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My goals for 2009

After writing so much about goals, including the New Year’s post yesterday, I have, of course, been asked what my goals are. Well here you go!:

Personal:

– Exercise at least one hour a week (not including all the walking I do).  Hey, like I always say, start small! The quickest way for me to fail is to say “exercise 3 days a week!”

– Read two books per month. One fiction, one non-fiction (It’s been a while since I’ve read any fiction cover to cover)

– Get 6-8 hours of sleep each night

– Have one FULL day off from work or ANYTHING work related each week.

– Get better at saying NO.

Professional:

– Work with clients 4 – 5 days a week

– Spend one day each week writing for all outlets I am published through

– Cultivate at least 3 joint ventures

– Delegate anything I possibly can.

– Consistently have a minimum of 2 events per month for my networking group.

– Create a marketing plan for the year

– Develop a semi-formal board of advisors

– Reorganize all my business cards

– Join 1 to 2 additional professional networks

– Drop out of 2 – 3 ineffective networking groups or groups that are in areas I don’t want to travel to

This is just a snippet of my goals list. I have a lot more! Some are way to personal for me to want to post here (sorry!) Some can be done in minutes, some will take all year. Others won’t take long, but they have to happen at a specific time. The key to the goals I set is that they are reasonable. I think it is fantastic to dream big – I do all the time, but the actual goals I set are attainable.

It is unrealistic to expect that I could buy a house this year. But I could start saving for one. I could say “I want to meet 10 new people every day.”  Certainly doable, but at what cost? How in depth would these meetings be? What quality of contact am I looking for? I could walk up to any Starbucks and introduce myself to 10 people in line that I have no intent of speaking to again. Or, I could sacrifice time normally set aside for clients to attend events where I can meet different people. A more appropriate goal for me would be “add two additional key players to my network each month that I would feel confident referring people to.” Another option “attend one event each month where I don’t know anyone in attendance.” Could I sort and purge every area of my apartment on Monday? Sure, if I cancel my client and meetings. Instead, why don’t I pick an area to tackle each day this week?

I’m excited about my goals because WHEN I achieve them, they all play a part in driving me closer to the ideal vision I have for my life. I hope you have some fantastic goals for yourself and that you really strive to achieve them.

– Alaia

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Personally, I do not make New Years resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions. They make people feel warm and fuzzy. It’s nice to feel warm and fuzzy sometimes. The problem with resolutions is that most people drop them by the end of the month – some people simply state the resolution and never even really try. Do you know many people join gyms in January? A lot!

If you want to get organized this year, whether it is for your home, office, car, purse, or brain, I have a challenge for you.  Write down the resolutions. Post them up somewhere prominent. Put them in your planner. Tell your friends and family.  But don’t just stop with stating the resolution – turn it into a goal and turn that goal into your reality. Set manageable deadlines and milestones.

If you want to “get organized in ’09” stop being so broad. What do you want to organize? Even if you feel like you want to organize “everything,” list what everything means to you – your home, your office, your paperwork, children’s rooms, the garage, the basement, family photos.  List out what you want to do so you have a better picture of what is ahead of you.

You can NOT do everything at once – even if you have nothing else to do with your time. So break down the work. What is your goal for January? The office? Okay, great. So maybe at the top of your January calendar page you write “Goal: Organize my office.”  The next thing you should do is decide what you can do each week to get you closer to that goal. For example:

  • Week 1: Filing all papers so that all 2008 stuff is out of the way and I have fresh files for 2009
  • Week 2: Organizing all office supplies and making sure I purchase the appropriate ones so I have everything I need.
  • Week 3: Getting everything out of the office that does not belong in the office
  • Week 4: Rearrange the furniture, have a cleaning crew come through, creating a marketing plan for 2008, etc.

While “organize everything” and “organize my office” are broad goals, these narrowed down sub-goals are practical, achievable goals. Of course, you can break it down further. For week one, a daily goal could be to spend 15, 30, or 60 minutes a day filing (based on how much paper you have!). Of perhaps your goal is to schedule someone to come in during week one and do the filing for you. Perhaps you’ll hire a Professional Organizer. Maybe during week 4 you will with a feng shui expert, a cleaning crew, an interior designer, and a marketing consultant who can have you create a system for marketing your business.

This same formula can work for every area you want to organize. Just scale it appropriately. Maybe you spend a week cleaning out your car and set daily goals: toss all trash, buy a receipt organizer, buy small baskets for the car and talk to the kids about only having as much stuff in the car as will fit in the basket. When everyone gets out of the car, they put all of their stuff into their container. Purchase a mobile organizer that holds notebooks, pens, calculators, etc.

If you want to achieve your goals, whatever they might be, you have to do more than simply stating them. Take action. Start now while the calendar is fresh and there is optimism in the air. If you start planning now and work toward your goals, you will achieve great success this year.

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I’ve been blogging for a long time. It started way back in 2000. While it was not literally a lifetime ago, it certainly feels like it was. I must say, I have certainly changed a lot in (almost) nine years. I suppose you could say I came of age blogging.

Lately, I have been doing some new media/social media consulting for various small business owners. Most have asked “is blogging worth it?” The answer is not the same for everyone, but for me it is a yes.  While I can not pinpoint one major way blogging has impacted my life (a new job, a soul mate, or anything like that), blogging is just part of who I am.

I’ve been writing for a long time. Way back in kindergarten, I started writing stories. Sure, my writing was illegible back then, but I knew what I was trying to express! I was published when I was in elementary school and again in middle school. These were very very small scale publications, but to me, it meant the world.  When  I was 15, going on 16, my mom decided to move us across town, which meant going to a brand new school in a brand new city.  I didn’t know how I was going to make it. Sure, we lived eight places in one city before, but I never moved to a totally new place and played the role of New Kid. I was usually the one who helped the new kids get acquainted. That summer, on August 13, 2000, I blogged for the very first time. Good old LiveJournal. NONE of my friends even knew what LiveJournal was. I turned them all on to it – and after a while it became the way we kept track of each other. I joined groups, and sent and received postcards from other LJ users. While LJ helped me keep in touch with friends old and new when I was in high school.  In college, blogging really was a saving grace.

My college years can be summed up in one word: struggle. Or depression. Or frustration. Or….you get the idea. But I could vent on Livejournal and get support there. I could express who I really was while continuing to write, which was something that was always fun and therapeutic for me. I wrote about my many many insecurities. I wrote about my favorite Christian bands (I had a brief Christian music phase for a couple of years), movies like Boyz in the Hood, and what I wanted in a man (which, six years later is almost still the same). I grew up blogging. I blogged about my first kiss, my college life, my out-of-state internship.

I maintained the LiveJournal for years – until late 2005, when I created a blog on Typepad. I used this new blog to talk about pop culture, concerts, music, books – anything BUT the details of my personal life. I wanted another outlet to share what I thought about what was going on in the world. Plus, I wanted my writing to me a little more focused. As always, friends come and go in life, but blogging was always there. When certain friends disappeared because their boyfriends became their sole priority – I could blog about what was going through my head at 3am. I could write something down and an online friend across the country could read it and lend his or her support. Blogging always provided me with a support network. And I loved that what I wrote reached people and impacted them. I could be who I was and it was okay.

Blogging and I took a  hiatus for a while, when my life got so crazy that I couldn’t get my head on straight and tight enough to write. I left college. I had a great job, but didn’t love it. My life felt like it was in total chaos. I decided to start a business. Wait – I decided to start a business? I NEVER thought I’d be a business owner, working for myself in any way, shape or form. David Duchovny’s wife, architect, psychologist, film critic, media analyst, non-profit guru, Mother Teresa… these were the things I saw myself as over the years. But I did it. I started One Organized Life based on a passion for helping people feel better about their lives. I didn’t want anyone to feel stuck, lost, alone, or boxed in, like I did. That’s not so bad right?

My life has changed radically since I got my first “real” client back in 2006. I lost my boyfriend/best friend who was probably my biggest supporter (no, he didn’t die, he just dumped me). Part time jobs came and went. Friendships dissolved. Saw a couple of different therapists. I moved twice and downsized my living space. Went on dead-end dates. I started a networking group for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Most importantly, I felt like I had found my purpose in life and did not want to spend another day NOT living it out. And yes, that combined purpose is my business and my networking group.

My life would be so much easier and less stressful if I was working a 9-to-5 job. Go to work, come home, collect steady paycheck. I’ve never had a cushy luxurious life with college paid for or a new car after graduating high school (or college for that matter). I’ve never dined at a 5 star restaurant or taken a trip outside of the country (other than an overnight trip to Mexico…when I was eight…with my babysitter and her kids). My life is even less cushy now. I don’t think ANY of my friends would trade for my life. But you know what, I wouldn’t trade for any of theirs either (though sometimes it can seem tempting…). So, as I went along earlier this year, continuing to make sacrifices in my personal life so that I could attempt to continue helping clients, I thought, “what can I do to feel a little better?” I’m sure you know what it is… I came back to blogging. And that’s how this blog was launched. I wanted to write again, express myself, and hopefully help people with my words again. I figured, well, if I have to take on another job and just work with clients on the side, at least the posts will be out there for people to see.

My goal with blogging has never been to make money. My goal was not even to get clients (though it has happened a couple of times). What I really wanted to do was put information out there that would help someone out in the universe overcome a barrier. I’ve gotten a few encouraging emails and comments. I was interviewed on an internet radio show and got some great feedback. And you know what? Occasionally, I do get a phone call from someone on the verge of tears, calling to hire me to help them because they read my blog and they understand that I get it. And really, that’s what it is all about for me right now. You can get a Top 10 Organizing Tips article from hundreds of sources online. Whoopdido. I’ll probably even post one at some point. But if the content on this blog or any blog I’ve ever had inspires someone, motivates them, makes them laugh, or gets them to pick up the phone to get help (and no, it doesn’t have to be from me), I honestly couldn’t ask for more.

So when someone asks me, is blogging worth it? Well, my short answer is, “Absolutely!”

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Well,  I can’t believe that it has been a month since my last post. It has been quite a month, let me tell you.

My last post was on a Monday, my birthday, and the rest of the week was full of stress, broken sleep, pacing, and anger. By the end of the week I decided that things had to change – right here, right now. I made a decision to change, to not spend another day in a place that stressed me out and caused me to have to make decisions about things I never wanted to make decisions about. I guess you could say that because I had no idea what was ahead of me, I took a leap of faith.

Why? Because I love what I do.

I spent a lot of time leading up to that week thinking about how everything in my life was going in the wrong direction – except for two things: my organizing business and my networking group. I haven’t quite made up my mind when it comes to things like destiny/fate/meant to be/la la la po po, but I was reading Jonathan Mead’s blog, Illuminated Mind, just a couple of days after I made my decision to take that leap, and I saw a post I had to pay attention to.  It asked, “what’s right with your life?” I have to admit, I did not read the entire post right away. In fact, I went back over a week later to finish it – but what was important was that question.

Already thinking about the few things that brought me joy during an incredibly stressful period, the post felt perfectly timed. I was tapped by Jonathan to write about what was right with my life and I wanted so much to write the most amazing and inspiring post ever. But you know what? I got busy. And it has been great. I started charting out what I wanted to do – how to revive my business (it didn’t die, I just put it aside), and how I wanted to expand it. I thought about what I could do to offer more to my networking group. I thought about what I want to learn and what I want to teach. I started to take action – I had to. What have I been up to in the past month?  Here’s just a snippet:

  • I started working with two former clients again.
  • I’ve taken on 10 new organizing clients. Some didn’t fully commit, which happens, but most have. And as usual, it’s such a pleasure to work with them. I have awesome clients.
  • Four people have requested me as a guest or contributing blogger.
  • I’ve attended three workshops.
  • I took a few naps. And a few loooooong baths.
  • I purged A LOT of paper and donated a lot of clothes and shoes.
  • I’ve watched every episode of Dancing with the Stars (talk about joy and excitement!)
  • I’ve solidified the umbrella of services I plan to offer through my business (I just need to update my website!).
  • I’ve started planning additional events for my networking group – additional times and types of meetings, a couple of book discussion groups, etc.
  • I’m planning a workshop and reaching out to relevant experts who might be interested in participating.

Of course, there have been stressful moments, stressful days. Wondering if I was a total idiot. Yes, some days, I can feel a little miserable. I don’t make a lot of money, I’ve never taken a real vacation (whether I’ve taken a road trip or not is up to debate), and I’m sure all my friends think I lost my mind years ago and wouldn’t want to be me if you paid them. But every time I work with a client, someone thanks me for organizing a meeting, I refer someone to the service provider that they’ve been looking for, or I teach someone something new, I can’t imagine spending my time any other way.

I’m dead tired right now and I really have no idea what I’ll be doing next week. If it turns out to be anything like the past few weeks, I’ll meet some great new people, make new business connections, take advantage of some great opportunities and hopefully work with more terrific clients!

Tell me: What’s right with YOUR life?


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Hiking

What is it that you want out of life right now? A successful business? A romantic partner? An organized home? A vacation?

Are you living a life that reflects what you want for yourself and what you value? Not sure? Try this:

Grab a piece of paper, a journal, or open up a new document on your computer. Ask yourself, “what’s taking up my time?” Make a list. Here is an example of things you might include: work, time with your spouse or kids, time with other family, time with friends, volunteer commitments, spiritual development, errands, home improvement, etc.

Examine your list. Your list reflects who you are – but is that who you want to be?

What do you want for your life? Do you wish you could adopt a dog, yet you have a schedule that keeps you away from home 18 hours a day? Do you share with your friends how much you want to have a “special someone” in your life and yet you don’t leave room for dating? Or maybe you are already in a relationship, but you aren’t taking the time to cultivate and nurture it with your partner?

Take time to carefully plan out what you can scale back on or cut out entirely so that you can create room in your life for the things that you want. Go to the next step: now that you have created the time, what else do you need to do to bring those things into you life?  Just because I took two weeks off from work does not mean that I have the resources to take a trip to Argentina. Most likely I’d need to put in more hours at work for a short time, curb any unnecessary spending, apply for a passport, and so on.

While it can be nice to fantasize, wouldn’t you love to turn those flights of fancy into reality? How can you turn these things you want into tangibles? How can you get your time to reflect your values and the things you really want?

  • Decide what you really want.
  • Figure out what you need to do to get what you want.
  • Turn that list of things you need to do into goals and priorities.
  • Create milestones and deadlines for your goals.
  • Tell people you trust about what you want to create accountability and support for yourself.

You won’t get what you want by sitting around on your butt all day – unless what you want is more time to sit on your butt. Dream about it, but make sure you back those dreams up with actions. We’re given 24 hours in a day. Leverage your time and create the life you want.


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Stressed Woman with Headache

Everyone has flaws. No one is perfect. NO ONE (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!). Beating yourself up for every little thing you do wrong is not going to help your situation. Most of the clients I’ve worked with have very similar thought processes, regardless of the fact that they range in age, gender, socioeconomic background, nationality, and ethnicity. The clients that just need a little jump start to get the ball rolling are different from the ones who struggle and trudge along in one major way – the way they talk to themselves.

I can usually tell by someone’s “self-talk” and the way they explain their situation how they are going to approach the project they’ve hired me to help them with. Client’s who tend to say the following tend to have more success with their efforts:

“I know my situation isn’t terrible, but I am not happy with it. I know it could be better and I just need some help to get it done.”

“I used to be organized but __________ happened and things got hectic. Things have settled down now and I just need to get things back to normal.”

“I’m ready for things to change. I know they can be better.”

Clients who express things in the following way also tell me immediately after that any attempts they’ve made at organizing go awry and they are back at square one:

“This is just too hard. I can’t do it.”

“I don’t know how to be organized. It will never work.”

“I don’t even bother anymore because I know it won’t do any good.”

Though I don’t think it is appropriate in all situations, I think in this one, the “fake it ’til you make it” method can work.

Rather than saying:

“I can’t….” say “I can…” even though you are struggling.

“I don’t know how to…” say ” I will learn how to….” even if you don’t have the answer now – because you can find the answer.

“I wish I had…” say “I will have….” to motivate yourself to accomplish your goal.

“I would like to, but….” say ” I will achieve that, and I will do it by….” and think of things you can do to help you get what you want.

It’s very rare that anyone accuses me of being an optimist. I actually tend to label myself a “hopeful pessimist.” But I have noticed that when I say:

“I can knock those dishes out in a few minutes,”

“I can sort through all the clothes to figure out what to donate with no problem,” or

“I can get everything under control,”

I’m much more likely to get through those projects, even though they are things I really don’t want to do. When I tell myself I don’t have the time, or it will take too much effort to try everything on to see what still fits – well, you would be amazed at how long it takes me to get around to doing those things.

Get a picture in your mind of what you want, and then stop telling yourself you can’t have it. If you want an organized house, picture it – and then get real. Tell yourself you can have an organized house, but don’t stop there. Take out a piece of paper and list when, where, how, and why you can have it. When you start to come up with some solutions, you can change your situation. Don’t settle for “I don’t know how….” If you don’t know how – who does? Take a class, call your mom, hire an organizer. Get help and change that “I don’t know” into “I’ll learn how to.”

While the suggestions seem simple, their application isn’t so easy. If you struggle with negative self-talk and notice that it hinders you from achieving what you want, I invite you to try these things. Be deliberate. Give it a shot – it can’t hurt.


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I have to come right out and say that I am not a health/medical professional. My professional organizer/non-medical professional opinion is that lack of energy is definitely a health issue. A serious one.

Lack of energy can have many root causes including depression, improper diet, and not getting enough rest/sleep. The list I linked to is not exhaustive by any means. I’ve dealt with many issues that have contributed to a lack of energy in my life: anxiety, overwhelm, depression, boredom, hopelessness (that “why bother?” feeling). I’ve also dealt with disorganization. I’ve always had trouble determining what came first in this chicken-egg situation. Do I have no energy because I am depressed? Am I depressed because my house is disorganized? Am I disorganized because I am depressed? Am i disorganized because I am simply too tired to put anything away? It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

I have no quick-fix answer to offer you. I can’t tell you which came first for you. We are all different. I know, for example, that my nature is not to be disorganized. I have never been anal about it, but growing up, my room would get messy (as most kid’s rooms do), but I also enjoyed creating a place for things. I loved organizing my books by creating my own personal library system. I loved boxes, tins, and bins. I loved my Barbie motor home because I could neatly store all my dolls inside of it after taking them on another high speed adventure, running from the FBI. I loved Hawaii Five-0, 21 Jump Street, and The X-Files as a kid, and someone was always running. So sue me!

Somewhere along the way, disorganization made its way into my life. It didn’t feel right. I spent years struggling with depression. That definitely did not feel right. I was too tired to do anything or try anything. I was too tired for work, too tired for therapy, too tired to read, too tired to clean. I will share with you what I know and what I recommend.

Disorganization:

If you are disorganized and (1) can’t quite pinpoint the root cause or (2) don’t have the energy to fix things, try the following

  • Think about what you would do with your life, time, and space if clutter wasn’t holding you back. Don’t do this as an afterthought. Seriously take stock of your life. What can you do in the moment that gets you closer to what you want? Maybe you need to have a yard sale. Maybe you need to skip that lunch on Saturday to stay home and purge your closet. Perhaps today you clean out your junk drawer and tomorrow your glove compartment.
  • Go back as far as you can remember: when did you first notice signs of disorganization. Did you grow up in a house that was a mess? Was it after your mother died? After a bad break up? After you moved to a new city? Remembering when it started can often help you figure out what went wrong. Perhaps you need to develop your coping skills to deal with life changes.
  • Ask friends or family to help you. Set aside a couple of hours where they come in and help you move through your things.
  • Ask a Professional Organizer to help you. Of course, I think I’m great because I been through all this and know where my clients are coming from. But find the one that fits you. If motivation and lack of energy is an issue for you, find an organizer who can be sensitive to those issues. If my clients become crotchety or I feel them moving into overwhelm, I bring the session to a close. I’ve had clients had breakdowns or panic attacks because they felt it was all too much to deal with. We will not be productive if they hate me, hate themselves, are crying, or are too distracted to get anything done. So we got half an hour of work in – that’s half an hour that we wouldn’t have had if I was not there to help you.
  • Figure out what your mood and energy boosters are. Utilize them to help give you the push you need to work on your project.

If you know that you have no energy or are depressed because of your disorganization, combat that negativity by changing your habits. I’ve seen people who became ashamed of their homes, which caused them to become depressed and retreat from others. A friend of mine can’t stand to be around clutter. If her room gets messy, it stresses her out. If your house is cluttered, she can’t visit you. You’ll have to meet up for dinner somewhere. Mess makes her stressed and makes her feel physically ill. By bringing order to her home, she keeps her mind clear and calm. If she allowed the clutter to build, her stress would increase. Her life would be a mess. Don’t allow a cycle to form. Read books, ask for help, attend workshops, get an organizer. Do what you can to bring harmony and happiness to your space.

Lack of Energy:

If you lack energy all the time, and not just when you think about cleaning or organizing your home or office, then it would probably be good to see a medical professional. Get a full check up. Talk with your physician about how you feel. Take note of when your energy is high and when it is incredibly low. Your doctor might suggest a wide variety of things including getting enough sleep and cultivating better sleep hygiene. You could be anemic. Perhaps you are lacking certain vitamins. Maybe a change in diet is in order.

Get the scoop on lack of energy from WrongDiagnosis.com

Depression, Anxiety, Overwhelm, etc

Seek help from a source outside of yourself. If you’ve tried battling it on your own and you have not succeeded, please proceed by trying other options. I’ve been a reader since I came out of my mother’s womb, but reading books on depression didn’t help me one bit. They gave me a headache. I couldn’t finish them and was too depressed to return them, so I incurred late fees at the library, which made me more depressed, and so on…

Do not shut yourself away. That will not help. There are many options. Try taking a yoga class. Attend a group meditation session. Sitting in silence with Quakers helped bring some balance to my life one difficult summer. I still fantasize about going back. Try group therapy (this list is a detailed one for the Los Angeles area – perhaps there is one for yours).

Find a therapist you can talk to. Try a couple on for size. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free initial consultation. Find a fit for you. Don’t settle for someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. I felt a little guilty about it at first, but a few years ago when I was searching for a therapist, I wanted something specific. It had to be a woman. She had to be under 50. She had to be stylish, but not terribly so. She had to seem friendly. I did not want to talk about certain things with a man, however qualified he might be. I wanted someone younger, yet qualified so that she was not totally removed from what someone in my generation was dealing with and exposed to. I didn’t want her to be out of touch with 2006, but I didn’t want her to look so amazingly put together that I felt like a slob in her presence. I didn’t want someone cold and clinical. That was me. I had an ex boyfriend who had trouble seeing male counselors because of issues he had talking to his own father about personal things. He also preferred a female therapist who wasn’t “young and hot.” Understandable. There are enough therapists out there that you should be able to find what you need.

If you feel that antidepressants or other psychotropic substances might help you, find a psychiatrist to talk to. As a person who only takes Tylenol when she feels like she’s going to die, this would personally be my last resort – especially with the knowledge that some antidepressants can cause suicidal feelings in some people. No need to make things worse than they are. I am always willing to try other things first – exercise, vitamins, diet, sleep, changing my habits, changing who I spend time with, etc. Some people say Prozac saved their lives. If you do try these drugs, give them time to work. Most likely you will not feel any difference in a week. People I have spoken to who’ve taken antidepressants said (1) they took about a month to kick in and (2) when they did kick in, they didn’t even notice. One person, a close friend of mine who was on Prozac over 10 years ago, remarked that she didn’t think the drug was working because she just felt “normal.” She felt okay. That’s when she realized it was working for her – the drug wasn’t supposed to make her feel high as a kite.

If you find that lack of energy or depression is what causes your disorganization, do what you can to solve those issues. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to tackle your physical clutter when your brain is so clutter that you don’t even want to get out of bed. Getting organized is not easy for everyone. I’ve had several clients who worked with me while they were in therapy or working with life coaches. Once you feel better mentally, you feel more motivated to seek help from an organizer, or to do it on your own. You are more equipped to start the project and push through. Things seem less unbearable.

—–

If you have trouble figuring out which issue came first, like I did, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting. Try organizing a room of your house. See how your mood improves. Do you have a panic attack as you approach the room? A therapist might be in order. Explain your issues. Your therapist might be able to help you figure out when these issues started. Once you have a deeper understanding, you can move forward accordingly.

If you have any questions, I am always open to sharing my experience. You can email me at alaia [at] oneorganizedlife [dot] com.


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