Making room for change

betty ming liu Inspiration, Money 28 Comments

My fellow grasshoppers, I have seen the light: If I really want the new me, then there must be room for the new me. And that means getting serious about cleaning my house.

It’s taken two dreadful days to get my home work spaces in order. But now, I have a beautifully functional desk setup. And the spare room where I paint has been transformed too.

So when 2012 rolls in here, I am prepared to welcome a new job, busy months of college tours with my 11th grader daughter, and some serious financial soul-searching about managing our future.

Yup, lots of changes ahead. And I say, bring’em on!

I’m feeling brave right now, thanks to some great advice from Alyson Stanfield. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve been talking about her all year. I still have no idea how I found her artbizblog.com website, where she inspires me to believe in my ability to be a successful artist (someday — haha!).

Alyson has a bunch of $97 online classes and I just took one called “Get Organized.” This one ran for 18 sessions and was filled with tons of helpful suggestions. Here are some of the ideas that most resonated with me:

** You can’t have room for anything new — or be anyone new — if you live in suffocating clutter.

** Multi-tasking makes it harder to get things done. When possible, complete one task at a time.

** Manage social media, which is a time and energy sucker. Start by turning off all notifications for new comments and mentions on Facebook and Twitter.

** Emailing will eat you alive if you let it. Set specific times (once or twice a day) to read email and just deal with it then and there. Don’t keep going back over and over again. This same approach also works for social media.

** Have only one calendar and put all your appointments on it.

** As much as possible, go paperless. It’s much easier to maintain to-do lists and build files online.

Alyson had more to say. But maybe I should just show you what’s happened in my house:

On Jan. 1, I'll become a digital reporter for Newsday, covering Westchester County, N.Y. -- from my home "office." My desk, which is in my bedroom, wasn't set up for such an intensive work level. Now it is. I'm also set up for power naps.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much paper stuff I threw away (don’t worry, I recycled!). Why did I need notes from an intro Photoshop course? Or the handout on “How to Burn CDs on a Mac?” Was there any reason to have a timeline of “Wars Through The Ages” tacked on my bulletin board? By the way, notice the nice space I cleared on my bulletin board — room for taking in new stories, new ideas:

I love my new wall-mounted desk organizers. My work files are handy too.

Sorting through everything was such a chore. Nothing was sacred, not even my paintings. I chose to hang only my favorites around my desk; the rest are stacked on a closet shelf. As for the wall-mounted mesh desk organizers, I found them at Target. They were better — and cheaper — than anything I saw at the Container Store.

In case you want product details: The “Metal Mesh Wall Bureau” that’s holding my iPad and cell phone is $18.59. The “Metal Mesh Hanging File Sorter” is $11.59. They’re both only available in the stores but you can view them online at Target’s website here.

Now let’s move on to the special place where I paint and mess with stuff:

This is my little studio. Getting cleaned up feels really, really good -- like exhaling.

So that’s the tour…

Moving forward, I am really excited by the concept of physically making room for new things to happen. There’s no breathing room if every inch of my bulletin board is covered with paper, if my walls are filled with paintings or if my rooms are packed with furniture.

Making room for change is a good thing.  :)

P.S. — I am a total Alyson Stanfield groupie. If you’d like to read more posts about her work, just click on the orange link for her name in the “Tagged as” section below.

Comments 28

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  2. HI, Betty:
    I’m in this same process of decluttering right now…it always goes hand-in-hand with preparing a holiday meal, after I’ve procrastinated cleaning for months. Feels great, right?

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    yeah, gerry, i feel quite peaceful now. so it’s the holidays that are motivating you? hmmm. this time of year is already fraught with such emotion. maybe it’s the push that i needed too. interesting thought!

  4. I always find the chore of going through old files to make room for the new to be a daunting and exhausting task… so much that my dining room has become the “filing cabinet” over the past year… no relaxed eating within those 4 walls! But Betty reminded me about the Mobile Shredder… a service provided by Westchester County to encourage residents to properly dispose of files to protect from identity theft. Learning that the shredder is coming to town right after the holidays has MOVED me to ACTION in cleaning out those old files, organizing and getting my limited living space back to enjoyable order!

    What a timely post Betty… feels GREAT to clean out the old to prepare for the new!

  5. Wonderful! I love cleaning my house out and making room. Of course, my space is limited with a one bedroom so keeping things tidy becomes more of a survival strategy than spiritual exercise, but in the end my space is clean and I am happier for it.

    One of the golden organizational rules I learned long ago and keeps proving true is — if you can’t see it, you’ll forget you have it. That’s how people end up with three staplers, etc. Keeping your space visually peaceful also calms the mind.

    Oh well, I am preaching to the choir. Your cousin, Sue Lam, will be thrilled with your new found order. She’s big into Feng-Shui!

    Here’s to a Happy New Year and all the good things that now have room to come your way…. :)

  6. Great job! On the topic, there’s a great book by Karen Kingston called “Clear your clutter with Feng Shui” and though I’d always decluttered, her book takes it to a different level..no mercy :P but helps you understand why you keep things and the nonsense of some of it so it’s easier to release. Also, always remember letting go means: trading up!! Good luck and happy holidays! :)

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    thank you, bria! happy new year to you too. so nice to have company during this season of decluttering.

    and ange, i LOVE the mobile shredder. if anyone wants to see pictures of this truck, here’s my post. i actually blogged about it once in a rush of decluttering emotion: https://bettymingliu.com/2010/12/giant-westchester-county-paper-shredder-gives-me-fresh-view-on-life-writing/

    christina, thanks for the additional inspiration! i used to think i was pretty organized. but then i took alyson’s class. it sharpened my awareness. this time around, i noticed what a difference it made to change small habits — switching lamps between different rooms, or turning the way an end table sits in the room. happy new year to you too! xo

  8. My end of year clutter clean-up also takes place on my hard drive. I spend time after my busy holiday season to go through my computer files & old emails & discard or archive them to keep a lean mean machine.
    …mary

  9. In Japan, there’s a custom to do a major housecleaning right before New Year’s. They call it “O-soji,” ‘soji’ means ‘cleaning’ and ‘O’ means ‘big.’ This comes from the belief that the most auspicious way to start the new year is with everything organized, fresh and ready to go. My Japanese friends were surprised to learn that this is not exactly an American custom. Though, just like taking off your shoes when entering your house, I’ve always thought it would be a good one to adopt.

  10. Hi Betty,
    In answer to your question at the top:
    Make a list of what to do at the beginning of the day and sort it from “Most important” (A’s) to “Least Important” (C’s). Always start with the most important, even if (especially if!) it’s the one you fear the most, that you think will take your whole day and that you know will be a dreadful chore. You’ll be astounded: it will take a fraction of the time you assigned to it and you will feel so good afterwards (even if you don’t get the whole thing done, just put a dent into it) that the rest of it will go by like a breeze.

  11. Betty: It looks fantastic! Thank you for posting this – especially the photos. I think it’s the perfect time to clean out as we prepare for the New Year. I know I’ll be doing a lot of work of my own next week – Clean Sweep Week.

  12. This is something that my wife and I have practiced our entire marriage. We don’t buy furniture just to fill space. We wait until we find the right piece. This has, in the past. resulted in us not having a good place to sit for months on end – but we always end up getting something awesome.

    The same works for the metaphysical parts of life. Dumping the unnecessary makes room for great things!

    Also wanted to say that your site is pretty. I like the background.

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