Susan Fay West, Certified Organizer Coach 
Life’s big changes. We all get overwhelmed sometimes.

  • You’re stuck and want to move forward but how?
  • Adult ADHD diagnosis and ... now what?
  • Want more time but you’re not sure where the problem is?
  • Tired of running in circles?
  • Change, time management, organization and transitions work is our focus.

    Build on what you already know about yourself and collaborate with me – a coach, professional organizer, teacher and change-lover.

    Discover new ways to:

  • organize your life,
  • deal with these changes and move on,
  • in ways that make sense to you and how you’re wired.
  • Curious? Click Here to Learn More about My Coaching Services.

    Organize for a Fresh Start - organizing self-help book

     
    "West has written on a topic dear to my heart, getting organized to cope with and embrace change and transitions. Organize for a Fresh Start is a great roadmap."
    Judith Kolberg, Author
    Conquering Chronic Disorganization
     

    Vacations: My Best Practices for Leaving & Returning Easily

    August 14th, 2014

    I used to “freak out” before and after vacations, exhausting myself on both ends of my time away. Sort of defeats the “refresh, relax, retreat” point of it all though,don’t you think? Now, though, each time I go away for vacation or business, I’ve become more thoughtful and mindful about how I can make all of this more pleasant and part of the trip’s enjoyment … and I’m doing this not just for myself but for everyone around me, too!

    I used to walk around in so many circles that my dog, following me, would get as exhausted as I would.

    Exhausted, after watching me try to get organized for vacation.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Things are changing. Just back from a vacation, I thought I’d share some of  my personal best practices, along with encouraging you to consider your own.

    My top two – what works for me – leaving on a trip

    1. Letting go

    I figured out that, really, the three most important items to take with me are my picture ID/license, money or a credit card, and my travel documents.

    Anything else I forgot to pack could be purchased wherever I was going.

    So, yes, I keep packing lists, but when it gets down to the wire, sometimes the list is messy with my cross-offs. Or I don’t use my list because I think I have it in my head. Or it’s a new place, new weather, new something.

    This one idea of ensuring I have at least those three items allows me peace of mind. If I have those, then technically, I’m ready to go.

    What lies ahead: Prepping for vacation

    Lists I use:

    • With my list of clothes, I also have a packing list of non-clothing items, e.g., camera, book/Nook, snacks, etc. The latter is more difficult for me to remember because it varies from trip to trip.
    • For work, my different, to do list: I start this list a couple of weeks ahead. I divide up my work by: What needs to be done before vacation (I can’t leave unless…); What could be nice to get done; and What can wait. These are full projects or steps of projects. Sometimes, I can get a project going, but  I really don’t need to finish it before vacation. And there is less to return to.
    • And my best practices list of how to handle transitioning into my trip and back from my trip. That’s kept inside the calendar entry for my trip so it is very visible and difficult to ignore or simply not remember it exists!

    And, because I process and think more clearly when I talk through a challenge out loud, that’s what I do as I pack. Packing is definitely a challenge for me. So many moving parts. And I’m usually excited, anxious, or sad to be leaving home, so feelings get in the way of my thinking in a straight line, too.

    Any of that sound familiar? Maybe start with my ideas and then make them your own.

    2. Cushion time

    This works for leaving and returning.

    I ALWAYS book myself out of the office a 1/2 day to a full day  beyond the actual trip dates.

    Leaving for vacation, I give myself a half day in the office before I leave, and the weekend or a weekday off from work. The time in the office ensures I get organized and leave clients with next steps or inspiration or whatever they need.

    The time off before leaving gives me time to pack. I put this right on my calendar, so that I don’t book dinner out with friends or a day trip when I’m really needing to take the time to focus on getting ready for my time away.

    This helps my mind to be more relaxed, knowing I’ve done my best to leave things behind in good shape. I can let go more easily as I head out to relax and refresh.

     

    My top two – what works for me – returning from a trip

    1.  Photos and unpacking

    Photos allow me to relive my vacation and are a “transition” task. So I upload, review and share my photos as a high priority after vacation’s over.

    This allows me to mentally move my vacation memories to the back of my head, as I transition into my life again.

    Unpacking does something similar, but I break up unpacking into the easy and difficult, so I get at least a little bit done right away and feel a bit more settled.

    The easy is the clothing, which mainly is laundry, right? The more difficult is the books, Nook, camping gear, all that little stuff that goes to multiple places in my home.

    That waits for a weekend; it makes its way “one step closer,” (a favorite tactic) to where it belongs, but it’s a bit of an ordeal to get it all packed away, so I don’t rush it.

    This weekend, I’ll get to relive a bit of my vacation again as I pack away camping and outdoor gear. Otherwise, all of this would likely sit around for too long if I didn’t at least get the easy part done.

    2. Cushion time

    If I’m working a weekend, say for an ICD Board meeting or a conference I’m attending or speaking at,  then you’d see in my calendar an appointment which will include one day off from work, upon my return. You’d also see notes in that day’s calendar entry such as: go grocery shopping during the day; Currier museum trip; designer’s showhouse trip; unpack/laundry, and so forth.

    I need ideas written down right in front of me for how to spend my time that “free” day, so that I do not work that day (and ultimately burn out, doing what I love doing).

    Returning from vacation, I give myself a day off the first day I’m back and spend it at home.

    Think about your own “best practices” or “playbook” of what works for you, so you can leave and return, feeling refreshed and relaxed, doing your best for yourself and those around you.

     

    This is my newest puppy, who is not so exhausted as Sanford used to get with my walking around in circles. :)

    Malik: Relaxed because I am !

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What is YOUR reset button to return to creative, mind wandering mode which provides perspective on what you’re doing?

    Wouldn’t that be useful and feel great?

    Read this NY Times article from where I took this, a favorite quote: “Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.”

    The article is here ...

    OR contact me to help you figure out your own ways (Sue@OrganizeNH.com) to have perspective, slow down, and use your natural creativity. 

     

    Back to School as an Adult: Three Ways to Create Time

    August 3rd, 2014

    You’re taking a course or courses in subjects that interest you for the first time in awhile.

    Back to School: Great Courses (dot) com

    Or perhaps you’re attending school part-time to create a new career.

    … or one of the “boot camp” programs designed for the self-employed  business owner.

    … or a certification program for your current profession.

     

    And you were already busy to start with! But this is so important to you.

    You want … You need … to make the time to do this well, to own this, to show yourself and those around you what you’re all about now in this new phase of your growth as a person and a professional.

     

    3 Ways to Create Time for Your Classes

    1. Make a commitment to yourself

    Block the times you will attend class, including travel, meals on the way to/from.

    Need quiet time before class? Block it in the calendar. Knowing ahead of time where you’ll go to have that time makes it easier to make sure you actually get yourself there!

    Will you need time after class to process and solidify discussions and the learning? While still in the school context, you’ll remember more if you take these extra minutes. (Especially with ADHD.)

    Or if it’s a self study program, choose and book calendar times so you make a commitment to yourself.

     

    2. Create a visual reminder

    What is it about attending school that is so important to your life?  What will you get from it, not only practically, but how will you feel as a person and a professional?

    “I’m taking this class so that … “

    And how could you put that into words or a symbol or  a picture, so that on those difficult days, when it seems the world is against you, YOU still stand up and do what you set out to do.

     

    3. Talk to those around you about how this is important to you

    You have friends, family, professional colleagues who care about you and your involvement in their lives. They will support you if they know more about this.

    First talk about how important this is to you. What you hope to gain. Share what you’re learning to engage them. Explain how this is important to you or your profession. Talk about how you made the decision to take the course or the program.

    Second, discuss the time you need to devote. When that will be? What might suffer, or where you could use some assistance? School won’t last forever, so there are short term shifts you could make in responsibilities.

    Review what this change does to your commitments to work and family and your own self-care habits?  What could you cut back on, if not give up? Who can support you a little more? Do you have your systems in place to make this work smoothly? Do all this now, not mid semester or mid course, when things are already crazy.

     

    Think what a role model you’ll be to those around you. Or how you’re taking care of you and those you love. Or whatever it is that makes this important, now, at this time of your life.

    You made the commitment. Now set yourself up well to carry through on it.

     

    Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  ~Chinese Proverb

     

     

    When You’ll Want to Rethink Your Organizational Strategies

    July 20th, 2014

    There are certain times when you’ll want to rethink how you’re managing your life, time and your stuff. This article will give you a list of when this is worth paying attention to, why it matters and what to think about.

    What usually happens is that we end up in the middle of something and suddenly, we realize:

    “Yikes. The house is a mess. Honestly, how did this happen?”

    “My time is completely out of control.

    But I’m using the same systems I always have.”

     

    Think about a Red Door

    In Feng Shui,the color red brings forth prosperity and abundance. When something in the list below happens in your life, imagine the red door.

    Imagine the red door stops you for a moment, long enough to think about what you can do to manage life a little differently. And then when you’ve thought about that, walk through the door with an abundance of gifts to help you through whatever the big changes are.

     

    With these changes in life, you’ll need to do some shifting to bring things back on a more even keel. The first step is to acknowledge that these changes are happening.

    So, let the door stop you long enough to consider changes and then life on the other side of the door will be far easier.

    When to Pause & What to Do

    • Big life changes or events cause chaos, whether in your things, thoughts or time. Something big and likely emotional has happened, a change you made or one that was foisted upon you. Either way, now you have something new to contend with and integrate into your life. (Divorce, death, caregiving, marriage, children and so on.)
    • You have guests: This can be friends or family in town for a few days or a longer visit. A temporary change, but think about it: your schedule will need to change; you’ll need to make space for people; you’ll need to be aware of their ‘stuff’ and where it shows up in your common living spaces; they will need things/time from you.
    • The college-aged student or graduate returns home: You’ve lived the whole school year on your own, as has your student. Both of you more independent than when you last lived under the same roof.
    • You take on new responsibilities in your business or at work: There’s a ripple effect here. You’ll need to get organized for this new responsibility. But also realize that by adding a role, you don’t add extra hours to your days, so something has to give. What could you cut back on, if not stop doing? How will you reorganize your days to accommodate the new role? If you’ve stepped up into a management role, your involvement in tactics will need to drop, as you take on a bigger picture perspective. What do you need to accomplish this smoothly?
    • You get a new physical diagnosis: You’ll want to think about how the diagnosis may or has impacted your energy. Do you need to rearrange things at home/work to reduce the impact on your energy levels, making things easier to do? Do you need to reorganize meal planning? Reconsider how much you can fit into your days? What your morning routine looks like? If you have a diagnosis such as lyme or MS, you’ll have days when your energy levels will be unpredictable: always have a plan A and a plan B for your days.
    • You get a new mental health diagnosis: As with a physical issue, here, too, you’ll need to work on different ways to handle this difference you’re now aware of. What does it mean for how you organize your days? Keep track of things to do? Are there more appointments (dr.’s, support groups, etc.) to add to your calendar? Are there accommodations you need to make at work? And how will you work through accepting that this is part of you and both manage it and manage around it.
    • Fairly regular seasonal changes: The seasons, back-to-school, summertime starts or ends, vacations. Any of these transitions are a great time to stop and pause at your red front door. Some of us even have trouble transitioning into Mondays from the weekend. Pause, take your time and do something different on Mondays.

    Why This Matters

    • Simply pausing to acknowledge that something is different is BIG. This will help you stop and make some changes, so that the life event can be handled more easily and with less stress.
    • Ignore this and things pile up: time wise, things, and yes, clutter in your thoughts and psyche.
    • But also don’t hang on so tightly to how you have “always done things” that this resistance creates stress for you. Let go a little bit.
    • Asking for what you need gives you a sense of more control over a time of change. Consider what you need that’s most important to your having a day you’ll feel good about by the end of the day (sleep, quiet time, meal times, together time, etc.).
    • Dealing with people is more important than dealing with our things. If someone needed more than your usual emotional and psychological energy,  give yourself guilt-free permission to take the necessary time to  reset your home or otherwise get back on track.
    • See if you can learn something from this time to apply to the next big life event, too. More control and sanity through learning.
    • Any of these changes adds more to your life. And stress. So rely more heavily than you might on your “external memory.” (Calendar, lists, notes, and reminders.) Memory seems to be the thing that suffers a lot under stress.

     

    Stop. Pause at the red door of prosperity and abundance. Figure out your next steps. And then walk on through that door, organizational strategies reset and ready to roll with whatever comes your way!

     

     

     

     

    p.s. Please share this article if you know someone who is feeling overwhelmed, or invite them to talk with me about some next steps.

     

     

    What Did You Miss? Or Did You?

    July 16th, 2014

    Did you miss any? Or maybe you’d prefer to read the articles all at once?  Here’s a roundup of newsletter articles sent so far during 2014, with a quick summary for each, and a link to read more if that topic interests you. Cllick here if you’re not on the newsletter list and would like to be.

    Last edition:

    6/17/2014 – What Do You Need to “Get Back to?”

    Nelson Mandela said: “The greatest glory in living lies in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

    Because if we never fell, then life would be perfect. WE would be perfect. “Too smooth” sailing, even though some days, it feels as if nothing goes smoothly, not one minute of it.

    But sometimes it feels like it’s all too much. We are stuck and don’t know or can’t find what we need to get back to it, back on track, and practicing what we know has worked for us before.

    It’s not usually simply a practical issue. Our emotions, self-esteem, and frustrations throw themselves into the mix, too. BUT the practical strategies do help build a track record of small wins, which strengthen the “muscles” of self-esteem, confidence, and hope.

    So, where last month’s article, “When Everything Feels Like a Priority,” was about what to do when everything seems to need to get done right now …  this month, I have strategies for when it feels as if things are sliding backwards, and you need to get back on track. Try just one strategy and see how it works for you.  I dare you.  In the kindest possible way. Read the newsletter here.

     

    And chronologically from the beginning of this year:

    01/03/2014 – Be That Person
    Would you like to increase your chances of achieving your goals this year? What could be different this time around? You’ve always had commitment. You’ve started out well. You felt you were being realistic. And then, well, by the end of the year, you hadn’t met the goal.  Flummoxed, floundering and feeling like you’d failed. Sigh.There are reasons all along the way for what might have happened, but today, I’ll focus on creating the goal, and I believe you’ll read some new ideas here. If we miss creating the “right” goal, well, a lot of the rest won’t matter.  So here we go. Suggestions for creating a goal that will work for you…  Be That Person (click to read on)

     

    02/11/2014 – Lost: Commitment to Goals. If found, please contact

    Today’s topic? Commitment.   Sometimes, we procrastinate getting started on a goal or a project or even a relationship.

    One reason can be that we are less committed than we think we are.  We say we are committed to the goal. But what we feel or think subconsciously is out of sync and really not on board with the goal. What to do?

    What questions can you ask yourself to know whether you really are committed to the goal? Because if the commitment’s not there, that’s going to be a problem when things get difficult or you need to push out of your comfort zone….Lost: Commitment to Goals. If found, please contact

     

     

    03/25/2014 – The Village You Choose

    In “The Village You Choose,” you’ll read about life preservers.  When you have a looming and large new challenge or life change, these people, these life preservers, will support you, educate and encourage you as you take steps into your next chapter.

    These friends, colleagues and professionals are those who respect you and believe in you, perhaps more than you believe in yourself, at that time of change. They do not step in and save you. They buoy you up when you need it and for as long as you do…. The Village You Choose

     

     

    05/06/2014 – When Everything Feels Like a Priority

    We’ve just now arrived at springtime here in New Hampshire, after what we are all calling one of the very longest winters we’ve had.  It’s all beautiful, these changing seasons, but boy, this winter we all felt closeted, stuck, claustrophobic … until finally, some warmer weather arrived to begin the big snow melt.

    So we burst out of winter and into springtime and quickly into school vacations.  LOTS of change and transitions and “stuff to do.”

    It’s as if the gates came up on all of us and we raced out of the gates. And then we sprinted too fast and tired, got overwhelmed, and are trying to swing back.

    So, where last month’s article was about working with people who work with you to assist your home or work life, this month’s article is about how to help yourself when you’re feeling like you have too much on your plate, and “Everything is a Priority.”   When Everything Feels Like a Priority
    To our imperfect lives …

     

    Stay in touch … Please join our mailing list.

    Thanks for you attention.

    Struggling to Get Motivated? 3 Ways to Get Moving.

    July 9th, 2014

    Oh, the lazy hazy days of summer. But you want more and you can’t quite get jazzed about much.

     

    I’m hearing: “I can’t get motivated about work, even though I love my business!”

    “I have family coming to stay and I cannot get myself motivated to pull the house together.”

    “I want to get out after work and take advantage of the summer but I just forget all my great ideas once work is over!”

    Try one of these.

    The “Pull” strategy.

    The “Dominoes” strategy.

    The “Get Social” strategy.

     

    “Pull” Yourself  Instead of Pushing

    I bought a kayak when I first moved to my lake. In my early years here, I kayaked a lot.

    But in the past few years, I’ve sort of forgotten what it feels like to be out there. I don’t want to kayak when nobody’s home for safety reasons, nor during the day because I work for myself and protect those hours. So now it feels complicated (or at least not easy) to figure out when to go.

    At the end of my workday, I open the door to leave and here’s what I see.

    That’s my kayak oar on the right. My “pull” strategy sits there in full view. A visual reminder to take a kayak ride before or after dinner.

     

    “Dominoes:” What’s the Red Domino for You?

    The dominoes strategy is about finding the one first task that will get you engaged and easily let you kick off a stream of other tasks.

    Find the red domino for yourself and the rest will fall into place.

    In the morning, take care of you, before the rest of the household. The rest will follow.

    With house cleaning, sit with quiet time and a glass of lemonade first. Or meditate.  (Set a timer to pull yourself out.)

    At work, what do you love to do? If you love to write, draft your newsletter article, and then move onto the rest of your tasks.

    What’s your red domino?

     

     

    “Get Social”

    Sometimes, it’s people energy we need.

    You may need to know that what you’re doing at home or at work matters.

    Or you simply find more energy some days from connecting with people.

    At work, call a colleague for a networking meeting over coffee. Meet in person with someone you’d planned to have a phone call with. Brainstorm a project with your coach in between your regular meetings.

    At home, invite friends over for a simple lemonade lull in the afternoon, or for a light supper or ice cream. Work on the house afterwards. Or talk to a friend as you each hold each other accountable for reorganizing that room you don’t really want to tackle on your own. Or hire an organizer or coach for new strategies and fresh perspectives you may not have thought of or to get you from point A to point B faster.

     

    Three strategies. All quite different.

    Which of these strategies might be worth experimenting with?

    Get yourself back on track and turn the lazy, hazy days of summer into the summer you really want to have.

     

     

     

     

    Still stumped? Not quite sure how these strategies might apply to the thing you’re wrestling with? Organize your thoughts, things or time.

    If you have the opposite issue (too much going on), take a look at my article written with Carol Williams of the Design Your Days duo in the summertime issue of Front Burner Mama.

    It’s an online magazine for moms to keep themselves on the front burner of life.

    “Have the Summer You Really Want: 5 Strategies to Tame the Chaos.” Subscribe and gain access to the free magazine, filled with strategies, resources and more. We were pleased to be asked to write for Front Burner Mama again!