Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I tackled my closets this weekend and began the process of a serious spring cleaning mission. I have been thinking about all the areas of the house that so quickly get disorganized, stuffed and just messy. So this was the weekend to get down to business.

I began in the guest room by beginning to go through my spring clothes and packing away the winter clothes. Very quickly I realized how big this job was going to be and that this wasn’t really going to be a relaxing Saturday. I was amazed at how much stuff I was hanging onto that I hadn’t even used or frankly knew was there. So I know the rules about if you haven’t used it in a year get rid of it! But what was keeping me from letting go? Is there really the chance that all my clothes will be dirty someday and I just may need another t-shirt? Is there really the chance that clothes from ten years ago will be in style? How many towels does one home need?

So regretfully I began the toss pile and once I got started it felt good! How nice to be able to close a closet without shoving in falling shoes. How nice to hope a guest doesn’t happen to look in that drawer. So on a very simple level I am loving the result of my hard work. Clean closets, more space, less clutter. The thing that’s funny is that I truly am a clean person. Everything to the eye looks shiny, picked up and clean. Just don’t open my closet or drawers! It got me thinking about the many areas of our lives that we allow to get stuffed, cluttered and just plain messy.

What keeps us hanging onto what we don’t need? What gets in the way of living with more simplicity? What does it mean to not give enough attention to the hall closets and pantry shelves of our lives? Obviously the spring cleaning got me thinking a bit deeper than making room in my tiny Chicago closets. It made me think about how many times we get stuck in life in not giving certain areas of life and ourselves the attention we deserve and require. How often we are nagged by certain areas of our lives that are filled with chaos or clutter yet we shove the door shut and pretend the mess isn’t there. What a relief to take stock, sort through the disaster, make decisions and have nothing hiding or needing to be covered.

It was such a joy to look at my closet this morning and have no mess in sight! I made a resolution to keep it this way and continue sorting. I still have more areas to conquer and maintain but that clean closet gives me motivation. So I hope this notion of spring cleaning inspires you to also roll up your sleeves and perhaps tackle whatever needs to be tidied up a bit. Likewise it may be a good reminder to check in with ourselves and think about what emotional clutter may be getting in the way of us living with more simplicity, freedom and peace of mind. What a nice treat to come back home to a place that invites us in and has nothing to hide.


Jennifer Schurman, MA, LPC

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spinning Plates on Sticks - Part 2: "Procrastination"

When I wrote my last blog article, “Spinning Plates on Sticks” way back last November (see: ) I really felt like I had tackled a big obstacle in my life. I felt free, like I had room to breathe and could work on things that had meaning and fulfillment to the bigger picture of my life. But when it was my turn to write another blog article, no matter how well intentioned I was to get it done by my due date – January 1, 2010 – I just could not sit down and write it.

The date came and went. Jolene Hwee, the intern who has been monitoring the blog, sent me a gentle reminder. My response, “I’m so busy with the Conference* I guess I’ll need to skip it this time. I promise to have an article for my next turn, April 1.” (As you can see by the date of this blog, I missed that deadline too. Although I am giving myself positive credit for at least making it in the right month.)
I needed to look at what was really going on. Yes, I am busy. Yes there’s a lot to do for the conference – but I knew these were just excuses. If I have time to play computer solitaire or watch reruns of “The Office” I have time to write one short blog article. So again I ‘went inside’ and looked at what Parts were activated by the thought of writing this article.
The first two Parts I met were locked into a circular pattern: “It has to be perfect!” and “What if it’s no good?” A third Part popped up immediately after that – this Part was elementary school aged, and since she went to a Chicago Public School (a long long time ago) she doesn’t remember ever being taught how to write, “I don’t know how! Where do I begin?” This led to an overwhelmed Part who, whenever I have a task to do, immediately thinks of all my other tasks looming ahead of me. In reaction to all this a familiar feeling of lethargy took over, “I just don’t feel like it. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
I had never really looked at this pattern before. It’s so much easier to criticize myself for procrastinating or to tritely say, “I work well under pressure.” Looking at it in this way made me realize just how much more complicated problems are than they appear on the surface.
So I started with the first two Parts. Stepping back and looking at them with curiosity, I asked, “Why does it have to be Perfect? What are you afraid would happen if it was just good enough?” ‘Gramma May’ (You met her in my last blog article) told me she was trying to protect the young Part who feels like she will be judged if others see her as less than perfect. She and I let the young Part know that this blog article doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s not that important – it’s not up for a Pulitzer! I thought of all my clients, present and past – and told the Young Part that I was just writing to them. That calmed her down a lot, since she already knew and liked these people their opinions did not feel so scary to her.
Then I turned to the one who is convinced that I truly do not know how to write and I reassured her that I truly know how to talk, so we were going to imagine that we were just talking to these people and we’ll just write what we say. Taking a deep breath I turned to the Part who sees all the tasks looming ahead, “Well, yes I do have quite a lot of things to get done, but right now we need to focus on just one. If we get one done it’s better than getting none done. And remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
When that one was calmer, I did not feel weighed down with lethargy. I was able to just turn on the computer, sit down and write. Actually this article has been flowing quite easily and I’m fairly pleased with the results.
I hope that this will help you step back and look with curiosity at all the Parts which contribute to your own patterns of procrastination. Once all your Parts are calmed down, maybe you can do one thing that you’ve been putting off too.

Amy Grabowski

*If you would like info about the 3rd Annual Midwest Eating-Disorders Conference: “Replenishing Our Toolbox: Innovative Therapies for Eating-Disordered Clients” to be held May 14, 2010 at the Skokie Conference Center in Skokie, IL please click on this link:

Sunday, April 4, 2010