Category Archives: Non-fiction

Calming the mental clutter (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

Don’t be jealous, but I have my own “Ashi.” Well, that’s how my sister puts it when referring to my sage. My sister often comes to me in search of  advice when I soon realize it’s not mine she seeks. She’ll patiently hear me out before casually asking, “What would your Ashi say?”  I think she’s a bit jealous. I suppose if I was her, I might be, too.

Truthfully, I don’t have “an Ashi.” But, I do have a dear friend named Ashi, (pronounced “aw-she”–I know, cool name, huh?) with whom I have been friends for over 14 years. Initially, we worked for the same company, she as office manager and me as a contract consultant. I remember watching her in amazement. Despite the chaotic environment, her organizational skills were beyond reproach! So, when she ventured out to begin a contract administrative support business, I eagerly signed on as a client. Neither of us predicted what would come next.

Outside the confines of an office or a traditional job description, Ashi discovered her “real” gift beyond space organization; the ability to help people deal with their “stuff” and move in the direction of their dreams. While helping clients organize their work spaces, she recognized that the “external clutter” that covered desks and crowded offices often reflected the “internal clutter” that blocked personal growth. Soon clients, like me, were asking for her help beyond their work spaces. Kitchens, bedrooms, and family rooms were transformed from mere living spaces into breathing spaces.  Ashi couples her superior organizational and decluttering talents with her unique ability to guide and coach her clients in discovery of themselves as they release possessions (and the associated thought patterns) that no longer serve them. Her approach is gentle, intuitive, and perhaps most importantly, supportive, as she recognizes the immense emotions that often surround our internal and external “stuff.”

Over the years, Ashi has helped me as I’ve eliminated the clutter that crowds my counter tops, fills my closets and covers my desk. Long ago, she helped me realize that if anything, be it a pair of shoes, piece of jewelry, or a gift from a friend wasn’t something I still truly loved, it was clutter. And that running out of room to store my “stuff” didn’t necessarily mean it was time to shop for a new home; it meant it was time to release clutter, physically and emotionally.

The other day, I found my mind overflowing with thoughts. Like an attic bulging with “family heirlooms”, much of what filled my mind was simply clutter. There were thoughts of this friend’s pain, that friend’s hardship, and another family’s anguish. My husband’s certification exams, a daughter’s work schedule, my sister’s classes, and dirty laundry all vied for attention. My mind raced with thoughts of bills and financial markets and insurance claims and curriculum orders and prayer lists and emails and neglected gardens and arriving guests and… Comically, even the Grinch inched his way into my thoughts and cried out, “One thing I can’t stand is the noise, noise, noise, noise!”

Then it hit me; I had either truly lost it, or I had too much clutter in my mental closet.

Fearing the alternative,  I set my focus on decluttering my mind. Naturally, I turned to my “declutter guru,” Ashi. In her last blog post, “How much is enough” (,  she wrote of the overwhelming energy of the fast-flowing St. Vrain River. As she stood by the banks, she recognized her inability to fully relax as the water charged by. It was too much. Like too many items atop a dresser, the water’s dramatic flow cluttered her senses. She and her husband moved on to find a smaller, calmer creek offering her enough room to breathe and to think while enjoying the nurturing sounds of moving water. She had found her balance.

I reflected on her words and how they applied to the thoughts that rushed my mind like the fast-flowing water. I sifted through the mental demands as they came to me asking, “Is this one mine to do something with/about? How is this supporting me/my family?” When it was both mine and supportive, I held on to it. When it was neither truly mine nor supportive, I said a prayer and released it. And so went the decluttering process of my mental closet until, by the end of the day, there was room again for peace.  I took a deep breath and rested by the banks of the newly calmed waters.

Without material items to pick up, dust off, and physically place in a “keep” or “go” pile, the process of sifting through “mental clutter” can feel as emotionally taxing as sorting through my childhood memory box. However, as I have learned from Ashi, the rewards of a decluttered mind are as revitalizing to the spirit as walking into a freshly decluttered and organized living space. Perhaps, even more so.

She’s a wise woman, that Ashi of “mine.” I have been blessed by her friendship, and I have benefited from her wisdom, often. Whether through private coaching, her speaking engagements, her website, Grace Your Space, or her award-winning book, Bless Your Mess, I know many others have as well. But, shhh, don’t tell my sister cuz then she’ll brag she has her “own Ashi.”

For help with your own decluttering, visit Ashi’s website at:

or check out her book on Amazon at:

Hush–don’t speak. Just listen.

A couple of years ago I began doing something I hadn’t done since, well honestly, the toddler years; I began reading  parenting books. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Gone are the books about diapers, bottles and tantrums. My shelves now bulge with volumes dedicated to the varied methods of parenting teens, the years when tantrums are relabeled as “rebellion.” Some books have become fire-starter, while others have offered me solid, practical wisdom . I would include my latest read, Please, Stop the Rollercoaster! How Parents of Teens Can Smooth Out the Ride, by Sue Blaney, in the latter category.

I am still working through the pages, highlighter and pencil in hand. However, in Chapter 3, “Improving Communication,” I was so touched by the poem, “Please Don’t Say Anything, Just Listen,”  I shared it with my kids and asked for their opinions. Both really liked it, saying it reflected how they have often felt. The poem gave me insight. Their responses gave me pause.

“Hush–don’t speak. Just listen,” I was reminded. It’s the first rule of the “speaker-listener” technique of communication. It’s what I stress to my kids when helping them resolve arguments. Still, I can tend to jump in when approached by someone with a dilemma. I see the problem. I think I have the answers. I like to help. I want to help. Really, I want to fix–especially where my children are concerned. However, my children are not broken. They do not need to be “fixed,” nor do they need their feelings dismissed when I charge in with a solution. When they come to me, they are maturely seeking  counsel,  and I cannot give wise counsel if I have not truly heard them. If I want them to listen to me, I must first listen to them. Afterall, don’t we all just want to be heard–not fixed or dismissed?

Please Don’t Say Anything,
Just Listen

When I ask you to listen to me,
And you start giving me advice
You have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me,
And you begin to tell me why I
shouldn’t feel that way,
You are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me,
And you feel you have to do
something to solve my problems,
You have failed me, strange
as that may seem.
Listen: All that I ask is that you listen,
Not talk or do–just hear me.
When you do something for me
That I need to do for myself,
You contribute to my fear
and to my feelings of inadequacy.
But when you accept as simple fact
That I do what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
Then I can quit trying to
convince you
And go about the business
Of understanding what’s behind
my feelings.
So please listen and just hear me.

And if you want to talk,
Wait a minute for your turn–
and I’ll listen to you.
                      — Anonymous

Now, when one of my girls approaches with a problem, I ask, “Are you looking for guidance or do you just need a sounding board?” Or, at least I try to. When I do, it does help. Communication with teens is tricky business. It is often charged with emotions leading me to jump in. I offer unsolicited advice, but I am learning they will share significantly more the longer my mouth is closed and my ears are open. And for that, I am thankful.

As I glean more from the pages of Blaney’s book, it will probably appear in my ramblings here. However, if you would like to peruse the pages on your own, you can visit her website at: