cluttered kitchen — annoying! but is it also fat provoking?

IMG_4101“Your messy kitchen could be more of a problem than you think. It may be causing you to overeat. A Cornell University study showed that participants in a cluttered kitchen snacked on twice as many calories as people in a more orderly one, often reaching for sweets instead of healthier offerings such as carrots. One possible reason? The stress you experience in a chaotic environment may interfere with your ability to exercise self-control, researchers suggest.”

By Beth Howard, Jessica Migala and Nissa Simon
July 2016 AARP print magazine

This little nugget was emailed to me by my biggest fan… okay, my mom!

Do you think it’s true — a cluttered kitchen makes people eat too much???  Here’s what I wrote back to my fan, based on what I’ve seen with my clients and what happens with their decluttering choices.

I think that when you get your kitchen in order, you have a heightened awareness of the foods you keep available. You take pleasure in them – their purpose, their flavors, colors, and what you know they taste good with.  You practice until you gain mastery at their preparation and presentation.  They become like an artist’s paints… Full of potential.

In a cluttered kitchen where no one is in charge, the fresh food goes bad in the drawers; then the bad stuff contaminates its neighbors.  When hungry or bored, an eater is more likely to reach for something with factory-installed preservatives.  These boxed foods are go-tos because they’re fast, easy, consistent in their lack of aging, and satisfy a craving for crunchy, salty, or sweet pleasures.

IMG_4104Even with a managed, well-stocked kitchen, there’s still portion control to deal with, but at least the baseline is set to healthy choices being prepped and available.   Just like everything else in the Turbo Tidy journey… getting rid of kitchen clutter means the opportunity to make better lifestyle choices, beginning the moment the decision to change is made.

Maintenance may take effort, but I have become a much better and resourceful cook since I decluttered.  I do regular inventories of the fresh stuff, often doing recipe searches and planning meals around what needs to be eaten.  I admit, I still go crazy on Saturday farmer’s market mornings, but overall, I purchase much less food each time I grocery shop.  If I don’t know what meal a food is for, I tell myself not to buy it.  I can always come back.

So is it the stress caused by a chaotic environment that causes bad choices?  Or is it just lack of attention and care to good choices?  Either way, cleaning out the cupboards and the fridge pays off on the bottom line.

If you like this post, you’ll want to read does your home welcome you? Sarah Susanka says it should!



Screenagers — kids navigating digital world (documentary)

A couple days ago, my four-year-old son and I had a free afternoon.  We decided to fill the hours with a neighborhood adventure.  We’d walk to the library and check out superhero books for kids.  I’d discreetly check out the new titles in the center of the library, bearing in mind that this was his outting and not the time for me to drift off into mamaland.  Then we’d walk two more blocks to the yogurt spot and get a treat.  His would be chocolate and vanilla and toasted marshmallow yogurt with gummy candy; mine, vanilla with toasted almonds.

IMG_4016With our hats, sunglasses, and an empty backpack, we stepped out to the sidewalk.  It was a warm afternoon.  Quiet.  Not too many people around.  Except a few teenage boys.  Two on bikes; one on a skateboard.  I smiled, thinking of the freedom my son will have in just a few years.  Good stuff.

Then I looked more closely at the boys.  One of the boys on the bikes was holding his cellphone over his handlebar, texting as he cruised down our street.   The other biking boy, about 50 feet behind him, had a speaker dangling off his backpack.  I could hear the faint jangle of music as he cruised past us.  TheIMG_4015 boy on the skateboard zipped over the bumps between the bike lane and the curb, talking with his phone to his ear.  These kids were not alone on the open road.  They were half in their bodies on their street vehicles, half in their minds… turned inward and tuned elsewhere.  No matter how much we resist and regulate, clearly there is a new way of traveling with technology that these teenagers assume as normal, natural.

Would I have noticed the boys and their tech if I were pulling out of the garage in our SUV?  Or would I have been big and self-contained, only noticing whether my son had his seatbelt fastened and if the AC was set at the right position?  Then would I turn to the road, checking that the bikes and skateboard were safely past my driveway and then forget I’d seen them?  Slowing down and walking can really startle you into awareness.  Awareness brings curiosity.  And that’s what I felt.  Curious.  Is this bike/skateboard connection to technology a phenomenon that I need to tune into myself?

Screenagers -Documentary

Screenagers -Documentary

Funnily enough, I’d just seen a promotion of the documentary Screenagers, which will be showing at a church in my neighborhood in September.  A parent wrote of it: “Capturing the speed of technology and responding to how relationships change and adapt is an essential issue in American society today. Dr. Ruston is both the creator and the actress in a captivating story, depicting the difficulty for both parents and kids to navigate a new and changing world.”

Now I feel compelled to go!  Want to join me?  Tickets are a bargain – $5 if purchased online.  Here’s the link to get tickets to the September 8, 2016, showing at St Matthew’s Church in Northgate, Walnut Creek.  Give me a shoutout if you’re going.  I would love to say hello and hear what you think after seeing it!

If you connect with this Screenagers post, you might like to read  No More iPad for You



Get out from under that TO DO list…!!


Okay, so here it is, the beginning of August 2016.  Amazing 10-day family vacation to Costa Rica and series of weekend getaways… history.  It took me nearly 3 weeks post-vacation to return to planet suburbia. I was actually beginning to wonder if I was turning into a laidback sort of “I’ll get to it when I get to it” kind of person.  I was getting stuff done, but not in that fire-under-the-engine, revved-and-ready way I normally feel.

Well, this morning, I woke up en fuego.  Maybe because I slept pretty well this weekend, closing out Sunday night with an 8PM bedtime for my son and myself. This morning, post-Core Power yoga, I shuffled my kid off to a few hours of school, and I tackled the house.  I walked in from the garage, surveying the lackadaisical disorder taking root.  It’s hard to even put a name on this stuff because it is so random and piecemeal… the first wave stakeholders for future clutter.  Weekend detritus.

I saw reusable grocery bags on the shelves in the laundry, propped in the corner, hanging on the garage doorknob; nearly a dozen pool towels slung around to dry on any non-wood surface; LEGOs on table tops and under tables; shoes and flip-flops; books and notepads; briquets for starting charcoal fires; drinking glasses; coins emptied from pockets; abandoned game pieces; parts of last week’s school craft project… stuff.  Just stuff.

It took me 20 minutes to walk the circle of putting things away… moving things from kitchen to garage to laundry and back again.  Start the laundry.  Empty the dishwasher.  Write a note to our wonderful housekeeper to look up at the ceiling.  How it got a spatter of coffee?  I don’t know.

As I was doing this tidying work, getting my mind settled for a morning of checking in with clients and doing the Monday thing at my desk, the vision of my early days of Turbo Tidy bounced into my head.

My own Turbo Tidy journey began with imagining how my house would function with less stuff: streamlined, efficient, aiming at effortless.  I journaled that desire.  And, as ideas often do during writing, a glowing, haloed concept occurred to me.  What if I Turbo Tidied not just my stuff, but my head?  Starting with my TO DO list?  All that stuff nagging in the back of my brain to be done, yet I never managed to actually do it.

In 2014, I sat down, and, pen in hand, I brainstormed out the clutter.  Have you done this recently?  I highly recommend it when working in person with my clients.  It’s refreshing!

Most of the tasks on my list had unfinished projects to go with them, taking up all kinds of volumes of storage space.

My 2014 Personal Project List

  1. Fix costume jewelry
  2. Make jewelry from bead collection
  3. Hem blue dress
  4. Finish quiltssss (13 in progress)
  5. Put together photo album from baby pictures
  6. Organize Christmas cards – 2007-2014
  7. Organize Christmas decorations
  8. Sort art supplies in attic / clean attic
  9. Iron cloth napkins and placemats
  10. Go through baby hand me downs – incoming and outgoing
  11. Catalog and sell rock posters
  12. Put all CDs in iTunes
  13. Create backyard garden for 3yo
  14. Patch jeans
  15. Move buttons on dress  jacket

I asked myself, Which of these projects create joy?  Then I asked, If instead of finishing, what if I just got rid of the project?  For someone who has always been a maker, the idea of letting go of my projects was well, kind of scary.

But it was also exhilarating.  After all, if none of those projects were getting done, I probably just wasn’t that into them anymore.  Being married and a parent and school and work take a lot of time and energy.

Here’s what happened with my list.

  1. Fix costume jewelry  – gave away jewelry
  2. Make jewelry from bead collection  – gave away bead collection
  3. Hem blue dress – gave away blue dress
  4. Finish quiltssss (13 in progress) – gave/tossed all but 5 favorite quilt projects
  5. Put together photo album from baby pictures – bought more icloud storage and went digital
  6. Organize Christmas cards – 2007-2014 – threw away Christmas cards
  7. Organize Christmas decorations – slimmed decorations down to one box.  No need to organize
  8. Sort art supplies in attic / clean attic – gave away almost all art supplies.  Nothing left to clean
  9. Iron cloth napkins and placemats – donated any napkins that aren’t useable right out of dryer
  10. Go through baby hand me downs – incoming and outgoing – kept what I personally liked and donated the rest
  11. Catalog and sell rock posters – cataloged; selling still on my TO DO list (!!)
  12. Put all CDs in iTunes – signed up for annual iTune subscription.  No need to download CDs.
  13. Create backyard garden for 3yo – told husband; he and son planted seeds
  14. Patch jeans — threw away jeans
  15. Move buttons on dress  jacket — donated jacket

Like that.  My list was down to next to nothing!  Now it’s two years later, and I have a feeling I need to write the list and declutter my time again.  There won’t be so many random projects this time around, but I’m sure I’ve got some nagging loose ends that I need to either delete or do.

How ‘bout you?

If this message strikes a chord with you, read Unhooking from Praise and Criticism – declutter how you feel about what others say…


5 things i learned from LEGOs (and a 4-year-old)

Wonder Woman

1. The box is brand new once.
Ripping open the plastic bags containing the LEGO blocks, characters, and directions is a one-time-per-purchase thrill.  Ziplock bags and tupperware will never (never) ever (ever) substitute for the original, unsullied cellophane packaging.

2. Legos encapsulate mankind’s two strongest desires: to create and to destroy.

The desire to create a new Lego fantasyscape is as powerful as any superhero’s secret strength.  On a Saturday morning when a trip to get a new box of LEGOs is promised, a 4-year-old will stumble from bed with the words “I’m ready to go to the toy store” falling out of his mouth before his eyes are open.  Returning home with his LEGO loot, he will concentrate for periods of 40-60 minutes, intently studying the diagrams, following the directions, and clicking the blocks together.  Sometimes singing.  Sometimes creating dialog for the characters.  It is spectacular.  Rewarding.  Well worth being woken by Mr. One-Track-Mind.

TurboTidy_legodpThe urge to destroy is so strong, it makes it impossible for a 4-year-old to keep his independently offered promise, “I won’t knock this one down.”  Within an hour of completion, the LEGO vehicles, buildings, and characters are torn asunder, rearranged, shattered, and scattered.

3. Moms and dads approach LEGO building as a metaphor for life very differently.
While constructing a rescue helicopter that drops LEGO water pellets onto a burning building, my 4-year-old got stuck somewhere around attaching two tiny tanks to the sides of the helicopter.  He asked me for help.  When I (okay, somewhat reluctantly) reached for the directions, he grabbed them back from me. He said, looking at me slyly from the corner of his eye, “No.  I’ll wait for my papa.  He’s better than you.  He always tells me Turbo Tidy Batman & Robinwhat to do and never tells me to ‘just skip a page.’”

Well, there it is.  Distancing myself from LEGO construction in order to develop my kid’s problem-solving skills undermines my other aim, to be a strong parent who offers security in times of doubt. LEGOs are complicated.

4. I cannot own my child’s choices.
I’ve had zero success with selling my 4-year-old on getting all the LEGOs into an orderly container system.  I’ve tried keeping all the LEGOs from each set in their own labeled ziplock.  I’ve tried keeping all the direction booklets and cross-referencing them with blocks by color/shape.  I’ve tried cleaning them up with him, as if it’s fun… like a LEGO game of its own.  I’ve tried doing it alone after bedtime, only to have everything scattered by breakfast time the next morning.

At this point, we are at a standoff.  He can keep them “wherever he wants,” tucked into various toy buckets, stashed on shelves, and proudly displayed with his trophies, as long as everything is off the floor every other Monday for cleaning.

Turbo Tidy Captain America

5. And this is the lesson I’m trying to learn right now:  If dealing with LEGOs is a reminder that I’m not always in control… or should I better phrase that as “very seldom in control,” where else in life should I be letting go?  What is mine to zip up and containerize and what is just going to be what it’s going to be, waiting for me to make my peace with it?




the house of time

TurboTidy_houseofaspirations-01When you declutter deeply (Turbo Tidy), you will recognize that your home is a metaphor for how you view your life.  You can go into an almost trance-like place of self-examination as you question how each thing you keep supports how you want your life to be.

You will find…

  • the house of the past = comfort
  • the house of now = clarity
  • the house of becoming = aspirations

The things that were once important but no longer matter may still be around.  Is that the definition of clutter?  Gathering the energy to change sharpens your focus on what you have.  It gives you the perspective to align your ambitions with your belongings.  Or is it your belongings with your ambitions?  Which will rule you — what you have or what you want?

As you become better acquainted with your own desires, the future opens up, blossoming with potential.

I’m launching something new…! and exciting! read this!

TurboTidy-June2016-08I have some thrilling news…

I am launching something exciting and new!  It’s a 2-hour workshop, Cluttered to Clear in 9 Steps.

Why a workshop? Well, let me tell you the story.  This summer, I was blessed to take a little time in the void, just like I tell my clients to do.  I went on a couple vacations with my family, and I found time to relax and meander through thoughts of my work and what I enjoy the most.  I love the energy and interaction of the speaking presentations, and I often get feedback that just meeting me in person and listening to what I have to say is enough to get many people started towards their own decluttering journey.

However, I also hear, “I love what you have to say, but I want…”

  • access to more of the how tos to make the decisions.
  • printed resources to create my own personalized master decluttering plan.
  • tools and techniques to stay motivated through the hard stuff.
  • a method to organize, deal with, and hopefully sell the stuff that’s “too precious to donate.”
  • scripts for dealing with family members, both in the home and out of it.

This feedback has weighed on me, and I’ve had to ask myself, Are the Turbo Tidy tools and methodology something I must hold tight to the vest and only use with my one-on-one clients? Or could more good be accomplished if I share what I know freely and use my experiences to inspire others to take action?

How to make this decision…?

I had to look into my own aspirations, and what this really boiled down to is an issue of scale.  I’m one person.  In a good week, I can help 3 clients.  Maybe 9-12 clients a month.  Could I do more good if I could help more people at one time?  Believe me, this vision of helping more people at once sent a vision of block-sized Turbo Tidy decluttering parties dancing in my head.  Because one thing I know for sure, 99 percent of households are blocked up with stuff they no longer need or want.

To make the kind of impact I dream of, I need to talk to more people at one time, solve more problems at one time, and have a predictable, plug-in formula/template that every person can personalize and follow.  Voila… the teacher in me immediately knew the answer.  My talks needed to morph into problem-solving workshops complete with a Cluttered to Clear in 9 Steps! Workbook, which becomes the participant’s Personalized Turbo Tidy Action Plan.  

Because of the interactive nature of this 2-hour workshop, it is perfect groups of 5-30 people, such as:

  • social groups
  • hobby groups (especially makers, crafters, writers, and artists!)
  • people-who-work-together groups
  • mom/parent groups, networking groups
  • faith-based groups

So, now I am asking you to help me.  Can you connect me to someone who plans meetings, events, and speakers for small groups (5-50 people) in the Bay Area?  A name or an introduction would mean so much to me!  Thank you, and please contact me here>>

More details on the Cluttered to Clear in 9 Steps! workshop here >
(be sure to scroll to the bottom to see testimonials from successful workshop organizers and participants!)



name one item women cannot wait to get rid of!

TurboTidy_PadmaLakshmiI was driving east on Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek the other morning at 6:45 AM, reveling in the quiet between yoga and the family part of my day.  My thoughts floated towards work.  What do my clients have in common?  What is one thing that every client throws away – with glee, violently, with emotion?

An image immediately sprang to mind.  Can you guess?

I’ll give you three hints.

1.  It’s a garment, or at least marketed as one.
2.  It is normally either flesh-toned beige or sultry black.
3.  It promises to smooth you, slim you, hide you, make you look better to others, but in the process, it makes you feel worse about yourself.

Did you guess?


I was the first to throw those suckers away!  Back in 2015, when I carved through my undergarment collection, I came upon a SPANX slip mashed up in the back of my lingerie drawer.  As clothing items are prone to do, that slip dropped a memory bomb on me.  I could see myself in a dim hotel room dressing for a friend’s wedding.  My husband looked over at me and, not one to mince words, asked, “What is that and why are you wearing it?”

I said, “It’s a slip.  It is for my dress, so I look my best dancing at the reception.”

He said, “If you think you need to wear that, I think you’d better start spending more time at the gym.”

I wore it once more and that was that.

I’d chalked the whole thing up as a personal feel-bad-about-myself experience until I started Turbo Tidying with clients.  Then, those Spanx started showing up, wadded up in the back of more lingerie drawers.

Here’s what I see register on my clients’ faces.

  • Those damned things were expensive.
  • I was so self-conscious when I wore them, I wasn’t able to relax and enjoy myself.
  • Spanx are a belly squeezing, booty smushing contrivance rigged up to tell me that I’m not good enough as I am.
  • Ef those!

You know what that means, right?  Turbo Tidying a wardrobe is a necessary step on the journey to self-acceptance.  Every client develops a new mantra that sounds a lot like: I am who I am, take it or leave it.  Change may be around the corner, but I’m letting go of being ashamed of me.  I’m embracing comfort.  I’m embracing my body for what it is today.  I am going to breathe, relax, laugh, be in the moment.

And here’s the funny thing.  Accepting yourself in the moment is the essential first step to create real, lasting change.  Change doesn’t come from hiding in constricting latex, hoping people won’t see you for who you really are.  Change comes from acknowledging your own truth and deciding what you want and what you’re willing to do to get what you want.  And then the discipline to work for it.

And bonus… here’s a moment of divine synchronicity in my life.  This morning, I had a couple extra minutes before my son rose.  I grabbed my current read, “Love, Loss, and What We Ate,” Padma Lakshmi’s memoir.  And in the 4 pages I had time to read, she talked about… SPANX!!  She wrote about dealing with her post-baby weight gain (p. 176):

I was really proud of my larger size, and I enjoyed it.  I began to feel womanly in a much earthier way.  And I was much more brazenly confident than I had been when I had my usual slim figure.  It was very weirdly exciting.  I didn’t suck in my belly and I didn’t hide my size with clothing.  I began to genuinely revel in my form.  I threw away my newly bought post-pregnancy Spanx (which I had hated with a passion all during filming the DC Top Chef promo shoot).

So there you have it.  If I can toss my Spanx, my clients can toss their Spanx, and Padma can toss hers, can’t you?  What else can you release that is no longer serving you?