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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
January 2003

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. A special thank you
  2. Clutter-free forever
  3. Coaching services
  4. Up and coming workshops
1. A special thank you

To all my clients, students, and audience members who have been in my life this year. You have made this past year a joy. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to live my mission and helping you live lives of prosperity and balance.

2. Clutter-free Forever

Is January a time of renewal for you, a looking back and a looking forward, a time to reflect and assess, or a time to get organized?

Part of getting organized involves clearing out clutter and keeping it from building up. Decluttering is a boring task that does not directly affect your income so you may have relegated it to the "C" priority list, yet the accumulation of clutter interferes with your ability to live and work productively.

In their new book on decluttering, "Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever," authors, Barbara Hemphill and Maggie Bedrosian, point out the hidden costs of clutter. "A setting that is crowded, cramped, or chaotic can result in a slow drain on staying healthy, happy, and productive." Everything -everything- you have in your life either supports your dreams and desires or sabotages them. They cite a statistic that the average person spends 150 hours a year looking for lost keys, papers, checks, etc. That's almost a whole month of work time. Imagine what a great year you would have if you could use those 150 hours for your top priority goals of fun and funds!

These authors structure clutter management with a programmatic approach to make the task less overwhelming and unsatisfying and therefore less likely to be procrastinated. The authors begin their easy-to-read book by pointing out we enter the world clutter free and that people start accumulating clutter on our behalf immediately. When my newborn's umbilical cord fell off, I saved it in a sealed envelope and was shocked to discover a few years later that the only things left in the envelope were the little plastic clamp and a pile of dust. Where was I all those Ash Wednesdays in Catholic school when they said "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return?"

This new book has come along at a great time in my life. Expectant grandmotherhood has led to a desire to purge myself of all the sloppy sentimental clutter of motherhood - or at least to unload that clutter on my daughter, a process she calls "unnesting." Lately, it feels more like anti-nesting as I ask myself questions like, "Do I really need every pair of shoes the child wore until she was six?"

The Clutter Trap

While I am not a professional organizer like Hemphill and Bedrosian, I do coach people on prosperity and balance. Sometimes that means helping a client look at her productivity, priority setting, and work habits.

According to Hemphill who owns a trademark on the phrase, "Clutter is postponed decisions." Saving things because you "maybe, someday, might need it" means you are not committing to your current goals. Why? Because if you are committed to your goals and are proactive about them, you will know that you cannot live in "someday time." Commitment leads you to do today the specific steps that create your future, staying in charge of that creation while being open to possibilities. Either extreme can be a trap; too rigid in adhering to the steps and you miss delicious opportunities, too open to the possibilities and you fall victim to the clutter trap.

The authors define the clutter trap as "a state of cumulative disorder that diminishes your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or financial health. It is a dangerous threat to your productivity, your prosperity, and your peace of mind. It is chronic, cumulative, chaotic, cramping, creeping disorder."

The authors illustrate their decluttering suggestions with stories such as that of Adrienne who agreed to plant sit temporarily for her daughter's plants after the daughter's move to a smaller apartment. Then more stuff got moved over, then more. When the daughter criticized her mom for poor caretaking of all the "stuff," Adrienne asked her daughter to take the plants or find homes for them. When the clutter was removed, the mother-daughter relationship improved.

Feeling Overwhelmed: Get Structure

I felt a bit of panic when I read the authors' estimate of how long it will take a person to declutter - a month for every year of living or working in the same place if you have not already make this an annual ritual. Then I reminded myself of a lesson I am always teaching my clients -- whenever you feel overwhelmed by life's tasks, the key to lessening the knot in your stomach is to structure digging out of the mess. Recovering clutter bugs need a structure like that of "Love It or Lose It." It gives you five steps to getting the job done.

  1. DESIGN your vision of how you want to live and work.
  2. ELIMINATE your excuses that undermine that vision.
  3. COMMIT your time to take positive action.
  4. SELECT your tools to match your personal organizing style.
  5. MAINTAIN your success and keep the process following.
Deciding on What to Keep, What to Lose

Hemphill and Bedrosian have developed three criteria to evaluate everything we own:

  • Is the object useful?
  • Is it beautiful?
  • Do you love it for personal reasons?
A "yes" answer to any of those questions allows you to keep the object; to two questions, you should treasure it; to three, appreciate it as a gift of good fortune.

Instead of the common sense approach of cleaning out 28 years of clutter by starting at the beginning, I used the more psychologically sophisticated approach of starting in the here-and-now and working backwards. Everything new coming into my house gets run through the "love it or lose it" criteria. Is it useful, beautiful or endearing? As less new clutter stays, I apply the same tests to the archives and archeological layers. For the past month the "lose it" pile has increased quicker than I could carry it all out. My husband was worried he would end up on the pile. I told him not to worry, since he passed the clutter test - he is useful, handsome, and endearing. I will continue to appreciate him as a gift of good fortune. However, his stuff is a different matter.

Start now

Here are some tips Hemphill and Bedrosian give for starting in the here-and-now:

  • Sort today's mail as it arrives, instead of stacking it in a pile till later.
  • Question every new purchase to be sure it deserves space in your file.
  • Hold to the vision of your ideal environment and reject any excess that intrudes on it.
Your Ideal Environment

With some open space in my life, I was ready to tackle a more philosophical question posed by Hemphill & Bedrosian: "What is my ideal environment?"

Although I have been pretty good about decluttering my home office on a regular basis, it has never occurred to me to ask that question - strange particularly since the first question I often ask coaching clients is "Describe your ideal life." If you don't know where you are going, it is hard to tell if you are on the right path.

Just as time management and priority setting gets very easy once you have a life vision, clutter control gets easier once you have an environmental vision. So now ask myself, "What environment best supports who I am and what I do?" With the help of "Love It or Lose It," I am developing an image of what my ideal office looks like and what needs to happen to make the reality closer to the ideal. I am making progress to narrow that gap.

Schedule a "Marathon Mania"

When you are ready to tackle some of those archival messes, schedule a large block of time like a Saturday afternoon. Get food ready and hold the interruption while you sort the stuff into six containers:

  • Trash
  • Recycling
  • Donations
  • Yard sale
  • Undecided
  • Keep (put away later)
Schedule the time to drag the stuff out. Make the "keep" pile the smallest or you will be back in trouble.


If one of your New Year's resolutions is to get better organized start with clutter control today and work backward. Clear out the clutter and design some organizing systems to keep it out that you love and that you will use. You will have a head start on spring cleaning.

Best wishes for a prosperous and balanced New Year,
Susan Robison

Hemphill, Barbara and Bedrosian, Maggie. (2003) "Love It or Lose It. Living Clutter Free Forever." Rockville, MD: BCI Press.

Visit their website, www.loveitorloseit.com, to order the book and your free copy of the LILI Inventory to assess the impact of clutter on your life. Hemphill and Bedrosian also provide keynotes, workshops, and individual coaching for people who want to improve their organizational skills and enhance their daily lives. You can also contact them at 800-427-0237.

3. BossWoman Coaching

About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:
  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
4. Up and coming workshops

February 14, 2003. "Will You Be My Valentine?" A workshop for couples wanting to keep the romance alive. With Dr. Phil Robison.Severna Park, MD.

February 21, 28, 2003 "Secrets of Extraordinary Marriages" with Dr. Phil Robison. Clarksville, MD.

March 17, 2003. "How to Sell When You Hate to Sell" sponsored by the Executive Women's Network with Margery Ritchie. Baltimore, MD.

March 28, 2003 "Not Just a Job: Helping Clients Achieve Work/life Balance through Meaning, Master, and Mindfulness." Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania for mental health professionals (other professionals will present various workshops).Philadelphia, PA.

April 30, 2003. "HeartPower: The Gentle Art of Women's Leadership" for Educational Conference sponsored by the Executive Women's Network (other speakers will present various workshops). Baltimore, MD.

Subscribe to BossWoman e-Newsletter by sending an email with in the Subject to: susan@bosswoman.org

BossWomen e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

Copyright 2003 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

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