Friday, December 05, 2008

Elephants and Planning for the Holidays

When it comes to getting ready for the holidays, there are a few guidelines that will help you get what you want done in a minimum amount of time and with a minimum amount of stress. You may find these guidelines are helpful for managing all aspects of your life in addition to your holiday planning.

“If you want to eat an elephant, take one bite at a time.”

So it is with holiday planning.

1. Everything needs a home – even your notes for planning the holidays. A three-ring binder dedicated to the task is very helpful and inexpensive.
2. Break down big tasks into smaller tasks.
3. Write things down. Write things down. Oh yes, and write things down.
-Use lists when you go shopping.
-Use your calendar to record all events and to schedule time to complete tasks.
-Every day write down the most important things you should accomplish during the day.
4. Think before you act. In other words, plan.
5. On the other hand, avoid “analysis paralysis.” If you think you are prone to over-analyzing then use your timer to limit your activity. Make it a game to get as much done before the bell rings.
6. Work on your tasks every day even it is only 15 to 20 minutes a day. This workbook is a valuable tool for your holiday preparations; however, it will not make the holiday “happen for you” without your participation.
7. Acknowledge your progress, and look ahead to what is up next. Enjoy imperfection.
8. Communicate! Involve your family.
9. Allow for a margin of error. This is crucial to the graceful recovery of plans gone awry. Keep between ten and twenty percent of your time and resources (hint: money) as undedicated. If something takes longer than expected or any unexpected expense crops up, you won’t have to worry.
10. If you start to feel overwhelmed, do a brain dump.
-Take a few minutes to write down everything on your mind.
-Next to each item on your list, write down what the next action should be to take care of it.
-Decide to decide. Either schedule the needed actions, delegate them, or disregard them. Yes, it is OK to decide NOT to do something as long as you are discarding an item that is not crucial to your plan’s success.

The most important tip is to remember why we celebrate the holidays: a time to reflect on our spiritual beliefs and celebrate our families and friends. May peace and joy be with you in your celebrations.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Clear Spaces Is Poised To Transform Lives

Denise Lee, owner of Clear Spaces, LLC, is pleased to announce that she successfully completed facilitator training for the Letting Go and Lightening Up approach on October 18, 2008. Letting Go and Lightening Up is “a life-integrating approach that combines organizing techniques and tools with life-guiding principles.” The teachings are designed to empower the student to identify and clear the clutter in the mind so it is easier to decide what to let go of, what to keep and where to put it.

Letting Go and Lightening Up co-founder Annie Rohrbach blended organizing techniques with teachings from her spiritual counseling training to develop the four-part class series "Letting Go and Lightening Up--In Your Mind, Your Home, Your Office, Your Life(TM)." Since 1999 the class series has transformed the lives of hundreds of students. Annie and her daughter Carolyn, a corporate trainer, created the company Letting Go and Lightening Up in 2002. More information about Letting Go and Lightening Up (LGandLU) can be found at

The LGandLU key teachings compliment Clear Spaces’ mission to help others live the life they want to live through better balance and organization. As a facilitator Denise is looking forward to using the LGandLU tools to help her organizing clients make better decisions about their possessions, space and time. Additionally Denise will offer LGandLU classes to the public twice a year beginning in February 2009.

It's That Time Of Year Again: Sending Out Holiday Cards

Sending out holiday cards is a big project by itself. Like any project, there are several ways you can approach it.

You can forget the cards and make a short phone call to everyone on your list (this is a great option if you have a new baby, have been sick, or have just been swamped with life).
o Make sure to use a list of whom you want to contact.
o Limit the length of your phone call so you are sure to get to everyone on your list (use a timer).
o Check people off as you call them. That way you won’t be left wondering if the call to auntie was it a figment of your imagination.

You can hire out the job: will send out a card with a signature to everyone on your list. Of course you will need to provide them with an electronic list of contacts.

You can send out a family newsletter – more on that later.

You can send out all the cards with a generic closing and signature.

You can write a personal note in each card. Obviously this is the most time consuming method.

If you opt to send cards yourself, get enough for everyone on your list plus ten percent more. Should you make a mistake or miscount, you will still have enough cards. And if you purchased your cards at the end of the previous year’s holiday season, the excess cards will accommodate a growth in your card list.

And remember: holiday postage stamps are available in the US by Halloween.

Now when it comes to managing your holiday card list you have three major choices. You can

-complete a paper copy of your list. Use “name”, “address”, “city”, “state”, “zip”, “sent” and “received” columns. Add a “phone number” column if you are making phone calls instead of sending cards.
-complete an electronic version of your list and use a mail merge program to create address labels.
-mark up your address book. This is a pretty simple solution. You will not have to worry about duplicate entries – which prevents writer’s cramp and saves on time.
o Use a small, red sticky dot on the address entry to mark everyone you send a card to.
o If you wish to keep track of who sends you cards you can add a green sticky dot to the address entry.

Of course we all know the biggest stumbling block to sending out cards is finding the time – especially during the already busy holiday season. Follow these tips to squeeze it in:

-Pick a week to work on writing the cards.

-Divide your card list into five parts. Every day complete one part of the list, and you will be finished in five days.

-Use a pen that is comfortable to use. Felt-tip and roller ball pens write with the least amount of effort.

-Play holiday music to set the tone, and drink hot chocolate.

-Involve the family.
o Pass the cards around round-robin style so each person can sign every card.
o Or divide up the tasks among the family members.
*One person signs and writes a note in the card.
*One person addresses the card.
*One person puts the return address label on the card.
*One person puts the stamp on and seals the envelope.

The biggest secret to getting your cards out is to work on them early – before the holiday crunch. Imagine having your cards filled out before Thanksgiving! You can then mail them when you want and enjoy the last few weeks before the holidays.

Mastering The "Big Dinner"

For many of us the holiday season provides at least one opportunity to host the “big dinner.” Follow these tips and pulling off that dinner can be easy as pie.
1) Plan the menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. Minimize last-minute time in the kitchen, and maximize the time you spend with your guests.
2) Write down the menu along with the locations of the recipes. Create your shopping list. Clean out the fridge and the pantry to make room for the extra food.
3) Write down which serving dishes you will use. Match the dish with the recipe’s volume; two cups of cranberry sauce looks sparse in a two-quart bowl. Simplify things by using sticky notes to label the dishes; don’t rely on your memory.
4) Sticky notes can help you create your time-line. Jot down each and every task on individual sticky notes with the time estimate for finishing the task. Now arrange the sticky notes in order of completion. The sticky notes help you arrange and rearrange the order of the tasks until you come up with a plan that will work.
5) Consider the appliances, temperature, and pans used to prepare a dish when creating your time line. You won’t be able to bake the rolls, desert and side dish together if they all need different temperatures or the pans won’t all fit in the oven.
6) Plan your table setting. Do you have enough linens, dishes, flatware and cups? Will the food be put on a sideboard or on the table? Will you use candles (always unscented at the table)? Will guests be able to see each other over the centerpiece? Will you assign seating or will guests seat themselves? Where will you put the bar? Asking yourself these types of questions help you mentally walk-through the event, anticipating any type of problem or challenge.
Organizing the “big dinner” is similar to organizing any other project: two critical keys of success are planning and writing things down.

Shortcuts for the Busy Life

Do you need a few short cuts to help smooth out daily life? Try these tricks.

Enroll in a menu planning subscription such as so you can skip the weekly chore of planning dinner and creating the shopping list.

How can you capture those spur-of-the moment thoughts quickly? Try Jott’s ( free service that translates your voice into an email. Just call Jott, say your message at the prompt and an email is sent to a destination of your choice – after you enroll of course.

Have you ever wished you had a phone book with you in the car to look up a restaurant or find a store? Use Goog411 and you can leave the phone book at home. Call 1-800-goog411 and the menu system based on voice recognition will get you to the information you need – and it’s free! Check out for more information.

Speaking of Google, did you know Google Street-view has a library of photos of streets all over the world? It’s a great reference if you want to see what a building looks like before you drive to a new destination. Go to’s maps and click on “street-view.”

Monday, August 04, 2008

Get Set For School

In just a few short weeks the school bells will ring in a new academic year. Now is the time to begin the transition for a pleasant start of the school year.

Routines take a while to establish so start tackling these changes first. Bedtime is probably the biggest change the family needs to make: it may take several weeks to reset your students’ internal clocks to the school schedule. Gradual transitioning allows the child to have an adequate amount of sleep during the beginning of the school year and will reduce some bedtime battles. Most elementary school students need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, while most teenagers need 8 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. Inadequate sleep leads to irritability, impaired focus, and can heighten symptoms of ADD/ADHD, if that is a concern for your family. Transitioning also allows the change-resistant child adequate time to adjust to a new schedule.

Begin the transition by setting up a 30-minute routine of pre-bedtime activities: review the next day’s agenda, pack the backpack and set it out, set out clothes for the next day, bath, pajamas, and a quiet activity – that does not include the computer, video games or TV. Use a checklist to help your child take ownership of her routine. A good pre-bedtime routine help the child slow down and prepare for sleep plus it helps set the stage for a smooth start in the morning. Gradually start the pre-bedtime routine ten to fifteen minutes earlier every few nights. It may take two weeks to adjust going to bed an hour earlier. Consistency is important is establishing the routine so make sure the adjusted bedtimes are followed during the weekends as well.

Transitioning is good for the parents as well. Usually the family’s schedule must adjust for activities associated with the new academic year. Clubs, sports, and extracurricular lessons resume. For teens the summer job may evolve in to an after school job. Is there time for homework and family activities in the schedule?
Family cohesiveness depends on the family communication and time together. Add the school and extracurricular activities to the family calendar now. Reviewing the family time commitments before the school year begins allows for adjustments to be made before those activities begin. It may be worthwhile to talk to a teacher or a parent of an older child to see what you can find out about the upcoming school load and examine the schedule in light of what you find out.

Homework is a reality of school life so insure that there is time in the schedule and a distraction-free place in which to do it. A productive workspace includes adequate lighting, adequate space to do the work, and storage for supplies and papers. Supplies and papers can be stored in a portable file box if the kitchen table does double-duty as a homework spot. For elementary school students the kitchen table may be the best place to do homework. Young students are still in need of adult help to help maintain their focus on their work. Usually by middle school students can regulate their own behavior enough to do their homework in their room.

Studies have shown that organization improves academic performance. It will be easier for your child to focus on her schoolwork if the beginning of the school year begins with anticipation and preparation. Start now to plant the seeds for success.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Organizing A Bathroom

Organizing a bathroom can be a particularly difficult challenge due to the small space and lack of storage. Many of us have experienced how disarray in the bathroom can sabotage the morning with frustration and wasted time looking for personal care items. We all know how a bad morning casts a pall on the rest of the day.

But organization can rescue you! Get out the boxes and let the fun begin. You’ll need a “throw-away” box, a “charity” box and a “keep” box. Empty out those drawers, shelves and cabinets.

Chances are your charity box will not contain as many items as it would have had we been organizing your closet. But here are a couple ideas for filling it: tattered towels and unopened, unexpired cosmetics. The Animal Protection Association and the Humane Society can use the towels to keep their four-legged guests comfortable. Women’s shelters can use cosmetics for their residents who often arrive with just the clothes they are wearing.

We have to chat about medicine and cosmetics. They are often kept way too long for reasons of frugality. Frugality is a virtue; however, ingesting drugs and using makeup beyond their expiration dates is a little like Russian roulette. Someone is going to get hurt. Dispose of expired medicine by filling the pill bottle with water and using tape to secure the cap. Remove the label if it is a prescription, and throw away the bottle. Do not flush drugs.

Cosmetics expire as well; in fact, some have very short life spans based on when they are opened. Mascara will only last two or three months. Even if you only used the mascara once during that time period, get rid of it. Once a tube of mascara is opened, its dark, moist interior becomes an incubator for growing germs. Sunscreen and anti-aging creams and lotions start losing their potency as soon as they are opened so discard these items a year after opening. The separation you see in nail polish and oil-free foundation occurs about one year after opening and is the signal to toss it. You can keep lipstick a whopping two years. Give your brain a break by using an indelible pen to write the expiration date on the bottle/case of the item when you open it.

Now let’s take a look at the cosmetic graveyard: the collection of cosmetics which seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase, but the concept just didn’t work out for you. Time will not change an unflattering color into a flattering one. By getting rid of the unflattering items you now have free space for items that work for you.

After minimizing the items in the bathroom to what is essential, store them with regard to how often you use them. Items that are used daily can be kept in a tray or small basket on the counter. The easy access will help streamline the morning, and the tray makes it easy to clean the bathroom. I saw a wire rack placed on the back of the bathroom door. Brilliant! Each shelf has a dedicated purpose – such as skin care and first aid – and everything is quickly accessible.

Consider other ways to improve access to items by eliminating the steps needed to get to them. Remove the lid to the hamper. Install hooks for the towels to eliminate folding. The arm-style toilet paper bar is much easier to load than the spring-loaded bar and may reduce the number of empty rolls encountered! Store some bathroom cleaning supplies under the sink and cleaning the bathroom will be easy. Disinfecting wipes are the ultimate in easy.

By simplifying and streamlining access to your items getting ready in the morning is easier and calmer. Plus the space is much easier to maintain and keep clean. You may find that you have enough time for that second cup of coffee in the morning.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Clear Spaces Featured on KSDK

Denise Lee, owner of Clear Spaces, and Margie Andersohn, owner of Organizational Specialists, were honored on May 8 to be part of reporter Kay Quinn's story "De-Cluttering Your Surroundings Could Help You Live A Better Life." KSDK has posted the video clip of the story on their website: My blog will not handle the lengthy URL to the story, but if you look at KSDK's home page and scroll down to the Cover Story bar you will see the link. The story looks at how decluttering and becoming more organized helped two local women bring focus and satisfaction to their lives.

And bonus! Renowned organizer Peter Walsh from TLC's Clean Sweep and the Oprah Show was interviewed via satellite in the story as well. How cool its that! You can read more about Peter Walsh in my last blog.

Please take a moment to visit KSDK's site to see this inspirational story. Visit my site at and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NAPO’s 20th Conference

I spent the second week of April in Reno, Nevada at the annual National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) conference. I returned with both my heart and brain totally full!

To meet so many people who are dedicated to helping others lead simpler, more fulfilling lives is awe inspiring. It was especially exciting to meet some of the legacies of the organizing business, including Barbara Hemphill (author of The Paper Tiger) and Laura Leist (author of Eliminate Chaos).

Peter Walsh, renowned organizer from TLC’s Clean Sweep and the Oprah Show, delivered the opening keynote address “Organizers – Visionaries for Change.” His address expanded on one of the maxims of professional organizing: “It’s not about the stuff.” Walsh believes that organizers can help people move beyond the emotional weight of their clutter to live a life in accordance with their priorities and goals. Although organizers often work individually with people, the cumulative effect of the organizing profession has the potential to be world changing in Walsh’s estimation. It was a talk that filled my heart with joy.

Learning additional skills to deal with the clutter definitely filled my brain. I spent an entire day learning about a filing product called FreedomFiler® ( Seth Odam, the creator of this product, has looked at our paper stacks in a new way. He has developed a simpler way of filing that greatly reduces the maintenance. In fact, it is a self-purging system. The documentation is kept with the files – pretty much eliminating the questions: “Uh-oh where does this get filed?” and “Where did I file that paper?” I am so impressed with this product that I am in the process of becoming a certified consultant for FreedomFiler®.

As I have stated in the past, tools will not make you organized but they can simplify the process. Some of the new organizing tools that I saw at the conference were the Jakoter® Health Organizer (, the Tote Trac (, Accountable Kids® ( and Neat Receipts™ (

The Jakoter® Health Organizer is a three-ring binder system for sorting and organizing all of your health information. This product makes it much easier for you or a family member to be your health advocate. Advocacy is essential to obtaining appropriate and timely health care in a health care system that is overburdened. Jakoter® offers many other great health organizing products as well. I think this is one niche in the organizing profession that will see tremendous growth as we Baby Boomers age.

Garage organizing is not my forte, but I really liked the Tote Trac system for its simplicity and versatility. Tote Trac stores your bins on your garage ceiling or walls in such a way that they are easily accessible. It accommodates any kind of bin and it eliminates stacking (less lifting!). Each set of tracks holds three to four bins and up to 400 pounds.

Accountable Kids® is a new program for encouraging kids to do their chores, their homework, and generally develop good habits. Since I’m a mom, and I also organize children I am always on the lookout for fun and effective tools. If it’s not fun for the child it will not work. The Accountable Kids® kit comes with a pegboard, reminder cards, reward tickets, and many other tools to reward good behavior. The book and DVD included in the kit make it easy for parents to learn the program.

Neat Receipts™ actually is not new. It is a portable scanner that scans receipts, analyses them, and uses the information to interface with Quicken or QuickBooks. What is new is that it now works with Apple. Yoo-hoo! No more manual entry! Since last year the Neat Receipts company has also released Neat Business Cards™ which scans business cards, analyses them and populates your contact data base.

One of the new services premiered at the conference is Organizing Connection (, which offers organizing videos on demand for just about every aspect of organizing. I had my two minutes of fame when I was taped for a video on how to use a student planner. Check out the site’s basic organizing video – it’s a fun way to learn the basic steps.

There were so many wonderful events at the NAPO conference that I could not possible include them all here. I am grateful for the tools and education that NAPO provides for us. We are better organizers for them, and we are more prepared to impart positive changes that leave the world a better place.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Can Decluttering Help Me Lose Weight?

You’ve tried the Grapefruit Diet, The Kelp-Cider Vinegar-B6-Lecithin Diet, the Low-Fat Diet, the Low-Carb Diet, and about a million other diets. The results have been pretty disappointing. But recent literature suggests weight-loss may be possible by shifting your focus from what you eat -- to your clutter.

In early February Peter Walsh released his new book,Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?. Peter Walsh is a highly respected professional organizer and motivational speaker who appears on TLC’s Clean Sweep and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? is Walsh’s third book on organizing. In it he continues the message from his second book, It’s All Too Much: the issue with clutter is not the stuff per se, the issue is it blocks us from the life we envision. That vision not only includes the home, but our bodies as well. Walsh believes that emotional decluttering, physical decluttering and body decluttering are tied together.

Body decluttering is the subject of another book that was first released in 2005. Marla Cilley and Leanne Ely propose in Body Clutter that emotional decluttering is the premise for good self-care. Through her persona, Flylady, Marla Cilley has helped thousands of people declutter their way to a more peaceful and welcoming home. Body Clutter encourages readers to examine their lives and declutter the unhealthy habits and emotions that contribute to poor self-care and over-eating.

For Walsh, Cilley and Ely emotions are inextricably linked to clutter. Experts in hoarding behavior David Tolin, Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee agree. Success in dealing with hoarding behaviors has a firm foundation in the success of therapy. Of course, most people are not dealing with hoarding behaviors. A few piles of papers or an over-stuffed closet may be the extent of most people’s clutter.

While emotional issues may not be the cause of the average person’s clutter, look at the language that is used to describe it: frustrating, irritating, embarrassing and overwhelming. Arguably the emotional tie that we have with our clutter can make it tougher to tackle. But when people deal with their clutter they feel good. The energy that is invested in decluttering can spill over into other areas of one’s life – including health issues.

The president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), Lynne Johnson, was interviewed by New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope for her January 1, 2008 article “A Clutter Too Deep For Mere Bins And Shelves.” Johnson acknowledged the link between decluttering and weight-loss and offered her observation that dealing with one’s clutter and dealing with one’s weight are often “…part of the same life-change decision.”

While decluttering your home may not cause you to lose weight, it is a commitment to bettering your life. I believe that when people are unburdened by clutter they find hope, and hope by its very nature is transforming. Hope can empower us to face our challenges with confidence – including the challenge of weight-loss.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Help for Hoarders

There has been an increase in awareness among professional communities and the public that Compulsive Hoarding is a more common problem then once thought. A frequently cited estimate places the number of Americans suffering with hoarding between one and two million. However, it is suspected that this estimate is too low. Hoarders exist all over the world. They come from every economic and educational background. Your neighbor, your aunt, or your best friend could be a hoarder.

According to David F. Tolin, Ph.D., Randy O. Frost, Ph.D. and Gail Steketee , Ph.D. (2007) there are three major characteristics of hoarding:
1) Acquiring, saving, and great difficulty discarding items that seem to be useless or have limited value;
2) Enough clutter so that living spaces cannot be used as intended;
3) Significant stress or impairment of everyday activities caused by the clutter.

Frequently a hoarder may deny or minimize the hoarding problem, much to the exasperation of a loved one. The family and friends of a hoarder may watch aghast as a hoarder continues to add to an already dangerously cluttered house. Well-meaning family and friends might go so far as to clear out the clutter for the hoarder. Their actions are understandable. Hoarders may live in dangerous situations brought on by their hoarding behavior: clutter stacked precariously, unhygienic conditions, structural damage to the living quarters, and obstructed exits. But instead of thanks and relief, the hoarder’s response to their efforts is a bewildering mix of anger and anxiety. Worse, the hoarder may rebound with more clutter than was present before the cleanup.

Why can’t the hoarder just stop collecting and start disposing of the clutter? According to mental health professionals the explanation may lay neurobiology. Compulsive Hoarding is considered part of a psychiatric disorder. But, recently disagreement has risen among professionals as to how to classify Compulsive Hoarding behaviors. Traditionally Compulsive Hoarding has been considered a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Some professionals are rethinking this classification because there are aspects of hoarding that do not seem to fit into the characteristics of OCD. Depression, social anxiety disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are often associated with hoarding. Regardless of how Compulsive Hoarding is classified the question remains: how to treat it?

Seeking the help of a counselor can be the first step toward recovery. Be sure that the counselor is knowledgeable about Compulsive Hoarding – not every counselor is. Some studies indicate that traditional talk therapy is not effective in treating hoarding. But preliminary studies have demonstrated success with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on changing the faulty thoughts associated with Compulsive Hoarding while simultaneously modifying the hoarding behaviors, which should lead to a change in how a person feels.

Medications may provide some relief for the depression or anxiety that sometimes exists with hoarding; however, in some cases medications are ineffective. Although any physician can prescribe medications Tolin, Frost, and Steketee recommend the hoarder consult a psychiatrist or advanced practice nurse who is an expert in psychiatric medications.

Professional organizers who have special training and expertise in dealing with Compulsive Hoarding can provide hands-on assistance, support and can work collaboratively with a counselor; however, they are not a substitute for a counselor.

The Internet may provide resources in finding help for Compulsive Hoarding.

The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization ( and the National Association of Professional Organizers ( can help you find professional organizers who specialize in Compulsive Hoarding.

Squalor Survivors ( has stories of those who are dealing with hoarding either personally or within the family. You can also find information on Compulsive Hoarding and resources.

Children of Hoarders ( is a website for the adult children of hoarders. You will find support, information and additional resources there.

The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation’s website on Compulsive Hoarding ( provides information and assistance to those dealing with hoarding.

St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute ( has professional counselors who understand Compulsive Hoarding.

There are several good books on the subject of hoarding which you may find useful. In 2007 Tolin, Frost and Steketee published Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding. David F. Tolin, Ph.D., Randy O. Frost, Ph.D and Gail Steketee, Ph.D. have published many excellent books on the subject of hoarding previously. The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton has provided help for many people. Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save and How You Can Stop by Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D., Jerome Bubrick, Ph.D., and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias, Ph.D. is another highly regarded book on the subject.

Dealing with Compulsive Hoarding may feel lonely and overwhelming. The good news is that it is treatable. Whether you personally are dealing with Compulsive Hoarding or are involved in a relationship affected by it, there is hope.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Organizing and The Art of Getting Around Without Highway 40

Even with Highway 40 fully functional, rush hour traffic is not for the timid. Speeding, tailgating, lane changing without signaling – much less looking – is par for the course. It’s a messy situation that’s ripe with emotional clutter. How does a professional organizer deal with this kind of clutter?
I can’t control the volume of traffic or the crazy, devil-may-care driving techniques of the driver passing me on my right while talking on his cell-phone and drinking his coffee. But I can control my attitude and my actions.
1) I can research and plan a couple of alternate routes to my destination in case the drive becomes excessively bogged with traffic. Options are good to have.
2) I can carry a new street guide in case my sense of direction fails me. Safety nets are reassuring.
3) I can check the Traffic Center link on the Mid-Metro4 website ( before I hit the road. Forewarned is forearmed.
4) I can group my errands by location so I can minimize the number of trips I have to make. Planning provides me with control over my time. Many of the merchants featured on the Mid-Metro4 website have special deals that can save me money too!
5) I can pad my travel time with ten to fifteen minutes. Arriving late is stressful. Arriving a few minutes early indulges me with some time to read. A good book is my constant companion.
6) I can drive vigilantly because my life is worth it. Need I say more?
7) I can fill my gas tank when the gauge dips to half-full; thus, eliminating running out of gas from my list of worries.
8) I can listen to motivational recordings or calming music. The traffic might be slow, but I can turbo-charge my attitude.
9) I can practice deep breathing when things get tense. Deeply inhaling through the nose and exhaling completely through the mouth ten times effectively distresses.
10) I can realize that we are all in this boat together. Whining changes nothing but it costs a lot in terms of the stress it imposes.
11) I can car-pool when appropriate. It’s the social way to be socially responsible. Even better: I can use Metro so I don’t have to deal with traffic!
12) I can adjust my activities to accommodate the increase in travel time. Maybe I can fix simpler meals that take less time to prepare. Hmm, less cooking time -- this might be a surprise benefit of the highway closing!
Through planning, vigilance and calming activities I can shift the focus from what I can’t control to what I can: my attitude and reaction to traffic. Chances are I will continue to encounter those drivers who seem to be on a mission to turn common courtesy into road kill, but I can be resolute to remain calm and emotionally clutter-free … and give those drivers a wide berth.