27 July 2009

Inspirational Quote -- week of July 27, 2009

"Getting rid of the clutter is not about letting go of things that are meaningful to you. It’s about letting go of the things that no longer contribute to your life so you have the time and the energy and the space for the things that do."

– Elaine St. James

Inspirational Quote -- week of July 20, 2009

"Grant me the ability to be alone.
May it be my custom to go
outdoors each day
among the trees and grasses,
among all growing things
and there may I be alone,
and enter into prayer
to talk with the one
that I belong to."

– Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

14 July 2009

Inspiration Quote - week of July 13, 2009

“Our deepest fears are but dragons guarding our deepest treasures.”
– R.M. Rilke

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité -- and Organizing

Happy Bastille Day!

The storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution is celebrated as a sort-of French 4th of July. Because the Bastille held both ammunition and political prisoners, its storming represents liberation from the oppression of monarchy.

For me, becoming organized is also liberating. Some people think of organizing as a restrictive straight-jacket, a set of rigid rules, too much oppressive order. But I prefer to think of organization as a life jacket, a tool that supports us as we navigate our way down life’s river.

The French motto is Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – liberty, equality, and brotherhood. In honor of Bastille Day, I thought I’d look at the benefits of organizing from the motto’s perspective.


I had a client once who was in charge of her psychologically-disabled sister’s estate. We worked together to organize all the paperwork associated with her sister, and were eventually able to put it all, neatly labeled and filed, in a portable file box. The day we finished, my client pranced gleefully, singing “Betty’s in a box! Betty’s in a box!” Now, when she wanted, she could hand over the responsibility for Betty* to someone else. Whoo-hoo! Freedom!

I have another client for whom we’ll be doing something similar. She currently handles all of the paperwork and finances for her 20-something-year-old son. In the course of organizing her office, one of our goals is to set up a paper-management system – again, self-contained in a portable file box – for all her son’s affairs. Her goal is to teach him how to use it and eventually turn it over to him, empowering him to make his own financial decisions and liberating her from the responsibility.

Possibly because they’ve struggled to function as a right-brain creative sort in a left-brain culture, many artists scoff at organization as being dreadfully dull. One of my readers once wrote to me: “I have always detested neat, highly organized people. They are not like me. They made me feel faulty, inadequate, guilty, and so I pronounced them without creativity, spontaneity, or passion.” The rebellious artist rejects organization as antithetical to the creative process. And yet – organization supports art. Creation is easier when the artist can find her toys – her favorite camel-hair brush, the Italian hand painted blue bead, the silver glitter. Being able to find our toys – or really, our tools – put us on an even keel with our fellow craftsmen by enabling us to practice our craft without unnecessary hindrance.

Ditto for attorneys, or teachers, or healers, or carpenters, or chefs. Having our tools readily available allows us to do our job more effectively and helps create a level playing field – equality.

Brotherhood reminds us that we’re all in this together. My last principle – I have 12 Basic Principles of Being Organized, which are the focus of my book – is to Ask for Help. I remind people that we are not alone and we shouldn’t try to do it all ourselves. If those artists, attorneys, teachers, healers, carpenters, and chefs need help organizing, I can help them. The principles are universal across professions. But I can also help people get organized so that they can bring in help. Some people – especially entrepreneurs – need help setting up basic office systems so that a secretary or bookkeeper can come in and take the administrative load off, allowing the entrepreneur to focus on growing her business. Other people need their home decluttered and organized enough to allow a housekeeper to come in and help them with the cleaning. Or they need their kids’ areas organized so that they can start teaching their children how to be organized.

Why We Organize

In my book, The Spiritual Art of Being Organized, I write about why people get organized. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Why get organized? What are the benefits to you? When I ask my clients this question, they toss back answers:
* so I can find things;
* so I can pay my bills on time;
* so I can have company over without feeling embarrassed;
* to feel happier, more peaceful and serene;
* o reduce stress;
* to save time and effort, make my life easier;
* so I can meet deadlines, improving my work performance and relationships with co-workers;
* to save money (on late fees, duplication of possessions);
* to make money;
* to improve the way my home (or office) looks and feels;
* to have more time to spend with my family and to do what I really want;
* to feel better about myself.

Artists, doctors, mothers, gardeners—I believe that each of us has gifts to offer, and a duty to offer them. Each of us brings something to the whole, to making the world a lovelier, safer, happier place. Being organized helps us share our gifts.

What, then, does it mean to be organized? For me, being organized means being able to access what we want quickly and easily. Organization does not require perfection, only that our systems are easy to use and maintain. Contrary to images of organized homes being the result of constant vigilance, organization is actually about being lazy; about making our lives easier. Rather than seeing organization as a dam that restricts our life’s river, think of it as the raft that supports us, that provides structure and a modicum of safety and control as we float (or ride rapids) downstream.

In fact, Class IV rapids are an excellent reason to become organized. Life happens. We lose our job, our health, a loved one. Or we become deeply involved in a creative project, a long and fabulous vacation, an all-consuming love affair. We have babies, move, return to school, start a business, write a book, change careers. Being organized helps us to survive, even thrive, as we ride through these transitional rapids.

In The Way of Zen, Alan Watts wrote, “If the wind were to stop for one second for us to catch hold of it, it would cease to be wind. The same is true of life. Perpetually things and events are moving and changing…. We can only understand life by keeping pace with it, by a complete affirmation and acceptance of its magic-like transformations and unending changes.” And, I would add, by being organized enough to flow with it.

So why get organized? Because, when all is said and done, being organized makes life easier.

Taking it to the Streets

Consider furthering the cause of liberty, equality, and brotherhood by reaching out to those being held prisoner by their disorganization. Do you know someone who is often running late? Losing things? Being assaulted with late fees? Complaining about being disorganized? Complaining about their spouse being disorganized? I don’t recommend ramming their gates with critical judgment – “Boy are you a mess! You should hire Claire!” – but a quiet coup de grace – mentioning that you know me and that I’ve helped hundreds of people, encouraging them to visit my web site and then call me… that would be one way you could make their lives easier and the world a better place. Together we can make the world a bit more lovely and whole.

*Not her real name

09 July 2009

Inspiration Quote - week of July 6, 2009

“Liberty is not license to do whatever you want to do. It is the freedom* to do what you ought to do.”
– Sylvia Boorstein, quoting a sign she saw somewhere

(*And, I would add, the responsibility to do what you ought. – Claire Josefine)

Inspirational Quotes June 2009

Issue 28, June 1, 2009
“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.”
– Pablo Picasso

Issue 29, June 8, 2009
“Why is it that we yearn to be more or other than we are? It so rarely occurs to us that what we are looking for may be – indeed, always is – already within us, simply undiscovered.”
– from Nothing Left Over by Toinette Lippe

Issue 30, June 15, 2009
“[T]he making of money and the accumulation of things should not smother the purity of the soul, the life of the mind, the cohesion of the family, or the good of the society.”
– Duane Elgin (paraphrasing David Shi)

Issue 31, June 22, 2009
“Observation of my life to date shows that the larger the number for whom I work, the more positively effective I become. Thus, it is obvious that if I work always and only for all humanity, I will be optimally effective.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller

Issue 32, June 29, 2009

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”
– William James

Inspirational Quotes May 2009

Issue 24, May 4, 2009
"When you come right down to it, all you have is yourself. The sun is a thousand rays in your belly. All the rest is nothing."
– Pablo Picasso

Issue 25, May 11, 2009

"He who will, Fates lead. He who won’t, they drag."
– Joseph Campbell

Issue 26, May 18, 2009

“Simplicity is the result of stopping the identification with so many desires.”
– Ram Dass

Issue 27, May 25, 2009
"Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."
– Arnold Toynbee

Inspirational Quotes April 2009

Issue 20, April 8, 2009
"If you should be holding a sapling in your hand when they tell you the Messiah has arrived, first plant the sapling, then go out and greet him."
— Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakka

Issue 21, April 13, 2009

"Salvation is seeing that the universe is good, and becoming a part of that goodness." — Arthur G. Clutton-Brock

Issue 22, April 20, 2009

"I no longer expect things to make sense. I know there is no safety. But that does not mean there is no magic. It does not mean there is no hope. It simply means that each of us has reason to be wishful and frightened, aspiring and flawed. And it means that, to the degree we are lost, it is on the same ocean, in the same night."
— Elizabeth Kaye

Issue 23, April 27, 2009
"…there is an aesthetics of time that is violated when we live in constant rush, when our lives are a succession of agenda items, when we live like someone racing through the supermarket with a shopping list. To live well means giving things the time they deserve, be it time for the children, one’s spouse and lover, one’s friends, or the garden."
— from Graceful Simplicity by Jerome Segal

Inspirational Quotes March 2009

Issue 15, March 2, 2009
“[W]hen the health of one part of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the other creatures in it. If the soil is sick or in some way deficient, so will be the grasses that grow in that soil and the cattle that eat the grasses and the people who drink the milk from them. … Our personal health cannot be divorced from the health of the entire food web.”
— from In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Issue 16, March 9, 2009

In Tales of the Hasidim, there is a story about Rabbi Baruch, who talked about three ways of bringing money to the zaddik, the head of the temple: “Some say to themselves, ‘I’ll give him something. I am the kind of person who brings gifts to the zaddik.’ Others think, ‘If I give gifts to this devout man, it will profit me hereafter.’ They want heaven to pay them interest. It is a loan. But there are some who know: ‘God has put this money in my hand for the zaddik, and I am his messenger.’ These serve with full and open heart.”
— Ram Dass

Issue 17, March 16, 2009

"Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be... a prudent insurance policy."
— Elizabeth Gilbert

Issue 18, March 23, 2009

“A mystery is that special kind of problem which has no solutions because the more we understand it, the more we see that we don’t understand. In mysteries, knowledge and ignorance advance lockstep. As known unknowns become known, unknown unknowns proliferate; the larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.”
– Huston Smith

Issue 19, March 30, 2009
Our life is shorter than flowers
Then shall we mourn?
No, we shall dance
Plant gardens
Dress in colors
And teach our children
To make the world more beautiful
Because our life is shorter than flowers.
— Toltec fragment

Inspirational Quotes February 2009

Issue 11, February 2, 2009
“The free man, the person who refuses to rule himself according to the tutelage of the market, may choose different satisfactions: time instead of things, happiness instead of wealth. If so, the productive capacity of nations will have to be diminished or production will have to be described in a different way, revalued, like something brought out of a long sojourn in darkness and suddenly exposed to light. Wisdom could become more valuable than widgets. Professors and poets would become the wealth of nations.”
— from A Nation of Salesmen: The Tyranny of the Market and the Subversion of Culture by Earl Shorris

Issue 12, February 9, 2009
"To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer."
— Mahatma Gandhi

Issue 13, February 16, 2009
“We are each responsible for the conduct of our lives – and we are each unique. Therefore we are each uniquely responsible for our actions and choices in this pivotal time in human evolution. There is no one who can take our place. We each weave a singular strand in the web of life. No one else can weave that strand for us. What we each contribute is distinct, and what we each withhold is uniquely irreplaceable.

More than anything else, the outcome from this time of planetary transition will depend on the choices that we make as individuals.”
— Duane Elgin

Issue 14, February 23, 2009

“When someone steals a man’s clothes we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has not shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
— Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea, around 365 A.D.

Inspirational Quotes January 2009

Issue 7, January 5, 2009
"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly."
— Patrick Overton

Issue 8, January 12, 2009
"I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run."
— Henry David Thoreau

Issue 9, January 19, 2009
"The poor long for riches and the rich for heaven, but the wise long for a state of tranquility."
– Swami Rama

Issue 10, January 26, 2009

"There is no spiritual practice more profound than being kind to one’s family, neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, an unexpected visitor, the person who does the laundry or picks up the garbage, or any other of the usually 'invisible' people whose paths we cross in the course of a normal day."
— from It’s A Meaningful Life – It Just Takes Practice by Bo Lozoff

Inspirational Quotes Nov/Dec. 2008

In late November of 2008, I began sending a weekly inspirational quote (via email) to over 200 people. The quotes focus on simplicity and spirituality.

I recently realized that I should post those quotes to this blog, too. So here they are, by month (for the most part). Once I've caught up with the past quotes, I will start posting them here each week when I send them out. Meanwhile, if you'd like to receive the weekly email, send a request to ClaireJosefine@wildblue.net. And if you know of anyone else who might appreciate receiving these quotes, please, let them know!

Blessings, and enjoy --


Issue 1, November 24, 2008
"In truth, it is not the number and diversity of our possessions that are the problems but our attachment to them. When the attachment grows thin and the filament breaks, then we discover that we do not really want so much anymore. What we need to relinquish, therefore, is our attachment to possessions and experiences, not the things themselves. The freedom we are all seeking is freedom from the fear of losing what we believe we own."
– from Nothing Left Over by Toinette Lippe

Issue 2, December 1, 2008

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"
– George Eliot

Issue 3, December 8, 2008
"[Think of] God playing hide and seek with himself, remembering himself, then dismembering himself into the myriad roles played by sentient beings… All bodies are the clothes of the one and only Self in its innumerable disguises, and the whole universe is a masquerade ball pretending to be a tragedy and then realizing it’s a ball."
– Alan Watts

Issue 4, December 15, 2008

"The bird of paradise alights only upon the hand that does not grasp."
– John Berry

Issue 5, December 22, 2008

"God is more glorified by a man who uses the good things of this life in simplicity and with gratitude than by the nervous asceticism of someone who is agitated about every detail of his self-denial. … His [the latter’s] struggle for perfection becomes a kind of battle of wits with the Creator who made all things good."
– Thomas Merton

Issue 6, December 29, 2008

“It can be said that the Earth is a mask of God which appears in many contradictions – good and evil, refined and coarse, alive and dead, enduring and transitory. But behind this cover of plurality is God’s oneness. The boulder and the soap bubble are identical. Stupidity is only crippled wisdom. The dead aren’t dead, the departed haven’t vanished. God lives, and everything that comes from Him is alive. Darkness is only dimmed light. The wrongs are disguised mercies.

Why did God require this concealment? … God bestowed upon the people of the Earth – which is the lowest and darkest of all the worlds – a gift that no other world could have received: free will, the freedom to choose between good and evil. In the higher spheres, God’s light is too radiant to allow doubt and error.”
– from Reaches of Heaven by Isaac Bashevis Singer