Today I’m going to blog* about…blogging*.   It’s a bit of a challenge for me, writing posts of any substance on a regular basis.  A lot of the time it feels like a chore.  But I feel like I have to do it, and more than that for some reason I want to do it.  I read a lot of blogs daily and I really enjoy getting that insight into someone else’s life.  Sure, mostly it’s voyeuristic nosiness, but they’re also funny, smart, informative, inspirational.  I used to read the newspaper online everyday to feel like I was up to date with what’s going on in the world.  Now I read blogs and it’s like talking to my friends–the day’s events (public and extremely personal) synthesized by regular people.  It’s not nearly as depressing as the news.  I’m fascinated by how and why blogs start and evolve.  So many people have turned their blogs into real, and very lucrative, jobs (though many not)!  Books deals abound, it seems.  But it all happens organically (at least it appears so).  They start in order to have something to do, to have a way to share their projects/kids/recipes/advice/etc, as an exercise in personal growth, to write, etc.  Somehow they get a loyal following of readers and local then national media pick up on it and before they know it they’re famous.  Is this really how it works?  I’m amazed by the phenomenon.

Furthermore, all of these people claim to get so much out of the connections they make through blogging.  The response from their readership provides immense personal reward and friendship.  As I get older and see the opportunities for making new friends with which I have things in common decrease exponentially, and as virtual connections between people become ever stronger, this aspect of blogging is appealing.  I also think that as relationships continue to become more virtual it’s important to establish your own virtual identity, especially if you hope to build a business where people might find you through Google.

I’ve always had a problem with keeping a journal, though.  I love the idea of being reflective and having your feelings captured to look back on later in life.  There’s no denying I’m an overly analytical person, but for some reason writing it down makes me very uncomfortable.  Maybe because it forces me to really think through things, and come to realization and conclusions I may not like?  Or I’m just lazy?  And reading back through it makes me cringe!  Makes me feel like the world would be better off if I hadn’t written my thoughts down.   But I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m letting myself off too easy, and if I push through the challenge I’ll realize the reward.  I think I can, I think I can…   Apologies in advance for the many more rambling, uninteresting posts to undoubtedly come!

* I think you should know that in my house we call it a “blob” and “blobbing” as a reference to my grandmother’s original misunderstanding of what my brother’s new online journal was called.  We think it’s much funnier that way.  True to our affinity for potty humor, we have taken it to the next level of ridiculousness and it has recently become a euphemism for farting (and now I really can’t believe I’m writing this), after one of us (names will be omitted to protect the innocent) suggested to the other one of us that that person start a blob to track the abundant activity they produced in that area.  So now there are sporadic announcements of someone having just blobbed in the other room so the other person maybe shouldn’t go in there until the blob dissipates.  We’re freaks, I know.

I had my first working session with my first “real” client yesterday—it went great (I think) and she PAID me!  Can you believe it?  I was supposed to have worked with her the week before but she’d had to reschedule.  So it had been a while since I’d met her and seen her house.  I think that contributed to the slight case of nerves that kept me up tossing and turning the few hours before I needed to get up.  Maybe because I also got a new alarm clock and when I have to wake up earlier than usual I’m always afraid I’ll oversleep even though that never happens?  And I have a theory that any thoughts you have while in that half-awake state are crazy thoughts—you’re not sane and would be much better off just getting up and waking up fully so you can become sane again rather than trying to not wake up and go back to sleep, which is what I try to do but instead just lay there thinking crazy thoughts.  Anyway…

I also have to admit that I still harbor a lot of doubt when I help people tackle these projects (though hopefully not as much as they do).  Where to begin, how will we get through it all?  But I have to be in charge.  So I remind myself that I can handle it, we’ll just take it piece by piece, I know what I’m doing.  Or at the very least, I’ll figure something out!  And since I’m being totally honest, I also have a moment partway through when I think, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”  When someone is sitting across from you explaining why they’ve kept this receipt from 2007…It’s boring, it’s tedious, there are more fun ways to spend your time on a beautiful day.  But we’re almost through and the end is in sight, and being done with that crappy clean-out part is so, so nice.  Then you can really get on to the fun stuff!  Like setting up filing systems and bulletin boards and calendars!  Woohoo!

Mostly it just feels really good to help people.  And to see people grateful to have your help.  And to see the weight being lifted as they sort through everything.  Getting paid on top of that?  Awesome.

At RealSimlpe.com, great tips for how to get started on an overwhelming project.  I ask clients to identify either the easiest project or the most annoying project to help them figure out where to get started, but I hadn’t thought about identifying the “first” project—ie, deal with whatever is the first thing you see every day—and I think it’s a great idea.

At The Art of Nonconformity, an interesting interview with someone who did what I’m (theoretically) doing—starting a business on the side very, very slowly.  She finally quit her 9-to-5 after four years!

I really like this approach for weeding out unnecessary stuff, clothes in this case—put it in a secondary storage spot and pull things back into the fold only as you wear them.  After a while, get rid of what you’ve never reached for.  Great for people who are afraid of regret after getting rid of something, or for people who don’t really pay attention to how often they actually use things!


Not only is it not freezing cold outside, but there is no precipitation falling from the sky and it actually appears the sun might be shining!  I think I might go for a walk outside instead of going to the gym.  I love walking around Jamaica Pond in the afternoon on my way home from work.  Feels like pushing an internal reset button and I arrive home relaxed and refreshed.  And since The Ice Creamsmith has reopened and Chris is back to working his standard Tuesday/Thursday night shifts there, I’ll be home all alone tonight.  This is kind of fun at first–I’m much more productive when I have to entertain myself and don’t have my husband to distract me from all the projects and chores I should be working on with Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy (yes, we really do watch both) and a real meal (as opposed to an apple with peanut butter or cereal, but go-to standards for eating by myself).  It gets old fast, though.  We are both the type of introverted, quiet people who are slow to warm up so we do much better the more time we spend together.  Plus I go to bed early so on the days he works we usually don’t see each other at all.  No biggie, though!  I actually really enjoy being by myself.  And I have a recipe for coffee toffee bars that I’m excited to make–and will try to report back on (I still have a peanut butter cup cookie recipe I’ve been meaning to get on here…).  And Chris will come home with pints of Bailey’s Irish Cream and oatmeal raisin cookie ice cream (if he knows what’s good for him)!

I was supposed to have my first session with a client this past Sunday but she had to reschedule for the following week.  This meant I had the entire weekend with no commitments.  I was thrilled when I realized it, because even though the session was only schedule to take at most four hours Sunday morning, there was the hour or so driving each way, the making sure to go to bed early on Saturday so I wouldn’t be dragging Sunday morning, and then the recovery time once I got home from the session.  It really is exhausting work, especially as I’m trying to think quick on my feet and read between the lines of what a client is saying to me so that I can fully understand what she needs.  For that reason, even though I was looking forward to start working with this woman, and especially to being paid, I was kind of relieved to put it off another week.

There are many moments when I wonder whether I’ll ever get any real clients, whether this whole thing is real, actually.  It’s pretty easy to pretend it doesn’t exist.  And it would definitely be easier if it didn’t.  I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to figure out marketing and managing this in my free time while working.  The easy way out sometimes looks so appealing.  Until the alarm goes off on Monday morning and I remember all I have to do at work that day!

But then a random stranger who found my website will call me out of the blue and remind me–hey, you put this out there, you have to own it!  And then I have to buck up and try not to be a slacker.  Maybe once I’m being paid to do this it will be a little easier…

I bought O Magazine the other day because it was a “Declutter” issue—‘tis the season for that now, I guess.  The Suze Orman article promised “a surefire way to build wealth that won’t cost you a penny.”  Her solution: getting organized.  Suze says that financial clutter needs an overhaul now and then just like closets, and that piles of disorganized bills and papers indicate a lack of control over what undoubtedly is important stuff.

While she recommends putting each of your bills into their own folder and we already know that I dismiss that approach, but I did appreciate her advice about which documents to save and for how long—and the fact that she doesn’t recommend a safety deposit box for important docs, but suggests a more portable safe instead, since I’ve been debating that issue for a while myself.

I think everyone pretty much gets that not having your financial life in order costs you more money in late fees and interest.  But finding the motivation and discipline to get it all organized is incredibly hard.  Why, when the benefits are so great?  I think this speaks to what I think is one of the biggest problems people face, but don’t realize they face: mental clutter.

Mental clutter is when you have so many things on your mind that you can’t keep them straight and are constantly forgetting things or getting distracted by remembering things you forgot earlier.  Some people probably think living in a state of mental clutter is just normal life, but I think of it as the epitome of stress.  It’s more dangerous than actual clutter, because that’s objective.  What looks like chaos to one person can be perfect order to another—if and only if they don’t have mental clutter.  Organizing your external stuff is really just a means to the end of organizing your internal stuff, of eliminating mental clutter.

For example: a credit card bill arrives which you don’t have the money to pay right now and just the thought of paying it anyway overwhelms you because you’re paying just the minimum and you know the interest that’s accumulating is going to take you forever to pay off.  So…you put it aside because it’s too much to think about right now and make a mental note to get to it over the weekend when you have more time to think about it.  Which means you’re then walking around trying to remember to pay that bill, along with a million other things, and then maybe you forget and that causes more stress and before you know it you’re overwhelmed by mental clutter.  Bad news bears.

It should be no surprise that my solution is to find a way to not have to think about it.  For financial stuff that means automating it.  Everyone should take advantage of online banking and online bill paying.  In my opinion this is one of the best inventions known to man.  One session of going through just one month of bills means you can set up recurring payments to each biller well before the deadline every month.  I prefer sending it from my bank account rather than having the biller automatically withdraw it because it’s easier to make changes if you switch banks and you aren’t chasing down your money if you have a dispute about a bill.  Then you also don’t have to worry as much about saving bills because you can always print the backup from your bank.  Once you’re relieved from the burden of having to keep track of all your bills, it is so much easier to start paying down debts and setting aside savings as well.  Then not only are you not paying late fees and interest but you’re also putting money aside and not even missing it—bonus!

The closet, I mean.  Congratulations to Sara for putting in all the hard work to get her closet to this gorgeous state!  Here are a couple before and afters (see more on the Before & After page at www.coolcalmcollectedorganizing.com):

Closet before

Closet before

Closet after

Closet after

Believe me, this was no small feat!  But the overwhelming sense of calm and relief immediately upon completion is well worth it, I think (and I think Sara will agree–she was so taken with the newly organized space I suggested she set up a comfy chair in there and use it as her favorite spot to relax with a good book!).  I’m so glad I could help bring it all together.

I really dislike house cleaning.  Though I’m obviously super organized and our house is very neat, it’s not really ever very clean.  I just don’t like vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing and dusting.  I have friends who will spend hours every weekend cleaning their house, but that is just not how I want to spend my free time.  Yet I’m annoyed when I notice my house is dirty.  I hate seeing dirt on the rug, but I don’t want to vacuum.  I hate seeing grease on the stove, but I don’t want to scrub it.  This means that sometimes just walking around my house makes me feel bad about myself!  Isn’t that terrible?  I can see it’s dirty, and I don’t like it, but I don’t want to clean it even though I’m perfectly capable.   What’s even worse is that sometimes actually cleaning makes me feel bad about myself too!  Because I’m annoyed that I just spent however long doing something I dislike, and I didn’t even really do a great job and within hours it’s dirty again anyway!  I can’t win!

I’ve always wanted to hire a house cleaner and have come close a couple of times, but it’s hard to rationalize spending hard-earned money to pay someone to do something I really could do myself if I was just…what?  More disciplined?  A masochist?

But starting this business has made me think about the value of paying a pro to do something you don’t  want to or can’t do yourself.  In theory anyone should be able to organize their own stuff, but some people either really don’t know how or just don’t want to.  Clearly I’m fine with the idea of them paying me to do it for them!  So shouldn’t I apply the same principle to my own life?  My time is valuable to me and isn’t it worth the money to be able to spend my free time doing what I enjoy, instead of something I hate?

I’d been thinking about this a lot recently and then today I read this post at Get Rich Slowly about making peace with hiring a housekeeper.  That sealed the deal—I’m going to do it!  Now I just have to find someone I like who’s reasonably priced…

P.S. One thing I do like is growing our own vegetables in a little garden we started in our yard—we’ve already started some seeds indoors!  We’re hoping to outdo even last year’s prolific crop, or at least grow something besides zucchini.

This year's soon-to-be seedlings!

Without exaggeration, I think half the battle in remedying a problem is correctly identifying it.  It’s not as easy as it sounds, and you can’t determine a solution until you really understand what you’re dealing with.   One of my favorite bloggers, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, talks about it as well.

I’ve had two situations recently where I was frustrated by systems that weren’t working until I realized that I hadn’t correctly identified the problem.

The first had to do with paper filing: I keep and file all the bills and other financial miscellany we receive for at least one year, just in case I need to go back and reference something.  I had folders for each bill in a small two-drawer filing cabinet.  So the cell phone bill would go in the Verizon folder and the electric bill would go in the National Grid folder and so on.  I hate filing though, so I would procrastinate it because I just didn’t want to spend time doing it everyday.  But then things would pile up and when I finally got around to it, it would take forever, which was even worse.  I thought the problem was just that I didn’t like filing, but I had to dig deeper.  Why didn’t I like filing?  I finally determined that what I really didn’t like was the sorting—going through the pile and sorting each bill into its appropriate folder.  Once I realized that, I had a lightbulb moment: what if I just filed them by month instead of by category?!?  Then I could let them pile up for a month and at the end of the month just stick them all in their own folder!  I could still go back and find something if I needed it but I wouldn’t have to spend time sorting through the pile of bills.  Thus the lovely, decorative wall-hanging monthly file system pictured above was born.  Now not only do I not even have to think about filing the bills, but they add interest to our office space too!

The second situation had to do with laundry.  No one likes doing laundry either (if you do…wanna come over?), especially me.  But it’s not the collecting or washing or drying that I dislike—those things are pretty easy, especially because we have machines to do the hard stuff for us.  It’s the folding and putting away that I can’t stand, and I’ve always hated it.  I used to let baskets of clean laundry sit on my bedroom floor for weeks until I had finally worn all the clothes in there and they were empty again.   It drove my mom crazy.  Sorry, mom.  I would still do that today if I had any extra floor space in my bedroom, but I don’t (and I am unwilling to follow my husband’s example of leaving the baskets in the spare bedroom—that’s right, I’m talking to you!).  I had thought it was the act of folding the clothes and putting them away that I didn’t like, but I realized that, once again, it was the sorting I didn’t like!  I didn’t like going through a big pile and having pants and shirts and socks and having to fold each thing a different way and put them in a different spot.  So now, instead of sorting and washing my laundry based on color (lights vs. darks) I now sort them based on type, or tops vs. bottoms.  This way I have a basket full of pants and I fold them all the same way and put them all in the same spot and don’t have to think about it as much.

When you have an area of clutter or some obstacle to efficiency that’s driving you crazy, take a second to think about what the problem really is.  Is it really that you’re too forgetful or have too much to do, or is it just that you don’t have a good list-making system?  Is it really that you have too much stuff, or is it just that you don’t have appropriate places to store the stuff?  (You probably still do have too much stuff, though.)

Clearly, the conclusion to this story is that I run into problems when I have to think too much!  My standard, go-to solution should always just be whichever one will require me to do the least amount of thinking.  My brain’s not lazy, it just has better things to think about than bills and laundry.  Like cupcakes!  Those are always better than bills and laundry.

I recognize there probably could not be a more boring title, or subject.  Still, everyone has some semblance of a routine, even those who don’t do the same thing all day every day.  I mean, at the very least, everyone brushes their teeth at least once a day, right?  Right?  I’m constantly reminded how important acknowledging and understanding your routine is if you want to incorporate a new habit or activity into your life.  For me, that’s blogging.

When I very optimistically started this blog last summer I thought I’d just write when I felt like it and has the misguided notion that I would feel like it fairly often.  In reality I rarely felt like it and when life got busy I never felt like it.  But it’s like exercising–I never feel like doing it but I want to feel like doing it and I know I’ll be glad I did it once I do it.  That means I need to find a way to get it done without thinking about it.  And that means creating a routine.  I’ve tried getting up early in the morning and exercising first thing, but I know I don’t really have to get up and I’d always rather sleep.  I’ve tried planning to come home and go for a run/walk immediately before doing anything else, but there’s always something else to do–like open the mail, or sit on the couch.  I’ve tried using the gym where I work during my lunch hour but I always feel rushed and gross when I get back to my desk.  After some thinking I realized that if I took advantage of the convenience of the gym at work, the free time I have immediatley after work, and the utilized restriction of changing at work and not going home first I would actually get to the gym more days than not.  And it works.  I pack my clothes in the morning when the thought of a work out is far away enough not to be bothersome.  I bring the bag into my office with me so I have no excuses.  And when I leave I just walk over to the gym (which I’d have to walk right by to get to my car) and once that happens there’s no turning back.

So I needed to figure out something similar with blogging.  I started by figuring out what the obstacles to my blogging were (following my other tenet of identifying the problem–more later).  Since I spend so much time on a computer at work I rarely want to look at one when I’m at home.  But I don’t have time to blog at work, nor is that what they’re paying me to do!  But if I could take advantage of the technological roll I’m on when I’m at work as well as the free time I have when I’m not at work…thus, blogging at the end of the work day, before I head over to the gym.  Ta da!

The same is true with getting organized.  If you currently have  a routine that leads to disorganization, you’re going to go back to being disorganized no matter how much time you spend getting everything in order.  You need to identify the issues that are causing the disorganization and then do the hard work (!!) to create a routine that combats them.  If your routine is to just leave non-essential stuff in your purse when you switch to a different one, you’re going to have a bunch of purses filled with random stuff and never be able to find anything.  But if you suffer through a few seconds of inconvenience when you switch purses you’ll save yourselves potentially hours of inconvenience later when you’re searching for that thing you forgot you left in your other purse.  The good thing is, after just a short while of enforcing your new habit, it will become…routine, and you won’t have to think about it anymore.

Of course, sometimes life happens and routines get interrupted–case in point, I am now posting this from home because it’s snowing so hard that I left work early.  So you do have to retain some flexibility and can’t take your routine too serisouly!

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