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She's a Clutter Buster Deluxe
Don't let messy piles of 'stuff' threaten to paralyze your life
By Mary K. Nolan

Published in Hamilton Spectator - February 23, 2001


It's possible to shrink piles without Preparation H.

Sue Augustine says getting rid of them as quickly and painlessly as possible is beneficial to physical and mental health, and claims she can cure even the most serious cases.

And everyone has at least a few, says Augustine. No one is immune from the piles of junk that accumulate over a lifetime, or even a day. No one can deny ownership of at last one pile of unsorted receipts, one jumbled closet, one drawer of contents unknown, one stack of notes and forms and reminders and lists of things to don that tunnelled its way into another pile of life's clutter.

Some people are more afflicted than others, trying to function amid piles of stuff at home, at work, and in the car that transports them between the two. It wouldn't necessarily be a problem, says Augustine, except that an environment of physical clutter inevitably creates a cluttered mental state to match.

The motivational speaker and time management expert from St. Catharines believes getting organized is the key to better living. De-cluttering saves time, energy and money, and produces feelings of competence, control and freedom from chaos.

But getting rid of what Augustine generalizes as "stuff" is a hugely onerous task for many people. Just the thought of where to start can dissolve their resolve and slam that closet door shut for another year. Not only is the process physically taxing, but there is all manner of emotional "stuff" packed in with those piles of children's artwork, boxes of loose photos and basements of unfinished woodworking projects. Still, says Augustine, it can be done--easily, efficiently, even enjoyably. All it takes is desire and a game plan, just like any other undertaking.

It's not difficult to believe her. She makes converts easily with a calm manner, encouraging words and a confidence that's quiet despite the bold red suit and big hair.

The tall, attractive grandmother of four exudes a serenity belying a past that included a violent spouse, divorce, a serous illness and struggles of single parenthood. They are not issues she dwells upon, but has built upon to transform her own life to find her WINGS, as she would say. Its an acronym for "believing in your Worth, trusting your Insight, Nurturing yourself, having a Goal and devising a personal Strategy." And it's her mantra, one she used in the titles of her inspirational book, With Wings there are No Barriers, and her submission, Finding My Wings, which appeared in Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul.

The philosophy led to her segue from sales into public speaking, where she now commands a hefty fee and boasts an impressive list of corporate clients. She learned early on from her workshop and seminar audiences that efficient time management is a universal problem rooted in a lack of organization...and buried under too many piles of stuff.

"Being disorganized makes us fee bad about ourselves. Physical clutter creates inner turmoil and chaos and effects our self-esteem," she maintains. "If you wanted a life that is full, rich and enjoyable, you have to do two things: Simplify, simplify, simplify. And believe that there is a place for everything and everything in its place."

Easy for her to say, skeptics may scoff. But easy for anyone to do, she responds.

"The reason I teach this is because I've figured out how to do it," says Augustine, whose prescriptions can be as mundane as flex cord key chain that attaches to a purse or brief case.

"I've spent years researching, reading, studying, talking to the experts and pasting together the best of the best."

One of the hardest elements of becoming organized is getting rid of "stuff."

Augustine notes that people accumulate things at an alarming rate compared to past generations.

"Now we just go out and buy ourselves whatever we feel like buying. We buy stuff we don't really have to have and don't get rid of anything. It's hard to decide what stays and what goes because so much of it has sentimental or financial value. And we're very territorial. This is our stuff.

"But if you're not displaying it or not using it, you probably shouldn't have it. And if it can't be recycled or given away, get rid of it," says Augustine who admits she once took a week off and spent every day going to the dampen-- loving every minute of it.

"I was having more fun, I was freeing myself up."

Some people just don't want to get rid of their junk, she acknowledges. But even they need to learn how to organize it so that it can be accessed when needed and it doesn't contribute confusion to their lives.

In other words, there's no point in keeping all those pay stubs from 30 years ago if they're in the way today or can't be located in the off-chance you want to look at them. And that hockey jersey that's been in a box since high school? Chances are, if you haven't missed it in all this time, you won't miss it if you give it away. But if you simply can't part with it wear it, mount it on the rec room wall, put it in a box specially marked for memorabilia, or better yet, take a photo of it and pitch the sweater.

"Being tidy and being organized are two different things," Augustine explains. "My house is a lived-in home. I'm not suggesting a sterile environment, but there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to put your hands on things exactly when you need them."

Augustine warns against biting off more than you can chew.

"You need to know when to quit. Set a timer, establish a deadline, because it's easy to get on a roll. The secret to getting things done is not taking on more than you can accomplish."

She recommends creating a master list, a place where all those scribblings from Post-It notes and serviettes and backs of envelopes can be recorded. Everything you might ever want to do or delegate should be noted, all the appointments and deadlines and birthdays. It doesn't matter if the list is a mile long.

Part 2



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