Simplify Your Life!
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of emceeing the “Healthy Woman – Healthy World” conference in downtown Seattle. Leading up to the conference, I chatted with each of the keynote speakers, including certified professional organizer/owner of “Simplify with Denise,” the charismatic Denise Allan. I always thought I was “somewhat” organized until I sat down and spoke with Denise. She shared with me that being organized doesn’t just pertain to material items, but also your time, your productivity and even your happiness! After about ten minutes of speaking with her, I knew I wanted to simplify my own life, beginning with my home office…. and I needed her help!
As an entrepreneur who’s involved with several projects on any given day, I knew my home office and my filing system could be improved. I’m one of those people who makes piles, using the theory of “There’s a method to my madness”—although I admit that those piles tend to stress me out! Aside from taking up valuable desk space, the piles make me wonder what’s actually in them… questions arise, such as “Did I pay that bill?” Do I need to do something with that file?” “Have I missed a deadline?!” Aaaak! Denise Allan to the rescue!!
First, Denise showed me her favorite filing system, “File Solutions.” These beautiful files represented more than just a paper-organizing system; they symbolized peace of mind! The labels were all color-coded: green for finances, red for personal, purple for lifestyle and interests and blue for taxes and insurance. Denise asked me specific questions about my business and personal life so she could remove or add any customized files to my own filing system… and then the magic began! With the help of her assistant, Kim Abdouch, we began going through each file, deciding what really needed to be re-filed, what could be recycled and what would be shredded. Denise asked me which files I would access most frequently, as those files would go into the drawer closest to my workspace. Each file and paper had a destination. It was awesome. At the end of my first three-hour session on “Day One,” I was already feeling happier about my newly organized filing system.
Apparently, creating my new filing system was the “easy” part. In addition to my various business projects, I host and attend a lot of fabulous galas, auctions, fashion shows and networking events that all have one big thing in common… SWAG BAGS! As much as I love these great gift bags that are filled with wonderful samples, magazines, gift cards and promotional items, I typically don’t make the time to go through them right away, so I conveniently stash them out of sight and out of mind… in my poor office closet. These are added to the other items that have magically ended up in this “miscellaneous” chaotic space! From old yearbooks to photo albums to exercise equipment to wrapping paper and gift bags, this closet didn’t look like a closet anymore… it was a disaster!
On my second three-hour session (or “Day Two”), Denise brought another great assistant, Erica DiMiele. When Denise reached out for the closet door knob and said, “May I?,” I’m sure my expression was one of embarrassment and concern. She calmed my nerves by smiling and saying, “Don’t worry, Amy! I’ve seen it all!” (I then remembered that she’s been on the TV show, “Hoarders,” and really HAS seen the worst of the worst.) She also reminded me that she’s not here to make judgments-- and that we’ll work through this together!
She opened the door and said, “Okay, let’s start by taking items out and deciding if we’re going to keep them, donate them or throw them away.” It was as if I were on my own reality show, with an exciting “before” and “after” shot!
It was a little overwhelming halfway through this project when I looked around my office and in the hallway to see all my STUFF and was amazed at how much I had packed in there. But I just kept going, through each box, bag, and pile. Denise and Erica were not only there to help go through these items, but talk me through some of them. When I went through some items I considered “sentimental” or from a friend or loved one, she would simply ask, “Is it something that makes you smile and brings back a wonderful memory? Or do you need that item to remind you of that person?” There was no judgment, just some “organizing-therapy”! It became easier and easier for me to make decisions on each item.
Even with photos, she taught me the “ABC’s of organizing photos”: “A” means to “Archive” the photos (maybe in a cute, decorative box), “B” stands for “book” – so put them in an album already! And “C” means “CAN;” yes, as in garbage can. Just because it’s a moment captured in time doesn’t mean you must keep it! If it’s not a great photo, or if it includes people or places that don’t bring back wonderful, happy memories, why keep them? She had some amazing points.
Of course, I found myself feeling different emotions throughout this experience. I felt nostalgic going through photos and memorabilia from Kinnick High School, University of Washington and Alpha Xi Delta, my wedding in Cancun and all my years in the media. I laughed at 20-year-old notes or cards from friends or ex-boyfriends from junior high and high school. I still had my Cabbage Patch Kid from childhood and some Disney items from when I worked at The Disney Store that used to be at Westlake Center. There were a bunch of cards and photos from my sweet mother, who passed a year and a half ago. It’s quite the experience going through boxes that represent all the chapters of your life, knowing that it can be great to hang on to things—but it’s okay to let some go, too.
At the end of the day, I was able to actually step into my walk-in closet, look around and see clearly-labeled bins and boxes—and each of them now had meaning and purpose, versus the crazy mess that once existed!
As Denise says, “When you live and work in an organized way, life is less stressful. You’re opening yourself up for more pleasurable times. You have increased efficiency in other components of your schedule, and it’s money-saving, time-saving, frustration-saving and you have room for creativity!” Sounds good to me!
Since our big office clean-out, I have been inspired to organize and de-clutter other aspects of my home and life, including my car, my daily schedule and my priorities! If there is room for improvement in your home, workplace or daily-life schedule, I highly recommend contacting Denise Allan and her fantastic team. You will “Simplify with Denise,” and it will change your life!
Denise is the owner and founder of Simplify with Denise, LLC., a professional organization company based in Bothell, Washington. Denise is a motivating and highly informative speaker on organization and productivity. She has been featured on Kong TV morning news, as well as having starred in the first three seasons of the A&E hit television show, “Hoarders.” She presents on topics from Family Organization, Email and Paper Management, Student Organization, to Craft Room Organization, ADHD and Chroic Disorganization. Her professional style and humor will provide you with the insight to organize your projects and your life. For more information, visit Denise's website.