Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Plea For Your RSVP

I have seen an interesting thing happen over the last couple of years; the lack of giving an RSVP. We all know what it means. We all understand the purpose of it. Yet people fail to give a proper response. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. Sometimes it slips my mind and I forget, but yet most of the time another culprit is at play. I call that culprit, "waiting for a better offer" or "can't make up my mind."

This time of the year, we are sent holiday party invites and offers to go caroling, bake cookies or volunteer at your child's school. Our social calendar floweth over! We also have the added stress of trying to not gain weight. Seriously, I know carrot sticks are not the food I am going towards on the buffet table. Plus we have to get all the holiday shopping and baking done in our spare time and still be a valuable employee, spouse, parent, etc.

I am writing this post at an exhausted point in my day. We decided to do a major house remodel in one week....paint and replace the flooring in three rooms. Who does this? Someone who has lofty goals! We are in the home stretch and coming in on time, but I am tired. I still have the Thanksgiving holiday to plan & cook and two of my boys are coming home from college. I am pushing through my exhausted state as I see the finish line.

But because I am tired, I am really careful about what I say "yes" to. I am one of those people when I commit to going, I go. I try to give the RSVP early as I know what it takes to plan an event. You owe it to the event planner to let them know as soon as possible your intentions about going.

Here are some tips to make sure that you don't say "Yes" to things you really want to say "No" to.

  • Do a gut check. Does it fell right to be going or should you just say no? My gut is always right. If there is a nagging feeling that you shouldn't be going, then don't go.

  • Will it put you over budget? Some events you need to buy an expensive ticket or buy a special outfit. If these things take you out of your budget, then don't go.

  • Can you give an answer right now? If you can answer "yes" or "no" right now, that is a good clue if you really want to go to the event.

  • Do you have the time? If you are already over scheduled, don't add another thing to your list. Keep your calendar under control in order to keep your sanity.

  • Will you feel guilty? We all know that if we say "yes" to something we often are saying "no" to something else. Figure out what that is ahead of time so that you can deal with it.

  • Are you saying "yes" so you just don't miss a potential good time? That is the wrong reason to say "yes." You should be going for other reasons, like spending time with friends or family. If you are that person that doesn't want to ever miss a good time, you are going to exhaust yourself before too long and start missing events.
So as those holiday invites start to come in, take control of your calendar and make sure that you do not over extend yourself. Let the event planner know quickly what your intentions are. And if you say "yes" to an event, make sure that you go. It is very disheartening to prepare for 30 and only 15 attend. Be respectful of your time and the time of the person who invited you.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't Guilt People Into People Keeping Your Clutter

I pride myself as being a fairly organized person. I take my advice most of the time. But once in awhile, I slip up and hear myself going down the road of clutter. When I work with my clients, I will challenge them when they want to keep something for someone to actually take a picture of the object and text it to the person and see if they want it. I had a "very nice" [insert guilt word here] travel bag that I thought my son's girlfriend would want. I texted her the picture and I got the reply that she didn't like the pattern on the bag. But then I caught myself in mid text with a reply of...but "it is perfect" [insert guilt word here] for what she needs! If I would have guilted her into keeping it, she would have taken it and never used it. The bag would add to her clutter.

So to avoid having the problem of going down the guilt trip road here are some tips:

  • Ask if this is something they would buy. If the answer is no, then you know that this will just be clutter in their lives. We do not want to enable clutter.
  • Is this something that you know that they like. If you know the person well, you will probably know their style. Perhaps they have a collection and you are adding to their collection.
  • Don't start with guilt words. Words like "this was your grandmas" or "I loved this as a child" are meant to start the trip down guilt road. I think twice if something was my grandmas. I feel that maybe I should hold onto it for sentimental reasons.
  • Don't be attached to the outcome. Be okay with whatever answer you receive. The person may not want to hurt your feelings, but be prepared if they do. Remember, it isn't you they are rejecting, it is the object that they don't have a connection to.
  • Start with open words in your dialogue. Letting them know from the start that you are fine with whatever their answer is, starts the conversation in a way so that you know that they are not keeping the object out of guilt.
  • Have a back up plan. Know that whatever the possession is, there is someone out there that it will bring joy to. For me it was knowing that I could take this bag to a women's shelter and they would find a home for it gave me a sense of peace.
  • Have someone donate the items for you. I sometimes feel guilty with knowing that I am discarding sentimental items. My husband however is not sentimental, so he does the donating.
  • Don't guilt yourself into keeping the clutter. Have the item leave your house as soon as possible. If you have the item pulled aside and you keep on looking at it, you may decide to keep it after you guilt yourself! 
Remember that this is a journey to live a simpler life. We are fighting the voices in our head telling us to keep things. You can start to live a clutter free life by discarding possessions, but just because the saying of "one man's trash is another man's treasure" isn't necessarily true. Sometimes trash {clutter} is just trash {clutter}. And sometimes our friends and family don't want to deal with it either.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Steps of Service To Implement in Your Life

I have been on a traveling whirlwind of late and although it has been fun, what I really appreciate is looking at the exchange and treatment of others. I am in a service providing industry and I always take note of when I get good service and when I get bad. I am happy to report that for the majority of the time, I get great service and I often wonder where in my life I can improve the service that I give.

I had the opportunity to have some great service last week and I complimented the gentleman on the great service and how everyone at the hotel was simply fantastic. He pulled out from his breast pocket a card that listed several things such as the employee promise, the credo, the motto, the service values and most important to me, the three steps of service. I watched how they anticipated my need before I had it. The second step was the golden ticket, "Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest's needs." I wondered how I can import this step of service to my family members and to myself.

In raising boys, I think it is very important to teach them how to be gentleman and have them practice on me what they will then use out in the world. Good manners are not gender specific, but raising boys, I felt a need to try a bit harder on the lost art of manners. It started with holding the door open for someone that is coming behind you. I think men and women alike should be holding the door open. I am shocked in fact when the door isn't held open. If my boys don't do it, I clear my throat and they immediately know that they forgot and turn around and open the door.

Anticipation is a hard thing to master because you need to be engaged in life. Too often, we find ourselves busy and rushing to the next thing. We are absorbed in our own problems that we miss things that would take us a second to do but would make a lasting impact in someone's life.

Last week when I was getting off the plane an elderly couple was struggling to get off the plane. Instead of being impatient with them I asked if they needed help getting their luggage down from the overhead compartment. They did. I grabbed it down. Another gentleman stepped forward and took one of their suitcases off the plane for them. I grabbed the elderly man's coat and bag and followed him off the plane. By that time my seatmate came up to me and asked what she could do to help. We figured out where their connecting flight was going. I tried to get a wheelchair to take the gentleman to his next gate. At one point he fell on the floor and needed to be helped up by still other people. My seatmate had time and she volunteered to make sure that the couple made it to their next gate. It felt good to be of service. It felt even better to be of service with others as we worked together to help this couple. I received so much from this interaction that I couldn't wait to do it again.

I think the key to anticipation is not being afraid to help. We are taught to not make eye contact or interfere with peoples lives. I have stopped doing that and I ask one question in my head, "if this was me struggling, would I want someone to help me?" If I answer yes, I jump in and ask if I can be of service. When I saw the elderly couple struggling, I thought of myself and my husband in 40 years and hoping that people would help us. I have held a sleeping baby in an airport so a mom could check on her ticket and use the restroom. I have been that mom and have needed a few extra arms.

When my boys were younger, I could anticipate an ear infection coming on. I would take them to the doctor and be sent home with no signs of an ear infection, only to be back days later with a much worse one. I have seen my son struggle with school and know that he was smart but couldn't figure out what was wrong. I pushed the school, they pushed back and said he wasn't bad enough. I privately had testing done and found the learning disability and got him services to take his frustration away.

So the key is to focus on anticipation this week. Where can you be of service in someone's life. It could be as simple as writing a letter or sending an email or mailing your child some cookies, {even if they live in town, it is still fun to receive a package in the mail.} Opening a car door or opening the door at the post office. Watch for your time to be of service, and step up and do it. Smile and just realize how good it feels!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What is Your Story

I often find that people get stuck with a story in their head that they find difficult to erase or rewrite. We are raised by our family of origin and influences of our cultural to believe certain things. That story is so loud that it often quiets any other voice. In my case my husband tells me I am beautiful but the story in my head tells me I can't be beautiful because I am not a 5 foot 10 leggy blonde. He knows I have the story in my head and he does everything in his power to shout louder.
Here are some other stories that I commonly hear while working with clients:

That is the way it has always been. Many of us fight against change. We like the pile of the mail here. We take comfort in all the antiques in our homes. We always have one picture on our Christmas card. Because we have always done something a certain way means that we must continue to do it. My question is, do we really? Start with little changes. Find a basket to hide the pile of mail. Put a collage of pictures on the card this year.  Remove one piece of furniture and see if you can start to change the story.

That at is the way my mother/father/grandmother did it. This is a story that I hear so often. There is a fear in changing the story because our families know best. In many cases mothers do know best (if you are my children remember that I always know best) but sometimes we can improve on what we were taught. And sometimes family is wrong. We need to take the positive that we were taught and tweak the negative until we are just right.

I am not pretty/smart/confident enough. Too often this is a story that we have been taught from outside forces that stick with us the longest. We need to unravel what we see in the media. We don't have hair and makeup stylists at our beck and call. We don't have the ability to photoshop ourselves in life. For me the trick has been surrounding myself with positive people. Friends and family who raise you up and fill you up with positive messages are essential. Silence the naysayers and doubters in your world.

The person who gave this to me would not love me if I got rid of it. This is a story that I work with my clients to quiet in their head. We talk about if they gave a gift to someone and that person wouldn't need it, would they want them to keep it? The answer is always no. So I challenge them and ask them why should they be any different? I see the lightbulb go on. I learned this lessons myself with a wool sweater my husband bought for me when we were in college. I knew it was over his budget when he bought it. But I kept it for over 15 years and wore it only one time. It was itchy, it was too warm, it didn't fit well. But I kept it. Finally I asked him if he would mind me getting rid of it. He looked at me with love and said of course get rid of it. The memory of the gift is still there, even though the gift is gone. The memory of his love of the gift warms me more than the sweater ever did.

I promise to work hard on changing the story in my head that doesn't make me a better person if you do. One little step at a time. One little change. All of the steps and changes begin to add up until we find that the story is gone and now replaced with a different and more supportive story.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good Night To-Do List

I have been struggling with remembering what I need to do the next day as I am falling asleep, then I lie there awake thinking I can't forget to do this. Meanwhile I lie awake. Sleep is elusive and instead of grabbing a pen and writing it down I toss and turn all night while my subconscious stays awake. One thing that has really helped me is my smart phone. I have a button I push and tell it my reminder. It will ask me what time I want the reminder and I tell it and confirm and all is good and I can go to sleep.

But what if I was more intentional before I even laid down? What if I sat down at night and spent just a few minutes writing down my to-do list. My college roommate did that every night and she ended up doing ok for herself professionally. She was intentional, every night the list came out. She had a plan. She had great time management skills!

So if you are like me and want to be more intentional about your list before you hit the hay, here are some tips to try:

1. Focus on your top three. So often we get bogged down on the details and we forget that if we just get some of the big things out of the way first our day will open with ease. Often I spend my day worrying about the big things that I completely avoid them. If I could focus on the big three, then I can fill in the rest of the day with my smaller tasks.

2. Schedule your top three. Yes actually find time when you are going to get the big three done. Don't try to just shove them in wherever. Take a good look at blocks of time in your schedule the next day and put down those big three. Make sure that you have a good estimation of the time before you schedule. You don't want to underestimate or overestimate, you want it just right.

3. Turn off distractions. Yes it is easy when you first start your work day to check email or social media. But we are like the dog in "UP" and are easily distracted by every squirrel that goes by, or in my case videos of cute baby animals!

4. Don't multitask. Yes we know it can be done, but very few of us are good at it. Focus on one project at a time and don't move on until your time is up or the project is over. Don't think that you can write a blog and do your laundry while making dinner. Guilty! The clothes will be wrinkled, the dinner will burn and you will miss your deadline!

So how about we turn off our brain for the night and focus on cows jumping over the moon and the quiet old lady whispering hush? I promise to try to be more intentional about my to-do list if you will too!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Decluttering After A Divorce

I recently had a friend over for dinner who has gone through a divorce and I peppered her with questions. I am always fascinated by divorces, not because I am planning one, but simply because being a family law lawyer was a part of my life for so long. I like seeing how people can get divorce right and I want to learn from what they did in order to give advice to friends in similar situations. I have seen too much of how divorce can go wrong...and it isn't pretty. Not only isn't it pretty but it is expensive and can leave lasting trauma for all involved. Divorce is a part of our culture. When we get married, we all plan on being married to this person for the rest of our lives, but sometimes things happen. Sometimes no amount of therapy can fix it. But besides all of the emotional stuff, what do you do with the physical stuff?

Chances are you were given gifts for your wedding that are a reminder of your now "failed" marriage. You were given gifts from your now ex and you don't know what to do with them. Or maybe you purchased things together that you ended up with in the separation. My advice would be to treat the physical possessions like you would anything else in your life that reminds you of a loss. Sometimes the physical objects are a comfort and sometimes they are a hindrance to living your best life.

Here are a few steps to get you thinking and moving in the right direction:

1. Give yourself time. Making snap judgments are never a good idea. A year is an adequate amount of time to simply put the decisions on hold while you grieve the loss of the marriage. Don't bag stuff up in trash bags and throw in the yard when angry. Wait and grieve and process.

2. Decide if you can keep the item without having negative thoughts. If whenever you pass the couch with the stain on it, does it make you angry towards your ex? Or do you pass the bedroom set and feel happy and relaxed? Realize that objects create emotions and separate the good from the bad.

3. Can you live without it. You may need the kitchen table to have dinner with your kids even though it may remind you of some bad memories. But sometimes the fact that you need it may outweigh the negative thoughts. Perhaps you can paint the table so that it takes on a new look and a new memory?

4. The guilt of wondering if you should return the object to the person who gave it to you. If you had a relatively short marriage, you perhaps are feeling guilt in having wedding gifts that were never used. My personal opinion is that if you went into the marriage with the best of intentions and you were blindsided by the end of the marriage, the last thing you need to worry about is guilt over gifts. If you do feel guilty there are ways that you can shed the guilt. Find a worthy organization that could use the gifts and donate them. Or just realize that nobody is judging you and they love you and wish you the best. If the blanket they gave as a wedding gift is an object of comfort, then use it. Nobody gives a gift with the intention of causing stress or guilt. Tell the guilt to hit the road once and for all.

5. Holding on to a name. For women there is often the name change associated with marriage. It is a process to change all of your documents back to your maiden name. But if you are using the excuse of not changing your name because you ordered a new pack of check blanks, you may need to dig a little deeper. A name can almost be an object that needs to be dealt with.

6. Photos. I am a sentimental fool for photos and I don't like hearing that people destroy photos, especially if here are children involved. Put them in a box and store somewhere to give your kids someday. Sometimes out of sight is out of mind! If you have no kids, only go through the photos when you are no longer angry. There may be some with your parents or friends that you want to keep.

7. Wedding dress. I have been married for almost 25 years and I don't know what to do with mine. I don't want to have baptismal gowns made as I have my baptismal gown that I would rather my grandchildren use. But this large dress (yes I was married a the end of the 1980's) is preserved in an equally large box. When we donate items, we always want to know that someone else will cherish the item. Finding the perfect dress is hard. But a dress does not make a marriage....so as Elsa reminds me in "Frozen"....let it go...let it go....

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Four Things That You Can Do Today To Help You Sleep

I don't know about you but I seem to have that nagging voice in my head that is on a never ending loop. I also know that I am not the only one with this nagging voice in their head. When I work with my clients, I find that they too have the same voice in their head. I am surprised when I ask them about these simple things how many of them have not done them. So do me, and your family, a favor and complete this list soon.

1. Have a fireproof/waterproof safe. Too often I find social security cards and passports in a junk drawer. Common sense tells us that is not a great storage solution. Gone are the days for all of us having a safety deposit box for these documents. Big box stores sell safes for under $100. Place your titles and other important papers in your safe. All those papers protected in one safe place gives peace of mind.

2. Have your photos stored on an external hard drive. I love how small these are now and how they have fallen in price. There is no reason that your important documents and memories should not be stored off of your computer. Nothing hits you worse than having a computer crash and knowing that your computer is loaded with Susie's first birthday photos. Back those photos up and bonus points if you store it in your new safe!

3. Have your internet passwords written down on old school paper. You heard me right, paper. I am all for you keeping them stored on your phone or in a handy app. But what if you lose your phone, or it crashes or heaven forbid you die. I have had clients who have not been able to get into their loved ones phones after they die because it was password protected. Write down the important account information and passwords and place them somewhere safe, like in your new safe!

4. Have a will. Maybe it is the lawyer in me or the mom in me that wants everyone to have a will. They are easy to prepare and  maybe I am silly and think if you have it done, you will never need it. Even though I am a lawyer I had a lawyer prepare one for me. It gave me peace of mind knowing it was done. We made the calls to our family that we would want to raise our children and got it written. It took less than a week. You can have the law firm store it or you can store it in your new safe!

These are all simple things that should take you no time at all to do. Start with buying the safe and work down the list. I promise you that you will sleep better once you have these things complete.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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