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Janis and the Empathy Effect

Janis Roth was one of my elementary school classmates. At Westminster School we lined up alphabetically. I was always behind her in line- Rothman directly following Roth. She was smart, sweet, pretty and slender. Although we regarded each other fondly, Janis and I didn’t become close friends, and lost touch after school ended.
Janis died on April 29th of this year, of an aggressive cancer. The news of her passing hit me hard. She was 59 years old, and had been the Executive Director of the Toronto JIAS- the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society- for the past 14 years. Janis oversaw the integration of more than 500 Jewish families each year, from Russia, Ukraine, Latin America, Turkey, India, Israel, South Africa, and more. She was held in high esteem and beloved by many.
Her untimely death reminded me that we never know when our time will be up. It is up to each one of us to make the most of each day, to show love and appreciation, to use time efficiently, and to not delay what we’ve been meaning to do.
A post about Janis on the Facebook page of the Empathy Effect states, “She was an inspiration and a guiding force in this community, with a deep passion for serving those most in need.”
Kim Smiley (www.kimsmiley.com) established the Empathy Effect in 2017. Her goal was to inspire loving kindness in homes, schools, at work and in the world, in short, everywhere, through stepping into another person’s shoes. By signing up for the Empathy Pledge, one promises to practice a daily act of empathy.
From a post on the Empathy Effect Facebook page, “The pursuit of a better world begins with you. We believe empathy is infectious. Please don’t just pass it on. Live it. Breathe it. Model it. Be it.”
I recognize that this blog is not directly connected to organizing or decluttering, however it’s been on my mind, and I wanted to share it with you. Nonetheless, it is related to my mission in life, which is to spread happiness.

Positive Spaces/Espaces positifs: Declutter, downsize, organize & more!

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Gratitude Journal

I am deeply troubled by the sad events and phenomena in the world: the Humboldt hockey team bus accident, white van plowing down innocent pedestrians in downtown Toronto, Waffle House shooting in Texas, last year’s horror at the mosque in Quebec city, Trump’s policies and behaviour, the ongoing civil war in Syria, staggering amount of plastic in our oceans, and on and on.
In spite of it all, I strive to remain optimistic. Medical research has shown that people who keep a Gratitude Journal tend to live more healthily and longer, sleep better, and lean towards being happier than those who don’t.
Keeping such a journal is a proven antidote to depressive feelings and is relatively easy to do. Choose a pleasing notebook and pen and keep it at your bedside or wherever you wish to write. The truth is that you could use any old scrap of paper, but I think, once you’re doing it, why not write in something pleasing?
Robert Emmons, a leading expert on the science of gratitude, has some research-based tips for maximizing the gains from a Gratitude Journal.
*He states that journaling reaps greater results if you make a conscious effort to become more grateful and happier in general.
*Writing in depth about something you are grateful for is more beneficial than a superficial list.
*Focussing on people rather than concrete articles you are grateful for will deliver a greater positive impact.
*Record surprises or unexpected events, as they tend to trigger stronger levels of gratitude.
*While some believe in daily writing at least three things you are grateful for, initial research has shown that writing once or twice a week produces better results. You could try it both ways and see what works best for you.
I am profoundly grateful for my work as a Montreal Professional Organizer and know that my clients are most appreciative of the results of our decluttering and organizing work together.
Why not try a Gratitude Journal? Let me know how it impacts you, if you feel so inclined. Create a “positive space/espace positif” in your soul and heart!

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Step 1 to Declutter & Organize!

If you’re wondering how to get started in the decluttering and organizing process, read on!

I’ve enjoyed reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and have gleaned some interesting ideas which I will be sharing occasionally in this space.
Today I will be addressing Marie Kondo’s idea of starting by visualizing the space you wish to organize and declutter, as you’d like it to be. Visualization -and examining your motivation- are important first steps in the organizing and decluttering process.

One of my clients shared that her primary motivation to declutter and beautify her space was that she wished to entertain in her apartment. When I asked her to explore why that was so motivational for her, she realized that she longed to spend time with her close circle of family and friends. She felt love and support with these people, and inviting them over and cooking for them was a way of bringing happiness to her life.

Another client who was an artist felt that clutter was inhibiting her creativity. She believed that by organizing her creative space, she would be able to find the materials she needed, thereby using her artistic energy to create, rather than to hunt for things. I have worked with quilters, painters, singers, jewelry designers – and recognize that the energy used to create is not the same energy which is used to organize and create order. All the artists have reported benefitting from organizing their creative space.

Several older clients have been downsizing as they were moving to a senior’s residence or a smaller home. These people tend to be motivated to part with non-essential items, and especially happy if they had children, grandchildren, or friends who were only too happy to take their china, crystal, books, etc.

It can be helpful to ask yourself why you want to declutter and organize a certain part of your home – or your entire living or working space. Keep asking the “why” question, until you arrive at the heart of the matter. This can help you remain motivated and focussed as you work – either on your own or with a Professional Organizer like me.

As Marie Kondo writes in the aforementioned book, “The whole point in both discarding and keeping things is to be happy.” There is a beauty in parting with things you no longer use which can bring joy to others.

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Spring decluttering!

As this blog is posted, it’s one day post Passover. Passover is a prime marker of the year for me, the unofficial beginning of spring, even though it’s -20C with the wind chill, as I write this morning. Passover is a Jewish celebration centered on liberation from slavery.
Some Montrealers have felt as if they were imprisoned this winter. It’s been a tough slog for many – more difficult than some – with long periods of extreme cold, icy conditions, and the desolation of darkness exacerbated by a frozen wasteland of impassable streets and sidewalks. This winter began early and is ending late.

I can handle snow, cold, and extra hours of darkness, yet icy sidewalks and winter driving can be a deterrent when it comes to optional outings. In the winter, I bundle up when venturing outdoors, and wear cozy sweaters and slippers at home. When out in the evening, I enjoy looking through house windows to see how others decorate and live.
In spite of the weather sometimes keeping me indoors, what helps me get through winter is planning pleasurable activities to look forward to: shows, lectures, dinner parties, fireworks at the Old Port, dances and movies, as well as cozy time indoors reading, cooking, writing, organizing and decluttering my own home.
Back to Passover. I like to transpose the Passover story to a modern key, reflecting on what we ourselves would like to be liberated from. It could be a less-than- healthy relationship, dysfunctional eating habits, or perhaps an addiction to cigarettes, drugs, or gambling.Some people just need to be able to take a step back from their “stuff.” They feel suffocated, choked, unhappy, hemmed in… and would like to be liberated!
Any time of year is a great time to get started, yet for many people, spring conjures up the idea of “spring cleaning” and “spring decluttering.” That’s where a Professional Organizer like me can be helpful.

A happy spring to all! Enjoy the warmth when it finally arrives.

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The Power of Positive Thinking

“I feel like I never get anything finished,” said a recent Montreal client who had hired me as a Professional Organizer. Besides optimizing the efficiency of her living space, I suggested that she create and use an affirmation like: I get things done efficiently and expediently. My client liked the idea.
We put a few signs up in her apartment: on the kitchen fridge, on her bathroom mirror, and the last in her bedroom.

I explained that in order for an affirmation to really make a difference, you need to repeat it to your subconscious until it becomes part of your conscious thinking. In order of effectiveness, you can think of an affirmation, you can read it, and you can write it as you say it aloud.

I’ve been successfully using affirmations for the last 29 years or so, since I took a course entitled “We Are What we Think.” When I took this course, I was single, and very much wanted to find my basherter– the Yiddish word for soulmate. I created an affirmation and used visualization, and my honey and I happily celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last September 6th! I am a big believer in the power of affirmations.

Nathan Bellow wrote a highly acclaimed book entitled The Power of Affirmations: Improve the Quality of Your Life By Reprogramming Your Subconscious Mind. This book has many enthusiastic reviews on Amazon and I am planning to buy it as a refresher.

Affirmations should be concise, in the present tense, and should be stated in positive terms. In terms of eating, for example, it would not be helpful to say, I will not binge eat. Rather, a positive affirmation could be something like: I eat healthily and mindfully.

With regard to decluttering, one could use the following affirmation:
We are easily letting go of things we don’t need or use. Another helpful tool is to visualize the space as you would like it to be.

Other personal affirmations I have found helpful over the years:
I am calm and loving at all times.
I go with the flow of life in a calm and relaxed manner.

I have helped friends, family, and clients create (literally) life-changing affirmations. Why not give it a try? Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about affirmations, and of course, if you’d like some help decluttering, downsizing, or organizing.