worth sharing here. I spent much of the last few weeks posting about my space-clearing process because I believe that all of this stuff I've accumulated has made a negative contribution to my stress level.

Aromatherapy Mood Sprays can't solve all of my problems. Just some of them. The ones that smell really bad. Eventually, I knew I'd have to deal with the underlying issues.It's not just stuff - it's deeper than that. Click through to read about how stuff contributes to stress. And what you can do about it.

Truth is, I've simplified my life in more ways than one over the past few years, and I definitely feel the difference. The clutter is just one of the last items on the list. I'm far from finished and found Courtney Carver's article very helpful - I needed some encouragement to keep me focused on the goals at hand. 

And by the way, that's NOT my desk. That's an image via Valerie a Lifestyle Management.


Organizing the Office Starring Lissanne Oliver of Sorted! Fame: Update

Lissanne Oliver writes the ultimate guide to organizing your life - Sorted!


I've been working on organizing the office and art studio for two weeks. Or two years. Depending how you look at it. It's been great to chuck things I no longer need but it has also been tough. Sorting and donating items from the fabric closet brought up a series of complicated emotions - so many unfinished projects - but the art supplies? Not at all. Curious, that. The last layer of personal papers has been difficult. The I-don't-have-any-children-to-dump-this-stuff-on-woe-is-me phase continued as I struggled through my Mother's "treasures." 

Throwing away family history seems to violate some kind of primal instinct from the yet unwritten Hoarder's Book of Rules. What am I supposed to do with my Grandmother's handwritten recipe for Sour Cream and Raisin Pie? I mean, how gross would that pie be, if I actually made it? If anyone made it? I don't care if reviewers on give it 5 stars and say "sour cream is the perfect complement to raisins." That's impossible. Oatmeal cookies are the world-acknowledged "perfect complement to raisins." The perfect complement to sour cream is the enchilada.

But I digress.

Lissanne Oliver's book, Sorted!, arrived from Australia just time at the end of last week. I'd already chucked all the fluff and was now staring at the real meat of the problem - MY stuff. My paper and digital archives. Our family accounts files. Piles of project materials waiting to be read, analyzed, and put into document form. Mail. I knew I needed to sort through it. I had a situation a few weeks ago when I needed to locate a tax return and COULDN'T FIND IT. Never o.k. for a self-employed person. Panic inducing, in fact.

So the day I received this book was the day I needed it and the day I made real progress. Other books tell me I need to organize - duh - but they don't really tell me how. I just wasn't born with that skill. My sister, on the other hand, was born with a Filofax in her hand. We shared a playroom in our childhood home and I was always trying to get her to "switch sides" with me. Her side looked better because it wasn't a cluster-f*(^ of toys. Being good-hearted, she'd switch with me until I wrecked that side with my own stuff and begged her to switch back again. Her grown-up house is so neat that when you visit you feel like you're making dirt just by standing there. When I ask my sister for tips she says, "Just start in a corner." Which doesn't work for me at all.

Sorted! gives you "recipes" for solving clutter problems. Always the "missing piece" for me. So, when Oliver tells me exactly what to do with my papers, down to the kind of folder I should put it in and the marker I'm going to use to write the label? That works for me. And bonus points to Lissanne Oliver for being willing and able to print on actual paper that many traditionally shoved-on-you organizing systems don't really work. Hanging files in a cabinet drawer is like a paperwork graveyard for most people and it is for me, too. A giant vortex of ancient mobile telephone bills and print-outs of my Outlook address book from ten years ago.

The book gave me permission to set things up the way I like them - nothing up high (because I'm not a tall person) and things stored near where I actually use them. No more running up and down the stairs to find that one little thing.

And so you see, I've made progress. From here to here:


That pile of papers to the right of my chair is today's project - to organize my unfinished writing ideas into tickle files. My shredder right next to the desk. My printers and important files on the shelves to the right. I still have work to do. You can see that the cord situation needs to be dealt with (no wiring upstairs in this old house) and I need to repair that hole in the window. With clear packing tape at least.

What do you think?


Aromatherapy Mood Sprays, Clutter, and Art Studio thoughts.


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