30 August 2010

February 2010 Newsletter

Heart Connection

Where would we be without the many people who make our lives a bit more lovely and whole? Whether they're our best friend, our lover, our neighbor, or the grocer who goes out of his way to help us, our lives are richer for the people in them.

This month, let people know how much you value them. Thank them for the gifts they bring that make your world more wonderful.

For more ideas on organizing, please visit my website at www.ClaireJosefine.com. And if you haven't had a chance to see the 5-minute snippet of me discussing the spiritual aspects of being organized, check out the video on YouTube:

Tip of the Month

People think I have a great memory because I send them birthday cards on time. While once upon a time my memory was sharp, these days I depend on a couple of tools: a perpetual calendar and a tickler.

Here's what I do. I write birthdays, anniversaries, etc. into a perpetual calendar. Then, at the beginning of each month, I go through the calendar and pull cards for everyone I wish to celebrate. I address the envelopes and place them (cards inside) in a 1 through 31 tickler/sorter in the slot for the day I plan to mail the card. When that day comes, I mail the card.

Quote of the Month

"The ultimate prayer, the prayer that comes from deepest wisdom, is thank you!"

– Sylvia Boorstein

March 2010 Newsletter

Wind & Breath

I’ll bet you’ve never thought of taking a deep breath as an organizational technique, have you? Usually we associate conscious breathing with mindfulness. But mindfulness is an organizing tool. By slowing down and paying attention, we bring intention back to our actions. Being aware helps us to maintain focus and make clear decisions.

In fact, studies have shown that meditation practice helps people with AD/HD. One of the easiest forms of meditation is to focus on one's breath. So this windy month, be aware of the rhythm of your life's winds -- your breath.

And if you need a fresh breeze of hands-on organizing to sweep through your space, give me a call:707-268-8585.

Tip of the Month

When you find yourself starting to “spin out,” or hear yourself saying “I’ll just” or “for now,” –- stop. Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly, then take another deep breath. Keep breathing until you’ve come back to the present moment. Now, notice your surroundings and your situation, calmly choose your next action. And keep returning to your breath as needed.

Quotes of the Month

"Breathing in I calm my body and mind; breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment."
– Thich Nhat Hanh

"The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life — live with unremitting awareness."
– Joseph Campbell

April 2010 Newsletter

Facing the Inevitable

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot introduced this classic poem, "The Waste Land," with a reference to Sibyl who, when asked what she wanted, replied that she wished to die. You see, Apollo had granted her eternal life, but she had forgotten to ask for eternal youth, too.

I think of this poem every April, when the earth is readying itself to be reborn from winter's darkness. This is also the time of year my mother died -- goodness, it's been ten years ago already!

When my mom passed, I discovered the importance of an organized estate. Even though she had written her will, showed us which file cabinet held all the crucial papers, and discussed her wishes with us before she passed, my mother’s estate was full of surprises, including discovering her best jewelry hidden in a box labeled "Old Sheets."

I realize that most people probably don't want to think about the inevitable day they meet their mortality. But preparing ahead has its benefits, including:

• Peace of mind from knowing everything is in order
• Renewed awareness of what your assets are
• Opportunity to review and update information, beneficiaries, and instructions
• Smoother transfer of information and responsibility for assets
• Fewer expenses – administrative, legal, and accounting
• Fewer taxes
• No search and discover fees
• Less stress
• Less bureaucracy
• Increased efficiency in handling the estate proceedings
• More money and assets retained by your heirs

Of course, we all probably think of taxes come April, too. As good ole' Ben Franklin is famous for stating, only two things are certain: death and taxes. And in some odd way, they do go together. So, now that your taxes are (almost) done, I encourage you to get the rest of your financial matters in order. As always, I am happy to help if you find you need assistance.

With your taxes done and your estate in order, you can close two doors behind you on winter's darkness as you emerge into the joy we know as Spring.

Tip of the Month

Is your will up to date? How about your Advanced Health Care Directive? For the month of April, I’m offering my comprehensive checklist for organizing your estate for free. Send me an email requesting the checklist before April 30, 2010, and I’ll email the e-booklet (which usually retails for $6.95) to you at no charge. You may also want to check out my colleague Maggie Watson's excellent workbook, "A Graceful Farewell: Putting Your Affairs in Order" (ISBN 978-1879384-68-2).

Quotes of the Month

"What is life, but one long risk?" – Dorthy Canfield Fisher

"If each own sweeps before his own door, the whole street is clean." – Yiddish Proverb

May 2010 Newsletter

April showers bring May flowers...

I have a confession to make. I love having a garden. I love being able to pick flowers and arrange them in vases around my house. I love being able to pick herbs and veggies and fruit and cook them up right then and there. I love growing enough food to be able to share with people who are hungry by donating to my local food bank. But I really don't enjoy gardening.

Okay, I like some of it. I like planting seeds in starter pots and watching them grow. I enjoy planting the starts into well-prepared soil. I certainly love the smell of the earth. It's just all that work -- the hoeing and weeding and picking of slugs -- that I find painful and not at all fun.

Where I live, May means lots of work in the garden. The rains have finally let up enough that the clay soil is dry enough to work, but they've also nourished vigorous growth of wild radish, sheep's sorrel, plantain, and thistle. All of which is fine out in the pasture, but is unwanted competition for my cultivated plants (flowers and veggies) in the garden. And so the mowing and weeding and slug picking begins...

But guess what? Basic organizing principles apply to the garden, too! Keep It Simple, Sweetie reminds me to tackle only small areas at a time, rather than try to weed the entire garden in one day. Create (and use) Habits reminds me to weave the watering and slug patrol into my daily chores. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude helps me to see (and appreciate) the garden I have instead of the work that still faces me. And Ask for Help encourages me to call my gardener, who takes care of the mowing and weed-whacking (and some of the weeding) for me.

Whether you're organizing your garden or your home, the basic principles serve as a helpful guide. If you need a reminder of the principles (and want to see what some other organizers have come up with), read my article "Organizing by the Numbers" on my website. http://www.clairejosefine.com/art.htm#organizing%20by%20the%20numbers And, as always, let me know if I can be of any help.

Happy spring!

Tip of the Month

Get ready for your garden by discarding old seeds, sharpening and cleaning your tools, and recycling broken and excess pots. Then organize: put your hand tools together into a bucket or caddy and hang your larger tools (shovels, rakes, etc.) on the wall of your gardening shed or garage.

This year, I've organized my seeds in order of when I'm planting them, so that the ones due to be planted next are on top of the bundle. You can also organize them by type -- flowers, herbs, veggies -- or alphabetically, or by shade vs. sun. However you think of them and want to access them is how you should organize them.

Quote of the Month

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

June 2010 Newsletter


The simple life: warm bread baking in the oven, laundry drying on the line, veggies fresh from the garden, chickens contentedly exploring their yard, finches and grossbeaks at the bird feeder, cut flowers placed in a vase by the bed, cats curled up in the sunshine.

Idyllic, yes? And yet the simple life is not necessarily easy, if by easy we mean requiring a minimum of work. Simple means both easy, effortless, and natural, unadorned. When we daydream of "the simple life," I think we are longing for a life stripped down of pretension and complication, a life of connection and meaning. But because simple also means effortless, we don't consider how much work is required to "live simply." Unless we have servants (at which point the work is deferred to someone else, but it hasn't gone away), we need to make the bread dough that's baking, hang and fold the laundry (which smells delicious, as good as that baking bread!), tend the garden and the chickens and the cats, cook meals from scratch, and so on.

Of course, there's the saying that "Work is love made visible." Some of us feel deep satisfaction and pleasure in doing the work of creating and tending. There's a connection to Source that comes with these labors, if we can remember to be aware of it.

My own challenge comes with this month's tip: to make time for fun. I get so caught up in the daily chores of my simple life that I forget I'm choosing them, I forget that connection to Source and to enjoy my life. And so my response to the tip is two-fold: one, to recall the joy in the work of simplicity and two, to go play!

Anyone want to join me for a play date on the Trinity with Redwoods and Rivers Rafting?

Happy June!

Tip of the Month

As summer approaches, simplify your time commitments so that you have time for fun, whether that’ s reading a novel, BBQing with the neighbors, or swimming in the river. Declutter your time the same way you would a room, by looking at each activity and asking: Does this make me smile, or is it useful (supporting my goals)? If not, let it go.

Quote of the Month

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
– Charles Mingus

July 2010 Newsletter


My sister-in-law recently told me that she’d read an article in the French Elle about feminists who’ve gone back to the land, and that it made her think of me. Did I know that I was avant-garde? she asked. No, I replied, I just thought I was an oddball trying to live life my way, and grateful that I live in a time and place where that’s possible.

We are blessed to live in a relatively free society. While I won’t argue that we are a long way from what we could be, we are (for the most part) free to be ourselves, to pursue our unique versions of happiness.

As an organizer, my aim is to help others be the best version of themselves. What’s organizing have to do with freedom? Bear with me here. I know that the “free spirit” sort tends to think of organizing as a restrictive straight-jacket, a set of rigid rules, too much oppressive order. I encourage them to instead see organization as a life jacket, a tool that supports us as we navigate our way down life’s river. After all, the better organized we are, the more easily we can share our gifts, be it teaching children, feeding the hungry, creating beauty, defending the downtrodden, tending a garden, or otherwise making the world a bit more lovely and whole.

And, just as there are many talents to share, there is more than one way to organize. What works for one person might not work for another. Along those lines, I’m teaching a new class in August. Here’s the blurb:

Not everyone thinks alike. Some people are great at making lists and plodding methodically forward in a straight line toward their goal. Others find their mind full of ideas and their energy drawn in a number of directions at once. If you tend to be better at brainstorming than getting things done, “Playful Planning for the Creative Thinker” is for you. Learn creative techniques for turning those great ideas into a plan of action.


Speaking of taking ideas and making them happen… Last month I wrote about needing to play more. I’m pleased to report that I spent a peaceful day under blue skies and redwoods along the Eel River (at Women’s Federation Grove), reading a novel while my friend taught the puppies to swim. And in a few days we will be enjoying a combination camping and river-rafting excursion.

What fun do you have planned?

Tip of the Month

Free yourself from expectation. “The word “should” often puts undue pressure on you to conform to standards that probably aren’t even your own.” (Jennifer Koretsky) Rather than thinking that you “should” be more organized, celebrate your creativity and individuality – your strengths -- and ask for help with your weaknesses.

Quotes of the Month
I didn’t belong as a kid, and that always bothered me. If only I’d known that one day my differentness would be an asset, then my early life would have been much easier. – Bette Midler

Certain defects are necessary for the existence of individuality. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself. – Carl Jung

August 2010 Newsletter

Lazy Days of Summer?

Message on one of the local school’s marquee: “Enjoy your summer, but be ready for the first day back on August 30!” What? Already? Nooooo…

Does anyone else remember summer break being longer and more luxurious? I don’t mean luxury like a fancy cruise, more like long days kicked back reading novels and hanging out near (and in) water. Plenty of time to be with friends, walk in the woods, go camping, star-gaze, feel like life is easy and carefree.

And yet, here it is, August, with the end of summer looming. Only a few short weeks before school’s back in session, before the crispness of autumn creeps back into the air. I am not ready, physically or emotionally. Which I suppose isn’t very Zen-accepting of me, but sometimes I just don’t feel like going gracefully into that dark night.

Still, the seasons sing a natural rhythm, and we’re probably better off if we can live in harmony with them. It’s harder to tune one’s life to nature’s rhythms when our lives are conducted by the cultural calendar: arbitrary dates of school sessions, unconscionably short vacations from 40-hour workweeks. Even our modes of building and transportation separate us from nature’s rhythms. But it’s do-able.

For me, working only 10 to 15 hours each week, living in the country, and having a garden have strengthened my connection to nature’s cycles. But even city-folk who work full-time and have black thumbs can build a relationship with natural time by nurturing their awareness of it.

Which brings me to this month’s invitation. I invite you to start noticing the little details of the season. What is special to this time of year in your region? In the coastal river valley I call home, the blackberries will be ready to begin picking by the end of the month, and the spider webs are sparkling with dew. This is the month when the Farmers’ Market is bursting with produce and variety. When the river is barely a creek. When the hay has all been bailed and moved, and the Jersey cows cross that trickling river to graze in the pasture outside my kitchen window.

I’d love to hear what you notice about the natural rhythms of August in your neck of the woods!

Tip of the Month

Replace the word “routine” with the word “rhythm.” The goal in time management is to create a gentle flow to our days, not a rigid structure. Think of your life as a float down river. What do you need to do in the morning before putting in? What do you do when you take out (end your day and prepare for bed)?

Quotes of the Month
"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor." – Paul Hawken

"I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world." -- Old Innuit Song