Tag Archives: strategies

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Defensiveness


Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore defensiveness and its antidote.

In our post about criticism, we addressed how blaming inhibits a couple’s communication and ability to work together to create a home that supports them both. Next up was contempt, which takes criticism to the next level. Defensiveness is the third common behavior, which sabotages relationships.

When one is faced with criticism and/or contempt, defensiveness is a natural reaction but rarely works to resolve the issues being discussed. More often, defensiveness escalates the conflict because it is actually a form of blaming.

Here’s an Example:

One person likes to park their car in the garage. The other person is working on a project and because of the weather, is staging the items in the parking spot.

Partner 1:

You left your stuff all over the garage and I can’t pull the car in! You’re such a slob.

Partner 2:

Well if I had some space in the house to work, this wouldn’t be an issue! Can’t I do anything without you harping at me?

Note that Partner 1 is launching into the exchange with criticism and contempt, and Partner 2 immediately responds with defensiveness and adds some criticism for good measure.


Partner 1:

I tried to park the car in the garage today and found it blocked up. I was frustrated because I had to park outside in the rain.

Partner 2:

I’m sorry, I forgot that you would be coming home before I cleared it out. I could have let you know that I might not have been finished before you got home.

The antidote for defensiveness is taking responsibility for your own actions. Resist the urge to blame outside forces or your partner and think about what you can own yourself. What set you up for the miscommunication? What do you want to apologize for?

Here are some ways to communicate that sidestep defensiveness:

  • I’ve been overwhelmed lately and I’m sorry that I was so negative
  • I’ve not asked for what I needed and I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you
  • I’ve been overly critical lately and I’m sorry I was really grumpy

Defensiveness, criticism and contempt rarely show up alone, often they work together as a tag team, dragging down the good intentions of having a productive conversation. Next up we explore the final culprit which interferes with creating a comfortable and organized home, stonewalling.


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Filed under couples, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective

Want a Simpler Life? Don’t Miss This Film!

Minimalism furniture (2)

We’re working to bring a screening of the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things to our local movie theater. Screenings of this documentary are happening across the US, and they’re inspiring communities like ours to ask themselves, “How might my life be better with less?”

View the film’s trailer here: http://minimalismfilm.com.

We’re excited to share this film because it challenges viewers to reevaluate the things that matter most to them, and it provides insight into the lives of people who thrive with less.

We believe this film has a positive message that will improve people’s lives, which is why we’re asking for your help. For the screening to take place, we need 50 people to reserve tickets (they’ll only be charged for them once we hit the minimum number of reservations).

We’ll be hosting a question and answer session after the movie to explore how we can incorporate this idea of minimalism into our daily lives.

Please help us spread the good word about this event—we are thrilled to have the opportunity to share this wonderful documentary with the community we care so much about!

The screening is planned for June 2nd, 2016 at 7:30PM at the Albany Twin, 1115 Solano Avenue, Albany CA. Please reserve your ticket at: http://gathr.us/screening/14476.

As an added bonus, this screening will help benefit our local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. www.NAPO-SFBA.org.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Trick Your Brain To Get Things Done

That stack of mail has been haunting you from the kitchen counter for the past week and you know you “should” go through it but somehow another day passes and it still sits there – now a day taller with the addition of today’s mail.

Do you often find yourself doing everything except the things you’re “supposed” to do? What’s happening? You actually do have the desire and the vision to not have mail piled on the counter, a part of you really wants to dig in and go through it, but something pops up and blocks you from the task.

Studies show that your “lizard brain” is likely kicking in. It is designed to keep you safe when you experience fear. Any uncertainty in our brains turns into fear and activates the lizard brain.

the lizard brain

So why can a seemly innocent pile of mail trigger this? Unopened mail represents possible decisions to make, money to spend and tasks to do. Yikes!

The key to getting started is to trick your lizard brain. You have to take such small steps that you almost don’t realize you’re actually doing part of the project. There are several ways to take steps that are so small they seem almost pointless but actually are moving you forward:

  • Set a time limit – could you tolerate working on the pile for 1 minute? Less? More? find a time amount that feels easy
  • Set an amount limit – could you tolerate looking at 1 piece of mail? Maybe 5? Again, pick an amount that feels so easy it seems ridiculous
  • Cherry pick – is there part of the pile you don’t dread at all? Catalogs, junk mail, etc? Spend a little time only focusing on the easy parts of the pile
  • Do something related but not directly part of the dreaded task – move the recycling bin near the pile, or move the pile near the recycling bin

You don’t have to be motivated. Research shows that motivation is somewhat needless. If you just start, the motivation will come behind it. The key is to keep staying below your fear response.

How low can you go?  The step you take may be TINY!

What’s the smallest baby step you can imagine for different tasks? Give us some examples!


Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, organizing, Paper, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Moving Essentials

Preparing makes all the difference

Preparing makes all the difference

Moving can be stressful and overwhelming; there’s no real way around it. By the time move day arrives and you actually land in your new home the last thing you’ll want to do is start digging through boxes in order to find your pajamas and coffee maker.

Here are 5 groups of items to gather and pack separately and label as “OPEN FIRST” to make the transition easier:

  • PERSONAL ITEMS Pack a suitcase of essentials as if you’ll be on a trip for a week or two. Don’t forget things like slippers, medications, and toiletries. Keep this suitcase with you.
  • LINENS  Though you’ll feel like you’re on a trip, you aren’t in a hotel and there are no linens provided. Pack a few bath towels, washcloths, and bed sheets.
  • KITCHEN Imagine yourself the morning after the move – it’s nice to start the day with your usual routines.  Pack your coffee maker and/or teakettle, a few place settings, dishtowel, dish soap & sponge. Think ahead about easy healthy snacks and meals so you don’t deplete your already drained energy by surviving on pizza and pastries for a week.
  • OFFICE/LIFE MANAGEMENT  Don’t add to your stress by losing track of current bills, mail, and important documents because they are buried in a box somewhere. Pack those separately from other files and office supplies. Do include some essential office supplies such as postage, envelopes, pens, checkbook, charging cables, computer, and passwords.
  • TOOLS  Create a move kit of essential tools to help both on the packing and unpacking side: box cutter, measuring tape, screw driver, hammer, pliers, post-its and marker pens, packing tape, flashlight or headlamp, felt pads & furniture sliders.

What did you find essential to get through your last move? Share it here!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies