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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
Spring 2008

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

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Getting and Staying Organized
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops

1. Getting and Staying Organized

The clients I coach tell me that their most common unfulfilled New Year’s resolution is the dream of getting more organized. What keeps us from making that dream a reality?

  1. We get discouraged because we often lack the practical skills of breaking down the aspects of getting organized in small manageable amounts.

  2. We aim too short. We aim at getting organized instead of aiming just a bit higher at getting and staying organized. Staying organized that increases our work efficiency and lowers our stress. Staying organized goes beyond the weekend binge of closet cleaning to building better daily habits that keep things in the places you have designed.

  3. We hold the unrealistic expectation that one can get organized during a dreary January weekend while your husband is watching football. This is as realistic as hoping you will get fit by going to the gym one time. Just as fitness is a life goal that takes energy at the start and energy to maintain, so does getting and staying organized.

Less Is More

You probably already know that binge organizing doesn’t work very effectively. It overwhelms you and burns you out. After a Saturday of cleaning out the garage, you collapse in a heap of exhaustion and discouragement. I have recently discovered an approach to getting organized that is completely anti-binge. “One Year to an Organized Life” by Regina Leeds outlines a slow but sure approach to organizing your life over one year, a month at a time. With this approach you will have a better chance at success while feeling less overwhelmed. Breaking tasks down into smaller tasks makes them more doable and less overwhelming

Leeds recognizes that it takes more time to get organized than a week or a weekend. Her gradual approach may frustrate those who mistakenly think they can get it all together in one spring cleaning binge. However, this approach keeps you from dooming yourself to failure and demoralization by helping you makes slow steady progress towards a final outcome of having an environment that supports your body, mind, and spirit.

What I particularly like about Leeds’s book is her psychological sophistication. She helps the reader recognize that the chaos we have was created by processes we put into motion long ago and that processes we start now will create and maintain order, save time, and give us more ease and less stress. While each chapter helps you get rid of clutter and organize what you need to support your life, this book suggests that it is the small changes in your daily habits that will help you to stay organized. For example, Leeds suggests that you hang up your clothes when you take them off. So simple, so hard! But now that I’m following her advice, my bedroom looks neater when I walk back in at night. No greeting by last nights’ clothes flopped over a chair.

This book is the next best thing to hiring one of those personal organizers who moves into your home or office and helps you declutter and reorganize your stuff. It is even better because while the personal organizers help you get organized, they eventually leave you on your own to stay organized. With no change of your habits, you will continue with those habits, junking things up, avoiding filling, losing stuff, ending up as disorganized as before.

Unlike many cleaning and decluttering books and websites who tell you to “just throw it out,” this book accepts how hard and emotional decluttering and organizing can be because of the attachments we have to our stuff. Often we stay attached to stuff, because we are either:

  • anxious about the consequences of getting rid of the stuff and then needing it; “I might need it someday.”

  • sentimentally attached to the stuff because of the meaning it has for us related to people or periods of our lives that mattered a lot to us; “It reminds me of my wonderful prom night.”

  • stuck in a habit that is no longer relevant to our current life like hanging onto clothes in former sizes that we will never be again. “I might lose weight someday.”

    Many of Leeds’ psychologically sophisticated points fit my experience with coaching clients:

  • Getting in touch with your dreams of an ideal life is a helpful precursor to getting organized. It answers the question, “Get organized for what?”

  • Some clutter-clearing is very emotional. For example, clearing out an old address book or card file reminds us of the losses and changes of our relationships.

  • Taking a detour from clutter management to write in a journal about the emotional blocks that the task kicks up makes the getting organized process easier and makes it more likely you will stay organized.

  • We often retain organizational structures or lack of them from our family of origin. Sometimes we rebel against those structures. One of my most disorganized clients had a break though about her disorganization when I asked her if she might be rebelling against her mother’s compulsive standards by being “compulsively uncompulsive.” After that she realized that she has a choice about whether being organized was being compulsive or whether it was helpful to her sense of life satisfaction.

  • Children need to be taught household structures so that they help the household stay organized. Kids do not pick up good skills just by observing; they need direct help in their learning good habits. When our daughter was 18 months old, we had her put her toys back on the shelf before she went to bed. If she delayed, whined, or rebelled she started losing the privilege of being read to. She normally could select two books but the threat was, “you will lose a book if your delay. Now you will lose the other book.” Since she loved being read to, she was motivated to get a move on.

A Year of Getting organized; a Lifetime of Staying Organized

“One Year to an Organized Life” by Regina Leeds takes twelve areas of your life, one each month, for example, the kitchen, the bathroom, the closets, or photos and memorabilia and focusing on just that area for the whole month. Each month is subdivided into four weeks of small manageable tasks related to that area. During each week you receive a list of materials, instructions on what to do, and the time you should allow for each step.

Except for familiarizing yourself with a bit of introductory material in the beginning of the book that the author keeps referring to, you don’t have to read in any order. Instead, you can start with any month, skip around, and follow the plans for only the areas of your life that are most in need of organizing. For example, if you begin reading the book this month, you can start with “April: Bathrooms, Chasing Your Cares Away” which will help you create your own home spa get away without knocking down walls or replacing the tile. However, if you are planning a move soon, you can open to July, “Preparing for Your Move,” and see what steps to take across each of the four weeks of the month to have as low a stress and organized a move as possible.

Leeds has developed and easy to learn organizing formula that repeats itself in each of the areas you need to organize:

  1. Eliminate: at first things will seem very messy as you pull everything out of a closet or pantry to free the space to put things back. As you pull items out, you put into piles for trash, recycling, charitable contributions, etc.

  2. Categorize: put the things that go together back into the space together. In the pantry, all the soup cans go together. In your family files, insurance records can be broken down by subcategories such as insurance/auto, insurance/home, insurance/life, etc.

  3. Organize: putting things back so you can reach them when you need them might take some devices such as a lid holder for the pots and pans or little plastic bins in your bathroom drawers so that the fingernail file doesn’t get lost under the toothpaste.

In almost every chapter, there are suggestions to building good habits that will keep the stuff and tasks from building back up to an overwhelming mess. Those new habits are the only way to change your goal from getting organized to staying organized.


Is this the year you get organized … and stay organized?

Susan Robison

2. 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.

If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.

She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.

3. Up and coming workshops

I am currently accepting speaking invitations for work/life balance workshops for the winter of 2008. Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics listed above.

Title: “Transitioning into Retirement: What Role Will You Play?”
Date: May 13, 2008; 10am
Place: National Women’s Leadership Council, United Way of America. College of Notre Dame, Baltimore, MD.

Title: “MAPping Your Career”
Date: October 12, 2008; 8-12
Place: AASHA annual conference; Philadelphia, PA.

To start receiving the BossWoman e-Newsletter send an email with “Please send BossWoman” in the Subject to: Susan@BossWoman.org. To stop receiving send an email with “Stop BossWoman” in the Subject to: Susan@BossWoman.org.

BossWoman 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 2008 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 the publisher’s permission.

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