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Does Your Physical Environment Inspire You?

by Donna Steinhorn on September 7, 2011

Our environment effects our thoughts, and our thoughts affect our environment. Your surroundings (or Physical Environment) are composed of the tangible aspects of your life: your home, your car, your office, artwork, “toys”and nature. This environment presents observable clues of what’s going on in our lives. So if things are vibrant and going well, it’s likely your home and office reflect that.  When chaos reigns in our lives, it’s likely that clutter, damaged items, noise and chaos are reflected in our homes.

Everyone has different needs when it comes to their Physical Environment.  Some people need simplicity, some vibrant colors, and for some opulence and elegance are what they need.  Your Physical Environment can affect your creativity, your mood, motivation and even your energy.  The Chinese knew this and developed a complex system for creating an ideal environment in Feng Shui. However, you don’t need to hurry out and hire a Feng Shui consultant. Begin by figuring out what you need in your environment. What in yours is currently working for you? What’s not? Our environment  isn’t ideal when it lacks a quality we need, whether that’s nature, beauty, serenity, scented candles, or even sounds such as water or music.

And that’s not to say your environment needs to be picture perfect or ready for House Beautiful. Years ago, I was invited to someone’s home for lunch.  She had a few things she needed to complete for work, and led me into her living room to wait for her to finish.  The living room was a showpiece.    White plush carpeting, white sofas, white marble coffee table,  beautiful artwork on the walls.  All very expensive, all very sterile.  There was not an ounce of color.  The throw pillows were white, and the coffee table was bare…not a magazine or object in site.  I was almost afraid to move.  After a few minutes, I went looking for another spot to sit, and found the very cluttered den, complete with magazines, toys all over the floor and knick knacks everywhere.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and sat down.

You don’t need to do an immediate renovation, although sometimes rearranging the furniture can have an immediate impact.  Do however take some time each day to scan your physical environment.  Are there things out of place, out of date, or out of order?  Take care of them immediately.  A wise man once told the child me that “a truly lazy person will put things away immediately, because that means there will never be a huge amount of work to do all at once.”

Well designed environments can naturally increase performance, creativity and effectiveness.  They can inspire you and give you energy as well as calm you.As you walk through an area, look at your possessions and ask yourself three more questions:  Is it beautiful?  Is it useful?  Do I love it?  If you answer yes to any of those, that’s a keeper.  If you can’t answer yes, put it in a box and donate or trash it.

Now go ahead and ask yourself these questions:

Are my home, office and car clutter free?

Do my home, office and car express who I am?

Do my home and office inspire me?

Are all my possessions in good repair and up to date?

Does everything in my physical environment pass the “I love it” test?

Is there an area in my home where I feel more energized and inspired?


No News is Not No News

by Donna Steinhorn on September 5, 2011

This morning someone sent me a video in memory of 9-11.  There it all was again. The planes hitting the towers.  The burning.  The chaos.  The faces.  All set to poignant music.  I’m sure for some, this was an appropriate way to remember, for me it was a smack in the face.

I don’t need to see this sad reminder of hate and devastation.  I knew people who died.  I am surrounded by communities that lost hundreds to this horror.  I’m no stranger to this tragedy.

I’m a bit astonished that we’re approaching the tenth anniversary of 9-11!  It’s not just that a decade has passed since that awful day, but it also marks ten years that I have not watched or listened to the news, with a few exceptions.

I was sitting at my desk that morning, when a friend called and said, “turn on the news, something has happened at the World Trade Center.”  As a result, I was watching it live as the second plane hit.  After remaining glued to the TV, for I’m not sure how long, I finally pulled myself away from it temporarily to drive the short distance to the beach where I, along to the dozens other who gathered there, watched the billowing smoke rise from the towers from afar.

For the next few days, like everyone else, I remained glued to the news whenever I was home.   I listened to speculation about what happened, watched the commentaries on how things were handled, and found myself anxious, angry and disturbed by the often conflicting information.

After a few days of this I knew I had to stop watching.  I turned off the TV, turned on some classical music, and within hours had reclaimed my equilibrium.  It was not that I was unaffected any longer, more that I had taken control of my memetic and emotional environment and chosen how I would respond.

I know someone will ask…but how do you get the news then?  How do you know what’s going on?  I see the news online of course — at sites of my choosing. I read the headlines and if I’m moved to learn more, I read the rest.  I am signed up to receive news alerts, and the husband or friends keep me abreast.  But I no longer fill my consciousness with the rapes, murders, house fires, war, starvation or the disease of the day.  I no longer listen to someone’s political agenda, spin on the news, or the continuing rhetoric and hyperbole.

In contrast, my mom has two TVs and a radio set to different news stations all day long.  She is constantly worried (and tries to tell me about it) about the economic conditions, the tainted food in some far off state, the latest pronouncement about what’s bad for you (often the exact opposite of what she heard last week.)  It causes her needless anxiety.  But she can’t stop herself, much as I try to get her to watch some mindless TV, or film, or the Food Network (my default station.)

She won’t control her memetic environment, but you can control yours.  Decide what information you will allow into your life.  It may surprise you what a difference it makes.

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Thanks to Hurricane Irene, I’m decluttering.

by Donna Steinhorn on August 27, 2011

Perhaps nothing makes you as aware of your environments as a major impending storm.  As I go through my day making preparations for Hurricane Irene, I find myself thinking about what would happen if my home and/or many of my possessions were destroyed.  What of my material things are so important?  My photos.  My laptop and iPhone, of course.  But truthfully, most things can be replaced.  I’m ruminating on why I have so much “stuff” to begin with.

There’s nothing like being focused on priorities to make the idea of a major de-cluttering and scaling back very appealing.

I had a friend who recently became an empty nester remark the other day that her goal is to get her life down to where most everything she owns fits into two suitcases.  To her, that meant complete freedom to go anywhere and do anything.

While I’m not about to do something quite that radical, I think the time has come to throw out 2/3s of my closet, 1/2 of my paper files and most of the assorted memorabilia, knick knacks and do-dads (that’s a technical term).

Stay safe, dry…and decluttered.

9-5-11  Follow up note:  We lost power for five days.  As a result, I wound up throwing out 3/4 of my refrigerated and frozen food.  I took that opportunity to completely clean these inside and out, and restocked them with only nonprocessed, whole foods.  That felt so good, I’ve been decluttering my pantry and reorganizing my kitchen.  It’s amazing the amount of energy and pleasure that gives!


10 Baby Steps To Getting And Staying Organized

by Donna Steinhorn on August 25, 2011

One of the most effective ways of improving your physical environments is to declutter.  You know how you feel after you clean off the top of your desk, or clean out a closet?  It’s an energy rush, aside from that feeling of accomplishment.  It can actually make you feel more creative and motivated.

Organizer Elvie Look offers 10 Steps to Getting Organized.  Here’s a preview: “3. The floor: is not storage space. Do you have clothes lying around? Go through now picking them up and putting them away in their respective rooms, closets or into the laundry hamper. While you’re at it, throw a load of laundry in. If you have clothes that need folding, do that and get them put away.”

Now go and post that sign in the kids’ rooms, the bathroom, and on your husband’s review mirror. “The floor is not storage space.”

10 Baby Steps To Getting And Staying Organized from Elvie’s Essentials 


What makes you want to change?

by Donna Steinhorn on August 12, 2011

[polldaddy poll=5403732]


In the beginning

by Donna Steinhorn on August 11, 2011

As babies in the womb, we live in a perfect environment.  Food on demand.  Climate control.  All our needs are instantaneously met. Once we come into this world, we begin an almost immediate search for perfect environments.  In the beginning, those environments are created for us.  Our rooms, what stories we are read, what and when we are fed, who we go on playdates with, what we learn in school.  Eventually we begin to design our own environments, choosing items for our rooms, picking our own books, selecting our own friends, choosing a major in college.  As our world continues to change, we adapt to the new environments.  We have only to observe the aged who have not kept up with technology to see how the failure to adapt constrains us.

Along the way, we create environments that support us in the lives we live, and those environments become familiar and comfortable.  Those environments….our relationships to people, possessions, surroundings, ideas and more can either hold us in place, or support us to grow.

Consciously or unconsciously, we design our environments to reflect how we think and feel.  All of these are part of our personal environments which we create to support us in the life we are living.  Many people have discussed environments as a way of choosing how you plan to live, including Julia Cameron and Thomas Leonard.  Our environments include:

  1. Your surroundings (or Physical Environment):  This includes your home, your car, your office, and nature.
  2. Your Relationships:  Family and Friends, Colleagues and Superiors, Clients and Customers
  3. Your Network: Acquaintances, larger circle of work relationships, people within organizations you belong to
  4. Your Environment of Ideas (or Memetic Environment):
  5. Your Spiritual Environment:
  6. Your Financial Environment
  7. Your Body and Health Environment:
  8. Your (inner) Self Environment:
  9. Your Career Environment
  10. Your Creativity Environment
  11. Your Leisure Environment
  12. Your Environment of Possessions
  13. Your Resource Environment

When you want to make a change in your life, you need to change at least some of our environments to support and nourish that change.Well designed (inner and outer) environments can naturally increase happiness, performance, and effectiveness and more, in effect, pulling us forward into the change we want to create.  Changing environments can support the vision and goals you have and changes you want to make.

The first step is to become aware of all your environments, determine which are and which are not working for you, and then design them to support the you that you want to become.

And that’s what the Personal Environments Project is about.