Around this time of year when we flip the calendar from one year to the next, most people make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions. It is a noble idea in theory, but often in practice, doesn’t amount to much. Resolutions often get cast aside and discarded, making their creators feel inadequate and unproductive.

So why not skip the New Year’s Resolutions altogether this time and opt for an alternative New Year’s ritual: the One-Word Theme!

I find it helps me to choose a word to give me an over-arching theme for the new year. For many people, the one word approach feels more manageable and powerful than a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions which can often feel like another to-do list. One word is ideal. It gives you focus.

I believe that choosing a word for the year is so compelling because it takes the “should” out of our wish for personal and professional development. Our word serves as a gentle (but powerful!) reminder, rather than a drill sergeant barking orders at us.

I’ve been following this one word theme for years now.

  • In 2011, my word was Implement. Boy, did I implement that year as I changed my business brand and model, and went with my husband on 13 interviews around the U.S. to choose a place for him to do a residency and for us to relocate to from NY.
  • My word in 2012 was Change as we relocated across country from New York to California and completely changed our lives and I expanded my business.
  • In 2013, my word was Discover as I acclimated to living in Northern California and embraced our new life. I took Italian classes, became a “real” cyclist, got back on stage with local theater groups, and more.
  • In 2014, my word was Presence as a reminder to live in the moment and savor all of the experiences personally and professionally that I was blessed to have in my life.
  • In 2015, my word was Adventure. My husband finished his 3-year veterinary residency and we spent a month in beautiful Italy. What an adventure indeed!!
  • In 2016, my word was Savor. It was a great reminder to slow down and enjoy life more. I renewed my life-long hobbies of reading and writing. I read 84 books that year and started writing creatively again.
  • In 2017, I chose Creativity and loved it! I started writing my first novel, attended some amazing writer conferences, and brought a creative flair to everything I did, personally and professionally.

For 2018, I’ve chosen the word Embrace. It took a little bit of time to reveal itself, but once it did, I realized it was the right word and theme for this year. I plan to embrace my favorite hobbies such as reading and writing, embrace my health, embrace my marriage, embrace my business, and yes, even embrace my age (I am turning 50 at the end of January… yikes! How did that happen?!).

I love how Embrace makes me feel like I am enjoying what I have, while reaching for what I want. It feels positive and proactive. It feels like it will push me outside my comfort zone, but not so far that I lose sight of what I already have that needs to be embraced.

When I posted on social media about this one-word approach, I got a huge response to my appeal for people to share their word of the new year. People’s comments were very inspiring and thought-provoking. Interestingly, people often share that they experience a little resistance to their word at first. Or were surprised at their word. Or hoped that something bigger or better had come to mind. Try not to resist the word that presents itself to you!

The word you choose is usually the exact one that you need to be reminded of throughout the year. And by the way, the one word theme is not a cop out! It doesn’t mean that you won’t accomplish anything or fail to take action. From what I have seen with the one-word theme, you will. But many of us don’t need another to-do list. We need a theme, a rallying cry, a mantra, an affirmation, a reminder. Your one word can serve all of those purposes and more if you give it some serious thought, choose wisely (or better yet, let your word choose you!), and then keep that word front and center in your mind, guiding your actions and behavior during the year.

So… what is your one word for 2018? I’d love to hear it. Please send me an email or even better, share in the comments below so others can be inspired too!

Happy New Year!

Around this time of year when we flip the calendar from one year to the next, most people make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions. It is a noble idea in theory, but often in practice, doesn’t amount to much. Resolutions often get cast aside and discarded, making their creators feel inadequate and unproductive.

So why not skip the New Year’s Resolutions altogether this time and opt for an alternative New Year’s ritual: the One-Word Theme!

I find it helps me to choose a word to give me an over-arching theme in the new year. For many people, the one word approach feels more manageable and powerful than a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions which can often feel like another to-do list. One word is ideal. It gives you focus.

I believe that choosing a word f or the year is so compelling because it takes the “should” out of our wish for personal and professional development. Our word serves as a gentle (but powerful!) reminder, rather than a drill sergeant barking orders at us.

I’ve been following this one word theme for years now.

  • In 2011, my word was Implement. Boy, did I implement that year as I changed my business brand and model, and went with my husband on 13 interviews around the U.S. to choose a place for him to do a residency and for us to relocate to from NY).
  • My word in 2012 was Change as we relocated across country from New York to California and completely changed our lives and I expanded my business.
  • In 2013, my word was Discover as I acclimated to living in Northern California and embraced our new life. I took Italian classes, became a “real” cyclist, got back on stage with local theater groups, and more.
  • In 2014, my word was Presence as a reminder to live in the moment and savor all of the experiences personally and professionally that I was blessed to have in my life.
  • In 2015, my word was Adventure. My husband finished his 3-year veterinary residency and we spent a month in beautiful Italy. What an adventure indeed!! 
  • In 2016, my word was Savor. It was a great reminder to slow down and enjoy life more. I renewed my life-long hobbies of reading and writing. I read 84 books last year and started writing creatively again. 

For 2017, I’ve chosen the word Creativity. It came to me quickly and clearly. And yes, I plan to pursue the creative endeavor of writing a novel based on memoir, as well as some short stories. But I also plan to apply Creativity to many areas of my life and business. Creativity can infuse a lot of what we do, what we create, what we grow and nurture. I love that idea and will use this word as a constant reminder throughout the year to be my most creative self in every way.

When I posted on social media about this one-word approach, I got a huge response to my appeal for people to share their word of the new year. People’s comments were very inspiring and thought-provoking. Interestingly, people often share that they experienced a little resistance to their word at first. Or were surprised at their word. Or hoped that something bigger or better had come to mind. Try not to resist the word that presents itself to you!

The word you choose is usually the exact one that you need to be reminded of throughout the year.

And by the way, the one word theme is not a cop out! It doesn’t mean that you won’t accomplish anything or fail to take action. From what I have seen with the one-word theme, you will. But many of us don’t need another to-do list. We nee d a theme, a rallying cry, a mantra, an affirmation, a reminder. Your one word can serve all of those purposes and more if you give it some serious thought, choose wisely (or better yet, let your word choose you!), and then keep that word front and center in your mind, guiding your actions and behavior during the year.

So… what is your one word or theme for 2017? I’d love to hear it. Please send me an email or even better, share in the comments on my blog so others can be inspired too!

Happy New Year!

sign-languageWhen I was a little girl, my parents took me to visit our cousins. I noticed immediately that something was different in the way they communicated. They used hand gestures and had an interesting accent when they spoke orally. Their children were also using these hand gestures from the crib and play pen. I learned that my cousins were Deaf and that their two children were hearing, but were communicating with them in American Sign Language (ASL). I was completely and utterly enthralled to say the least. I loved watching them communicate and vowed to learn their beautiful expressive language. As I got older, I became interested in Helen Keller after watching The Miracle Worker, and decided that I wanted to teach Deaf children at some point in my life.

I realized that dream the year after I graduated from college. I chose to take a year off between college and law school, and obtained a position as an instructor and sometimes interpreter at the NY School for the Deaf. I wound up staying 3 years as I loved it so much! I attended law school in the evening instead of the day in order to continue teaching. Those three years were very important to me. They helped me develop my love of ASL and become an advocate for persons with disabilities. I wrote and published many pieces on disability law, taught disability law classes for a law school as an adjunct professor, and served as the co-chair of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee for the American Bar Association.

Eventually, I left my law career and that ended my official disability law pursuits. However, it did not end my love affair with sign language, or my support of Deaf rights. I carried many lessons with me that I learned from my years working within the Deaf community.

Did you ever notice that when someone is speaking to a deaf or hard of hearing person, they do the one thing that makes absolutely no sense? They start speaking a lot louder! Sometimes they even start yelling. This makes absolutely no sense because the one thing the deaf person can’t do is hear.

In fact, the Deaf community has a popular phrase: “I can do anything but hear!” It is an empowering phrase that reminds them that although deafness may be perceived by the hearing world as a disability, that is their only limitation.

What is your perceived “disability”? How would you answer the phrase “I can do anything but _______.” I am hoping that there is nothing after the word but. However, some of you may have something that came to mind. It may be a limiting belief, an outdated assumption, a block, an objection, a stereotype, a negative message that you were programmed to believe. Those things may be your version of a disability.

Here are 5 success principles I learned from teaching the Deaf that will help you develop a Can-Do Attitude and start breaking through your own limitations.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions
We all make assumptions based on our background and experience. We often have a running commentary in our head that is like a broken record playing over and over. Be careful of that recording! I learned about not making assumptions from my experience working with the Deaf. For example, sign language isn’t Universal. Not all deaf people can read lips. Not everything is as it appears in life. What “assumptions” are you holding onto that may be wrong, outdated or are not serving you in business and in life? Work on identifying them, turning them on their head and challenging them.

2. Make Eye Contact
You must look at a deaf person to communicate. In the hearing world, it is amazing how many people don’t make eye contact when speaking to each other. Making eye contact is a great habit to cultivate in general, but it is even more vital for an entrepreneur, coach, consultant and certainly for a speaker. Pay attention to people when they are speaking to you. Make eye contact and show them that you care!

3. Don’t Just Hear… Listen and Understand
Deaf people can’t hear, but they do listen. A common phrase that the Deaf often use when having a conversation is “I understand”. They are showing that they are paying attention to what you are communicating, and that they are truly listening to you. Many people are good speakers, but not good listeners. If you are not truly listening, try it. It can make a huge difference in your communication and relationships.

4. Keep Your Sense of Humor
Many deaf people have a wickedly good sense of humor, and can laugh at themselves. This is a great lesson for all us in life and business. It helps you to keep a positive attitude and draws people to you. Find the humor in everything and keep things as light as you can. I often think humor is a wonderful way of diffusing many difficult or challenging situations. Learning to laugh at life, and ourselves, is a great skill to cultivate.

sign_language-superpower5. Plan Ahead for Life’s Bumps in the Road
If you know there may be a roadblock ahead, don’t bury your head in the sand… plan for it. I had a student named Matthew that had Usher’s Syndrome. He was deaf and was slowly losing his eyesight also. Usher’s Syndrome causes loss of vision slowly over a period of time, first affecting your peripheral vision and then slowly affecting your entire eyesight like a tunnel closing up. Matthew planned ahead for this eventual vision loss by learning braille and sign language in hand so he could continue to communicate. Talk about dedication and planning ahead for a bump in the road! Tak e a page out of Matthew’s book. When you plan ahead, prepare and face life head on. It helps you to not only obtain a better result, but possibly enjoy the journey and the process.

I hope you are inspired by these brave deaf individuals and their can-do attitude. Now ask yourself, can you develop a Can-Do Attitude? What success principles do you have in your bag of tricks to help you start overcoming your perceived limitations? Start tapping into those success principles and tools.

Here’s to a Can-Do Attitude!

Around this time of year when we flip the calendar from one year to the next, most people make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions. It is a noble idea in theory, but often in practice, doesn’t amount to much. Resolutions often get cast aside and discarded, making their creators feel inadequate and unproductive.

So why not skip the New Year’s Resolutions altogether this time and opt for an alternative New Year’s ritual: the One-Word Theme!

I find it helps me to choose a word to give me an over-arching theme in the new year. For many people, the one word approach feels more manageable and powerful than a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions which can often feel like another to-do list. One word is ideal. It gives you focus.

I believe that choosing a word for the year is so compelling because it takes the “should” out of our wish for personal and professional development. Our word serves as a gentle (but powerful!) reminder, rather than a drill sergeant barking orders at us.

carpe_diemI’ve been following this one word theme for years now.

  • In 2011, my word was Implement. Boy, did I implement that year as I changed my business brand and model, and went with my husband on 13 interviews around the U.S. to choose a place for him to do a residency and for us to relocate to from NY).
  • My word in 2012 was Change as we relocated across country from New York to California and completely changed our lives and I expanded my business.
  • In 2013, my word was Discover as I acclimated to living in Northern California and embraced our new life. I took Italian classes, became a “real” bicyclist, got back on stage with local theater groups, and more.
  • In 2014, my word was Presence as a reminder to live in the moment and savor all of the experiences personally and professionally that I was blessed to have in my life.

My word for 2015 is Adventure. It came to me the other day very easily when I started thinking about the year ahead. My husband finishes his 3-year veterinary residency and we will do some traveling in the United States and Europe, enjoying some long-awaited quality time together. We will also be researching and considering our options for the future in terms of where we will live next. My one word theme of Adventure will be both a comforting and powerful reminder to stay intellectually curious, seek out new adventures, try new experiences, shake up the status quo, live each moment to the fullest, and savor each drop of my life.

When I posted on social media about this one-word approach, I got a huge response to my appeal for people to share their word of the new year. People’s comments were very inspiring and thought-provoking. Interestingly, people often share that they experienced a little resistance to their word at first. Or were surprised at their word. Or hoped that something bigger or better had come to mind. Try not to resist the word that presents itself to you! The word you choose is usually the exact one that you need to be reminded of throughout the year.

life_is_too_shortAnd by the way, the one word theme is not a cop out! It doesn’t mean that you won’t accomplish anything or fail to take action. From what I have seen with the one-word theme, you will. But many of us don’t need another to-do list. We need a theme, a rallying cry, a mantra, an affirmation, a reminder. Your one word can serve all of those purposes and more if you give it some serious thought, choose wisely (or better yet, let your word choose you!), and then keep that word front and center in your mind, guiding your actions and behavior during the year.

So… what is your one word or theme for 2015? I’d love to hear it. Please send me an email or even better, share in the comments on my blog so others can be inspired too!

Happy New Year!

There’s a concept that keeps coming up lately when I’m doing coaching and consulting with my clients. It’s the concept of experiencing the valley of your “new normal.” It could be a huge change that you’re making to your business, like adding on a new income stream, or closing down a division that no longer gets you jazzed. Or maybe it’s changing careers or getting a promotion that you’ve been dying for, but are scared to death of now that you’ve been handed it. Maybe you’re relocating, starting a new relationship, getting organized, or working on a health and fitness plan.

Continue Reading…

I have found that among its other benefits,
giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
~ Maya Angelou

Many of these products and services are part of official affiliate programs which pay a referral commission to me based on any purchases you make through these links. However, that is not the reason I recommend them. I only recommend products and services that I believe are of high quality, value, and will benefit you in a tangible way as you improve your home, office, and life.
The Help Kenya Project

This is a Westchester County, NY based charity that focuses on helping the children of Kenya. They collect donations of used computers, books, clothing, sports equipment, and other supplies and ship them to Kenyan schools and libraries. In return, they ask that the recipients plant trees to combat deforestation and provide children with a place to rest and play out of the sun.

It’s incredible how valuable the book or computer you might be throwing out is to a Kenyan child. By providing Kenya’s students with science, English, and computer skills, they give them a much better chance of finding good jobs later in life. It breaks the cycle of poverty by helping Kenyans to help themselves. This is a charity that truly leaves a lasting impact.



National Cristina Foundation

Linking Life to its Promise.

The National Cristina Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology. For more than two decades, it has encouraged companies and individuals to donate computers and other technology, which is then matched to charities, schools and public agencies in all 50 states, Canada, and in many countries around the world.


Vietnam Veterans of America
VVA accepts donations of household goods and clothing in 30 states in the continental United States. To make a donation, please refer to the state map. Identify your area and call the phone number referenced.


Tangible Karma is a donation tracking service that gives you a chance to see the difference your donated goods can make in the world.  At Tangible Karma their mission is to inspire and motivate you, to transform items that are hindering your life into valuable gifts that could make a meaningful difference in the life of another.


Overseas Coupon Program Did you know that expired coupons can be sent to troops stationed overseas and they can use them for 6 months after the expiration date?  If you find this idea redeeming, go to OCPNet.org and get the details. It’s 100% legal and each overseas base has a USA address so it is a local mailing. Save your coupons, even if they are expired to help out our troops!


DisposeMyMeds.org is an online resource to help you to find medication disposal programs at the local independent community pharmacy near you.

Your local community pharmacist has knowledge to ensure the safe and proper handling of your medications, from dispensing to disposal.


Recycle These Items That You Never Thought Of…

Vintage Doorknobs, Radiators, Windows and Mantels
Donate or sell classic architectural elements to salvage firms or restoration projects. SalvageWeb is an online ad space that links buyers and sellers all over the world; here you can buy an Art Deco church chandelier, or unload a clawfoot tub after renovating your bathroom. Baltimore-based Second Chance Inc. accepts salvage donations and trains low-income people in the art of “deconstructing” buildings.

Toothbrushes
The Radius Original Toothbrush has a handle made of cellulose, an organic fiber. (Radius also recycles the handles of its battery-operated model once the battery runs out.)

Foam Packaging
Lightweight “peanuts” made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) contain 25 to 100 percent recycled material.
The Plastic Loose Fill Council has a “Peanut Hotline” (800-828-2214) you can call to find local recycling centers, including chain-store shippers such as Pak Mail and The UPS Store. To recycle large, molded chunks of EPS used to cushion televisions, air conditioners and such, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.

Sneakers/Tennis Shoes
Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns used athletic footwear (no cleats) into a material called Nike Grind, used to surface playgrounds, running tracks and outdoor courts. Or send your still-wearable athletic shoes to Shoe4Africa, which forwards them to athletes in developing countries.

Toys
Ask your local shelter for homeless families or battered women if they accept gently used toys. The Salvation Army and Vietnam Veterans of America also take used toys. Adult-appropriate items such as board games can be sent to troops overseas through www.AnySoldier.com

Wine Corks
Yemm & Hart, which produces recycled building materials, turns used corks into floor and wall tiles.

Motor Oil
Recycled motor oil can find new life as a lubricant or fuel. The American Petroleum Institute estimates the electricity created with just 2 gallons of reused motor oil would power the average home for nearly a day. Preserve used oil in a clean container with a secure, leakproof lid. You can recycle the used oil filter, too. Earth 911 has a list of motor oil recycling centers that’s searchable by ZIP code.

Prom, Bridesmaid and Formal Dresses
Charities like the Glass Slipper Project accepts donated gowns, shoes and purses to provide free prom wear to low-income teens. Another great resource is Donate My Dress, which is the first national network to bring together local dress drive organizations across the U.S. Books such as “Always a Bridesmaid: 89 Ways to Recycle That Bridesmaid Dress” offer tongue-in-cheek recycling advice to every woman who has a hideous gown buried at the back of her closet.

Eyeglasses, Frames and Cases
The Lions Club and Give the Gift of Sight Foundation collect used eyeglasses for needy people around the world. Donate your glasses at one of 17 Lions Clubs recycling centers, or at chains such as Pearle Vision Center, LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut.

Computers, Cell-Phones and Other E-Waste
The EPA maintains a list of charities that accept used electronic equipment. Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy offer in-store e-waste recycling — Best Buy also recycles used appliances. Dell, Toshiba and Sony lead the way in recycling computer products. Donate cell phones to organizations like The Wireless Foundation. Ship old videotapes and DVDs to Ecodisk or Greendisk.

Radio Shack Electronics Trade-In Program

Have electronics to trade-in? Use Radio Shack’s Trade-In Program!

You go online to http://www.radioshack.com/tradeandsave and indicate what items you wish to trade. Items must be in working condition. The site will determine the trade-in value of your items and create a pre-paid shipping label for you. You print off the shipping label, affix it to a box, pack your items and mail it to Radio Shack free of charge. When they receive it, they will mail you a Radio Shack gift card.

Electronics
Electronics improve the way we live, work and play. But, there’s one place where electronics should have no impact — the environment. Through responsible use, reuse and recycling of electronics, the consumer electronics industry and consumers can protect and preserve the environment — together. Many organizations offer free recycling of used electronics, so it’s easy to be green. Check out the following sites, which offer ways to sell or recycle your used electronics.

http://www.Gazelle.com
http://www.MyBoneyard.com

do_not_disturbThere is a common misconception that all introverts like to, and want to, be alone most of the time, and all extroverts like to, and want to, be with other people almost all of the time. In my experience, I haven’t found this generalization to be true.

Take me, for example. I am categorized as an extrovert on almost every personality type test that I take. On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, I come up as an ENTJ, which stands for Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinker, and Judger (which by the way, refers to someone that prefers structure, is decisive and wants things completed, not to someone that is judgmental of others).

working_outsideBecause of my “extrovert” label, it often comes as a huge surprise when people learn that I really like to be alone. No, actually, I love to be alone. I love to be with others also, but I very much crave and need my alone time. I actually spend enormous amounts of time alone these days. Since relocating from New York to California, my husband maintains a grueling residency schedule which means he is not home as often as he used to be when we lived in NY. As a self-employed entrepreneur who does a lot of virtual work with my clients by phone and video conference, many of my work days are spent here at my home office… alone.

I think there is a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. When I’m alone, I enjoy passing the time by being productive through working or maintaining my life and home, or engaging in some of the many hobbies and passions that I enjoy doing. Do I ever get lonely? Not really. I do miss certain people a lot. I think missing people and feeling lonely are two different things though.

I know some introverts that do enjoy being around other people very much. Some introverts can be extremely outgoing and crave social interaction, as long as they then have time to be alone to rejuvenate and re-energize. And then there are extroverts like me, that can be jazzed about standing up in front of 500 people to do a speaking engagement, but really enjoy being alone before and after that speaking engagement so that I can regroup, reflect, and re-energize.

In her well-researched and fascinating book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” author Susan Cain discusses the concept of a Restorative Niche. Restorative Niche is the term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self. Even if you sometimes adapt to the situation and force yourself to take on more extroverted or introverted traits, you need a safe place to return to where your true traits are able to shine through. It can be a physical place, like the woods on a hike, an office with a closed door, etc., or a temporal one, like taking a break between phone calls. It can mean staying alone in the hotel room at a big conference instead of with a colleague, being alone before or after you go on stage as a speaker, saying no to social plans many nights in a row, etc. I love this concept, and have seen it at work in my own life, and that of my family, friends, colleagues, and clients.

When choosing a work environment, give consideration to whether there is an opportunity to engage in Restorative Niches for yourself.

Introverts may want to ask themselves:

  • timid_boldWill the work allow me to spend time doing in-character activities like reading, strategizing, writing, and researching?
  • Will I have a private workspace or be subject to the constant demands of an open office plan?
  • If the work itself doesn’t provide enough restorative niches, will I have enough free time on evenings and weekends to grant them to myself?

Extroverts will want to look for restorative niches too.

  • Does the work involve talking, traveling and meeting new people?
  • Is the environment stimulating enough?
  • Will I be stuck sitting at a desk behind a computer screen all day with no human interaction?
  • If the job isn’t a perfect fit, are the hours flexible enough that I can blow off steam after work?

Sometimes people find Restorative Niches in professions where you’d least expect them. An attorney that is able to spend time alone researching and writing all day. An actress that has a career as a voice over artist recording audio books alone in a studio. It’s not important what your job title is, or whether you own your own business, etc. What’s important is whether your work matches your personality type, or if you can find Restorative Niches when you need them. For me, being a self-employed entrepreneur does mean a lot of time at home, but it also means having the opportunity to connect with people at networking events, when I’m on stage as a speaker, and through doing my private and group coaching and consulting. It also means that if I have been sitting at my desk too long with no human interaction, that I can go out and join a group for a bike ride, or meet a friend or colleague for coffee. In other words, my work has built in opportunities for Restorative Niches.

be_yourselfWhat about you? Are you an extrovert that surprisingly loves being alone? Or are you an introvert that does enjoy a lot of social interaction? Let’s not limit ourselves to labels. Using Restorative Niches can help us go back to our true self when we need to, but sometimes we may not even need them in the first place. Sometimes we are who we are, and it’s just right — no matter what the labels say.

welcome_to_CAIn July 2012, my husband and I sold our house in Warwick, New York and moved over 3,000 miles across the United States to the town of Davis, California. What prompted this move was that my husband was accepted into a prestigious residency to specialize in veterinary internal medicine at the UC Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital. This required that we sell our home in New York, and rent a home in Davis, as the residency is for a three-year period, and we have no idea if we will be sticking around after it ends.

On our first trip to Davis in November 2011 for his interview, we toured the town of Davis and got an idea of the real estate. Most of the homes are either mid-century modern (in the Northeast we just call this a “ranch”), Spanish mission style, or bungalow style. Square footage wise, they are much smaller than the homes back in the Hudson River Valley of New York. Although our NY home was a modest Cape Cod style, by Davis standards, it was quite large. It was approximately 2,000 square feet of living space, plus a 2.5 car garage, a full basement, an attic, and a shed out in the yard. I considered us to live a somewhat uncluttered lifestyle in NY, but after seeing how much smaller the living and storage spaces were in Davis, it dawned on us that we needed to downsize.  The rental home that we wound up signing a lease for is 1,400 square feet of living space, with a one car garage, no basement, and no shed out in the yard.

house_in_ny

Our house in New York.

And so the downsizing began. Some items were easy to part with: anything that had to do with the winter weather could be sold or donated. That included our snowblower, shovels, etc. Also, anything having to do with our pool could be sold or donated, as we would no longer have a pool in our yard in California (ironically, we now have a fireplace which we did not have in New York, but no pool!). We also had about 3/4 of an acre in New York, and here in California we have a small compact yard with a little grass and a lot more patio and garden areas, which would be tended to by our new landlord. This meant that we could also sell our ride-on lawnmower, and other yard equipment. (Interestingly enough, the items that were the hottest tickets for sale were our ladders! We had several people call up and ask us to save them until they could come by, and they wound up getting into a bidding war. Who knew!)

I made a list of every item on a room-by-room basis that was going to California, versus every item that could be sold or donated. Our landlord took measurements for us of the smaller rental home in California so that we knew what could fit. We then had a huge moving sale on a weekend day. We hung up flyers around town, spread the word, and then lugged everything into the garage and organized it all by category. We had some helpers, which we were very thankful for. In the long run, we wound up selling pretty much everything we wanted to, and the few items that didn’t sell got donated.

We then had movers put the remaining items in a moving truck, which we then were reunited with a few weeks later in California when we were moving into the rental home. Because my husband had already started his busy residency, it was my job to unpack, organize, and put everything away in the new home. And here’s what was so fascinating about it. Although I had spent years as a hands-on professional organizer, I was actually nervous! The house was so much smaller. Yes we downsized, but I was still concerned about whether everything would fit. So I took my time, examining each item carefully, checking through the storage in the home, measuring, trying items in certain places, etc. In the long run, we didn’t just fit everything, we even had extra space available. And I loved it.

I really thought I would miss certain items. In fact, that’s one of the biggest things that holds back people from decluttering in the first place — the fear that you’ll release something and then immediately miss it or want it back. That wasn’t the case for me, not in the least. There were a few sentimental items that I even had to part with, like my beloved mother’s couch and love seat (sadly, my Mom passed away in 2010). But these items were given to close friends and family, which made me feel like I was sharing her with them.

officeNow as I sit here, a year and a half after relocating, I realize that downsizing was an amazing opportunity to revisit some old friends, send them on their way, sell or donate items to people that really wanted and needed them, and move to our California home with a fresh perspective and the clean slate that we wanted. I love having less things, and knowing that pretty much everything I need fits into a small space. It actually can become addictive. I was always one to think carefully about not acquiring too many things, and practiced what I preached as a professional organizer. But going through this type of downsizing myself gave me a renewed appreciation and understanding for how some of my clients felt over the years after they decluttered. This downsizing process made me realize that I can keep stripping down further and further. It’s very freeing. You have more flexibility and mobility, less to take care of, less to insure, less to worry about. Just… Less. Which in the long run gives you a feeling of abundance. And that is how I discovered the upside of downsizing.

If you want to work on some home projects, including getting more organized, check out my new La Dolce Vita 6-Week Group Life Coaching Program. One of the topics we will cover is getting your “house” in order – literally and figuratively. It’s an opportunity for you to focus on all of those home projects that you’ve been putting aside. But that’s just one of the awesome topics that we will be covering in the program. We will also be covering productivity, life-work balance, health and fitness, relationships, and finances. It’s powerful, but affordable. We start on February 20, with early bird rate in effect until February 13. Visit LisaMontanaro.com/lmg-university/LaDolceVita for details and registration.

celebrateI am wishing you all a fantastic 2014 personally and professionally. I find it helps me to choose a word to give me an over-arching theme in the new year. For many people, the one word approach feels more manageable and powerful than a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions which can often feel like any other To-Do List.

My word for the new year is Presence — a reminder to focus on the moment, to live each moment to the fullest, and to savor each experience. What’s your word/theme?

In 2011, my word was Implement (and boy did I implement that year as I changed my business brand and model, and went with my husband on 13 interviews around the U.S. to choose a place for him to do a residency and for us to relocate to from NY). My word in 2012 was Change as we relocated across country and completely changed our lives (and expanded my business). In 2013, my word was Discover as I acclimated to living in Northern California and embracing our new life here (took Italian classes, became a “real” bicyclist, got back on stage with local theater groups, etc). Now in 2014, my word is Presence as it will be all about living in the moment, uni-tasking and savoring all of the experiences personally and professionally that I am blessed to have in my life.

When I posted on social media about this one-word approach, I got a huge response to my appeal for people to share their word of the new year. People’s comments were very inspiring and thought-provoking.

So… what is your word or theme? Share in the comments so others can be inspired too!

P.S. – If you want to go deeper with this topic and tips, tools, and strategies to help you with Goal Setting in the New Year, then join me for my complimentary teleclass: Don’t Just Make a Wish & Blow It Into the Wind: Make Your Goals a Reality in the New Year! on January 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm PST / 5:30 pm MST / 6:30 pm CST / 7:30 pm EST. This call is complimentary and will also be recorded if you are unable to join us live. All registrants will receive a link to the recording within 24 hours. Click here to register!

iStock_000020928328XSmallP.P.S. – For those of you that know you want 2014 to be your best year yet, and are looking for a fabulous program to help you make that happen, check out my La Dolce Vita 6-Week Group Life Coaching Program starting on February 6, 2014. It’s affordable and powerful!! Click here for details!

“Personal experience tells me that never emptying our time is like never emptying our garbage cans, our bladders, or our digestive tracts.
Do those images disgust you? Good. I want them to. The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our social mindset that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” ~ Martha Beck

Do you ever wake up feeling stressed just thinking about your day? Phone calls, emails, errands, and appointments. These days it doesn’t matter how early you wake up, the fact is you will already be behind schedule. Because time in our culture is moving so fast. It’s like a race to get to the end of the day so you can look back, and say “Look at all those things that I did. Now that was a busy day.”

Staying busy, but not productive, is the curse of our times. As the actress Lily Tomlin so eloquently put it, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Here are some typical phrases that you may hear today: bigstock-The-word-Everything-on-a-To-Do-45656401

“I am so tired, I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep !”
“I’m drowning over here!”
“Oh my God, I’m crazy-busy!”

Somehow, these expressions are intended to demonstrate cultural value and importance. They are uttered out of habit, for attention, or worse, because someone is truly spiraling out of control. Take a good hard look at what these words are really expressing: lack of control, stress, and in the extreme, death! Wow… Is this what you really mean? Is this the language you want to be saying to yourself and sharing with others?

I am a person that chooses to live a full life, in the sense that I enjoy running a thriving business and the work that it entails, pursue personal passions and hobbies, love to travel, and spend time with friends, family and colleagues. However, I feel that some major things have shifted, starting with the loss of my beloved mother in 2010, and then continuing since I relocated from NY to Northern California in July 2012. Although I’m one who enjoys having a full plate, I’m learning more and more to be at peace with the open space that not being “crazy-busy” provides. It’s not always easy, trust me. But I am choosing not to win the “crazy-busy” contest.

I was speaking with a friend a few months ago. At one point, my friend commented “Wow, you’re so busy. How are you doing it all?” My response? “I don’t really like to say that I am ‘busy’ anymore. ‘Busy’ is so negative. Now, I like to think of it, and describe it, as living a full life on purpose.”

This conversation led me to think about how things have shifted for me over the last couple of years — especially when it comes to the word “busy.” You see, when I deliver my keynote to audiences on life-work integration, I talk a lot about this concept of how crazy-busy has become a badge of honor in our society. And how the only way to stop it is to take notice, change our la nguage, and change our behavior. So, I decided to start with me.

This has been a full year; for me personally, for my husband who is in the midst of a demanding veterinary residency in internal medicine, and for my business. I’ve traveled quite a bit for speaking engagements throughout the U.S., immersed myself in the launch of my new online learning platform LMG University, coached and consulted with clients near and far, enjoyed lots of bicycle riding in my new Northern California area, got back on stage to perform in an amazing production of Les Miserables, and enjoyed meeting new friends and colleagues in the area. Some might call this “busy.” I call it intentionally engaged and living a joyfully full life — on purpose.

“Busy” is stressful (even the energy of the word itself!). It has this powerful ability to take over one’s focus. People often claim that the main thing stopping them from fully realizing and achieving their dreams is that they ar e too “busy.” But busy is a conscious choice. “Busy” and “I have no time” (yes you do or you wouldn’t be alive… but I digress!) are excuses that are, sadly, here to stay. We have to get better at calling ourselves out on this. We have to prioritize, own our choices, watch our language, and value our precious time. We have to be intentional and purposeful.

I am being totally honest when I say that “busy” still creeps in for me sometimes (that little bugger!). But in those moments, I catch myself and quickly change my language and try to change my mindset. I try to kick busy to the curb and replace it with conscious living, which may still mean a full life, but not one that feels negative or will win me any badge of honor for the “crazy busy” contest. That’s one contest that I am purposefully hoping to lose!