Category Archives: Life Lessons

These posts share stories of various ways that the twists and turns in my life have been used to teach me valuable things.

It’s Just Not That Serious!

As I begin to re-emerge after crashing and burning from overworking for so long, and after taking some time off to rest, take care of myself and hang out with my kids and grandchildren, I’ve been slowly and methodically going through every aspect of my own life and business and analyzing everything I do.

I think this process is a natural thing for us “organizer” types. We’re always looking for ways to de-clutter our lives of things or habits that no longer serve us so we can focus on what’s most important. And we’re always trying to figure out how to do things more efficiently. It feels so good to have the time to do this for myself since I feel like I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since the day I started my business because there was never enough time to do this for myself.

As I work through this process, the emerging trend and overarching theme for me seems to be that things really just aren’t as serious as I’ve made them out to be. So many rules I had in place for Simplified Living Solutions were so uptight, rigid and serious  – when in fact, they really didn’t need to be.

Confined

It was me that made the fact that I had another “real” job in addition to my organizing business such a big deal and so serious in my mind. I’m the one that created the secrecy and shame around that. No one else cared. Why would they? When I hire someone to help me with something, all I really care about is that they know what they are doing and they can help me. It’s so clear to me now that that is really all that was probably important to my clients as well. But I made it all so darn serious!

As I continue making changes and adjustments where I see this theme of unnecessary seriousness while reviewing the habits and things in both my personal and business life, I can feel an overall shift in me. I’m more relaxed. I feel lighter. In short, I feel more open to just be me. I think many of the serious rules or beliefs I had were because I felt like I had to prove I was a real professional organizer and a real business owner. I now realize that the only person I was trying to prove that to in the end was myself. It’s almost comical to me now when I look back over everything I put myself through to prove it when there was nothing to prove – I really am a professional organizer and I really do own and run a successful organizing business.

Take Inventory

We’re all our own worst enemies, aren’t we? I see this everyday in our clients and everyone I come in contact with. We all think we’re failures and will never amount to anything. It’s funny how I can continually see the good in everyone and can encourage them to believe in themselves and stop beating up on themselves. It’s so obvious to me the damage they are doing to themselves when they tell themselves over and over what a loser they are. Yet, I face those very same challenges. Life is funny, isn’t it?

Where did the Time Go?

It is unbelievable to me that a year has already come and gone since I left my other full time job! It will be a year ago this Saturday, March 1st that I walked out of their doors for the last time. I was certain that I would have finished my book within the first 6 months of leaving, and possibly even started – or finished my second book (Modern Day Noah) by the end of the year. For someone like me that is a “productivity queen” and is all about getting things done, I am shocked that neither of these things happened.

When I look back over how I spent my time, it feels odd to me that it looks like I just goofed off or was a loafer during this year. I realize that to others, it will still appear that I accomplished a ton. But from my natural way of looking at things, the tangible things I produced during this year were fewer than I had anticipated. I am a results driven person. And because of that, I have a hard time sitting still and not getting things done. Many people marvel at the fact that I can get so much done. But the reality is that this can also be a curse.

Amanda & Melissa

Amanda & Melissa

Needless to say, for the 6 years that I ran my business and worked my other full time job too, there wasn’t much down time. Honestly, there wasn’t any. So the two biggest casualties from my decision to start a business when I already had a full time job, were my children. Granted, they are not babies anymore. They were 19 & 22 when I started my business. But everybody needs their Mom’s love and attention. I have suffered so much guilt about not physically being there for them because I was consumed with “rescuing” all of my disorganized clients from their pain.

While I was always there for them when they needed me, I can not change the fact that I wasn’t physically there for them as I should have been during those years, On the upside, I do realize that they learned a lot of intangible things from watching me though. They learned to go after their dreams and not just settle for the cards that life has dealt them. They learned about strength and determination. Just as they learned intangible things watching me, I realize that I have spent the last year doing intangible things. Though they aren’t things you can see or hold in your hands, they are just as important. I basically “crashed and burned” for at least the first 6 months. I withdrew from society to some extent.

Harper, Raelyn & Noah

Harper, Raelyn & Noah

But the biggest intangible thing I accomplished this year was just hanging out with my kids and my ever-growing family. Both of my daughters had babies this past summer – 2 weeks apart from each other! (I blogged about it here.) We’ve talked and laughed endlessly. I’ve shared in their excitement and joy as they brought new life into the world. We’ve shopped together, swam together, laughed together and cried together. When you look down my impressive list of accomplishments, it won’t be the tangible ones that I’ll be remembered for, it will be the intangibles. I thank God for allowing me to slow down and just enjoy life as it happens. One day at a time!

The Day God Smacked Me in the Face

One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome when I first began to really understand that God was prompting me to leave my full time job was the obvious blaring truth that no one leaves their job after working somewhere 26 years. Especially someone like myself who only had 3 1/2 years to go until I could take early retirement with a full pension.

I wrestled back and forth with God about this for several years. The more obvious it became to me that He really was telling me to leave, the more I would ask Him how he expected me to survive financially if I left. He knew as well as I did that I’ve never had anyone that I could fall back on in my life and so this risk wasn’t one that I could just take and hope for the best.

What is amazing about this entire journey is that He never lost His patience with me as I tried to wrap my head around this concept. He always managed to communicate with me in a way that I could understand His direction. He did this a variety of ways, but mostly through what I call “God Taps” and through other people’s actions or words.

Sue 1987 & Kathy 1988

Sue 1987 & Kathy 1988

One of the most powerful ways He helped me get over the thought that no one quits their job after 26 years, was to use someone else to prove to me that people really do. Kathy started working where I worked about 3 months after I started. We became fast friends and hung out a lot. We were union members and Kathy became very involved in the union leadership. She always knew so much more about the company, the union, the rules, the proper expected behavior, etc. than I could ever hope to know. I always admired her and looked up to her for that reason.

Both of us were “lifers”, just doing our time like a prison sentence until we could retire. The company we worked for was so unbelievably toxic that you could never just go to work and do your job. There was always drama, hurtful and false rumors and management vs union wars. People stayed there because of the great benefits and wages – that was it. I don’t think anyone there actually enjoyed their jobs.

In August 2011, Kathy was preparing to go on vacation for 2 weeks. The day before her vacation started, she was going through the things in her desk – tossing old notes, giving away this or that trinket and getting her stuff organized (you know I’m all about that!). Nothing seemed funny about it at all. We all get the bug to declutter and organize from time to time so I saw it as nothing more than that.

However, the very next day someone told me that Kathy had given her 2 weeks notice and she wasn’t coming back. She hadn’t told a soul she was leaving until after she left. I remember thinking to myself “WHAT?!?! That can’t be possible. Not Kathy! She’s so much smarter than that!”. The minute I heard this I texted her begging her to tell me if what I had heard was true or not. She confirmed that it was all true. She wasn’t coming back. (Kathy now spends her days helping motivate people to lose weight. Check it out.)

This was the day that God smacked me in the face with someone else’s actions and said “Yes. People really do leave. Even after investing 26 years of their lives somewhere. And that is what I’m telling you to do”. From that day forward, the ball was in motion for me to figure out how to make the leap myself. This included meeting with a financial planner, refinancing my house to reduce my interest rate, discontinuing anything that wasn’t necessary (house phone, extra cable channels, etc) and challenging God a few more times to be sure before I actually took the leap in March 2013.

 

Beginning to Realize My Own Uniqueness

In April 2007, 2 months after my divorce was final, I hopped on a plane all by myself and headed to the National Association of Professional Organizers’ annual conference in Minnesota. I had never traveled alone in my life, much less left my kids behind as I traveled. I had just started my business and had never been to the conference, so I didn’t know a soul out of the 7000 people that were expected to be there. I also have an extreme claustrophobic reaction to flying but there was no stopping me!

All of the wonderful people I met there were in awe and amazed that I would be brave enough to do that. It’s funny, I didn’t look at it that way. I just looked at it all as a matter of fact decision. If I was going to be a professional organizer, this is a step I would need to take. I’ve always been the kind of person that just does what I am supposed to do, or need to do, to take me to where I am headed regardless of my own insecurities or whatever is holding me back. This may be a natural born quality, or it may be a quality that I learned early on because I have never had a very good support system to help me, including my parents.

Nonetheless, one of the keynote speakers there was Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul. To be honest, I wasn’t very familiar with him or his books, but his presentation was amazing and focused on how people should take all of the risks I described in the first two paragraphs! In humbleness, and with all due respect to Mr Canfield, the reason his presentation was so powerful for me was because I already think and act exactly like he was telling people to think and act. I was so anxious to let him know that I had lived my life in the exact fashion he described and that this approach really does work, that I bought his book and waited in line to meet him.

Jack Canfield Autograph

Jack Canfield Autograph

His presentation was the buzz for the remainder of the conference. People were motivated by all of the wonderful things he said and all of the inspiration he gave them. They really were impressed by what he had to say. I began to realize that if I already knew all of the secrets and tips he was sharing, that I must be a little bit special myself. For those of you that don’t know, Jack Canfield is a very, very successful business person and is a millionaire many times over. He has inspired many, many everyday people as well as many influential people.

This chance meeting is where the seed was planted that I had knowledge and information that I could use to help people live their best lives – and to let them know that they deserve it. And this is where I began to realize how many times people had told me that I had inspired them with my actions. Over the years since then, I’ve learned a lot more about myself and this unique quality. And that is why I was able to understand that I was to use this momentous decision in my life to motivate others to not let their own fears or insecurities stop them from being all they were created to be.

SIDE NOTE: I submitted a snippet of my Modern Day Noah story to Jack Canfield for consideration in his new book a couple of years ago but never heard anything back.

Signs of New Life Sprouting Up Everywhere

I know money is important to survival. I honestly do. I wasn’t born into money. I definitely have had to work very hard all of my life. And I’ve gone through many, many struggles because there was a lack of money since I was a single parent with absolutely no help, even from my children’s father. So believe me, I understand first-hand how important money is.

When I began trying to wrap my brain around the fact that God was telling me to take this leap of faith and leave my financial security, obviously money was the big obstacle to His plan for me in my eyes. As I began to lean into considering leaving, I did a lot of planning. I even met with a financial advisor who immediately told me that I would be foolish to leave my financial security. It’s funny though that after hearing 5 minutes of my story and all of the ways that God had been showing me that was His direction, she honestly started to believe it herself.

New Life Springing Up

New Life Springing Up

 

It’s been 10 months now since I left my “real” job and there have only been 2 big financial scares. But even with those, I haven’t regretted my decision once. The number one reason I haven’t regretted it or gotten scared is because I tested God over and over before I finally took the leap and I feel confident this is His plan. So I do trust and rest in the fact that “He’s got this” (He’s in control). He’s not going to let me fail because my life and the results of this leap of faith will be a testament to Him.

The second reason is that I see signs of new life all around me and most importantly, within me. There are changes within me daily, if not hourly. OK, hourly might be a bit extreme. But there are so many WONDERFUL things that have happened that money just can’t buy! I feel that I am really living now, not just merely surviving. I’ve already mentioned the weight I lost but there are lots of other physical changes that have happened that represent the internal changes. I am in the final leg of making some bold changes in how I look, complete with new glasses and new hair. For me, that’s a BIG DEAL! Though I’m still no beauty queen, the new changes are lighter, freer and even a bit riskier for me.

For the last 4 years of my “real” job, if I wasn’t working with one of my organizing clients, I wore sweat pants and an over-sized T-shirt EVERY DAY – even to my “real” job. (Remember, I worked nights. That’s a whole different ball game in a business office.) I NEVER wore make up and I seldom tried to fix my hair. Since my big leap of faith, I’ve worn make up more often, changed my hair style several times and slowly started acquiring new clothes that fit. The biggest thing I’ve learned during this process is that it makes me feel better about myself. I didn’t realize that I’d been stuck in a vicious cycle for the last 4 years.

By wearing sweat pants, no make up and not spending much time on myself each day, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t like what I saw and I would feel discouraged. So there was no drive to change this because when you look like hell all of the time, you start feeling like it. This little change of taking time to take care of myself has caused my feelings of self worth to blossom! Are you spending time taking care of yourself?