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All Wrapped up in Holiday Busy? Personal Pace Wins the Race

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So funny how quickly Thanksgiving came and went, and most of us are already onto the next. We kicked off holiday mania with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and now we’ve hit the ground running.  We already have enough on our plates day-to-day, and now our to-do lists are growing exponentially.  How we manage this hectic time of year can impact our overall holiday experience.

Believe it or not, some of us already have many of their holiday gifts purchased and wrapped. Some of us even have the holiday decor out and set, or even menus planned. But… then there’s everyone else.

There’s the slow and steady shopper who slowly and steadily accumulate gifts and check off their lists diligently, while there are others who race around town every day with a little less focus and perhaps more anxiety. And even still, there are those who haven’t even begun to think about jumping into the frenzy at all. So where are YOU on the continuum?  One thing I know, for sure…it’s personal.  Very.

It’s so very easy to get caught up in the tumult around us. The stores are filled with the contagion of holiday busy and TV commercials are selling holiday joy every 10 minutes. Inevitably, we are lured into the madness. These influencers can interrupt our focus.

The challenge is in finding the balance.  Here’s how;

  • Stop the racingit’s exhausting.  It will not only raise your anxiety, it is likely that it can rob you of the joy.  Don’t get caught up in other’s exuberance, find your own rhythm.
  • Plan your day with a start and stop time.  Quite often, we burn out and stress out before the holiday even arrives. Instead, take a time out.  Find your personal pace and seize the opportunity to experience the great joy of celebrating your way.
  • Make your own choices.  It’s your holiday,  your personal kind of joy. Don’t beat yourself up for not keeping up with the “idealized” version of the holidays.  Not everyone is shopping for cars, and diamonds, and expensive technology. Not everyone has the time or money to shop endlessly.
  • Evaluate your “busy” and be sure it’s filled with activities you enjoy. Holiday shopping, party invites, and celebratory dinners can overwhelm your schedule.  Choose wisely.

Pacing your holiday busy means beating to your own drum.  It really has less to do with being more organized than the next guy, it’s more about knowing your natural life rhythm,  identifying your objectivesand the ability to manage time. Certainly, effective time-management strategies play a huge role in customizing your pace. Taking on too much in a concentrated period of time is fruitless.

Keeping pace that’s within your comfort zone will be far more fulfilling than trying to measure up to somebody else’s.

Somehow, it all gets done.  It always does.  Even if your proclivity is to be the “last-minute” shopper, and you’re more inclined to wait it out, you could be just as productive as the early bird “doorbuster” shopper. Choose the kind of holiday busy that works best with your comfort level.

The holidays are indeed a beautiful time to celebrate life, family and friends.  The key is to let it be joyful, not stressful.  Listen to your inner voice and sync your personal pace with the holiday commotion. Perhaps you need to slow it down, or do less.  Pay attention.  Truly, that’s how to create a “happy” holiday.

Are you all “wrapped up” in holiday busy? How are you pacing yourself? If you’ve got a minute, come join in the conversation :)

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Life Savers: Vice or Virtue?

lifesavers_optLet’s face it, life can be stressful.  We may all have “stuff” to deal with, but we all have very different coping strategies to keep us afloat.

Honestly, I’m not counting your problems, I have my own, thank you. I wanted to share some of my life savers, hoping you’ll share yours.  I like to think that we all can learn and grow from each other.

For me, it’s all about discipline. Practicing this virtue can change a day’s outcome. Here’s some suggestions that have worked for me and may work for you;

  • Work.  Immersing yourself into work keeps your mind engaged and is a great distraction from personal distress.
  • Organizing.  Cleaning out a closet or drawer can be very therapeutic. When your big picture life feels out of control, reclaiming control over small spaces and things can be very empowering. Organizing is very liberating.
  • Exercise.  Whether it be the gym, meditation, Yoga, Pilates, or any physical activity, exercise is an imperative practice to relieve stress.  Life-balance requires it.
  • Solitude. Know when you need to impose a pause. Sometimes we just need to be alone and regroup. Stopping to take a “time out” can be the best medicine. There is peace in solitude. When we are alone with our thoughts, it’s honest, no pretense.  Embrace the quiet.  It’s a perfect setting to let go.
  • Relationships.  This is a biggie for me. Whether it’s a spouse, a sibling, a best friend, an accountability partner, or a professional expert, talking it out always helps.  Communicating may unburden you.
  • Writing. For me, this is a great source of comfort.  I’ve always been a pen to paper kind of gal, so jotting down thoughts is a very natural way to unload, both publicly and privately.
  • Vacation.  If getting away is a viable option, take it.  Relaxation and leisure time allows you to step away and detach from the overwhelm.  Breathe.  Reboot. Perhaps clarify.
  • Unplug.  Keeping up with social media can be interruptive and can rob you of the down time you may really need.

These are the positive strategies. Unfortunately too often when the “going gets tough, the tough get going” and default to guilty pleasures and indulge in their vices.

We are not perfect.  We are human.  When we reach overwhelm, we are in danger of losing our way. We cave into impulses, urges and desires.

Some of us resort to shopping, raiding the fridge, binging on sweets, or cracking open the bottle to unwind.  If these indulgences are occasional and not addictive, it’s what I call,  the “harmless”  vices we sometimes need. Seriously, who doesn’t love a Nestle’s crunch bar now and then?  Go harmless, not harmful.

So what saves you from unraveling? What are your “go to” life savers? Vice or virtue?

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Restoring Balance: It’s About Time

balance and clockIt always come down to time, doesn’t it? Everything we do has a time component.  From the minute our alarm wakes us in the morning until we lay our weary heads down at night, we are governed by time.

In fact, we depend on our watches to “watch” the time for us.  It is fundamentally our universal tool to measure a given day; our personal alert system to remind us when we have to do just about anything. Time doesn’t only punctuate our mealtimes, appointments, or travel;  it organizes all of our life activities.  Essentially, it is our ultimate “life tracker.” Unfortunately, it is not a flawless system.

The simple truth is that we all regard time differently.  Some of us adhere to it fastidiously, while others not so much.  Regardless, whether or not you have the more nonchalant attitude or actually struggle with time-management, you are still at risk of losing your daily balance.

We must remember that time is measurable.  And when we lose track of it, it can disturb our balance.  Think about how many costly consequences there are as a result of time not being on our side.  There are appointments to make, schedules to meet, planes to catch, time zones to calculate, and if there is one small glitch in the system, it can all go very wrong.

Things happen.  There are unforeseen circumstances that are clearly out of our hands.  It can be as minimal as oversleeping, unpredictable as traffic, or as serious as an unfortunate accident, personal health, or family crisis.  Any one of these scenarios can spill into late appointments, missed plane connections, or even worse.

In a perfect world, when we can control time, it is precisely what connects us to one another, isn’t it? “I’ll meet you @ 1:00 for lunch” or “Conference call at 3:00,” or “Dinner’s at 8:00pm.”  It’s our frame of reference, both casually and professionally.  It’s what makes the world go ’round.  It’s a universal language that keeps us on schedule, at least most of the time.

But all too often, we take time for granted or are too busy to realize its rapid passing.  Hence, we lose control of the day and beyond.  Managing one’s time is a common challenge but for many, this is a daily struggle.  “If we cannot feel the sweep of time, we cannot manage it,”  is one of my sustaining take-aways from a recent NAPO Conference I attended.

The good news is that there are solutions.  I don’t typically promote products on my blog but it’s an opportune time to give this one a shout out, simply because it works.  It’s one of my favorite time-manager tools, called the Time Timer.  It’s a super effective product I recommend to clients that battle with time-management issues.

For me, it’s about old school thinking.  I can still remember the big analog classroom clocks ticking away one second-hand at a time, being able to watch time pass and waiting for the bell to ring.  In today’s digital world, it is far more difficult to conceptualize the passage of time.  Think about it, can you really “feel” the time sweep from 1:27 pm to 1:42 pm?  With this timer, you can visually watch time elapse, without the dreaded ticking. You will actually “see” time pass. Every time I use it, it still surprises me that the set time had expired so rapidly. In fact, this tool is actually a great time “teacher.”  I learned these three lessons;

1) When you’re immersed in a task, you can easily lose track of time and control.

2) Everything takes longer than you think.

3) Being more mindful of time, significantly heightens focus and increases productivity. (helps to manage those obsessive time robbers too)

Exploring effective methods to track time will likely raise awareness of how you use time and can instigate a shift in mindset.  Essentially, it plugs you into “self” and connects your actions to an accountable timeline.

Being more mindful can arguably change the relationship we have with time. If we can regard time more efficiently, perhaps we can make it work for us, not against us. Relying on time as our life-manager can restore the balance we might be lacking.

What’s your relationship with time? Are you in control? If you pay attention with a more critical eye, I bet time will tell.

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How to Purge the Invisible Clutter

8417579244_optDoes your head ever get so full that you can’t think straight?  Is it getting in the way of your routine? You might chalk it up to, “it’s just one of those days,” but in the eventuality that it bleeds into another day or two, your inner voice begins to nudge. It’s impeding on your productivity.  You know when you know.  Something’s up.

Ironically, in some cases, this sense of overwhelm has nothing to do with the physical clutter at all. In fact, your home could be very orderly and closets fairly organized and yet, you are still distracted, and somewhat anxious.  You feel off. You’re more forgetful and definitely not on your game.

Chances are that if you not addressing your anxieties, they are likely to mushroom into a heavy cloud of emotional clutter in your head. This can be just as paralyzing as physical clutter.

When self-defeating thoughts invade, it not only clutters our brain, it drains our battery.  It can stop us dead in our tracks.  We can become both unglued and stuck at the same time.  In the attempt to ward off this uneasiness, many of us internalize the anxiety and bury it deeper through either avoidance and denial.  But if left unresolved, in time it will fester.  It will grow and build like tumbleweed.

Clearing emotional clutter is so very difficult and complex.  It’s not tangible yet it’s something we hold on to. We feel it deeply.  So how can we possibly toss it?

As with the clearing of physical clutter, there are some steps we can follow to begin the shedding process.


Acknowledge that you may be emotionally stuck. Pay attention to the signals.  Recognizing and admitting to the struggle is the very first step and will allow the buried emotions to surface.


Sort and organize your feelings, just as if they were things.  Too many contrasting thoughts swimming around in your head can compete for your attention. Try to write them down and pinpoint them.  Some emotional clutter can be clear and definable while others may be less conscious. You may be overwhelmed with negative self-talk, worry, guilt, shame, doubt, fear, or stress. Classifying your emotions and distinguishing your frustrations with all your life relationships (personal, family, and in the workplace) can be a very cathartic process. This process alone can provide some clarity.


Once you have sorted the emotions, you can evaluate how they are getting in the way of your “stuckness.”  Before you can purge the negativity,  you must find the pain.  Identify the source of the negative thoughts and feelings through honest introspection, or by enlisting help from friends, family, or a professional expert.  An objective eye is sometimes more accurate than self-talk.


Give yourself permission to feel the emotions but not to inhibit your daily productivity.  Confront your demons. Unburden. Look to resolve the conflicts in your personal relationships. It is unlikely that they will fix themselves.  Release and let them  go. As with physical clutter, by letting go, we can create more space for positive energy.


Now that you’ve sorted, evaluated, and purged the emotional residue, you’ve cleared the clutter and can move forward with an untroubled focus.

Understand that over time we all accumulate some measure of emotional clutter.  The more self-actualized we become, the more skillful we will be in managing it.  When it interferes with our life-balance , it’s time to repeat this process.




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The Empowerment of Mindful Solitude: Quality Time with Self

IMG_1827_optI’m definitely a “people” person. In fact, I love being with all kinds of people, most of the time. It’s my nature to be extroverted and I’m very comfortable drumming up a conversation with just about anyone, lol. But, (and this is a big “but”) I also love and value my time… alone.

I’m not referring to an imposed day-off for personal beauty indulgences (also very important), I’m talking about a couple of hours of solitude;  just “me” connecting with “me.”  Whenever I feel overloaded with life schedules and demands, and my head feels cloudy, I lose my focus. It’s then that I know I need some quality time by myself to restore my life-balance.

We probably all need periods of solitude but I think it’s a very personal exercise.  Solitude means something different for each one of us.  Connecting to “self” puts exclusive attention on oneself.  Some of us embrace it, while others avoid it, and still others are just not able to self examine at all.

Today was my solitude day, and so I planned for a few quiet hours with myself.  The weather was stellar, the opportunity was knocking. With paper and pen, off I went to my happy place by the marina.  There’s a quaint little town near my house overlooking the harbor that I love to go to.  It’s where I can sit by the pier and look at the serene landscape and appreciate the beauty of nature. The moment you approach, you can instantly feel the quiet and stillness. Today, even the docked boats were still, and the water so calm with barely a ripple. Surrounded by this tranquility, it was easy for me to shut down from the mundane.  Oddly, it was the hush that “woke” up my senses.

Being alone does not imply that you are alone, it’s a choice. When we are alone with our thoughts, it’s honest.  There’s no pretense.  No distractions.  Just you with yourself . Go deeper. It’s a time to know ourselves and regain perspective.

Sometimes solitude is a time for reflection and soul searching, but other times it’s just the simple enjoyment of the moment. There is peace in solitude.  Getting lost in thought, devoid of any conversation, is so liberating. Embrace the quiet. It inspires. The perfect setting for an empowering epiphany.

“Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness.  It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance.  It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves.  It replenishes us.”– Hara Marano

It’s a great idea to schedule both time for yourself and with yourself. There’s a difference, don’t you think?


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Order in the House Please: The Instigator for Real Change

2171215733_optExactly, when do you hit the wall? Yes, at one time or another, we all reach our own breaking point, and it is precisely then, that we realize we’ve had enough of a situation. This is the perfect moment in time that we have an opportunity to change our behavior.

Pay attention my friends, there are glaring signals.

Maybe you’re sick and tired of repeatedly losing your phone or misplacing your keys and glasses.

Or, perhaps it’s when you’ve missed an important doctor’s appointment or a business conference call because you never wrote it down, you forgot. There’s more…You never had time to pick up the dry cleaning, you double-booked your dinner plans with friends, and you can’t find your checkbook.  You’re angry at yourself and probably a little embarrassed and ashamed of being so lax and disorganized.

Or worse,  you often incur financial penalties because you bounced a check, or failed to pay a bill on time, again.

Or worse still, your disorganization caused your child to suffer.  He/she may have been excluded from joining a sports team or a school trip, because you missed the registration deadline or neglected to sign the proper forms.

Just maybe… that could be the last straw.  Enough is enough.

Does this sound like you?

The good news is that the breaking point is usually the best instigator for change. It wears you down both mentally and physically. But each of us have our own threshold for the zero hour and individual perspectives of when a situation is critical. Some of us react to our inner alert sooner than later, while others might delay until they are already in a full-blown crisis mode. The scenario might look something like this;

  • Most countertops are cluttered with miscellaneous items that belong elsewhere.
  • Neglected incoming mail has accumulated to overwhelming paper piles.
  • Spare bedrooms have turned into a dumping ground for anything you don’t know what to do with.
  • Stepping over both dirty and clean laundry piles everywhere.
  • Passing by puddles of stuff on the steps that are awaiting their eventual journey upstairs.
  • Tripping over shoes and sandals in random places, some without their sole-mates.
  • Gathering half-drunk water bottles, unfinished snacks, and empty bowls in high traffic areas.


The bottom line is when “busy” integrates with “later, ” chaos ensues rather quickly.  Life only works, until it doesn’t, and no one can make you care about what you don’t care about it. It’s that simple. When you hit the wall, you will know. It will be abundantly clear.  When you’re ready, you’re simply ready.

But just recognizing the symptoms and acknowledging that you’ve had enough, may not be sufficient.  If you are a self-motivated person, your desperation will probably fuel you to take action and implement change.  

But if you need support and more motivation, don’t beat yourself up for it.

Enlist help from a trained professional who can provide the steps to help you organize and gain back some control.  Going it alone may be ineffective.

Make no mistake about it, restoring order in the house is much more about life-balance than it is about merely organizing your possessions. Sometimes situations need to get worse before they can get better. Reverse the cycle; break down only to reconstruct. Convert the breaking point into positive change. Take it as an opportunity to begin anew with better and more sustainable systems.  You will not only see a physical change but feel a significant emotional one as well.

So when is your “enough?” What steps will you need to take to affect positive change?   Reach out and get the support you need.



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The Impossible Dream: Perfectionism

Well, you heard it here first… straight from the horse’s mouth. Even Professional Organizers are not perfect.   It is far too high a standard for any person to aspire to be and yet so many of us have an that insatiable desire to still get there.  Indeed, a common, but unrealizitic expectation that we all struggle with.  It’s so hard to get to “perfect”, because nothing, and noone, actually is.

I generally advise my overwhelmed clients to get to “good enough”, and in most cases, that’s a productive middle ground that provides them with a healthy life-balance. But each of us have our own scale of how we measure perfection. One person’s “good” can be another person’s “great.”

Honestly, I try to practice what I preach, but I admittedly do get caught up in dotting the I’s, and crossing T’s syndrome, (I’m not perfect, remember?) But this holiday season provided me with a teachable moment I’d like to share.

I recently blogged about the enormous amount of preparation involved in organizing a Passover Seder. Sometimes it seems like it takes a village to prepare, but that’s before I realized that I could recruit my family as eager volunteers. To really know me is to know that during this holiday, I run the kitchen fastidiously, like I’m some fancy sous chef (which I am clearly not), checking off notes, re-writing lists, all while delegating jobs out to my happy helping hands.  At least, they start out being happy and enthusiastic, until I start micro-managing each of their tasks, as my inner drill sergeant kicks in.  Relinquishing control is not my strong suit, but I realize that I can’t possibly chop, slice, bake, boil, stir, marinate, set the table and babysit the brisket and chicken in the oven, all by myself.  So I focused on completion more than perfection.  That was the plan.

What I did not plan on was my husband getting bitten by a neighbor’s dog, two hours before the Seder.  When we realized the bite had broken his skin, we knew he needed immediate medical care. Our tasks quickly changed from chopping onions to frantically calling local emergency medi-centers that could squeeze him in.  After a long wait, he returned with bandaged leg, tetnis shot, and a script for antibiotics.  Some family members were due to arrive by train and so I detoured to the pharmacy en route to the train station, leaving my stand-in kitchen patrol at bay.

The Seder eventually got started, but not without consequences.  My signature brisket didn’t live up to its infallible reputation, the neglected veggies were not as firm as preferred, and the sauteed onions might have been a bit too well-done.  Don’t get me wrong, everything was still delicious…it just wasn’t perfect.  At the end of the day, I was surrounded by my beautiful loving family, singing and laughing as we recalled the drama of the day. The actual food paled in comparison to the intimate and special celebration of the evening.  We went for “good enough” and it felt just like “perfect.”

How do you measure perfectionism? What does ideal perfect mean to you?

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On Life Balance: You Can’t Find it Unless You Feel It

So many of us are over-extended with both work and “life” schedules, we struggle to balance it all.  We are often sleep deprived and so, fatigue, has become our natural state of mind.  It is our new reality, and yet we continue to battle every day to catch up as if we think we actually can.  But we cannot. And when we realize that there are not enough hours in a day to accomplish all that we had hoped, we just let it spill into the next day, and on and on it goes. Yes indeed, we can lose our sense of self in this unravelling vicious cycle.

Present, guilty as charged.  I write so often about time-management and how powerful it can be in order to reach our goals and maintain balance, but I neglected to include how important it is to carve out some self time.

I have always been an advocate of exercise, but lately it’s been an activity that I dread, and more like something I have to do, not want to do.  In the past, I would squeeze a quick work-out in just to feel like I accomplished something.   Typically, I jump on the treadmill and trot along as random thoughts invade my head, but never really focus on anything in particular except how much longer I need to stay on it.  A prime example of not being present or embracing the moment, but just worthy enough to cross it off my checklist.  Just barely.  Rushing to get my day going, I jump off that treadmill to just start running on essentially a different kind of treadmill; my work schedule.  Truth be told, I have been kidding myself.  I have never reaped the optimal benefit from the time I’ve set aside to find the balance.  The experience was lacking purpose.

Recently, I decided to take up Pilates and I must admit, it has been life-altering.  For me, that one invaluable hour of a day provides me with not only the physical balance I need, but the mental focus I require.  Stepping away from my daily fast pace and taking time out just to breathe, is rejuvenating.  Throughout this new workout, my core is fully engaged and strengthened, and when it’s over, my mind is equally engaged to face the day with an incredible energy to succeed.  It’s my new life-balance.

Don’t be too busy to live a healthy life.  Prioritize.  It’s time to stop chasing your tail.  Working until burnout is not at all productive.

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what exercise you prefer, albeit the gym, yoga, or a run.  What is imperative is that you do something to exercise physically and allow the mental juices to flow.  It’s cathartic.  Exercise diffuses the stress.  The more you do, the more you”ll want to do, and the better you will feel.   My trainer always likes to say before a final stretch, “give yourself a hug,” and I do.  And it feels great.

Does your life often feel like a balancing act?  What do you do to feel balanced?

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