One month from now I will be moving to Boone, North Carolina! For years I have been dreaming of mountains, so when my husband Ben got an incredible job offer from Appalachian State University, we were both very excited about the change. I have been cleaning out the closets and getting rid of excess things with enthusiasm, and can hardly wait to get the rest of my treasures packed up and ready to go.
But leaving clients behind is hard! I have determined that I cannot continue to manage my small team of staff from out of state. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll be gone for good. I will return to Chicago once each season to visit with family and friends and to check in with clients. Chicago subscribers will receive an email invitation to schedule an appointment as soon as those visits are booked. There is a short but compelling list of services that I can continue to offer remotely (see below). I can also offer several recommendations for assistants and professionals who may be able to help you in my absence. Finally, I am looking forward to putting years of ideas about organizing and productivity into writing for the benefit of all!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to make Ideal Space Consulting a reality over the past few years. I am deeply grateful for the support of clients, mentors, family, and friends.
Virtual Coaching, Strategy Sessions, and Accountability Meetings
Schedule a check-in with me over the phone once a week, or once a month. We can clarify your goals and objectives, create your plan of action, design a comprehensive project plan, and troubleshoot crippling roadblocks. These virtual check-ins have left clients feeling productive, empowered, motivated, and clear.
“We have great strategy sessions, which I love. Madelyn is very intuitive, so I can get super clear on what I want and why. Then, whether it is a new business plan or a messy closet, she helps me plan it out…and get it done.” - Theresa
Business and Non-Profit Services
Successful businesses don’t always have the infrastructure they need in order to grow. I have helped more than a dozen businesses and non-profits create or revise business plans, job descriptions, manuals, or apply for grants. I can also provide writing, editing, and social media support to strengthen your communications.
Sign me up!
Beyond Organized: Exactly What it Takes to Feel Satisfied, Productive, and Brilliant at the End of the Day
Today is one of those rare and extraordinary days when, now that it’s over, I don’t feel I owe the universe any more work. I have earned myself some hearty and delicious comfort and relaxation. I could watch TV for hours eating food to my heart’s content, but I’m not doing that. I’m fired up, intellectually turned-on, physically relaxed, smiling, and writing this blog instead. Why? Check out these 4 reasons:
Reason #1: My agenda for tomorrow is clear. While I may feel complete in this moment, the work is not done. The work is never done! Yet my schedule for tomorrow makes sense. I know exactly what needs to be done, and I know I have enough time to do it all. This is made so clear in my calendar that I don’t even need to think about it until I finish my breakfast tomorrow morning and sit down at my desk to get started.
Reason #2: I pushed myself today. I confronted resistance and fear and I won. In this case it was my first ever Bikram yoga class. I was terrified, having heard other people describe their Bikram experience as ‘thinking they were going to die for the last half hour’. So I pushed myself, overcame fear, and then I pushed myself more, finishing the class with a sense that I had rocked it! Laying on the floor I felt completely connected to my exhausted sweaty self as my heart pounded almost out of control.
Reason #3: I helped someone. I get to help people for a living. In this case it was administrative assistance for a busy client going through a major life event. Today, I listened, I made phone calls, I pulled data from huge stacks of papers. By the end of the session, there were answers and just a little bit of resolution. Tomorrow it may take a completely different form, but I will help someone again.
Reason #4: First I showed up, and then I stayed present. Everywhere I went today, everyone I met with, every time I walked my dog, and every time I parked my car, I was fully present. This is the most mysterious of all the phenomena that merged today to make me feel blissfully successful. Why is it that I was able to be so present today when other days I fail miserably to be where I am? This time I chalk it up to rest and resolution, and perhaps a little good fortune.
On a day like today, being organized is just a small piece of the puzzle. What does it take for you to have your most productive, successful, and inspiring day ever? Don’t hold back. Your comments and insights might bring someone just a little bit closer to brilliance tomorrow!
Fall is an extremely evocative time for me. I always looked forward to my October birthday, and I’d plan my Halloween costumes all year round, but the real thing that drew me to fall as a child is the same thing that draws me to it now: fresh starts.
It’s been years since my life was regulated by an academic calendar. Still, the subtle changes in light, the increasing crispness of the air, the crunchy carpet of leaves, and of course the changing colors all fill me with a sense of excitement. I am filled with memories of pristine new shoes, smart new clothes, clean blank notebooks and unused pens and pencils, and the little girl in me is jumping up and down.
I miss starting school, but it actually doesn’t have anything to do with new shoes, or even with the glory of the season. On the first day of school, with some help from parents, I arrived on time and prepared for the day ahead. My bag was packed with all the necessary supplies, my mind was sharp and open, and everyone was on equal footing. Nobody was behind or discouraged, yet.
Here is my favorite part: on first days of class teachers laid out their expectations. They said: here are the rules you must follow in order to succeed; this is what you will learn; these are the books you will need in order to complete your projects and assignments, here is how your success will be measured. There are very few mysteries in the way it works. If you play by the rules and do what you’re told, you will get good grades and learn something.
Adults rarely ever have success defined for them in such clear terms, and they rarely have the path to success laid out for them in manageable steps. I remember sitting down to my homework assignments some nights with eagerness, knowing that all the information I needed was either already inside of me, or readily available in a book nearby. It was simple, though it never really felt that way at the time.
What if someone with authority and experience were to approach you now and say this: “Here are your goals for the year, here are the steps you will need to take to achieve them, here are the resources you will need in order to take those steps, and if you do all of this in the way I have prescribed you will be prepared to take the next steps in your life at the end of the year.”
I am obviously a person who loved school. Not everyone does, and yet clearly expressed and achievable goals with well thought-out action plans achieved over set periods of time are almost universally supportive of growth and productivity. When I meet with a client for the first time, or re-evaluate after working with them for awhile, I am effectively customizing a curriculum for them based on the goals I hear them expressing.
As the school year progresses, the excitement wears off. The real work begins. Mistakes are made, deadlines are missed and one starts to fall behind. Motivation occasionally falters. Imperfections are rampant. Time is mismanaged and one stays up all night trying to finish a project. The new shoes have scuff marks on them, books are dog-eared, and notebooks are misplaced. It is not the perfect, pristine, productive year it was supposed to be. It’s just like all the other years, but with slightly different content.
The organizing process is also ongoing and it is never quite as pretty as it looks in pictures, but there is the extraordinary benefit of being able to take specific steps toward clear and achievable goals. Organizing is palpable: you can see and feel it happening around you and inside you. When it’s working, you don’t have to wonder if you’re on the right track, focusing on the right things, or making any progress.
If you’re as excited as I am about fall, fresh starts, and the idea of getting assignments designed precisely to get you where you want to go, then now is an excellent time to hire an organizer. Click here, to book an appointment. If not, maybe a new pair of loafers and a fresh notebook will suffice.
Fall is an ideal time to check in with your wardrobe. Regardless of the dimensions of your closet or the size of your collection, the temperature is dropping and spring and summer clothes should no longer be the most accessible. The clothes at the top of your neatly folded piles, or hanging directly in your line of site when you open your closet doors should be fall or winter friendly, fit you perfectly, and reflect your current taste and style. So how do you get there? Here are the steps:
1. Perform a ruthless evaluation of spring and summer clothing. What did you love wearing? What did you hate wearing? *What did you never ever wear? Neatly fold the items you loved wearing and place them in a plastic bin for winter storage, or move them to a back rack in your closet. Include winter/spring shoes and accessories. If you have more than one bin, label each one so that you can find your sandals and bathing suits for winter or spring vacations.
2. Appraise the less-loved or unworn spring and summer clothing. Choose what to donate and put it into bags. Put the items you just aren’t sure about, into a dedicated box or bin labeled “quarantine.” These items will be stored for a year giving you a chance to make up your mind, lose ten pounds, or start loving polyester.
3. You should now have free space in your closet, drawers, or shelves for winter clothes. Take this time to arrange winter clothes in a way that will work for you. As you go through them, notice which items you are happy to see, and which items look outdated or worn out. If you are ready to let go of any items now, **bag them immediately! Otherwise keep this information in mind come spring when it’s time to repeat the process.
Don’t want to deal with this on your own? Click here to schedule an appointment.
*Keep all your hangers pointing in the same direction. When you wear an item, hang it back up with the hanger facing the opposite direction. By the end of the season you will be able to see how much of your wardrobe you actually wore based on the direction of the hangers.
**Keep a shopping bag for donations in your closet. As you find a shirt here or a sweater there that you think may be more useful or flattering to someone else, put it in the bag right away. When the bag gets full, take it to your favorite charity and replace it with an empty bag.
I have been married for just over a month! The months leading up to the wedding were extraordinary. The anticipation increased past a point my mellow self was comfortable with, and at the last minute, I was still scrambling to finish or let go of the professional projects I had taken on. The month of the wedding, on the other hand, was a non-stop celebration, some of it taking place on a honeymoon in Portugal. Now, finally, I am back, and still trying to settle in. This is not the first time in my life I have been painfully aware of the importance of organizing during life transitions, but I’m finding that this time in particular, I need to practice what I’ve been preaching.
Whether you are conscious of it or not, your present moment is reflected in the spaces in which you spend your time. Your home is particularly revealing about the current state of your life, and it can also be a tool to help you live the life you want. Changes or adjustments in your home will have symbolic and practical effects on your life.
Organization is both a tool to improve your life and also a necessary process for maintaining it. When you choose to put silverware in that place in the kitchen, and then put it away in that place every time they are cleaned, you are organizing. When you unpack groceries you are organizing. When you put away laundry you are organizing. These processes become habitual, evolving to match the rhythm of life in the place where that living and organizing is happening.
When something changes - something big like a death in the family, a new career, a move, a retirement, a breakup, or a marriage, your home inevitably changes as well. This seems obvious, especially in some cases. Moving to another place, your home is undoubtedly changing. And yet, in times of transition most people try as hard as they can to hang on and keep things the same.
I once heard a story of an affluent couple living in a very large house with many rooms. As their only daughter grew up, instead of substituting a bed for a crib, a dresser for a changing table, they moved her into a new bedroom, preserving the old one like a museum dedicated to each stage of their daughter’s childhood. This couple used their resources to move forward without ever letting go of the past. What an eerie luxury!
All transitions are governed by the passage of time. In a static universe there would be no need for organization. In contrast, our dynamic lives call for organization and reorganization.
Just as personal goals can be achieved more easily through symbolic or practical changes to physical spaces. Conscious clutter clearing, rearrangement, and analysis of the systems we are using on a regular basis can ease the mind and heart during troubled times, help with the processing of grief, improve learning, improve family dynamics, contribute to the health of a relationship, build independence, and support professional success or financial prosperity.
When I am going through a transition, I am enveloped by my emotions. I am so absorbed by the changes taking place, and my feelings about those changes, that it is difficult to look at things objectively. Navigating logistical processes and making decisions becomes extremely challenging. I first look for help from family and friends, then I reach out to various professionals. The challenges of a transition are only exacerbated when a change or event affects an entire family. When, for example, a loved one dies, the grieving family is left with a massive organizing project, and yet their ability to handle it is severely compromised, putting their relationships and their emotional health at risk. This is when professional support can be most effective.
As my new husband and I settle back into our daily routines, we are redefining and re-evaluating many aspects of our personal and professional lives. Unlike many newly married couples, we live in the same wonderful apartment we did before we got married, but it isn’t the same. For months, I have been engaged in the process of donating clutter and old possessions to make room for the wonderful gifts our friends and family have so generously given us. This process helps me understand and adjust to the less obvious changes that have taken place below the surface.
Before beginning work this week I rearranged my office yet again to reflect a new chapter in my professional life, and my husband has completely rearranged his daily work schedule. Bringing our awareness to the changes we want to make through reorganization of our space and our time empowers us to define how we want to live. I think that might be my definition of freedom.
For a limited time only, receive an incredible discount when you pay in advance for your sessions with an organizer or a personal assistant.
Not sure if you need an organizer or an assistant? Change your mind at anytime. One hour of prepaid organizing is worth two with an assistant, or apply two of your prepaid assistant hours to one hour with an organizer. It’s up to you!
'It is better to want what you have than to have what you want.'
I first considered this truth bomb around Christmas time a few years ago when I was meeting regularly with a group of middle school students about Quaker values. Along with most Quakers, I believe that simplicity is totally sacred, even magical. The lessons of simplicity make room for profound revelation, hold potential for the spreading of peace, and support the healing of our extraordinary planet. I am thinking about it again now - about wanting what I have - because it’s another way of saying the word “gratitude”.
The young people and I put together alternative Christmas lists. We wrote down all of our favorite things and shared them with each other. It was exciting. It made you want to go home and revel in the way things already were.
I am constantly getting caught up in episodes of insatiable wanting. One of the first times this happened to me as an adult, I realized I had unknowingly memorized my own credit card number because I had typed it into so many shopping websites lately. These episodes of pseudo-deprivation are remarkable in that they are never resolved by acquiring the magic item, or number of items. I have to snap out of it somehow, usually by moving into awareness of how great things are.
This activity is all about identifying the things you already have that are totally aligned with your heart, spirit, senses, or childhood dreams. What possessions make you feel most like yourself? Like the best version of yourself? What makes you gloriously comfortable? What would you grab right now if the house was burning down? What do you love to show off to friends? What objects and devices make your life easier?
Now, take a moment to revel in it.
Next, pick a few items on your list that you’re either unbearably excited about and/or are unable to live without, and bless them. Connect to them as if they were alive, because indeed your enthusiasm infuses them with something.
The concept of mental clutter is not brand new, but I am thinking about it in a new way today. For a long time I have been struggling just like so many others to be more productive, more satisfied. I work my way through long lists of tasks hoping to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Instead, I feel drained and less alive. Kind of like a zombie.
Inspite of this misfortune, I am fully aware of the certain truth that my life is full of joy and blessings. I see it reflected in the face of my financé and the wagging tail of our puppy. I see proof of joy in the sunlight streaming through yellow leaves into our breakfast room.
This joy is always there, but it’s not always clear to me. When bills come in the mail that I hadn’t planned for, when tea spills on my computer (again), when I’m sick, or someone tells me about a recent tragedy, I cannot see the joy that surrounds me. The sun still rises and the leaves are still golden and Ben still smiles and Luta still wags her tail, but I don’t feel it.
These obstacles need to be sorted and cleared, just like clutter. Some of them may require an annoying phone call or $750 or a few seconds of grief, but they must be addressed and sorted.
The easy ones will be first. Sometimes with just a conscious resolve not to worry about that anymore the joy is already shining through the cracks, seeping back in. Today I cleared the obstacles. I let them go, and to my surprise I was left with only one that demanded more from me. I was face-to-face with my own dissatisfaction, with images of the person I want to be and the life I want to live, and the images did not look like the present moment at all. Suddenly it was very simple.
Clearing the other obstacles had reminded me that in fact, things are pretty great. I have satisfying work. My business is growing. I am gloriously comfortable. I am healthy and excited about things to come. There was just one missing piece. In my case it was expression. So I came straight home to write, amazed that I hadn’t seen it before. It wasn’t that I didn’t know I needed this - I just hadn’t seen the power of this one action to put everything back in alignment and reveal the full and glorious abundance of joy everywhere I look.
When you sort through the obstacles, letting go of anxiety, unnecessary worries, and solving the problems that need solving, what is left over? What is at the root of it all? Let me know in the comments below.
Books are one of those things that everyone loves to save. Or is it just that they’re really hard to get rid of? Here’s the thing about books: they are most powerful when they are being read, and yet they spend most of their lives being neglected on a shelf. someone could truly benefit from those books you’re not going to read. A woman in prison could find hope, or a child could nourish his imagination. Let your neglected books do some good! In this article you’ll find out how to make getting rid of books easier, and how we’re offering to help you. You can also check out our own book hoarding stories.
How to get rid of books:
Let us handle the heavy lifting!
Getting rid of stuff is really, really hard. Once you've admitted to yourself that you don't need something, you still have to go to the trouble of finding out where to dispose of it. It takes time and energy, and we've seen too many people procrastinate about actually getting stuff out the door. That's why we're offering to do it for you. Schedule a pick-up today! (Contact Nicole at 847-609-9868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) They will be donated to one of the following amazing organizations, or a different organization of your choice:
Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that makes early literacy a priority by giving books to hospitals’ pediatric exam rooms. Kids learn the importance of reading and being read to thanks to this great organization! www.reachoutandread.org
Chicago Books to Women in Prison takes your books and mails them to women all over the country who are currently in prisons. These women are grateful for any books that they receive! www.chicagobwp.org
Books 4 Cause is a national organization dedicated to building libraries in African countries. www.books4cause.com
I am on the verge of embarking on some very exciting summer adventures. First I'll be heading down to southern Indiana to attend a traditional Lakota sun dance ceremony that I've been going to every year for six years. After that I'll stop back in town for one day to recover, do laundry, and say goodbye to my fiancé before I head out to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota with a car full of children's clothes to donate. I'll be staying there until early August.
You have no excuse not to stay organized while I'm gone! I have trained an awesome team to take over in my absence. My new assistant Nicole, and new organizer Jenna are available to assist you with all of your organizing needs. And as a bonus Mary, our intern, will be available to lend an extra set of hands wherever needed at no additional charge to you! Read more about each of these women here, and don't hesitate to contact Nicole to schedule an appointment. [Nicole@idealspaceconsulting.com / 1-847-609-9868]
Keep in mind that Ideal Space Consulting can help you with more than just your closets. For a reduced rate one of our staff can also assist you with errands, projects, administrative tasks, selling or donating your stuff, and anything else that might free you up to focus on what is most important to you. Happy Summer!
Sun dance tree with prayer flags. Photo by Blaine Harrington
Info@idealspaceconsulting.com - Chicago, IL 60626 - 877.557.1717
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