Getting Out of Your Own Way

Raise your hand if you are good at making excuses to avoid doing something. (I would raise mine, but then I wouldn’t be able to continue typing.)

If you’ve been reading my Organizing Tips for a while, you may remember that six years ago, I lost 40 pounds. You can find those details in “Lightening the Load“. Then I wrote about having kept the weight off for one year in “Keeping It Off‘”.

Given all the wisdom that I shared in those posts, it amazes me that I didn’t take my own advice earlier this year when I made a New Year’s Resolution to take off the weight I had gained last fall during an incredibly busy and stressful time. I thought I could do it myself, without any help. Then when the pandemic rolled around and I was staying at home, I made excuses like “I need to snack on comfort foods to make this crazy situation bearable” and “I need my daily glass of Prosecco and would go mad without it.”

I finally got sick of those rationalizations. Three weeks ago, I reached out to my nutritionist Carly Feigan. She welcomed me back enthusiastically and we immediately started on designing a food plan that would help me to achieve my weight loss goal.

Although I had used the pandemic as an excuse to avoid losing weight, I’ve discovered that this is actually an ideal time to get started on a new food regimen. I’ve got loads of time to shop, cook, and track my eating. It’s also a great way for me to feel in control of my life during a time in which everything feels out of control. I feel pretty stupid for not realizing this earlier and getting my weight loss project started weeks ago. I guess I’m only human.

So what excuses have you been making to avoid changes in your life? What rationalizations have prevented you from taking that first step to achieving an important goal? Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, and we just need to get out of our own way.


Keeping It Off

Today marks an important milestone for me. It is exactly one year that I have kept off the 40 pounds that I lost over a six-month period in 2014.

I’ve lost weight before on various programs, but I have never been successful in keeping all of it off for one year. What made the difference this time? I have concluded that a successful weight loss program is like an organizing project. These are the key aspects.

Having a goal.  I had a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t just want to “lose some weight”. My goal was to get my BMI out of the overweight range and into the normal. Once I achieved that, I reset my goal and decided to continue so that my BMI was in the middle of the normal range. Similarly, when starting an organizing project, it’s important to have a vision. What does “get organized” really mean to you?

Being willing to make changes.  I had tried to put myself on various diets over the past few years, but they were not successful because I wasn’t really willing to make changes to my eating habits. Once I was ready to do something different, I could truly get started. Similarly, if you want to get organized, you need to develop some new habits. You can’t keep practicing the same habits that got you disorganized in the first place.

Asking for help. I realized that I wasn’t going to accomplish this on my own. I needed the structure and accountability that working with a professional would provide. I enlisted the help of a nutritionist, Carly Feigan. Similarly, if you want to get organized but have not been able to accomplish it on your own, consider hiring a Professional Organizer. There’s no shame in admitting you need some help. Change is hard.

Having a plan. I like having rules to follow. Carly set me up with a food plan that has worked for many of her clients, and we customized it to the things I like to eat. I still follow her basic rules to maintain my weight, and I still keep a food diary so that I can be honest with myself about what I’m eating. If you are going to get organized, it’s helpful to figure out what has to be done in what order and what guidelines you need to follow to make it stick.

Tracking results. I weigh myself every day so that I know if I need to make any modifications to what I’m eating. Similarly, once you’ve accomplished your organizing project, you should develop some signposts that tell you when you need to modify your behavior. For example, if the pile of unopened mail reaches a certain level, it’s time to stop and process it.

I hope my weight loss success inspires you to tackle a project that you have been struggling with!

Packing Up

We took our 18-year old daughter to college a few days ago. It was a huge undertaking – physically, emotionally, and of course, organizationally.

As I’ve mentioned before, I deal with emotional upheaval by getting organized. (See Love, Loss, and Organizing). Getting my daughter and all her stuff to school was a logistical puzzle that kept me focused and helped keep the emotions at bay.

Before I go on vacation, admiring friends often say to me one or two weeks before, “I bet you’re already packed.” In actuality, I never pack until the night before. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think about what I’m going to pack until the night before. I spend weeks planning and strategizing, so when it’s time to actually pack the suitcase, it’s relatively easy.

Emily at GWU

Emily and George

That is the way I approached my daughter’s relocation to Washington, D.C., to begin her freshman year at George Washington University. We started preparing earlier in the summer by reviewing a checklist provided by her school, as well as a checklist from Bed Bath & Beyond which they provided in advance of a college event held in July. We identified what we already owned and what we still needed. We picked up quite a bit at the BB&B event, and ordered some other things on-line. Gradually, over the summer, we accumulated all her linens and other supplies.

I used her departure for college as an opportunity for her to review everything she owned and make decisions. Every item of clothing, every toiletry, every book, every electronic device, every makeup product needed to be looked at and evaluated for its future use. Whatever she didn’t want anymore got thrown away, donated, recycled, sold on eBay, or given away to friends and neighbors.

When we cleaned out her desk, we put all the office supplies she wanted to take with her into one drawer. This made it very easy to pack those things when that time came.

My daughter wanted to take all of her remaining clothes and shoes with her. I used my professional organizing techniques to guide her to more selective decision-making. She still brought too much, in my opinion, but she brought less than she had originally intended.

Two days before she left, we got down the suitcases and started packing.  All of our prior preparation paid off, and it was relatively stress-free. When we got her moved into her dorm room, we were pleased to discover that her stuff fit very nicely into her space.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so I filled up some of the empty space in her room by buying a small sofa bed. I may have lost a daughter, but I’ve gained a guest room!  At least until Thanksgiving.




Adapting to Change

We have a new dog.  His name is Alfie.  We adopted him three months ago, shortly before his 7th birthday. We were told he was a Havanese.  If you are not familiar with this breed, just think “cute little white fuzzball”.

Of course I had him DNA-tested, because that’s just the kind of person I am.  We learned that he is only 50% Havanese, and 25% Maltese.  (If you are not familiar with that breed, you can once again think “cute little white fuzzball”.)  The other 25% of his genetic makeup is not clear.

Alfie on his 7th birthday

The first time we added a dog to our family four years ago, I wrote how my routine had changed as a result (see Time is a Zero Sum Game.)   Sadly, our beloved Taffy passed away earlier this year (Love, Loss, and Organizing).  While circumstances prevented us from adding a new four-legged family member for six long months, we knew that a new pet was in our future.

Surprisingly, six months was long enough for me to readapt to not having a dog.  I got out of the routine of incorporating dog-walking time into my schedule before I left for an appointment.  As a result, I am often late.

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Pack Your Sneakers

Don’t you love it when you have the opportunity to disprove an assumption that you have made about yourself?  I sure do.

As you may know already, the only reason I do vigorous exercise twice a week is because I’ve hired a personal trainer to come to my home.  Without someone showing up at my door and staring at me until I start moving, it’s just not going to happen.  (If you need similar motivation and live in NYC, I cannot recommend highly enough my trainer extraordinaire, Stephen Flam.)

Whenever Stephen and I have to miss a few sessions due to holidays or travel schedules, he always urges me to do some exercise without him.  I hasten to remind him that without his watchful eye, it’s not going to happen.  That’s just who I am.  I don’t exercise unless someone makes me.

Or so I thought.

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