#386: Dealing with Clutter in the Hardest Time of Your Life

#386: Dealing with Clutter in the Hardest Time of Your Life

Have you ever made progress on your decluttering journey only to stop when something unexpected and unwelcome happens? Maybe you have a loved one going through hard times and you want to help, but don’t know where to begin. This week, Kathi chats with Niki Hardy, author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart, about what to do in difficult seasons.

In this episode, you’ll learn tons of practical wisdom about what you can do in hard times, whether you or someone you love is directly affected. You’ll hear about how to:

  • Ask for and accept help from others when you need it.
  • Offer help in a way that blesses those in hard times.
  • How taking care of your future self is crucial in tough seasons.

If you’re curious about the Enneagram after hearing Niki mention it, click here.

You can order your own copy of Niki’s book Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart on Amazon today.

Giveaway

As a bonus for two lucky listeners, we are giving away two copies of Niki’s book, Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart! Enter below by commenting and letting us know:

When you have been in a situation where you needed help, what is something that someone has done for you that offered practical, timely help in that situation?

 

We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

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Transcript

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #386

Dealing with Clutter at in the Hardest Time of your Life

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well hey, friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life.  You know, one of the things I hear so much in Clutter Free Academy, our Facebook group, and from you, individually, or when I go speak is, “Decluttering was going so well until…” and whatever that ‘until’ is. Whether it was a physical illness, it was the death of somebody you cared deeply about, a change in your life that was unwelcome and unexpected. Things were going well until. Today on the podcast I want to talk about the ‘until’. Today, doing that, we have Nicki Hardy. She is the author of this beautiful book Breath Again: How to Live Well when Life Falls Apart. Niki, thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.

Niki – Thank you for having me. It’s a joy to be here.

Kathi – I love that, even in just our brief time talking before we got onto the podcast, “Okay, this could be really heavy.” You are light and wonderful, so you are the perfect person to talk about this with. I know your book isn’t overtly about clutter, but can you tell us a little bit about what happened in your life? Then I’ve got some questions about the stuff in your life and some of the processes you had to reevaluate in your story.

Niki – Yes, of course. I love the way you say, “Everything was going right until…” I think for some of us, it’s one big moment and for others it’s a slow unravelling. I think I had three big ‘until’ moments. I lost my mom to cancer, and hers was aggressive; lung cancer. Then just six years later my sister had the same thing and unfortunately she passed away at just 43 after just 14 months. Then six weeks after losing Jo, I was diagnosed. It was three consecutive side-swipes by life. Mine wasn’t lung cancer like there’s. Mine was rectal cancer. I can only just say that out loud and on-air, ‘cause it’s not the sexiest of cancers. It doesn’t come with a pretty pink bow or a cuddly teddy bear.

Kathi – How many walks are there for rectal cancer?

Niki – There are more than you’d think. It’s the number 2 cancer killer in the country.

Kathi – It is? Okay, Niki, I had no idea. Zero idea. People don’t talk about it.

Niki – Yeah, people say you’re never too young. I don’t think people do. It’s silent because, if you’re like me, you have absolutely no symptoms. It comes out of the blue, and often when you do find out about it, it’s too late. So, I would say to anyone, “You’re never too young to love your bum.” Go and get that lovely colonoscopy.

Kathi – Most famously, at least that I know, Farrah Fawcett Majors was the one that had rectal cancer and sadly, passed away from it. So, you’re never too young to love your bum. You know what? There needs to be a bumper sticker. Okay, so, can I tell you, I’m one of those people who have put it off? After my last podcast today, I’ll be calling to make the appointment. Thank you for that.

Niki – I’m so glad.

Kathi – Thank you for that nudge. Thank you for that kick in the rear that I so desperately needed. Sorry, that’ll be the last rear joke of the podcast. How does one function? Okay, first of all, losing your mom. I’ve lost my dad and it was expected. It was known. It still took my breath away, and can I just say grief is the sneakiest emotion of them all? There’s that. You lost your mom. Then, not in the natural order of things, you lose your sister. So, two deaths of women who were too young to be gone. Then a diagnosis for you. What was the biggest impact of that diagnosis? How did that change your life that people would have noticed?

Niki – Well, noticeably, I’m a Brit with a stiff and perfectly waxed upper lip and I can keep calm and carry on with the best of them. So, on the one hand, I just kept going. I was determined to survive. My faith, my grit, and my stiff upper lip were going to get me through this. At the same time, I was falling apart. So, my friends who have read my book have said, “I had no idea you were feeling like this.” And I replied, “Nor did I until I wrote it down afterwards.” It had a huge impact on my faith. It had huge impact on our kids, who, as far as they were concerned, cancer meant you were going to die and die quickly.

Kathi – Yes.

Niki – How we told those; how we interacted with our church and how honest we were. All those kinds of things. On Clutter Free Academy, we talk about clutter, but it was as if my life had shattered, and I was surrounded by rubble, not clutter. I had medical paraphernalia everywhere, but I also had emotional/spiritual/physical rubble.

Kathi – There’s a dimension that is added to your life. It’s not just you don’t feel well. Like you said, the medical paperwork is another full time job. I have, fortunately, been very healthy throughout most of my life, but the couple of times we’ve encountered surgeries or something like that, it’s another job to be able to stay on top of that. Then, like you said, the medical paraphernalia; having to incorporate that into and already busy home? I can’t even imagine. So, I know you’re going to be on a lot of podcasts and a lot of places talking the deep, spiritual stuff about this, but here are my questions for you, as they relate to clutter. I think clutter is a physical manifestation of our overwhelm. When you see somebody’s house is out of control, or you see that their kids are showing up to school and they don’t look like they’re out of a Macy’s ad. When those things happen, I want to know what do you do as the person who is in the midst of it? I’d love a couple of practical steps. Then, I would also love to know, if you are my friend and you’ve got that stiff upper lip, how do I engage in order to help? Let’s start with you. I’m sure you did things wrong, but if you could go back and teach your sick self what to do, what would you tell her?

Niki – I think the first thing would be to accept help. That is so hard because it means accepting we need help. We’re in a culture that’s a ‘make it happen captain’ culture. We celebrate people who have made it on their own. So saying, “Help!” sounds like we’re uttering this four letter word. So, admitting we need help is, not only an emotional step, but it also requires us to allow people into our mess. Emotionally and practically as well. To allow somebody to come and fold your laundry requires they are going to handle your undies and see that your laundry room is a bomb site.  Even if they want to do the washing up or take the dog for a walk, they’re going to see that all that stuff is in a mess. So, it requires a level of letting people in, which requires letting our boundaries or our walls down a little bit. I kept mine up for far too long to keep it all together.

Kathi – Letting people in requires a certain amount of letting go of control. That’s very scary when you’re already in a situation where you’re not in control.

Niki – Exactly. I talk about, in the book, about choosing ‘brave’. I think, asking for help, asking for somebody to come and drive you somewhere, or take your kids to practice is a really brave choice. We think bravery is something that’s huge and comes with the genes we’re born with, or not born with, but it’s actually a choice. It doesn’t need to be big, but it does need to be intentional. It can mean getting out of bed when depression hits hard. That’s the kind of brave choice, and I think allowing people in is a brave choice.

Kathi – So, what kind of people do you let in? Because there are safe people and there are not so safe people. I have never been in the position you have, of being so physically compromised, so I want to know: What are the hallmarks of the people that you should let in, and the others who you say, “You know what? A gift card would be great.”?

Niki – I think that’s so true. There are safe people and there’s safe things you can tell more people. Like, I was quite happy sharing, for the most part, prayer requests. People would share when we needed meals or rides for kids. Those are very safe things to talk about. Letting people into the feeling that ‘when I got cancer, the whole world got cancer’ and every argument with my husband meant that our marriage was one the rocks, and every time my teenagers were snarky, it meant that they weren’t handling my cancer and they were doing drugs. Those require a certain closeness of people. I found that the people who were safest in that, were the people that were willing to not try and fix it. Who were willing to say, “Yes, this sucks. I am so sorry.”

Kathi – “This is so hard. I’m so sorry.” I love that. Okay, here’s what I would love. I would love for you to be able to tell me. Say, my friend has just been diagnosed and I’m scared. One, I don’t need her to fix my scared. I need to deal with that on my own, but what are the tangible things that I can do? The offers I can make? And how do I go about making those offers in a way that will be supportive to her? All I want to do is help, but I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I don’t want to be a downer. What are some physical, tangible things that I can do for her to help her out?

Niki – It’s a great question. I think it’s so important to talk about these, because being on the receiving end of it, I’ve had people do wonderful things and people say terrible things. I think that acknowledging that it’s really hard and you’re really sorry that they’re going through this. I think, asking, specifically, what you can do to help, but also acknowledging that they might not know.

Kathi – That’s my concern.

Niki – I think saying something like, “I really want to help. What specific things can I do? I’m thinking I could…x, y, or zed. Let me know if that would help.” Then saying something freeing, like, “No need to text me back today.” Or “How are you doing today?” Because it might be different to yesterday or five minutes ago. Then, I think one of the best things we can do is, when somebody is struggling, sit with them in the pain. When they’re doing well, do well with them. Not necessarily talk about the last surgery or the last chemo or whatever. When they’re doing well, celebrate with them.

Kathi – I love this. I love the offer of, okay, I’m just going to be British here for a second, “x, y, and zed”. That makes me so happy I can’t even stand it. It signals the level of your willingness to help. “Can I bring you a meal?” “Can I take your kids to soccer practice?” Or, “Can I go sit with you while you’re in chemotherapy?” “I have friends who have a vacation home, so when you’re past this, let me know when you have a weekend and we’ll get that settled.” Whatever it is, it signals. I know when I’ve been in hard situations, I haven’t wanted to ask for too big a favor. That says, “Hey! We are willing! My husband is willing to come and do the yard.” Or whatever your gifts are. Whatever your talents are, to be able to go in. I love that what you’re doing is signaling people. You said that your journey through all these griefs has changed how you viewed clutter and staying organized. Can you tell me a little bit about it? It doesn’t have to be radical, but I’d love to know how that changed for you.

Niki – I think that one of the key things is that when my surroundings are in a mess, it adds to the overwhelm. It adds to the emotional turmoil if there’s external turmoil. So, I’m very fortunate that I have a very organized, and a very tidy husband.

Kathi – God bless him.

Niki – God bless him. So, that was a huge help, but we had to do things like, I moved into a room we had downstairs so that he wouldn’t be disturbed. So, trying to keep medical paraphernalia out of the way so that it wasn’t top of mind the whole time. The way I view clutter now, is that it is an additional stress in my life that I don’t actually need. I’m a big fan of Greg McCowan who wrote Essentialism.

Kathi – Yes!

Niki – I’m a seven on the enneagram and I’m just go go go, fun fun fun. So, I often don’t finish tasks and put things away at the time. That has changed, because I think I will want that away. The future me will need that to be away. So, that has really helped.

Kathi – I love that. We have a concept around here about taking care of your future self. We always assume our future self is going to have more energy, more time, more desire. When you have gone through something like you have Niki, that fantasy is dispelled. There isn’t, necessarily, a block of time where you’re just going to say, “You know what? I really feel like organizing all my office supplies today.” There isn’t going to be extra money, necessarily. There’s not going to be, necessarily, extra energy. So, if I can do it now. I’m not doing it because I want to be the Martha Stewart of homes. I’m doing this because I want to take care of my future self who has a cold; who has a friend who needs me to watch their kids. I want to take care of that future self so she can do what God has called her to do.

Niki – Exactly. I’ve learned that if I do it now, it takes half the time it would if I did it in the future. It’s a way of loving myself. One thing I’m terrible at is resting and sitting and reading a book when it’s not five minutes before I turn the light out. Those are the things I’m trying to incorporate so that I can live well when life falls apart, and when it’s good.

Kathi – When you say it’s half the effort to do it now as it is to do it later, it’s so true. We add the shame to it of “Why did I leave this out?” There’s an emotional component. When you put something down, your whole family says, “Oh, good. This is where we put things down now.” We don’t need any of that.  Niki, I know your book is filled with wisdom and emotional health, but thank you for getting practical with us. I really appreciate the tactical ways to support yourself through a crisis and to support others. Thank you so much for that.

Niki – Oh, you’re welcome. One of the reasons I wrote the book was because there were so many books out there that were motivating and inspiring and encouraging, but I would read them and go, “But how do I do this? How do I just trust God when life has fallen apart? What do I do with my anger? How do I practice gratitude? What does that look like when you’re just angry?” So, the book is deeply practical because we need to be able to touch it and feel it and see it in action.

Kathi – And make it happen. This is so good. Guys, we have a couple copies of this to give away, so here’s what I’d love in the podcast notes. I would love to comment for me and tell me, when you have been in a situation where you’ve needed help, what is something that someone has done for you that has offered practical, timely help in that situation? Niki, I so appreciate your time and your willingness to come on Clutter Free Academy. Thanks for being here.

Niki – It’s been a joy. Thank you for having me.

Kathi – And friends, thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.

 

 

<<music>>

 

*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Niki Hardy

Niki Hardy

Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA, a rectal (yes, rectal) cancer survivor, pastor’s wife, tea drinker and teller of terrible jokes. As a speaker and the author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart, she’s all about meeting you when life’s not fair and helping you embrace the reality that with God, life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full, then go live it.

Learn more at nikihardy.com

When “Getting Over It” Just Doesn’t Work – Trusting God with Your Biggest Problem

When “Getting Over It” Just Doesn’t Work – Trusting God with Your Biggest Problem

Trusting God with your biggest problem

One of the most common comments I get about my life with clutter is, “Oh, you wrote a book about clutter? Is your house perfect now?

Or people will say, “I could never have you over to my house. You’re the clutter free person. I’d be too embarrassed!

These two statements highlight two different misconceptions:

1. Because I’ve found something that works for me, I will never struggle again.
2. I can’t remember what it’s like to be in the hardest part of the struggle.

So let me share the reality of my clutter free life:

I still struggle.

My natural tendency is towards clutter. To put things down, leave them for later.

My garage can still be an embarrassment.

My relationship with stuff has changed dramatically. I still keep stuff I shouldn’t, but it’s not households of stuff. I still have too many clothes, but it’s not closets full of them. I’m so much better, because I’ve learned some of the reasons for my struggle along the way, and I realize that even when I’m at the hardest part of my struggle, God is not a disappointed and disapproving relative waiting to love me when I (literally) clean up my act. In my struggle, God pulls me tighter, loves me hard, and doesn’t let me go.

So much of this paradigm reminds me of my struggle with depression about a dozen years ago. I felt that if I just tried harder, worked more, and wasn’t so lazy, God would be pleased with me and would make my depression go away.

I know. I know.

What crazy, faulty, thinking.

But that’s the kind of thinking that so many of us do when we are dealing with a struggle.

If only I tried harder…

I should be able to get myself out of this mess.

If God was pleased with me, He would get me out of this mess.

Recently, I had a conversation with Melissa Maimone author of The Radiant Midnight: Depression, Grace, and the Gifts of a Dark Place. (Holy cow, what a title!) What I love most about this book is that Melissa believes not only will God lead you out of darkness, He will be fully and beautifully present within it. Instead of trying to give anyone three simple steps to deal with a hard situation, she takes the radical notion that God sits with us in our pain and suffering. Instead of always looking to get out of the circumstance, she urges us to recognize that God is guiding us on a journey of surrender, suffering, rest, and restoration in the midst of what we are going through.

There is value in knowing that we don’t just have to try harder to get out of the circumstances we are in. There is value in recognizing that there is good in the hard places, whether it’s outside of ourselves (clutter) or inside ourselves. God is there, and He is good, even when our challenges are hard.

Giveaway!

The generous people over at Harvest House want to give our readers Melissa’s book, The Radiant Midnight: Depression, Grace, and the Gifts of a Dark Place! 5 people will win a copy and 1 grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of the book, The Radiant Midnight
  • A Wood Grain Folding Book Lamp, Night Light
  • Weighted Silk Sleep Mask Eye Pillow Filled with Organic Lavender and Flax Seeds

Giveaway- book eye mask and lamp

Enter to win by commenting below- have you ever had a situation where you believed you had to just try harder to get out of the hard place and then you would find God rather than knowing He was right there in it with you?

5 Ways to Help the Hoarder you Love When You’ve Lost Hope

5 Ways to Help the Hoarder you Love When You’ve Lost Hope

Looking at photos of my mom’s house creates a conflict of emotions. On one hand, I think, “Oh…that’s where that yearbook went,” and then on the other, I gasp, “Did we really live like that?”

The answer is yes. Yes, we did. Though my mother’s home got worse after I moved out in 1995 and even worse than that when I stopped visiting her home in 1997, it wasn’t beyond recognition when I walked through the front door after her death in 2015.

This is life when you love a hoarder.

Hoarding comes up frequently over in our Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. We attract people who love hoarders and want to help them, and we attract people who identify as hoarders. As the kindest corner of the internet, we love every single one of them in our shame-free zone. Our recent two-part podcast, “Is It Hoarding or is it Clutter?” (listen to Part 1 and Part 2) debunks common myths around hoarding.

Hoarding isn’t about organization or cleaning, and it’s not about laziness. It’s a mental health disorder that comes in varying degrees. The thought or act of getting rid of saved items causes great distress to people with hoarding disorder. And the thought and act of living with people who have this persistent inability to discard possessions, regardless of value, causes great distress to the rest of us.

Loving a hoarder is not an easy life, but neither is being a hoarder.

Most of us are not equipped to help the hoarders we love. That requires the intervention of professionals. The International OCD Foundation estimates 1 in 50 Americans falls somewhere on the hoarding scale but only 15% will ever seek professional help. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, but it does mean we have to be strategic in helping the hoarders we love. Here are my personal tips:

We can educate ourselves

The International OCD Foundation’s Hoarding Center offers a helpful and effective Clutter Image Scale that helps to identify hoarding vs. clutter. When I discovered Kathi’s book, Clutter Free, most of my house fell in the 2-3 range on this scale. One room was a 4. My mom’s home, on the other hand, was an 8 all the way.

We can set boundaries

Due to the obsessive-compulsive nature of hoarding disorder, removing things from a hoarder’s home without their consent or cleaning up after them causes more harm than good. The hoarder can become agitated, angry and might distance themselves. However, you can set limits. My mom wouldn’t allow me or anyone to visit but she often brought her stuff into my home and would try to leave it. We had to make a rule that whatever she brought had to leave with her, and it was a battle we fought till the end of her life.

We can encourage

Understanding that even a single bag of trash can be overwhelming for a hoarder, we can celebrate any level of progress they make and encourage them further. We can listen without judgement, and we can support their efforts at getting help.

We can get help for ourselves

We can seek the help of a therapist or counselor in working through our own emotions and challenges of loving a hoarder. There are also organizations that exist to support those who love or live with hoarders. Children of Hoarders is a nonprofit with a wealth of online resources that apply to anyone with a hoarder in their life.

We can plan ahead

That means those of us who love hoarders need to prepare for what we will inherit when they die. I knew I’d need help with my mom’s house and had started saving for it. Her death came sooner than expected but the mental preparation helped me handle the burden of settling her affairs while grieving her death. Aftermath Services specializes in hoarding clean-up. It took me two hours of phone calls and internet searches to find them, but they had my mom’s home cleaned and sanitized in six hours. The relief they brought to me in my time of grief is priceless.


Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter-Free Academy Facebook group.A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.GreatMoms.org.

#320: How to Be Kind to Your Future Self and Overcome Procrastination Today

#320: How to Be Kind to Your Future Self and Overcome Procrastination Today

Have you ever had a big project that you just kept putting off? Or something in your life that just felt too big to tackle right now so you put it off and put it off for another time? Kathi sits down with friend and coauthor of “You Don’t Have to Try So Hard,” Cheri Gregory, to talk about emotional clutter and procrastination.

In this Episode You Will Know:

  • Why procrastination is actually considered a form of perfectionism.
  • How to know if you’re a procrastinator.
  • Why celebrating those small things is such a big deal.
  • The 3 most important things to know if you’re a procrastinator.

Join us for the You Don’t Have to Try so Hard Book Club!

If you’re committed to really ditching those crazy expectations you’ve put on your life, this book club is for you. We’ll be diving into the concepts of identifying and destroying those bullies that keep us in try-harder living rather than living our best life.

We’ll be holding the club on Facebook in our Private Clutter Free Academy group. It is the kindest corner of the internet, where there is no shame to our game. We’ll be exploring You Don’t Have to Try So Hard as a group from September 10 through October 22 and would love to have you join us. Click here to join today!

WIN A COPY OF YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRY SO HARD!

Comment below and be entered to win the You Don’t Have to Try So Hard gift pack from Harvest House which includes:

Gracelaced Planner
Simple Organizing
Holy Hustle
Unblinded Faith
You Don’t Have to Try So Hard

What is the one thing you are procrastinating on this week and the step you are going to take to get past it?

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

• Leave a note in the comment section below.
• Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To Help Out the Show:

• Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
• Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe now.

Thank you to Cheri for joining me in today’s podcast! Join us next week as we talk about perfectionism.

 

Transcript

Kathi Lipp:
Welcome to Clutter Free Academy where our heart is to help you take small do-able steps to live every day with less Clutter and more life. These four weeks are all about the emotional clutter. But I’ll just say, of all the cluttering topics that we’re talking about, this is the one that’s going to lead you to the most physical clutter. Today we’re talking about the “p word”—procrastination—the hardest one of all. Here with me today is Cheri Gregory, co-author of “You Don’t Have to Try so Hard”. Welcome back to Clutter Free Academy, Cheri.

So Cheri, how has procrastination shown up in your life?

Cheri Gregory:
Thanks for having me. Of course I’m more of the classic perfectionist where I will kill myself to get things done, but the procrastination shows up when I feel like something is so overwhelming. The performance the part of me is all or nothing. I either have to do it amazingly or not at all, and so this procrastination is, “Well, right now I don’t have time to do it all and do it perfectly, thus I won’t do anything at all,” so I won’t even start unless I can keep it going. I know some of your people in Clutter Free Academy feel like they can’t start doing the physical decluttering if they can’t do it all at once, and so I know that that’s where some of your guidance with the blue tape and the fifteen minute time-boxing makes such a big difference for them.

Kathi:
I think that’s because they’ve started before and they haven’t finished. Then it’s been more of a mess than when they started, so that’s why we say in twenty minutes–fifteen minutes of de-cluttering and five minutes of putting away–it’s only going to look better. There’s another de-cluttering system out there that just makes me crazy because you’re supposed to de-clutter by putting everything in the middle of a room. Oh my goodness, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life! I hope it works for people but it does not work for me. I need to do short, small, doable bits, and the funny thing is, well the not so funny thing, is that you and I have both talked about this type of procrastination being the most socially acceptable. Perfectionistic people don’t see this as perfectionism. So it’s mental.

Cheri:
Right! I’ve actually spoken on this, and had women walk by later and say, “I’ve never thought of procrastination before as perfectionism!” But I think it’s the mindset of, “If I can’t do it right, I’m not going to do it at all. I’m not even going to get started!” So people are constantly putting off tasks until there’s a better time, or a better time they can do it right or they can do it perfectly. The problem with that is that the fear builds up. At least for me, if I put it off for three days, there must be a good reason. If I put it off for three weeks, it must be the biggest baddest monster that I can possibly imagine! Whereas, when we just get started, we shrink can it down to size.
You’ve probably told a few of those stories! You know, when a person tells a grand procrastination story and then says they pulled it off at the last possible moment—and the crowd goes wild! We love these stories! We think they’re just marvelous! The stories are funny and crowd-pleasing. But nobody ever says, “That’s so irresponsible! Why would you tell that story at a party?”

Kathi:
I grew up with a mom whose motto was, “I work better under pressure.” It took me a long time to figure out that no, she didn’t work better under pressure, she just worked. My mom was always busy, but when there was a deadline, and we’re all better with a deadline, she worked harder. That’s not a bad thing you know. I’m noticing as I’m doing more de-cluttering around my house, when I’m doing it with the mission of having people spend the night or something like that, of course I’m going to work harder. It’s more about understanding those little rewards those little goals that help us so much.

So, how do you know if you’re a procrastinator? Perhaps you are if you put off listening to this podcast for three weeks because you didn’t have time! But we all know if this is something we do.

But there are pain points. The number one for me for a long time was that I was always apologizing but nobody cared. People would think, “Yep, we know Kathi, we know you said you were going to do it and you didn’t do it on time.” My mom loves to tell the tale of the library fines I had, because it was always easier to find the library books later on. I was the worst! She says, “I can’t believe they didn’t have a ‘Most Wanted’ poster up there for you.”

I have many people who work for me. I’ve got some who are always on time, and I have some who are sometimes on time and not sometimes on time because things have come up, and then I have people who are always late. The people in the always-late category don’t stick around for very long because we can’t we can’t roll like that.

Cheri:
The second pain point is that you work on things that aren’t important to avoid the pain of difficult tasks. For example, when those of us who work at home on a book deadline find ourselves scrubbing the grout! It is amazing the things that suddenly look so appealing when we want to avoid the one thing that is terrifying us—the thing that we’re afraid of. I think it’s hard sometimes because I don’t recognize it as fear. Instead I’m telling myself that I don’t want to do that, I’m not in the mood today. Or I believe it’s icky. No, it’s fear. I’m afraid of some aspect of the work I’m avoiding, and it is easier for me to go do some other disgusting horrible task that I really don’t like and don’t want to do. That ought to be a sign, when we’re willing to do something we hate doing in order to avoid the other thing.

Kathi:
I see that all the time in myself sadly.
The third pain point is that either people think you’re unreliable, or you kill yourself on a regular basis at the last minute. I’d say I went from being unreliable to thinking, “I’m going to do this whether it kills me,” and let’s be clear, and it kills my husband, it kills my kids, it kills the people I care about because I have a high sense of responsibility now.

Cheri:
The problem is that when you’ve killed yourself and you’ve pulled it off, now you’re behind on the next things that need to be done, and it ends up being this endless cycle of being behind, which looks like procrastination. I think we are all willing to listen to people who have a crisis or an emergency, and at that point that’s a reason to be late or miss a deadline. People can be understanding of that. But when it becomes a pattern then it becomes just excuses.

Kathi:
Yes, and there have been times when all of us have gone through a really tough times in our lives, so please don’t think that we’re short on mercy. It’s the people who keep finding those tough times and using them for the reasons or excuses, and it’s gone on for months or years, that’s when we know.

Cheri:
I have created crises. I have almost knowingly gone without sleep eating too much sugar to get sick so that I could then suddenly cancel out of things or extend deadlines. I’m not above doing such things. I didn’t really intentionally do it in the moment, but in looking back I now see that I pulled a fast one on myself and thus everybody else there.

Kathi:
It’s a way of self-protection really.

What are the three most important things you need to know if you are a procrastinator?

Cheri:
Number one: You’ve got to learn to take care of your future self.

I love how you talk about this future self as being somebody that we need to be loyal to, rather than the immediate gratification. Because avoiding what feels scary in the moment feels fabulous now.

Kathi:
I will say this, my ankle has been hurting quite a bit recently and I’ve been talking about taking care of my future self. I’ve been going to the gym, I’ve been doing long walks, and my ankle has been in pain. At first I thought it was a spider bite because there were two little pinpricks in there. Then I thought it was gout and that I just needed to hustle. I need to do more. It turns out that I have a fractured ankle. So be smart about your future self. Your future self also doesn’t want to be crippled. It’s always a balance of what we need to do today to prepare for the future, but also I need to take care of myself today. So live in that balance and constantly ask yourselves if you’re doing the right thing for today’s self, and for future self. Sometimes you get to just have a break, and it’s okay. You can eat a granola bar and watch an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” That’s OK because that’s restorative and soul filling. But most of the time what we need to be doing is taking care of the things that would be so much easier to put off because they’re hard or scary we don’t want to do them.

Cheri:
Number two: Take the next micro step.

One of the things we’ve been learning over the last few years together is that we would put things on our list and they would just be too big and that was part of what made it so scary. I’m doing better with procrastination these days because all I have to do is look at it and read it and think about it. I don’t have to do it, I don’t have to fix that, I don’t have to do research. I just need to start wrapping my brain around it, and start giving myself permission to just take that first little micro step. What’s astonishing is that when I’d pushed something off until the very last minute, usually I ended up doing a very poor job. I’m not one of those who pulls it off at the last minute very well because generally the projects are more complicated than I thought, they need more research, or there are people I need to talk to who aren’t accessible at two thirty in the morning. But now, if I can at least get started. If I can at least begin by attempting to understand what the project is about, or who I might need to involve, and what questions I might have it helps. Another really good thing about taking those first micro steps is just knowing what questions I might have, and even jotting those down. That’s not a particularly scary thing to do. I don’t have to have a perfect end result. But oh my goodness, it gets the ball rolling and gets some momentum happening. For so many of us who deal with procrastination, once that obstacle of starting is out of the way, then we can keep it going. It’s the big bad beginning that can just be so overwhelming. Micro steps are the answer to that.

Kathi:
And if you are working on a team, procrastination is about the worst thing that you can do. What you’re doing is that you’re asking everybody to constantly be a hero for you, and people are tired of rescuing over and over and over. There are some people who get off on it, but then you end up owing them all the time and nobody wants to live like that. So the earlier I can do something, the less scary it can be, and the more imaginary obstacles I can remove. When we’re looking at a project we either are the total optimists, thinking this is just going to be so easy, and that we think that way. We’re almost scared to start it because we don’t know what the obstacles are going to be. Then we start imagining all the crazy stuff that could happen, so whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist the reward is procrastination. But it’s only a temporary reward. Don’t you feel terrible while you’re procrastinating? Thinking all the while you know you should be doing this.

Cheri:
My conscience goes crazy!
One of the things I have learned over the last years is to start asking myself what my procrastination is trying to protect me from. In my case, it’s often trying to protect me from devoting too much time. My old perfectionistic self would say,” I’m just going to work. I’m going to work and work and work as hard as I can for long as it takes.” I’ve started to recognize when procrastination is actually kind of being friendly towards me, it’s trying to help me cut things down to size. The problem with using procrastination to do that is that I just waste time. I fritter my time away and then there’s only three hours left, so now the task takes three hours. What I’m trying to learn to do is when I feel like procrastinating, which means I was probably about to devote ten hours to a two hour task, is to give myself permission to only take two or maybe three hours maximum, and I’m going to call that good enough. Then I can do whatever I want with that time. I can relax. I can rest. I can go take a walk and spend time with my family. I can watch “Gilmore Girls.” That’s actually been a really interesting little experiment for me to sometimes look at the procrastination as a potentially friendly force that I need to listen to. What is it trying to do for me? In my case it’s trying to curate.

Kathi:
So you can view procrastination as protection.

Cheri:
Yes. Protection from my crazed performance-istic and perfectionist self.

Kathi:
I love that.

Finally, number three: Accountability.

You and I do this big time. It’s good to be able to say when I can feel myself procrastinating and to be able to say what I want to do and when I need to get it done. Michele Cushatt and I text each other every single morning. We tell each other what we’re writing that day because it would be so easy without that accountability to just think that since nobody is going to know I’m not writing, then the only person I’m hurting is myself. That is the worst sentence in the world by the way—that the only person I’m hurting is myself. Why would that be OK?
How do you use accountability in your life Cheri?

Cheri:
You know from working with me all these years that I am a social learner, so collaboration and cooperation are so important to me. Knowing that I’m stewarding not just my time, which should be important to me, but knowing that I’m responsible for these collaborative projects where what I do or don’t do affects somebody else’s ability to be who God created them to be gives me an extra sense of responsibility. It’s not an oppressive sense of responsibility, it’s exciting. It’s OK. Part of what I’ve realized is that I do need constant feedback, and then I’m less likely to procrastinate. For example, for my writing I have writing coach. The moment I have a draft, no matter how bad it is, I send it off to her. Knowing I’m going to hear back from her in a few days—not months or weeks—keeps me writing. I need the instant gratification of accountability.
It keeps me from feeling like nobody cares or it doesn’t matter to anybody in the world whether or not I meet my deadline. It does matter.

Kathi:
It really does. One of the things that has helped me with accountability are the opportunities that I want. I have to be good about going after them and it’s scary and to say, “ Hey, I’m doing a brave thing and I need you to pray for me, I need you to encourage me, I need you to be ridiculously cheering for me, because this is hard for me.” That helps me to not put things off. I’ve got one of those opportunities right now. I need to apply to be a speaker at something and I’m scared. I’m scared of rejection and so to be able to put my best foot forward and be okay with this I need somebody to cheer me on, and it’s been huge for me to ask for this kind of help and accountability.
Now I want to know, what is the thing that you are procrastinating on this week? We all do it. And what’s the step you’re going to take? Is it micro steps? Is it needing to understand that you’re taking care of your future self? Do you need to ask a friend for some help? Tell us the thing you’re scared of and the step you’re going to take so you won’t procrastinate, and we will enter you in to win the “You Don’t Have to Try So Hard” gift basket. There are amazing books that will help you get on the path to doing what you want to do. Go comment over on the podcast page. Cheri, thanks so much for being with me again today!

Cheri:
Thanks for having me!

Kathi:
Next time we’re talking about the mother of all perfectionistic traits. We’re talking about perfectionism itself. I know it’s so scary, but that’s OK, we’ll hold each other’s hands and we’ll be accountable. Thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now go create the Clutter Free life you were always intended to live.

Meet Our Guest

Cheri Gregory

Cheri Gregory

Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.

God Loves a Do-Over

God Loves a Do-Over

Right now, I’m experiencing the post Easter hangover that so many of us, with less than perfect families, are experiencing.

• I spent way too much money on Easter baskets no one in my family really liked. (I was tempted to ask them for the candy back, but I resisted.)
• The NINE DOLLARS worth of strawberries I bought on Thursday were rotted when I went to cut them on Sunday.
• When we texted our second oldest “Where are you?” to find out where he was for our 1:00 lunch, his response? “For what?”
Sigh.

Maybe you had some of your own crazy going on:
• Your kids didn’t say thank you for the toys your in-laws brought over.
• You cooked all day Saturday and half of Sunday, and someone had the nerve to ask you why there wasn’t any artichoke dip.
• Your brother got drunk and obnoxious. At EASTER.

If your Easter didn’t go according to plan, let me just remind you of this:
New life isn’t just about eternity. It’s about Mondays too.
Luke 1:78 “A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.” GWT
We don’t have to leave the new life in God until next Easter. We get to celebrate each and every new day, each and every day.
God loves a do-over.
Go into today with new hope for what God can do.
Go into today forgetting the perfect Easter that every other family had (and by the way, stick with the friends who share about their kids saying a “grown-up word” when there was nothing in their little orange plastic egg. Those are the friends you need for a lifetime.)
Go into today knowing what we celebrated yesterday: a Christ that cherishes you enough to give you everything he had so he could be in relationship with you forever.