Stop eating Oreos while brushing your teeth!

So we’ve been talking about careers a lot lately…but (luckily) that’s only part of life.  When we’re not at work, (and for some of us, even when we are), we’re at home sweet home.  Since you spend a lot of time there, the environment you create in your home is an important part of your overall state of well-being.

Out of habit from having summers off as a teacher, as well as getting the majority of visits from family during the summer, I tend to do my deep cleaning and organizing this time of year.  It’s an activity that I enjoy and look forward to, though this wasn’t always the case.  I used to struggle a lot with keeping a clean, organized house.  First of all, I just wasn’t interested; it seemed I could always find better things to do.  Then, when two kids came along, things got really messy!  A friend recently posted a card on Facebook that said, “Cleaning the house while the kids are home is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos!”  Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Learn a few tricks from the experts:

Luckily, several years ago I stumbled upon Fly Lady (Funny name, I know.  FLY stands for First Love Yourself.  If you don’t understand the connection between loving yourself and keeping a nice house, read her website.  Really – good stuff.)  If you are not familiar with her, think of Fly Lady as a sort of grandmotherly next-door neighbor who’s been-there-done-that and figured it all out.  She says to think of housecleaning not as a chore, but as an act of gratitude for your beautiful home.  (If your home is not beautiful to you, make it that way: paint rooms, buy new throw pillows, fresh flowers, whatever your budget allows.  Having a house that pleases you is much more motivating when it comes to keeping it clean.)  Fly Lady has great tips for simplifying cleaning and breaking it down into daily tasks that only take a few minutes to do.

I have a friend who was so grateful for me introducing her to Fly Lady that I felt it was the best gift I’d given her in a long time.  She even bought some of Fly Lady’s cleaning products. (She has a special toilet brush, you see…)

Call in the troops

Another way to make cleaning more manageable is to delegate.  When we bought our current home, which is larger than any of the previous ones, I was nervous about being able to keep it clean while working full-time.  I told my husband and kids that if we were going to buy this house, they had to help me, and they do.  They key is to find which tasks everyone likes and is good at. (I know, you’re thinking they won’t want to do any, but trust me, some people really like vacuuming!)  An added benefit to having the kids help out is that it’s good for them.  Studies show that kids who have chores at home grow up to be more successful in school, as well as later in life.  It makes sense: they develop a work ethic, learn organization and responsibility.  Even the tiniest ones can pick their clothes up and put them in the laundry, put their toys in the toy box, etc.  Older kids can do most other cleaning chores, if you show them how.  Just remember it’s better to have help than to have everything done perfectly.


Keep it simple by getting rid of clutter.  Fly Lady says you should give away, recycle or throw away 27 things every week.  I admit I don’t always remember to do this, but I am a notorious purger – I love to go through closets and rid them of anything that hasn’t been worn in a year.  My sister in law once enlisted me to help her throw things away because she knew I would help her get rid of her clutter.   But what about sentimental keepsakes, you say?  A good rule of thumb is, keep it only if it’s important enough to pass on to your children someday.

Break it down

I used to have a designated cleaning day.  Then, during one particularly busy week, I told my kids we would have to clean their rooms one day and vacuum the next.  Later, my son announced that he liked cleaning better when I “broke it down into chunks”.  I’m all about helping my son to like cleaning (my future daughter in law will thank me someday…), and do you know what?  I discovered I like doing it better in chunks, too -that way one room is always freshly cleaned!

Now, when I clean, it really is an act of gratitude.  My clean, organized house relaxes me and frees me to be more productive.

How About You?

Is your home a refuge for you?  If not, what can you do to make it more relaxing?  What are your cleaning/organizing tips?  Share in the comments!

Next week:  How to Clean Green

Need help organizing your life? Check out


Knowing When to Say No and Harnessing the Power of the Mind

This post is a little late in coming, in part because I enjoyed a long weekend with my husband and a couple of fun outings with my kids, but also because I found myself agreeing to do some things I didn’t really want to do.  Did you ever notice how, when we resent something we are doing, it drains us?  Feeling resentment over doing things I didn’t really want to do left me with little energy to complete the things I DID want to do.  One way to know if you are in the right career is if you feel energized not exhausted, by your work.  The problem with extending ourselves too much to please others is that, even if we may have time left in the day for the things we really want to do, we may not have the energy, because resentment requires a lot of energy. 

Setting Boundaries:  Know When to Say No

Now, before you say to yourself, “I’m assertive – I don’t have a problem saying no,” think again.  This is exactly what I was thinking last week when I was reading about setting boundaries.  I was vividly recalling an incident that had happened over a year ago where I had said no, to the point of being selfish and rude.  It left hurt feelings on both sides.  But after realizing one day last week that both of the activities I had scheduled for that day were not those that I really wanted to do, I knew I sometimes have a problem saying no.  Thinking back to last year’s incident, if I had set clear boundaries sooner, (a “little no”), the “big no” could have been avoided and no one would have been hurt.  This is why it is so important to learn to set positive boundaries:  saying “no” in the beginning can often avoid a bigger, messier “no” in the end.

This relates to my experience with job hunting.  When a family relocation forced me to resign from my position as an Instructional Coach, I felt that I was not in a position to say “no” to anything.  It was 2010, and the recession had had time to really dig in.  School districts were making deep cuts; I knew a position as a coach would be difficult or impossible to find.  To make matters worse, we were moving to a resort area with a high cost of living.  I began to think like a desperate person:  I needed a job, any job.  This was what I told my supervisor when she offered to write me a letter of recommendation.  I told everyone who would listen, over and over, that I would go back to the classroom, I would teach anything, I just needed a job.

And that’s exactly what I got.  As readers of this blog know, there were many positives along with the negatives:  I enjoyed being back in the classroom working with adolescents, and I learned tremendous professional and life lessons.  However, I felt drained every day by the stress of not being in the right position and clashing with the philosophy of the administration.  I had little to no energy left to be the kind of mother I wanted to be to my own children when we got home.  I was not fulfilled or energized; I had received exactly what I asked for:  just a job, any job.

Just coincidence, you say?  Consider Henry Ford’s famous words:  “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right”.  It had not even occurred to me that, even though there were no coaching jobs advertised, I could create my own by going into business for myself.  I created my own reality.  Need more convincing about the power of the mind?  Read this study from Psychology Today, “Cheap and expensive wine taste the same in blind taste tests”:

“We are quite bad at tasting the differences between different wines. Even experts are easily fooled. You put a misleading label on a bottle of wine and the experts’ opinions can change dramatically. You can even warm up white wine and color it red (with food coloring) and many judges will think it is a red wine.

This is not just true for wine. Most people can’t taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi (even though most people think they can – I’ve done the experiments). The same is probably true with your favorite drink – say, Powerade vs Gatorade, or your favorite vitamin water or even bourbon. “

It goes on to say that, “The mind takes in information from the sensory world all the time, but that information is just raw material for our experiences. We constantly interpret that and place it into the context of the worlds we have created in our heads. The background story of some item influences those expectations and changes our interpretation – that that’s just as real – to us – as the way wine tastes or a painting looks.”

Harnessing the Power of the Mind to Fulfill Your Dreams

So how do we harness the power of the mind to achieve what we really want?  Coaches use a technique called “neuro-linguistic programming” (neuro=brain, linguistic=language/words).  Sound like hocus-pocus?  It’s actually sound science:  forcing the brain to focus on positive language and imagine success has been proven to increase successful outcomes.  Henry Ford knew it all along.

So start by writing a vision of your dream job:  be specific about location, working environment, job duties, and salary.  Don’t hold anything back – you’re dreaming, so why not shoot for the moon? 

Next, think about what skills and talents you possess that are necessary for this job.  This may not be as easy as it sounds; many of us are much more focused on our weaknesses than our strengths.  Don’t just limit yourself to skills that you are using in your current job – think of all the jobs you’ve had, as well as any skills and talents you might have OUTSIDE the workplace.  Often the activities we enjoy for fun teach us valuable workplace skills.

Now, time to write your resume.  Your old one is probably outdated.  Here is a great article with advice about making your resume current, attention-getting and impressive:

The Search Begins:

Don’t just limit yourself to the classified ads.  Tell everyone you know what it is that you are seeking; you never know who may have a lead or connection.  You can’t underestimate the power of networking.  However, don’t just blindly send off hundreds of copies of your resume, either.  Do a little homework and research the companies in your area that you might like to work for.  Craft a well-written cover letter specific to each company.  Find out who does the hiring and address the letter to that person.  Even if a company doesn’t have any openings at the moment, your motivation and commitment may impress them enough to remember you when something does open up.

Finally, the main point of this post:  don’t be afraid to say no.  If you are called for an interview, remember that YOU should be asking questions as well.  Not only is the employer determining if you are a good fit for their organization, but you are also determining if they are a good fit for you!  Have the confidence to hold out for what you want, and you will be rewarded with fulfillment, energy and happiness.

What have you learned from setting boundaries?  What have you learned from job searching?  Share your thoughts!

Finding Balance in Your Life – Some Ideas I’ve Found Helpful

Part One: Career

Roll With It – The Wheel of Life

A very popular activity that many coaches use to help clients identify goals is the Wheel of Life.  A quick internet search will reveal the popularity of this activity, along with many templates for your own Wheel of Life.  Most have several categories already designated, such as career, family, health, wealth, spirituality, etc.  A few are blank, inviting you to choose the categories that are most meaningful to you.   The idea is to rate your satisfaction in each of these areas of your life to come up with a graph.  Artistic types might want to color-code their categories.  For other, more data-oriented folks, similar results could be achieved be creating a bar graph or spreadsheet.  For visually oriented people, this can be a meaningful exercise that reveals where your life may be out of balance.  It is important to note that it is not necessary to strive for equality among the different categories; you may be fine with putting more time and effort into some than others.  I myself have created a wheel of life, and I keep it as a reminder in my journal, so that I’m accountable to myself for devoting time to each of the areas in which I want to grow. 

In the next several posts, I want to focus on different areas of the Wheel of Life and share resources and ideas to promote growth and satisfaction for each:  consider it like an Oprah-style endorsement.  (I’ll bet the people whose products I am endorsing wish I had a fraction of Oprah’s following!)

Working for a Living

Since the last few posts have been about career changes, I’ll start there.  When I decided last January to leave my high school teaching position, it was time to take stock of my skills, talents and dreams to decide what to do next.  While I had tremendously enjoyed being an Instructional Coach, that role had changed over the last couple of years, with less focus on a true coaching partnership.  I knew it was time to move away from public education, but to what?

Dan Miller’s book, 48 Days to the Work You Love, is a sort-of career/business coaching book that gives lots of practical advice for making a career change, or improving your situation in your current career.  This book helped me to realize that what I wanted to do was start my own life coaching business.  You can also sign up for Dan Miller’s e-newsletter, seminars, or join his online community.

When investigating a career change, perhaps the most powerful question is, “What would you do for free?”  Often we find that what we are called to do is what we already do naturally.  Many friends, co-workers and students had approached me to be a sounding board for them.  I genuinely enjoy listening to each person’s story; I like discovering what makes people tick.  Deciding to start my own life coaching business was incredibly energizing.  You will know when you’ve found what it is you are meant to do, because you will have almost limitless energy to put toward the tasks ahead; it doesn’t feel like work because you are doing what you love.  You’ll have the affirming sense that deep down, you’ve known this all along.

Another helpful book is Jackee Holder’s Be Your Own Best Life Coach, a self-help guide that has more of a holistic/life coach focus.  This book, along with my own experience being coached,  has helped me to identify the negative thinking that has held me back or caused me to resist making necessary changes.  Do I think you can really be your own best life coach?  No, no more than I think you can do the best job of putting sunscreen on your own back, and for the same reason:  there’s always that one spot that you didn’t reach because you can’t see it.  We’ve probably all been burned by that one, literally and figuratively.  It’s the same thing with life coaching; you can’t change what you can’t see needs to be changed – a coach can bring an objective, outside perspective.  Still, if you’re unsure whether coaching is right for you, this book is a great place to start, as it has lots of activities (like the Wheel of Life) that you can easily do on your own.

There are many other great resources out there for those contemplating a career change, whether it is a minor shift or a major overhaul.  It is always helpful to start by making a list of your skills and talents.  Then, list the aspects of your previous jobs that you liked and disliked.  Of course, any job is going to have a few unpleasant tasks; the trick is finding one where the pros outweigh the cons.  Don’t forget to ask yourself:  What would I do for free?  Perhaps the answer is right there in front of you, making you shake your head, smile and say, “I knew it all along.”

Next week:  Job Hunting