Your Home as Your Sanctuary during the Holy Days

The word “holidays” comes from the Old English haligdæg or “Holy Days.” In olden times, this dark time of year was the time to gather around the hearth, to find light and love within our hearts and homes. Now, our commercialized holiday season is over-stuffed with consumption and stress.

Let’s take the holidays back, you and I. Let’s be deliberate about our choices. Let’s honor the holidays as our own Holy Days this year. And let’s start by creating sanctuary in our homes, so that each time we return home, we’ll feel the power and resonance of what we hold sacred.

Creating Sanctuary Connects our Everyday World with the Divine

In any temple or cathedral that earns the title of “sanctuary,” we experience being deeply connected to—and nourished by—both the immanent physical world of nature and by the transcendent expansiveness of the divine. Inside a sanctuary, we are both grounded in physical reality while, at the same time, encouraged to lift our attention into the realm of sublime possibility, of new paradigms, ideas and beliefs.

Start by Emptying the Space

We can’t create sanctuary in a busy, cluttered space. So, I always start my holiday decorating by removing most of the decorative items from each room, to create the space for my seasonal altars. I pack those items away for the season, in the same bins I use to store holiday decorations.

Bring in Nature

Do you feel deeply nourished by the natural world at this time of year? You can increase your connection by bringing real bits of nature indoors. Before you decorate for the holiday, go for a walk in your neighborhood and collect what calls to you: pinecones, fir boughs, berries.

Eighteen years ago, my youngest and I collected some vines as we hiked through the woods in early December; we spray painted them gold and they’ve been part of our holiday altar ever since. As I unpack them, I still remember her 4-year old exuberance as we gathered those vines.

As you integrate gifts of nature from your neighborhood into your Holy Day decor, you—and your home—will feel more connected to the land you live on.

Bring in the Divine

As you unpack your holiday decorations, really ask yourself: How do these items connect my attention to the Divine?

  • Do your holiday lights bring your attention to the Light of Love?
  • Do your ornaments bring joyful memories to mind?
  • Does each holiday decoration hold uplifting meaning?

As You Decorate, Create Altars

An altar is any item or group of items that alters, or uplifts, your mood or energy level. In a church or temple, an altar lifts your attention to the divine. In your home, an altar creates the same kind of portal for you attention. But only if you place the items with intention.

So, I decorate mindfully, using my intention to weave the sacred into each of my altars.

  • As I string lights on the tree and around the house, I intend to strengthen the light of love within my heart.
  • As I set up the nativity, I invoke into my own heart the protectiveness of Joseph, the love of Mary, the innocence of her newborn babe, the reverence of the shepherds and the generosity of the wise men.
  • As I place the Santa, I remember my answer when my young children asked me if Santa was real: “Santa is as real as your parents!” And… I remember their excitement when they were finally old enough to stay up on Christmas Eve and stuff the stockings and play Santa. I choose to feel that kind of joy in my gift-giving!
  • This year, as I find a place for the Nutcracker that belonged to my Dad and stepmother (which came to us after her passing this year), I’ll take a moment to be grateful for all the many gifts they gave me.

Edit Your Collection

Each holiday season, if I find ornaments that no longer hold meaning for any of us, I donate or regift them. As our children became adults with homes of their own, each one got to claim a favorite holiday decoration to start their own collection, which has also helped to edit our decorations.

Write Your Intention for the Holy Days

When we write our intentions, we are committing to them. So, write down a few words that describe how you prefer to experience this holiday season. Then, place your intention on one of your Holy Day altars, one you will see every day.

Thanksgiving Ezine pix 5I encourage you to use your favorite visual decoration on this altar, a decoration that you really love. This visual image needs to give you the body-sense of enjoying the kind of holiday you prefer. It could be the menorah, the nativity, a photo of your last family Christmas.

Know that your intention doesn’t have to show; you may not want it to be on display, to be read by others. It can be rolled up in a scroll and tied with a ribbon, or folded and placed under or inside another item on the altar. This year, I rolled my intention into a candle I formed from sheets of sweet-smelling beeswax, which I’ll light for a few moments each evening.

As you place your intention on the altar, take a moment to hold your intention in prayer. Allow yourself to FEEL the body-sense of creating the experience you intend. Give thanks to your seen and unseen spiritual support team, for working with you to create a restorative, uplifting holiday season.

Then, each time you pass the altar which holds you intention, notice it, even if just for a second. If your intention is hidden, allow the visual item on the altar to act as a lightening rod, directing your attention to your intention.

Experiencing Sanctuary Takes Time

It doesn’t take much more time to create sanctuary in your home as you decorate for your Holy Days than it would if you were just throwing up your holiday decorations without mindfulness. Doing it mindfully takes just a few minutes more, perhaps.

But allowing yourself to EXPERIENCE sanctuary does take time. Little bits of time, strung together like pearls on a string.

Kind of like creating a sustainable system in your home office or kitchen takes more than just a space to put stuff on or in. For a system to be sustainable, you need more than a shelf or drawer, a bin or basket. A sustainable system also requires time. You can’t just declutter and organize and have a sustainable system. You have to devote a small amount of time, on a regular basis, to maintain it.

Happily, the BEST sustainable systems take the LEAST amount of time and space!

The same is true of creating sanctuary in your home. You don’t need to spend massive amounts of time. Just minutes a day spent admiring the twinkling tree, or inhaling the aroma of the pine wreath on the door, or sipping cocoa near the crackling fire as you enjoy the altar you created for the mantle… these moments are your pearls, your sacred moments that will make Holy Days out of the holidays.

May it be so for you and me, and all of us around the world, this year.

Maintaining Your Sustainable Systems

large_windowsEvery Sustainable System has two components: time and space. A system involves both tangible items in a space… AND the time it takes to interact with those items. If you fail to schedule time to maintain your system, the system won’t work. You may have a lovely dishwasher in your kitchen but if you don’t factor into your schedule the time it takes to load and empty the dishwasher, your dishwashing system won’t work.

In my May blog posts, I shared strategies on how to create sustainable systems in your space. Below I’m sharing time-management strategies that my clients and I use to keep our systems functioning well.


  • Start your day with a centering ritual (meditate, say a prayer, light a candle).
  • Batch your time in blocks; do each task when you have the most energy for it
  • Prioritize; do your most important work first.
  • Have only what you are currently using open on your desk.
  • Clear your workspace every night (put items to attend to in an attractive “working” file folder with your to do list on top). You can leave that closed file folder on your desk, in your desk, or on your credenza or the floor if you prefer the look of a clear desk.


  • Schedule an hour on Friday to file items and organize your space for the week ahead.
  • Schedule weekly de-cluttering dates until your home and workspaces functions and feel the way you prefer.
  • Update your files and storage system.


  • Instead of doing a once-a-year audit ALL of your systems, you may prefer to schedule time monthly to review and edit components of your systems (for example: Jan – your financial systems, Feb – your client tracking systems, Mar – your supplier systems, etc.)


  • At least once a year, you’ll want to review and edit ALL of your systems.
  • Some clients prefer to spread the task out, spending an hour each month (see above).
  • Some prefer to spend 1-7 days doing it every January.

I would love to hear from those of you who are trying out some of these techniques.  How do they work for you?

Here’s What a Sustainable Relationship with Your Home Looks LIke

One of my favorite teachers, Gay Hendricks, says that we live our life in one of four zones:

  • The Zone of Incompetence: I believe this is the uncomfortable place we ALL start, every time we begin to master a new skill. The temptation is to get STUCK, depressed, and stay in this zone.
  • The Zone of Competence: for me, it’s such a relief to get to this zone. A feeling of mastery grows as we realize we can do it well—most of the time!
  • The Zone of Excellence: In this zone we can even teach others how to do it, and we feel even more positive about our life.
  • The Zone of Genius: Now we’ve developed personal power—and we enjoy offering our own unique methods and programs to support others!

As I pondered Gay Hendricks ideas, and remembered moving up the Zones in my life, I realized that the homes in which I’ve lived and worked in have literally partnered with me to move me forward.  How?  Because I’ve consciously partnered, in sustainable ways, with THEM!

Here’s how you can create the same kind of conscious, sustainable relationship with your home:

  1. To move up from the Zone of Incompetence, make changes in your home that allow you to feel more PEACEFUL
  2. To move up from the Zone of Competence, make changes in your home that allow you to feel more POSITIVE
  3. To move up from the Zone of Excellence, make changes in your home that allow you to feel more personally POWERFUL


TO MOVE UP —> allow your home to help you feel more PEACEFUL!

tableWhen we start mastering something new, the Zone of Incompetence is a pretty uncomfortable place to be!  And when we are frustrated and short-tempered, it can be harder to make progress and move up into the Zone of Competence.

So, when I find myself in the Zone of Incompetence, I know cultivating inner peace will give me the compassion to forgive my mistakes and keep going.

To cultivate PEACE, find something to organize.  Usually, when I’m in the Zone of Incompetence, it’s not hard to find a messy surface!   And when I’ve spent an hour de-cluttering, my mind is more spacious and open to creativity and new ideas.

If you keep going with your de-cluttering projects, you are going to end up with a high-functioning home and workspace—which will give you that sense of inner peace!

Because when we’ve created order in our homes and workspaces, we consistently experience the calm, centered, congruent feelings that accompanies inner peace.  When our home and workspace embodies peace, we do, too. And when we embody peace, we more gracefully move up to the Zone of Competence.


TO MOVE UP —> allow your home to help you feel more POSITIVE!

home-officeAfter the clutter is gone, it is important to focus your attention on your big vision, your long term goals.  How?

Remove everything from your space that does not relate to or support that big vision.  Display reminders of your goals.  This is where Feng Shui can really help activate your intentions!

Cultivate a POSITIVE vision by creating an altar that activates your goals.  An altar is any item or grouping of items that alters—in a positive way—your mood and energy level.  It’s impossible not to be up-lifted when we are surrounded by images that anchor our intentions!


TO MOVE UP —> allow your home to help you feel more PERSONALLY POWERFUL!

excellenceHow can we allow our Genius to deliberately create a bigger vision for our lives, and for our work in the world?  Allow your home to help you embody your PERSONAL POWER!  Personal power is not power over others. It’s personal mastery of your time, space, money, attention, energy.

To cultivate PERSONAL POWER, put yourself in the “command position” and surround yourself with ONLY those colors, textures, furnishings, accessories and symbols that make you feel powerful.  In the command position, your back is against a solid wall and you can easily see who is coming in the door.


TO STAY THERE: Celebrate — and Focus on Serving Others!

microphone_audience1When you get to this level, your focus will be on serving others in a bigger way. And, don’t be surprised if living in your Zone of Genius gets you started learning something new… and you find yourself back in the Zone of Incompetence.

Just look around for something to organize and the resulting inner peace will propel you up to the next zone!

This process really does work.  Back when my home was a mess, so was I.  I wasn’t able to manage my time or energy well.  I was depressed and unhappy.  But as I went through the process of getting rid of the clutter and creating sustainable systems, I changed.  I began to correspond to those changes, becoming first more peaceful, then more positive, then more empowered.

I would love to hear from those of you who are also experiencing the benefits of creating sustainable relationships with their homes!  Share you comments with us below.

In A Relationship: You + Your Home

You + Your Home

hands-2In our culture, we tend to use the word “relationship” to denote the experience of relating to another person or group. But we all have a relationship with our home. When we think of the home in which we live, we each have our own unique experience of relating to that space.

Our experience of our home is either healthy and uplifting, raising our mood and energy level. Or not.

Your + Your Home = Sustainable Relationship

We start creating a sustainable relationship with our home with curiosity and willingness… to learn how we are affected by our homes and they are affected by us.

To have a sustainable relationship with our home, we must partner effectively with it. We must appreciate and value it, become more sensitive and aware of it. Utilize and maximize its strengths, and eliminate or minimize its weaknesses.

When we work with our space, creating order and beauty, we are setting up a sustainable relationship that allows our space to work for us. A space that works for us is a powerful resource, a partner, that allows us to live our best lives, doing what we were born to do.

Stay tuned. Each week in June, I’ll be sharing strategies to create Sustainable Relationships with your home.


The Best Systems are Empowering and Sustainable

Over the 30 years I’ve been a Holistic Professional Organizer, I’ve learned that  effective organizing is all about your relationship with your rooms and the items in those rooms.

Creating Systems

The first thing I ask a new client during a consultation, is:  What purpose do you want each room to serve for you? 

Before we can create systems, we need to know the functions each room will serve.  Maybe your dining area is also your home office, and it needs to serve both functions well.  Maybe your guest room is also a meditation or exercise room.  Maybe your living room is also your reading area and your media room.  Maybe the laundry room needs to store your sewing machine and mending supplies, as well as your tools.

My Job

Once I know how each room needs to function, it’s my job to help each client  create empowering, sustainable systems for those rooms.

  • Empowering, because when your rooms are organized in a way that truly supports your goals, you are empowered to BE and DO your best!
  • Sustainable, because when your rooms are organized in alignment with your goals, preferences, and Unique Retrieval Strategy, it’s easy and fun to maintain the order.

What is a Unique Retrieval Strategy?

My Neuro Linguistic Programming training has taught me that we each process information differently, and working with so many clients over the years has taught me that we each retrieve memory differently. If I try to remember where I put something I “see” it in my mind’s eye.

But many of my clients have non-visual retrieval strategies and they need different cues to remember where they’ve put something.

If they just put the information in a file drawer or behind a cabinet door—without giving themselves additional cues—it’s like throwing the information into a black hole.  They’ll never remember it later.


Maybe you’ve experienced this frustration! But NO MORE… not after you understand how to work with what I call your Unique Retrieval Strategy!

The 2 Most Important Skills to Get and Stay Organized

There are lots of great books and programs on organizing out there. The thing is, many of them leave out the most important skill sets:

  1. knowing how to set up systems that align with how YOU retrieve information
  2. knowing how to set up sustainable systems so each room can function as a partner in your success

If you’ve ever decided to follow someone else’s system and you put your time, energy and money into it, you may have ended up more discouraged than when you started!  Because without these 2 key skills, most people just don’t get results.

How to Create Systems

This is the second article in this Sustainable Systems series.  For the first article, You’ll Never Be Organized Unless You Can Create Systems, click here.

What can Systems Do for You?

office-deskAs a Holistic Professional Organizer, I help my clients learn what I had to learn myself 25 years ago: how to create systems for running a home efficiently.

The word system comes from the Latin systema, which means a set of interacting and independent components forming an integrated whole.  It derives from the more ancient word sunistemi, a verb denoting union.

When you create efficient, effective systems for your home, it’s like you are setting up your home to be what I call your “success partner,”  and your home is then able to serve the full measure of it’s creation.  I believe our homes can do more than shelter us and provide structure for our activities.

When you have systems in place, your home will support you to live your dreams, to become the most successful versions of yourself.

How to Create Your Systems

When you create systems for your home, you deliberately decide:

  1. the functions you want each room to fulfill (e.g., meal prep in the kitchen)
  2. each step of those functions (e.g., mixing, cooking, baking)
  3. the equipment you need to support each step (e.g., pots, pans, bowls)
  4. the most efficient way to arrange the items for best work flow

You’ll need to create a system for every household task.  When I had my systems in place, I found I didn’t need all those built-in storage units I’d been dreaming about!

Below are some highlights from some of the systems I created in the early 80’s that I’m still using today:

  • Meal Prep: We clean as we prepare the meal, so that by the time we eat, the counters are clear.
  • Dishes:  We use the left side of the sink for dirty dishes, the right side of our double sink serves as a place to drain and dry everything we wash by hand.  When we start the dishwasher, we flip the “Dirty” card magnetically clipped to the front of the dishwasher to the “Clean” side, and we all take turns emptying the clean dishes.
  • Laundry:  We installed shelves and hanging rods in the laundry room.  Dirty clothes go into the laundry basket in our closet.  Once a week, I gather up the empty hangers, put them on top of the dirty clothes and carry the basket to the laundry room.  After sorting, washing and drying the clothes, I pull them out of the dryer and hang or fold them immediately.  Delicate items hang dry.
  • Bathrooms: I keep old washcloths under each sink, along with spray cleaner.  Each evening and morning when I use my sink, I wipe it down with the washcloth.  Each bathroom gets a complete cleaning once a week.
  • Our Bedroom: We own the most luxurious bed linens we can afford, and I love to walk into our room when the bed is made, so I take a few minutes each morning to create that loveliness for myself!

About Storage Containers

You’ll notice that buying lots of storage containers is NOT part of creating your systems.  I’ve seen people spend hundreds of dollars on plastic bins they didn’t need once we’d de-cluttered and created their systems.  I’ve also seen people spend thousands of dollars on built-in shelving and garage systems to store items they really didn’t use or need.

To save your money, I recommend against buying storage containers until after you’ve:

  • completely released everything you don’t use, need, and love
  • gone through the 4-step Creating Systems decision process above

I’ll share more about when and where to buy storage containers in my next blog post.  If you’d like my expertise as you create your systems, I’m offering a special $200 May Savings on my Mess to Success HomeStudy course.

  1. Find out more:
  2. Click to register and, in the Coupon Code box, type MaySavings to receive this $397 course for only $197… only until May 31!

You’ll Never Stay Organized if You Can’t Create Systems

Having a “Place for Everything” Doesn’t Keep You Organized!

closet-newYears ago, when I was getting rid of clutter and trying to get our home organized, the quote “have a place for everything and everything in its place” was the only organizing advice I could find.  So, it became my motto.

Our family had grown quickly: at age 21, I had our first child.  When she was in kindergarten, our fourth child was born.   Baby clothes, cloth diapers, toddler toys, Big Wheels, puzzles, dolls and trucks filled each room—and the garage, which also included the baby carriage, folding stroller, picnic basket, pool toys, soccer balls, and bikes with training wheels.

At first, I believed that if I could just buy enough bookshelves, cupboards, dressers and file cabinets, my organizing dilemmas would be solved.  I would have “a place for everything!”

I dreamed of being able to line the walls in the garage and family room with built in shelves and cupboards and drawers.

Thank goodness I couldn’t afford built-ins—because more storage wasn’t what I needed!

I Needed Systems!

At a parenting conference I found a brochure about organizing that explained systems, and I began to realize that I lacked a system for all my routine tasks:

  • laundry
  • dishes
  • cleaning the house
  • washing the diapers
  • tidying up toys
  • preparing meals

The biggest reason why my home was chaotic: I didn’t have a system for any of these routine tasks.  Before children, I’d been able to get everything done in my own meandering “when-I-feel-like-it” way.  But when my life got crazy-busy, that didn’t work.  After a sleepless night up with a sick baby, coming downstairs to dirty dinner dishes and a toy-strewn kitchen, with unfolded laundry on the table was a depressing start to my day.

The Business Dictionary defines a System as “a set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem.”  I needed to start thinking of running my household like a business, with a system for each activity.

If you want to learn more about creating systems, stay tuned for more of my of Blog posts and make sure you’re signed up for my email newsletter.  I’ll be covering systems each week during the month of May!

The Journey of Desire

Desire_JourneyTo actually create something we desire takes effort.  It’s a journey.  And every journey is a physical, challenging, messy process. When we get to the discouraging bits, it can be hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other. In the Hero’s Journey, this stage is known as the Pit of Despair.  It’s not as much fun as the earlier stages (Hearing the Call, the Initiation), but it’s the most important. It’s in the Pit of Despair that our limiting beliefs show themselves, masked to look like insurmountable obstacles.

I’ll never get all this clutter cleared!

I’ll never be able to create systems to stay organized!

It’s just too hard!

It’s just too time consuming!

Here’s the Transforming Truth: those insurmountable obstacles are actually your opportunities!  Shift your limiting beliefs to supportive ones… and magically, you’re putting one foot in front of the other and on the path to success. Oh… and the other good news: it’s while you’re writhing in the Pit of Despair that your Allies show up.  You’ll recognize these able guides, who’ve traveled this path before, because they are radiating light and love and compassion, offering you just the boon you needed… And soon you’re moving toward your Break-Through… and if we could fast-forward just a little, you would see that you, yes… YOU… are walking tall, and glowing joyful inspiration for others behind you on the path.

Resistance Is A Clue

stuck_post_tues_4_17We can’t talk about DESIRE without talking about resistance. 

When we want something, REALLY, really, REALLY want it, often we find ourselves STUCK… in the experience of NOT HAVING it.

And we lose faith.  We feel like we’ve hit a wall.  We can’t keep going toward the goal.  It’s just not gonna happen for us.

That’s resistance.  The good news?  That’s all it is:  just resistance.

And the cure for resistance is to stop resisting.  You are resisting some uncomfortable emotion you don’t want to feel.  What is it?

Once you give yourself permission to actually FEEL the emotions you were resisting: the frustration, the anger, the grief, the hurt, the fear, the despair…  they will move through you, doing their work in you.

Once the emotions have been felt… we often feel empty.  Surrendered, to our great desire and our Hero’s Journey of achieving it.  In that surrendered place, open your eyes and ears and heart; the answers you need will come.

Release Opens The Door For Clarity

TT_post_tues_4_15Birds are made to fly.  Their desire to fly is instinctive, but they do need to be nudged out of the nest.

What are you made for? 

You’ll find your purpose hiding under your desires. 

Let’s say you desire a de-cluttered, organized, lovely home.  How is that desire linked to your life purpose?

The obvious answer is that in a home that functions optimally and is set up to serve you, it’s easier for you to be your best self, to give your best gifts into the world.

But that’s just the obvious answer.  There’s more. 

Here’s the Transforming Truth, the one that I hope will nudge you into action on your Clean Sweep goals:  it’s in the actual PROCESS of releasing everything that doesn’t serve your potential that you actually CLEAR the inner blocks (limiting beliefs) that keep you from fully manifesting your life purpose.

Where do you instinctively want to fly?