Life Management


Guidelines that Work When Closing Down the Family Home

by Christine

We sat at the dining room table looking at all the jewelry my mother had collected over her lifetime. Several pieces evoked special memories that we shared with one another. Unbeknownst to us, Mom had saved our infant wristbands, blue for Ed and pink for Julia and me that we wore home from the hospital when we were born. It was a bittersweet afternoon as we decided what pieces each of us would keep. We were closing Mom’s house and this was part of the process.

Closing down the family home can be a minefield of emotional and financial tension. For most people their home is the most valuable asset in their “portfolio”; it can become a battleground if families allow that to happen. I know of one family of siblings who split into factions. One group changed the locks on the family home so that the other group could not get into the house. Even though each sibling is legally entitled to a “share” of the home, several have walked away. They do not want to engage in a battle but they also no longer talk to their sisters and brothers.  Three years later that house still stands, as it was when their mother died.

I am sure you can tell by now that I am a process person. So when we started to discuss how to handle Mom’s house and personal property, I had a plan. I cannot claim credit for the plan; I learned of it from my ex-husband’s family. They brought in a company that appraises everything, runs an estate/garage sale and arranges for anything not sold to be picked up by a charity such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill. This process was particularly helpful to Julia and me since we lived out of town and Mom had not moved or downsized in over 40 years. It was a big job and the professional were better equipped to handle it.

Our family added a couple of additional guidelines to this process. First, if we wanted anything that belonged to our parents, we had to put it on our list and “buy” it from the estate. That may strike you as odd at first, given that we were the sole heirs to our parent’s estate and that it was only a paper transaction. What this process avoids is the U-Haul effect. That is when one family member backs up a rental truck and clears out the house while others stand around in stunned disbelief. No one was allowed to take anything out of the house until it was agreed upon by all three of us.

When my brother declared he did not want any of the china, Julia and I paid him for it. We ended up at financial parity when the sorting process was complete and this procedure clearly revealed that fact. No one felt taken advantage of during what was a particularly difficult time to make decisions. Since we had already decided to bring in professionals to cost everything, this guideline was easy to implement.

It also helped us keep check on what we were taking home with us. We had furnished homes that had limited room for new “stuff”. While each of us had an emotional response to closing down Mom’s house, we needed to resist the urge to take her 1970’s macramé owl. Somehow knowing that we would have to “pay” $3.00 for it squelched the need to hang on to it.

I tease about the owl but I was surprised at my own response to letting go of my parent’s things. As I was walking out of the house the last time before the garage sale, I reached over and took a fruit platter off the wall. I was not particularly fond of the platter or even needed the platter but took it anyway. My sister has an identical story but she took a table. Thank goodness, I had no more room in car. I could see me shoving in the sofa in now.

The other guideline was no spouse or grandchildren were to be involved in the process. If they wanted something from the house, they were to discuss it with their spouse or parent who would then put the item on their list. Our goal was to avoid enlarging the group of potential negotiators. Plus we did not want comments such as “My husband thinks I should have this because I am the oldest, youngest, handsomest or smartest” to enter into the discussion. Those would be fighting words.

You and your family need a plan. I understand how ridged this sounds on the surface. Your first response is probably, “my family would never behave badly”.  But I have personally heard multiple people say their family would never fight over money or personal property only to end up in a bitter battle when closing down the family home. Siblings that were thought to be easy going became intractable over mom’s quilt or dad’s ratchet set. Others were surprised to find that things just “disappeared “ from the family home. Sisters stopped talking to one another because they couldn't’t agree on whom got mom’s wedding rings. This can be avoided with a little forethought and planning.

Intentional living means taking the time to think about a situation and plan to maximize the opportunity for a positive outcome. I would love to hear about your personal experience with closing down the family home; also about how you handled the emotion behind doing so.




Life's Paperwork: Living Will, Power of Attorney and Last Will & Testament

by Christine

In a previous post, I listed the legal documents everyone should have in place but since Mom's death I have real world reasons why these legal tools are necessary. Yeah, I know, nobody wants to think about illness and death and putting these documents in place acknowledges that we have an expiration date and nobody wants to think about that. But as I said before, if you get your paperwork in order those left behind will thank you plus you can take on an air of superiority. Very few Americans have a Living Will and only 45% have a Last Will and Testament.  

My father and mother were very good about getting their paperwork in order. They never spoke of what motivated them but I believe control was a big issue as well as avoiding conflict. I am grateful because for the most part, they accomplished what they set out to accomplish. The Living Will was the first document that went into effect when both Mom and Dad became ill. It spelled out clearly their wishes in the event of a major medical occurrence  and the medical profession welcomed the document. It guides thinking when emotions are high and decisions are difficult. But I am going to restate what many in the legal and the medical professionals say all the time. Once you put a Living Will in place, talk to the people involved about your wishes. 

I encourage this for two reasons. First, you want everyone to follow your plan. We ran into a snag not with family but with one of the paid full time caregivers. When Mom had what turned out to be her final stroke, key family members were out of town. Once we realized the seriousness of mom's condition, we instructed the caregiver to call in hospice. She refused. She had become emotionally attached to mom and could not bring herself to admit this was the end. It made for some tense times as we sat at the gate at the airport making multiple phone calls to hospice to get the help mom needed. 

The second reason is to help family members avoid guilt in the future. My father suffered a fatal stroke that put him into a coma. After three days in a coma, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic patiently explained to my mother the medical realities of my father's condition. They gently explained that my father was gone and that machines were keeping his heart pumping. For years afterwards, she would occasionally say that maybe we should have waited a "few" more days before taking dad off the machines. We reminded her that dad was very specific in his instructions about the end of life and that she had done the right thing in following his wishes. That gave her some peace. 

The Power of Attorney is a powerful tool. Bluntly it states that your designate can do anything you can do. They can sell or buy property, enter into agreements and make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. This document turned out to be a helpful tool to our mom and family. Once mom started stroking she could not balance her check book or remember to pay the light bill. It became necessary for someone to step in and help her. She had already put in place a Power of Attorney and chosen her designate. That was really the key. She chose my son, Matthew, because she trusted him, he lived locally and he had an MBA. An MBA is really not necessary but she was proud of her grandson and it gave her comfort to know he was balancing her checkbook.  Additionally the rest of the family trusted him and recognized that he would work to fulfill mom's wishes. The challenge here is choosing the right person at the right time. 

Lastly, the Last Will and Testament. I am so glad that Mom and Dad had this document in place. For the people left behind, death is not only an emotional time but requires a legal response. Everything from turning off mom's cell phone to selling her house required legal authority and documentation to do so. Yes, if you fail to put a will in place, the state will come in and dictate to your family and/or friends how to get this done. But it is cumbersome and slow going. Your will offers a framework for others to work under. It states who will be your executor, who will care for minor children and how to distribute property. It is not like in the old Perry Mason movies where family members come together for the reading of the will. Though I guess if you were into the drama of it all you could require that. It is more about creating a document that will help your family maneuver the legal process once you are gone. 

I am grateful to my parents for taking care of life's paperwork because losing your parents is difficult enough without the added burden of dealing with government bureaucracy without it. I had my paperwork put in place years ago. Yes there was some anxiety during the process but today, I rarely think about it. And do know my children will thank me once the time comes. When I talk about living an intentional life, this is an area that needs intentionality. It does require taking the time to think through what you believe and what you want from life even at the end, how you want to treat others and then putting a plan in place. Plus it means you could join the 45% and enjoy feeling just a little superior to the remaining 55%.



The Lavender Shed

by Christine

The change of season stimulates my desire to complete any outstanding projects and drives me to action. Fall, in particular, stirs up those feelings. The light changes, the days become shorter and a sense of urgency comes over me. Maybe it is primal and I am looking to organize things before hunkering down for a long winter’s sleep. But now is the time to speak into existence those ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for several months.  

This past August Marty and I went to Maine and stayed at The Spouter Inn. The place was immaculate and charming as a B&B should be but my favorite part of the Inn was the herb garden right out the front door. Each time we came in and out of the Inn we were treated to the wonderful smell of basil, rosemary and other fragrant herbs. I mentioned more than once I wanted to create a similar garden at our home

Sadly, just thinking about it is not going to make it happen. I don’t have that whole wiggle my nose-bewitched thing to help me out.  Happily, I have decided to move forward with my plan and it all begins with the boathouse. The boathouse is at the edge of the lake and at the end of the section of land I am going to transform. I will start by painting the boathouse and work my way up the parcel.

The only difficulty I see with the project is getting started. I want to get Marty involved because he has an excellent mind when it comes to these kinds of projects. But I can see now that the first hurtle will be color…I want lavender. Marty designs sets for a living and he is not afraid of color in that setting. But I know he won’t be so sure about a lavender boathouse.  I will post pictures as the project progresses so you can see the color we decide upon.

I would enjoy hearing about your fall projects plus once I get the pictures posted, let me know if the lavender works for you.


With Fall Comes Change

by Christine

I love autumn. The vibrant colors, the crisp morning air and the rows and rows of pumpkins at roadside markets all signal change. It is also a wake up call. It is that gentle nudge to do those things that I have been putting off because I was lulled into believing summer would last forever. 

I am constantly reminding myself to just do it.  And do it now! Before Nike trademarked the slogan I would whisper under my breath just do it when I found that I was being weighed down by my procrastination. Visualizing the relief and pride I would feel once the task was completed got me to take action. This past summer I kept talking about painting the boathouse. The boathouse is a little 7 by 4 foot shed that houses our life jackets and other water related toys. I visualize it in pale lavender with possibly cobalt blue or yellow accents. But as I sit here today, I know I need to just do it.

While I want my home to run like a well-oiled machine and my entire project list to be completed, I also want to go outside and play. When I was a kid, our neighborhood spent the whole summer outside playing. We ventured so far from home that my mother purchased a silver whistle that could be heard for blocks away. When she blew that whistle we knew it was time to go home. 

I still remember the joy of being allowed to play in the rain during a summer shower but now as an adult I run for cover. I think it has something to do with my hair. Maybe it is time to find a wash and wear hair cut. What experience has taught me is that the hard part of life is making the decision. The easier part is implementation. 

What are you putting off until tomorrow, planting the spring-blooming bulbs, cleaning the garage or basement or painting the shed? What does it take to get you going? I look forward to hearing from you but right now I think I will go outside and play.



Change is coming to Footsteps

by Christine

Whenever people ask me where I am from, I answer, “born in Greensboro, North Carolina and raised in Jacksonville, Florida.” Each summer my father’s family enthusiastically celebrated our return to North Carolina for our annual two-week family vacation and they excitedly questioned us about our life in Florida. They were convinced that we lived in paradise. And really 8 months of the year, it was. But summers were brutal. Temperatures reached 90 degrees plus during the day with not much of a break at night and those were the days before air-conditioning!

But September brought excitement and energy. I see clearly in my mind’s eye the kid who stopped mid-run when she felt the first September breeze touch her cheek, marking the end of the summer heat. Fall also meant school shopping with my mom before returning to school to see old friends and meet new ones. Plus there was a brand-new pair of Mary Jane’s with my name of them at our neighborhood Buster Browns! That is why fall is my favorite season. Fall means change. Fall means starting new endeavors and taking on new challenges. So that is why fall is the perfect time for Footsteps to restyle and rejuvenate.

As many of you know, this past year has been a difficult one for my family and me. But the good news is the traveling has stopped and I am back home. I am thrilled to have the time to write about those ideas and topics that mean so much to me. Yes, I will still be blogging about aging but I want to explore so much more. I will be blogging about what it means to live an intentional and creative life at any age. Furthermore if a blog touches your imagination, let me know. It is always more fun to talk over an idea with a friend, and I’d love to chat with you.


Seven Things To Do Before A Medical Emergency

by Christine

  1. Get your paperwork done.  Putting off thinking through and writing down your wishes now may lead to undue stress and hardship on your family and friends later. It may also mean that your thoughts and beliefs will not be honored. A Living Will and Health Care Proxy are two basic documents that most hospitals ask for on admission.  These forms can be found on the Internet and are free. Footsteps does not endorse any site but an example of a free site is 
  2. Know your insurance coverage. To really understand your coverage, it is necessary to read the policy and then talk to the insurance company. Call the company and ask to talk to someone in pre-authorization to understand what is covered and for how long.
  3. Select your rehabilitation center. Today, insurance companies are working to minimize costs so they push hospitals to move patients into a more cost effective situation as soon as a patient is “medically stable”. Rehab centers are an intermediate step when someone is really not ready to go home. Take the time now to find the rehab center that is right for you before you need one.
  4. Select your hospital.  Don’t rely on what your neighbor does, how close the hospital is to your home or what the ambulance driver suggests. Know why you would go to a particular hospital.  Hospitals specialize and they have personalities. Also, confirm that your doctors have privileges at the hospital you select. 
  5. Make a list of all the medications you are taking. This is one of the first questions that an emergency room physician will ask. Be sure your list includes the name of the drug as well as the dosage and how often your take it.  Additionally include on your list those drugs you are allergic to and be very specific as to what happens when you are given the offending drug.  You don’t want the hospital Pharmacist to rule out a whole class of drugs because you were too broad in your description.
  6. Select doctors that you trust and make a contact list for your emergency contact.  It is important to remember that you are building a healthcare team whose primary goal is to help you manage your healthThese folks will have your medical records and should know your wishes in terms of level of care. Once you build a team you trust, they need to be involved in caring for you.
  7. Get wearable identification. In November 2010, a car hit me while I was crossing the street.  I had stopped to take a few pictures of my mother’s childhood neighborhood and didn’t want to carry my purse so I left it in the car. Hours later I woke up in the hospital with a broken ankle and a good piece of my memory gone or scrambled.  After the accident, I started wearing an ID band. These are the bands that athletes wear so I don’t feel like such an old person. (Remember the commercial, “I have fallen and I can’t get up! One day I may need that technology but for now, I am wearing the “cool” stuff.)  You can have engraved a variety of information on the faceplate but normally it is emergency contact information and any allergies. Footsteps does not endorse any particular brand but I have attached a link to the company that was recommended to me by a marathon runner.  There are a variety of brands so I encourage you to find a “look” that works for you.

Once you are in the paperwork zone, prepare your will.  It is amusing how superstitious reasonable people can be about preparing a will. I have a friend who was convinced that he would DIE if he put together a will. I explained to him that he WAS going to die whether he had a will or not so it was best that he just go ahead and prepare a will. 


New Year's Resolutions

by Christine

{Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts}

I love the idea of a New Year, that artificial time designation that makes all things new. The New Year forgives as a Priest forgives his flock during confession. We are now allowed to leave sinless and guilt free. January 1st is the day to just “let it go” and start anew. We can pack up the Christmas decorations and start the long awaited diet. It is January 1st and as the checkered flag waves in our rear view mirror, the green flag dips down.

I have a confession; I make New Year's resolutions. There, I said it. The process of making NYRs became part of my life when I worked as a professional sales person. As every sales person of a large organization knows, the first two weeks of January is the time when the regional sales manager pulls the sales team off the road and starts the arduous routine of crafting strategic account planners, 90-day plans and action list. It is an exercise that can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Frustrating because it keeps a sales person tethered to a desk filling out paperwork and rewarding because it can be an opportunity to define what is success and what steps are necessary to achieve that success. 

Today, I have my own process for setting goals in my personal life. I take a day, January 1st, to reflect and review the previous year’s goals and craft new ones for the up coming year. January 1st became “the” day after reading one too many headlines about drunken New Year’s Eve revelers who get behind the wheel of a car and drive head on into oncoming traffic, killing the unsuspecting. So I settled on a night in because it just didn’t seem that important anymore to “Welcome the New Year” and then drive home with the “crazies”. 

For me, it is just plain fun to set challenges for the upcoming year. I get up early, make a cup of tea and grab my computer with great excitement. Whether at home, in a hotel room in New York City or on an open balcony in St Lucia, this is my time to think and dream. In the beginning, my goals were mundane…lose 15 pounds and save money. But as my imagination expanded, so did my goals. I started to construct goals that spoke to my need to be part of a community and live a more deliberate life. My goals were more nuanced and rousing. 

I won’t say that I successfully completed by December 31st everything that I stated I wanted to accomplish on the previous January 1st but I have been pleasantly surprised to see that even in those years that life took me in another direction, I did accomplish many of my New Year’s resolutions. I have learned that as I have been more willing to write down what I want to accomplish, I am more fruitful. Not all goals are completed but in all cases they are further along because I stated them “out loud”.

Now is the time to dream, think and plan. New Year’s Day is a true holiday, a day off that requires no obligation to be fulfilled; a free day to be used as one wishes. It is a time to organize and cleanse ones mind and life of the clutter built up during the past year.  For many people, making NYRs is an exercise in futility, a joke in the making but for me it is a hopeful promise that declares all things possible. 



Into The Cloud - For Everyone

by Aisha Kutter

From Google Docs to Dropbox, moving into the cloud today is as easy as ever. Whether you are a business owner, writer, homemaker or student, migrating “into the cloud” is the next logical frontier for managing everyday living and for many folks, is already a reality and they do not even know it! From finances to client relations, research to reporting, cloud computing today allows for a person to “live” entirely independent of their individual pc and or laptop, yet have access to all necessary daily activities that transact on your personal computer.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is best described by the authors of the article, ‘A View of Cloud Computing’ from Communications of the ACM Vol. 53 No. 4, Pages 50-58 10.1145/1721654.1721672:

“Cloud computing refers to both the applications delivered as services over the Internet and the hardware and systems software in the data centers that provide those services.” 

Currently, the ability for companies, large and small, to provision servers to run highly specific operations using hardware, that not even 10 years ago would have been out of reach due to capital constraints, can be harnessed in a matter of minutes for mere cents per hour. This has provided a vast number of enterprises to enter into the world of software as a service with the result of providing end users with an almost infinite supply of web-based applications to solve common tasks, such as:

  • list making
  • personal finances
  • business finances
  • cooking
  • gaming / entertainment
  • email / correspondence
  • friendships / family relations
  • advice
  • medical
  • therapy


And the list goes on and on. For the everyday person, cloud computing provides the ability to operate independently of the machine you use and the benefits derived continue to grow.

Why Should I Go Into The Cloud?

Imagine this - you go to turn on your laptop or pc and you have a hard-drive failure. The data on your machine is now corrupt and inaccessible. Think to yourself, what have you lost and what would it take to recover it? Are all of your digital photos stored locally, are they backed up to an external hard-drive, or do they reside on a third party website such as Kodak or Picasa? In any case, you suddenly feel the gut-wrenching effect of having NOT moved into the cloud, as it becomes clear that anything of importance stored on your local drive is now gone. 

The ability to rely on a third party, web-based application provider, in the case of a local hardware failure, can be a life saver. Digital photographs from special events, if stored in your Picasa web album for instance, would be accessible from any pc, so long as you remember your login. The same goes for drafting important research and or writing - again, there are times when hardware simply does not cooperate and as such, it makes sense to draft and store important works in a safe place, such as a folder or drive that is not local, but rather “in the cloud” or using a web-based office application such as Google Docs. Better yet, what if inspiration strikes and all you have is your iPhone or iPad? That’s easy - just type up your thoughts in the notepad and email it to yourself, or type it directly into a Google document to work on later.

Going on vacation? If you are in the cloud and something comes up at the office that needs tending to, all you need is a machine and internet access (yea for your boss, boo for your vacation!). No need to lug around a laptop these days as many hotels and even cruise ships have tech centers that you can access. And for you techies out there - you know full well of the advantages of having complex algorithms computing on a machine that can handle it, and not using all of your resources on your local desktop.

Is It All Good?

Now that is not to say that cloud computing, or living “in the cloud”, is not without fault.  There are some caveats from moving into the cloud:

Online Identity Theft - It is important to keep account access information secure. Recent breaches in security at large institutions, such as the Epsilon incident, can expose users to identity theft if tactics such as email phishing. Also, try to observe the notion of a different password for every login. This is difficult, for even the most tech savvy, but it is critical in preventing your online persona from being hacked.

Third Party Data & Access Issues - There is always the potential that even some of the most robust and secure applications can suffer a snafu of sorts, such as what happened with access to email and data for a small portion of Gmail users just a few weeks ago. The good news is, many cloud services have robust and sophisticated data backup processes and systems to ensure your data is maintained, even if access to it is temporarily unavailable.

Cost - Many online services are not free and may incur a monthly or annual service fee. A practice that is widely used is the free, reduced service model for an application (think the App Store) with only premium services / packages incurring a charge.

Other issues include, for example, local internet access speed and integrity of data storage by cloud services vendor (i.e. where is my data being stored and who has access to it?).

How Do I Go Into The Cloud?

Cloud computing for the everyday person should be looked upon as simply ‘being able to continue my life without the machine in front of me’. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is and with the right mix of tools and web-based applications, this can become a reality. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites for both personal and professional use:

  • Financial - - (free)
  • Banking - Almost all banks offer online access; if not, change banks (essentially free)
  • Email - - Google does it best (even despite the issue linked above), and even if you already have an email account somewhere else, set up a Google account and manage your email through its interface. Not only will you reduce spam, but sorting and searching through historical emails becomes easy
  • Friendships / Friend-Making - This is easy: Facebook (or Twitter) have almost become the norm in online interpersonal relations
  • Eating / Dining - offers information for just about any restaurant, as well as good deals. Another of course is But if you wanted to stay in and cook, offers the ability to store favorite recipes as well as rate and store your personal favorites.
  • Life Suggestions - offers up a medly of ways to make your life simple, and just plain ol fun.
  • Homemaking - The defacto winner in this category must be Better Homes and Gardens. From recipes to drapes, they make homemaking easy.
  • Data Storage and File Management - DropBox is easy to use and works just like any other file folder on your desktop
  • Financial Management and Accounting -  Online access to QuickBooks and a host of other financial and accounting services can be setup easily with Intuit - ($39 per month)
  • Google Docs- Essentially free; $50 per email address per year for Google apps Premier Edition
  • Freshbooks - If you want to “Love Invoicing”, use Freshbooks. While technically it replicates some of the functionality of Intuit’s Quickbooks, it’s infinitely easy to use and understand
  • Networking - LinkedIn continues to improve and expand upon its networking social media platform and provides a centralized way to communicate with other professionals


As you move into the cloud, a good first place to start is by immediately changing how you save important files and transitioning to a web-based backup folder such as Dropbox. The good news is, this service is free with limited storage and you get more storage if you refer friends to use the service as well. Not only are you secure with the knowledge that your files are safely stored, you can also access them from where ever you are regardless of what type of hardware you use to access them - so long as you have an Internet connection and access to a web browser.

The next step is to begin assessing what you do on your primary computer and how much of it is done online and offline. Often times people will not even bother with seeing if there is a web based application that replicates the same functions performed on their machine, or the last time they looked the technology wasn’t available. Routinely accessing what is available and seeing how to migrate to a web solution can work to your advantage and save yourself time and in many cases, provide added capabilities that you did not have before. Just keep in mind that your goal is to be able to pick up where you left off on something and resume those activities at your next stop.

I have been in the cloud for a few years - saving a ton of storage space now that I no longer have to store old financial statements and invoices, as well as the corresponding plastic bins they are housed in. For my business, the migration into the cloud has been more difficult, but manageable. At the present, we have managed to migrate almost all of the software that we need to operate smoothly to something web-based, such as QuickBooks Online for business finances and Google docs for drafting proposals and documentation. New York State having embraced the web has been a blessing as well now that most tax filings are done electronically and on a Federal level, there is much improvement that has been made for tax filing and preparation.

There are still several applications that we love using and are essential to our business, such as Adobe Photoshop and Panic’s Coda, that are client side, but overall the migration has been exceptionally productive. We also still find the need for an office suite for longer documents and spreadsheet analysis and switch between MS Office and iWork but despite this, I can run our business from just about any pc at anytime and anywhere. From invoicing to website maintenance updates to tax needs, we are almost entirely in the cloud. I can login to any machine in our office and at home and pick up where I left off and not miss a beat.

So go ahead and embrace living in the cloud. There is a good chance that you are mostly there.The journey into the cloud, while intimidating and confusing at first, is easy to do and you will soon begin to wonder how you managed life outside of the cloud before.


DECISION POINT: Change Requires Courage and Willingness To Re-Create

by Sheila Delson

It’s the culture mantra of our generation, and every New Year we do it again! We resolve to get our lives organized, lose those 20 pounds, and pray that all birthday greetings get sent out on time! With the hope of starting afresh we put pencil to paper and begin creating our ‘goals’ lists once again. We gather the necessary goods to ensure that it all happens, and promise ourselves that we’re going to get it right this time! And, some do. But for most of us mid-lifers, motivation quickly wanes. Why is that?

 As a 16-year veteran professional organizer, now in my 60’s, I recently had a revelation after working with a client who had just celebrated her 60th birthday - the same day she had admitted her father into a long-term nursing care facility. Ginger called me because she was overwhelmed by the stacks of lingering paper involving her dad’s illness, plus many of his personal family belongings that came from her childhood home. Clutter and general neglect had accumulated in her 7-room house during the years as the care-giver to her dad. She held a full time job and was a single mom of two, both in college. She was overwhelmed and emotionally drained, and described a deep sense of “loss of self.” Ginger isn’t alone. 75% of my client base is boomers, and of that percentage approximately 78% are chronically disorganized ( According to recent statistics, there is an estimated 79 million baby boomers in the US alone…many dealing with very similar issues.

We are considered the “sandwich” generation, a far more complex era compared to the generations before or after us. Although circumstances vary, I realized that Boomers suffer from an inordinate demand on four essentials of life: time, energy, environment, and joy. It’s of little wonder why antidepressants are among the top medications prescribed today! Since society revolves around the (and we all get equal portion) the greatest assault is on our time. It occurred to me also, that although tired, we are also strong, so let’s change it up! Let this year’s resolution be to make a big-picture shift in the way we do things and become more pro-active about changing our condition so we can create more meaningful and harmonious lives. Since time is a major issue, it would make sense that we start here. We must be more vigilant (mindful and deliberate) about how we choose to spend it, where and with whom, than ever before. Doing so will also require a significant ‘change’ in the way we think about our things and to let go of unsupportive items, beliefs and habits, including any irreconcilable toxic relationships. We need to develop new empowering resources, consolidate activities and efforts, and simplify our environments. Doing so will immediately minimize time-wasting activities, eliminate unnecessary spending (dollars), and will streamline life so we can ‘be’ for those who are important to us – especially to our own ourselves. Enough of this tough sandwich! Bring on the dessert, please!

Change requires courage, effort, acceptance and a willingness to re-create. Some will require more radical intervention, but the rewards far outweigh the effort. Humor me if you will: to further illustrate my thoughts (and add some fun) I’ve developed a little metaphor. Below is my little list of four (petit-fours-like) recipe recommendations for how to transform your life from the squeeze of the sandwich generation into a lighter, sweeter and more gratifying era as a Petit Four pastry might represent. Life is short – eat dessert first, right? January is National Get Organized Month ( Are you up for the 2011 challenge? Then put on your apron and thinking- cap, and let’s begin!

Petit-Four For Life

Ingredients: (Caution: over-indulgence may become addictive and beneficial to your health.)

Time – a major ingredient. Time is also “money” – guard it with great care. Harness and control it deliberately and skillfully. Use a planner system, (not just a calendar) to capture and manage the most important/necessary activities in your life. Be mindful of time wasters vs. valuable activities. Be sure to schedule enough time for your own self-care…you will need it to help build and replenish the next ingredient.

Energy – an essential ingredient for making things actually happen. It is self-generated and self- sustaining, not by will-power, rather by commitment, honor and choice. The type of energy generated (weak or strong) will depend on what we choose to keep and eliminate in the organizing process. Life is a continuum and in order to move ahead we sometimes need to let go of whatever things (items, activities, and people) that hold us back or create ‘drag.’ Once those shackles are identified and released, energy increases, motivation improves and a new sense of freedom will soar!

Environment – the climate where you choose to live. It is your physical domain, your habitat. Aim to minimize and simplify by eliminating unnecessary clutter, implement organizational systems that support the first two ingredients above. If you need help, offer to exchange organizing help-time with a friend – it’s a great way to create synergy and motivation, or hire a professional organizer if you get stuck! Creating an environment that is orderly, supportive and esthetically pleasing increases your time by eliminating the clutter that requires unnecessary management and drains our energy. Intrinsic motivation flourishes in peaceful environments, where innovation and creativity allow for newer happier opportunities - which is where the next ingredient comes in!

Joy – the sweet results of a combined convection mix of all ingredients above. It delivers a sense of well being and victory. It is contentment. It has qualities similar to yeast because when this ingredient is re-introduced back into the batch, the recipe automatically increases synergistically, creating more time, more energy (motivation) and thus an improved environment, and so on. Choices, decisions, time management and routine maintenance become easier…life is simpler, richer and sweeter.

Directions: Combine all ingredients sequentially as listed above and bake with continued frequency. This is a process type recipe so be sure to re-mix expanded results back into the batch to enhance its savory and fulfilling flavors, and to ensure long term sustainability. Results will remain stable as long as applied to daily life daily. Benefits of these little but powerful ‘Petit-Fours’ can only be experienced and appreciated when sampled liberally every day.

Calories: explosive. Expandable results: endless. Bon Appetite!



The Beginning

by Christine

I have often said that I am living my life in reverse. When all my friends were in college and back packing through Europe, I was becoming a Mom. When I was at home caring for my little ones everyone else in my age group were clubbing and starting out in their business careers. I was the first in my group to get a divorce, to have grandchildren and to extricate myself from the financial burden of owning “things”. I was the first to stop giving my grandchildren presents at birthdays and Christmas because they were becoming ungrateful under the weight of so many toys from grandparents and great grandparents. Instead I chose to set up a “dream” accounts that would allow them to have money for something meaningful to them. I have been out of sync with my peers for most of my life.

Today starts my Year of the Time Out. Others are calling it a sabbatical, a mid-life crises (though I am well past the age that is referred to as mid-life) or running away but it is in actuality a time out. Children get to have a time out, why not adults? But instead of going to my room, I am placing myself in a time out in the world at large. I have taken care of the running of my businesses; given away, thrown away or put in storage everything I own and I have cleared my calendar for the next year.

While one expects life to have its ups and downs, this past 15 months has been particularly difficult. I have been hit hard both personally and professionally. My company was caught in the flood in Nashville, TN and while the organization is stronger for the experience, I watched as many people pulled together to support one another while others weren’t quite so admirable. I am a big supporter of community service and had looked forward to making a positive impact in a local community leadership position when it turned negative. I spent a year, under the guidance of lawyers, trying to protect the organization while at the same time trying to protect the rights of all the individuals involved. Hard decisions were made and careers were altered. Finally my heart was broken. One who was close to me betrayed me at a core level.

So I am giving myself a time out. For the next year I am going to observe and listen. I have worked hard to craft a life that is positive but today I see that it has only been filled with drama and so much noise that I can’t think or reason. I am going on a journey of introspection.

The above entry was written on Monday, September 20, 2010. Less than a month later I was walking across the street in Greensboro, NC when a 19-year-old girl who was turning left struck me. The car flipped me up, I hit the windshield and then came down hard in the middle of the road. Frustratingly, I don’t remember a thing!! I have since been told the girl could not see me because of the angle of the sun. I have also been told that I was talking after being hit but could not remember my name or why I was at the intersection. I don’t even have a faint whiff of a memory trying to break through. Nothing!! A complete blackout. My injuries were a fractured right ankle, a concussion, head lacerations, cuts and bruises and most concerning damage to my inner ear. There are stones or crystals in the inner ear that control balance and mine had been dislodged. In the majority of cases they go back into place within 1 to 6 months and I have even seen some improvement since the 19th. Sitting up for the first time in the morning is like jumping off the “whirl”, the kid propelled merry-go-round that my brother and I used to call the “throw up machine”. While I know I run the risk of sounding like Polly Anna…it could have been worse, much worse. The young women and passersby stopped, the police came and the emergency unit scooped me up and took me to Moses Cone Trauma Center in Greensboro. I spent one night in the hospital and then was sent home with a boot on my right ankle, crutches and instructions to see my own doctors. My loved ones immediately rallied around me. My sister traveled from Florida to North Carolina to help me get my belongings packed up at the farmhouse where I was working on my book and moved to my daughter’s home for a few days. My son started the arduous task of sorting out the paperwork and legal issues of an accident. A week later my significant other came down to collect me and return me to my home in New York. I once was told by an acquaintance that she and her husband do not offer to do things for others because they do not want others to ask them for help. At the time I thought hers was a peculiar life philosophy but today I find it sad. I did not have to ask for help from the strangers that came to my aid in Greensboro or the love and support from my family. It was given freely and with affection. I thank them all and when I can I will pay-it-forward. The very act of a serious health threat whether through an accident such as mine or from aging is a sobering event. But when my head started to clear I realized that my heart and mind had been altered. On November 19, 2010 at 3:30 in the afternoon, everyone in my world got a clean slate from me. Absolution and forgiveness had been issued to all I know. It applied to all things great and small. At first others resisted my gift, trying to drag me back into another round of accusations, recriminations and blame assignment. The need to justify ones past behaviors is strong. I am not an expert on the Jewish religion but I gather there is a High Holy Day called Yom Kippur. It is my understanding that if one observes the day reverently and with an open heart, the outcome is to make peace with others and God. That fall day was a High Holy Day for me as I made peace with others and God. My sister teasingly questions, “How long will this last?” I hope for the rest of my life because there is now more laughter daily and less stress over the “small stuff”. My Time-Out continues and I will share with you the twist and turns of my journey. There are people I met before and since the accident that are living creative and passionate lives. So for me it is back to the beginning where the Footsteps team started. How do we THINK about the lives we are creating and how can we take constructive action to change our environment to support our vision?