Breast cancer survivor and clutter clearing author learns to walk her talk

Clutter clearing cancer coping author and motivational speaker We can learn to live our priorities fully (and not just surviving or getting by on a day to day basis) by clearing out the distractions and focusing on what is important to each of us, our families, and our lives. Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools: We'll get you through this by Barbara Tako, two-time cancer survivor and published author and motivational speaker on the topic of clutter clearing. For updates on this new book, click here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3 ways to make New Year's resolutions that stick and a secret to help

Good New Year’s resolutions are difficult to make and even more difficult to keep. How can we  get these resolutions accomplished instead of repeating the same resolutions year after year? There is no single New Year’s resolution that works for everyone. Still, here are ways to make resolutions that work.
To make New Year’s  resolutions that stick, make them specific, measurable, and achievable. Resolutions are really just personal goals, and we can use  proven goal setting techniques.
Let's take a goal we have all heard before:  "I want to lose weight this year."
1. Specific: The vague “I want to lose weight this year” becomes the specific “I want to lose 20 pounds by May.” It now is a clear quantifiable amount.
2. Measurable: You can measure your progress by weighing in regularly each week. There is no guessing. The amount lost is tracked by stepping on the scale.
3. Achievable: Most of all, it is achievable. "By May." A realistic time frame was chosen. Realistic goals are more likely to succeed than unrealistic ones.
Now, what is the secret to assure your personal New Year's resolution success? In studies of why some people can achieve their goals and others do not, the secret of the successful goal achievers is to establish contingency plans at the time the goal is made. For example, if the resolution is to exercise three times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then the contingency plan might be to exercise early Saturday morning if one of those regular days is missed! Set up your contingency plan at the outset and you will have an important tool to achieve success.
You can make New Year's resolutions  that work for you. Use resolutions to help you  focus on your priorities. With specific, measurable, achievable goals that include backup plans for life's surprises, you can move yourself in the direction you want to go.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Radio Interview with Kim Caldwell of Think Fit

As a new book author, I was very happy to be interviewed by Kim Caldwell of Think Fit to share my clutter clearing tips with her audience.

The show aired on Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. Here is the link if you would like to listen: Think Fit - Clear Your Clutter And Enhance Your Life

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree! Clear Christmas tree clutter

The "perfect" Christmas tree for each family looks a little different. Some folks want them to be short and round. Some folks look for trees that are tall and skinny. Some want room between the branches for ornaments to dangle, and others want the tree to be full and thick. Some prefer short needles, and others like longer needles. Some choose a cut tree, and others keep an artificial one. Some people even have more than one tree! Sometimes our definition of the perfect Christmas tree changes over time, maybe as the kids grow up.

We haven't even talked about Christmas tree ornaments! They can be inherited, home-made, purchased for looks, or purchased to remember a vacation or other event. Is there a solution to Christmas tree clutter? Maybe it isn't even clutter at all? I do know our family tree has gotten smaller over the years. We used to live in a house where the tree was put in a room with a really high ceiling. Now we opt for a smaller tree in our present home. We used to put a small "kid Christmas tree" in the family room of our old house. Now, the one tree that we put up is in our family room. We seem to have extra lights and ornaments these days.

I have weeded out and donated some of the extra lights and ornaments. Some of the ornaments I will keep until my kids are ready for them when they have their own households. I look forward to giving them each a "starter set" of ornaments that will be a mix of inherited ornaments, ornaments they will remember from their childhood here, and ornaments they have made over the years. I think that will be fun.

Maybe it will be a little sad too because our perfect Christmas tree may become even smaller by then. But, I think I have to separate the Christmas tree from Christmas itself. The tree is, well, a tree. It is a decoration that we enjoy for about three weeks per year. What is Christmas? A lot more than that. It is a holiday that I try to keep in my heart all year round. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Simplify Christmas Cards

I received a Christmas card from a friend, and I think her idea is brilliant! What was it? It was an e-mail with a brief holiday wish and a .JPG photo of her family. It didn't require paper, postage, or ink. The receiver could choose to e-mail it to fellow family members so they could enjoy it too, delete it, or print it. What do you think of this? What do you do to simplify Christmas cards?

Five tips for a frugal simple Christmas

Five tips for a frugal simple Christmas

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9 uncluttered Christmas decorating tips from 2 perspectives

9 uncluttered Christmas decorating tips from 2 perspectives

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5 ways to get organized for Christmas

5 ways to get organized for Christmas

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, December 11, 2009

Emotional Clutter: Stress, Holiday stress

Too busy, too little time. I'll never get it all done "in time." My mind goes in ten directions at once. These thoughts can create emotional clutter in the form of stress, especially during the holiday season. Stress doesn't feel good. It makes the stomach roll and the head hurt. It wears people down.

Is there a cure for holiday stress? For me, I need to drop the perfectionism. The holidays will come and things will be "good enough." Good enough is just fine. Maybe I can drop the self-torture of perfectionism. It will be a smaller and simpler celebration at our house this year. I am going to try to take a deep breath, or several, and slow it down.

What about a little self care during this busy time? Humm? What would that look like? I think it looks a little different for each of us. Maybe it would be worth thinking about and implementing a little self care. Mine, today, looks like this: coffee and conversation with a dear friend, even though technically I don't "have time." And, flannel sheets! I installed the flannel sheets on the bed this morning. We live in a cold climate, and, with an unusually warm November, I hadn't taken care of this yet. These fresh, warm,  cuddly sheets give me something to look forward to all day!

Maybe you could give yourself the gift of self care today too? What helps you manage the emotional clutter of holiday stress?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thank you for helping "Clutter Clearing Choices" book along

Wow. Yesterday was a very exciting day for this new clutter clearing author. And, I owe it all to you. Here's what happened: Clutter Clearing Choice's  rank on Amazon went from 750,000 (down near the bottom) up to 52,000 (a very good spot much higher up). Thank you! Each and ever order and review counts.

I also got to appear in the second half of a show on Blog Talk Radio! Here is the link:

Original Air Date: 12/9/2009 12:00 PM
The Longevity Club Radio Show Adriane Berg' Longevity Club Radio Show--Guests: Jerry Rhoads, Elder Abuse; Barbara Tako, Clutter Clearing Choices

Let me know what you think. And, again, thank you!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Clutter Clearing Choices" now available to purchase on Amazon

As of last night, my book Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life became available on Amazon. They have inventory! As a new author, this has been a long road, and I am very excited. It can even be ordered in time as a gift for the holidays! Here is the link to Clutter Clearing Choices on Amazon!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simplify Thanksgiving or Christmas?

It can be tough to change holiday traditions because they involve other people's plans and wishes too. Thanksgiving can be used as a time to discuss simplifying Christmas while the family is gathered together. Maybe it is too late to simplify the holidays this year, but you can plant seeds to simplify things for next year!

Please share your thoughts of what works and doesn't work to simplify holiday get-togethers. Thank you!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turn Greeting Cards into Postcards

Turn Greeting Cards into Postcards from (see below)

November 07, 2009

Here's today's tip...

Turn Greeting Cards into Postcards

To recycle cards and save trees, I turn cards I receive into postcards and re use them. Usually people only write on the inside page so I cut off the front page with the picture on it and then write my own message or greeting on the blank back page along with the address and it is now a postcard. I always get asked where I find such fun postcards and with the price of cards being $2-4 and postage being cheaper for a postcard I save quite a bit each time I send a postcard greeting!

By Kate from Chicago, Illinois

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A dusting solution that wasn't as "simple" as it looked!

I found an idea at to dust flat lampshades with a lint roller. I have dogs, so by definition, I have lint rollers. Many lint rollers. Lots of lint rollers scattered throughout my home. This lint roller lamp dusting concept seemed like a good idea to me.

At 6:00 a.m. this morning, I tried it. Yes! I had just showered and dressed, and, you guessed it, grabbed the lint roller in the bedroom to get the dog hair off my jeans...I started working on the four-sided square shade with the roller. It appeared to be working! Unfortunately, the shade was turning in place as I was working on it, so I grabbed the finial and instead of tightening (okay, I am a lefty and I probably turned it the wrong way), it came off in my hand.

Next, I dropped the heavy metal lamp finial. On its way down, it broke the lamp's light bulb. Now I was standing barefoot in my darkened bedroom at 6:00 a.m. with electricity in a broken lightbulb and broken glass to clean up.

Of course, I "survived." I unplugged the lamp, cleaned up the glass...The whole incident just put a bit of a damper on the little dusting tip I had discovered.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sometimes a work-at-home day doesn't work out

Sometimes working at home doesn't work out to be the day that you planned:

My morning is a little "interesting." My yellow lab dog got sprayed in the mouth by a skunk last night . I didn't realize it at first so she came in a stunk up our house too. And, then she spent the night in the outdoor kennel. I went to a 24-hour Walgreens at 6:30 this a.m. for ingredients to de-skunk her and my house. Neither of us enjoyed the process. We both got cold and wet out on the driveway with the sprayer hose, buckets.... She is back in the outdoor kennel, and I came in to do laundry. Oh, well..

Then, The saga continues. We gave her garlic to "freshen" her breath from the skunk. Chuck & Don's plus websites I found say onions and garlic may be toxic to dogs: it might cause some kind of anemia!!!! I just finished retreating her face externally and giving her hydrogen peroxide orally to vomit--which she did. Then, I had to shovel up the lawn barf so she wouldn't, well, reingest it...School conferences tonight.

Has anyone else had work-at-home days that dissolve like this?

I just wanted to share. I thought it might make someone smile (I'm not quite ready to just yet.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Please see the article below...

Please see the article below. I struggle with guilt and excuses about clearing out certain items, so I wrote the article below to get past these struggles. What works for you to free yourself from guilt and let an item go? Thanks!

Six ways to toss guilt about clutter clearing--starting with the excuses

Six ways to toss guilt about clutter clearing--starting with the excuses

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Clutter & Prioritizing

Life has a lot of clutter whether we try to clear clutter or simplify or not. A component of clutter clearing to think about is prioritizing and re-prioritizing. What do priorities have to do with clutter? Lots. Clutter distracts people from their priorities. It pulls them off task and even sends them in the wrong direction.

A good friend of mine once said she can re-prioritize on a dime. That's important. A parent can leave a partially sorted pile of mail on the counter to go help a child in distress. Is that person disorganized for doing that? Of course not! The parent put a higher priority on her child than her paper clutter. The point to getting rid of clutter is to achieve the benefit of more time and energy for priorities.

What do you think about the relationship between life's clutter and life's priorities?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What does our stuff say about us?

Our homes, our cars, our possessions all make a statement to the rest of the world about us. People purchased status symbols hundreds of years ago and they continue to do so today. It has been going on a long time and it appears to be ingrained in our nature.

People buy pianos to put in their living rooms but they don't play them. The piano makes a statement. People buy cars. Even sitting parked on the driveway, those cars make a statement about the people who bought them.

Sometimes people intend their purchases, their stuff, to make a statement. Sometimes they don't intend their stuff to make a statement but it does any way. Why do we look at each other that way?

Is this true? Are we stuck with evaluating each other and ourselves this way? Do we make too many judgments about people based on the stuff that surrounds them? I think so.

I don't want to be judged by my clutter or to judge anyone else based on theirs. I also don't want to be judged by my car or house or stuff or to judge others based on those things.

After all, they are just things. Can we learn to see past the things? What do you think?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gradual Change Creates Clutter

I was thinking about my previous post where I say life change creates clutter. Part of the clutter problem is that gradual life changes create clutter. Our children often don't outgrow toys or clothing or anything else overnight, and neither do adults.

Something that wasn't clutter one month or six months or two years ago may now have become clutter. I discover this as I begin to go through my closets and my basement. Oops! I am finding items that weren't clutter when they were first deposited in these areas, but now I wonder...

Should we beat ourselves up when we find this gradually outgrown clutter? I don't think so. Instead, be vigilant! Regularly review these less visited locations and make the tough decisions that may have gotten less tough as stuff has aged from marginal clutter to clearly clutter. Life is a process.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Clutter Clearing Isn't Rocket Science: We Can Do This!

I think sometimes we over-think things. Clutter clearing isn't rocket science. What is clutter? Clutter is too much stuff. Clutter happens because our current routines/procedures/habits aren't adequately allowing stuff to flow out of our lives when that stuff has outlived it's usefulness.

Why does clutter happen? There are lots of reasons. We may bring home too much. We may be given too much by well-meaning family or friends. Perhaps our lives change. Maybe the lives of people around us change. Any of these things can bring clutter into our lives.

How can we improve our current clutter situation? We can weed out by recycling, donating, selling, or gifting our excess.

How can we keep clutter from coming back? Be vigilant! Modify routines on an ongoing basis to keep clutter from building up again.

See, we can do this!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weed Clutter--Literally

I am fortunate to have a yard to work on. I am unfortunate to have lots of yard work. Sometimes when I write about clutter clearing, I talk about procrastination, perfectionism, and clutter sometimes coming off in layers rather than all at once.

Weeding the yard can be a little like the issues above. If a weed is emerging from the landscape I walk by to get in and out of the garage, I sometimes spend more time and energy noting it each time I walk by rather than stooping down once to pull it! Does that sound like procrastination? It does to me!

What if I don't manage to get the root of the weed? It might grow back. Still, if I don't even try to pull it because of my perfectionism, it may send out shooters or have offspring and I will then have more weeds to pull. So, it is better to drop the perfectionism and give it a try rather than to let the situation ride.

Sometimes we can't have a perfect yard instantly. It takes multiple efforts to trim, shape, and weed things into shape. Yard clutter sometimes has to come off little by little over time too. Maybe the important part is just that we get out there and keep trying.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Puppy Clutter

Well, after two years of thinking about it, we finally did it. We expanded the dog side of our family. We have a yellow lab and now we have a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy (Toller, for short). Did this simplify our life or reduce clutter?

Of course it didn't simplify our life or reduce clutter! And, yet...

My kitchen is gated off. The extra crate is in the kitchen. Puppy toys are underfoot. Puppy is underfoot, on top of foot, chewing on foot. And, yet...

Sleep is shortened. Emergency slip-on shoes are piled by the back door for quick trips outside. Spare rugs line the perimeter of the kitchen. And, yet...

Sometimes it isn't always about keeping things simple or safe or uncluttered...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Dusting?

If there is dust on the coffee table but everyone is outside enjoying the beautiful weather, is the dust there to see?

Living clutter free is about living our priorities. Is your priority achieving magazine cover sort of perfection in your home or getting outside to enjoy spring?

Maybe your dust bothers your visual peace. Maybe someone in your home has allergies. I wouldn't presume to tell someone what to do. I am suggesting that whatever you decide to do about the indoor clutter or cleaning right now, it could be a conscious choice. We can all make more conscious clutter clearing (or not) choices!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yard Clutter Clearing

I love the seasonal changes of living in Minnesota, but part of me also dreads the yard work for the half of the year that the ground isn't frozen or covered with snow. I look at the leaves and debris from last fall, and it is hard not to feel a little depressed at the work that looms ahead.

Here are 4 ideas that help me stay on track with lawn clutter clearing this spring. I would love to hear and share your ideas too!
  1. Plan. Plan. Plan. Make a prioritized list of the yard tasks to tackle this season.
  2. Mentally re-frame the whole thing: Yard work is good physical exercise and a good mental meditative and de-stressing activity.
  3. Break the big tasks down into smaller ones. I mulch 7 flower beds, but I don't have to do all of them in one day! Step back and celebrate each small success.
  4. Keep a Yard Folder from year to year: Each year make note of what is planted in each bed, what vegetables worked and didn't work so well in the garden, what the long-term plans are, what tasks got completed...It will be a helpful resource to refer back to!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Clean: Declutter & Get Organized!

10 minutes per day. Really. Set a timer and tackle a clutter clearing task that you have been walking by and fretting about instead of solving. You can do it!

We create stress for ourselves when we fret rather than solve things. It often takes less time to resolve something than to repeatedly worry about it.

Spring is in the air. Clear the clutter so you can get out and enjoy it. Yes, you can!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vacation Clutter?

I am back from a spring break vacation in Colorado with my family. I love vacations but it is hard to get back into routines once we are home again. Clutter seems poised to attack: mail, laundry, paperwork, bills, reading that has piled up, housework, and basic errands like refilling the fridge and restocking the household staples.

Trying to stay calm, I try to work systematically and quickly through these catch-up tasks. I try to be kind to myself and give myself permission to not try to get everything done at once.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Help others and help yourself: Declutter for green living, charity, and yourself

I've been thinking...It is easier to embark on spring clutter clearing when we know the household items we toss will go to help someone else or at least be recycled.

We can all weed out household clutter and donate it to charity. There are many positive outcomes for everyone here. It is a win-win-win situation:
  • Clutter clearing helps us live in a more tranquil and focused space at home. This frees our time and energy for our priorities instead of continuing our struggles with our quantities of stuff.
  • We don't necessarily need to hire anyone to declutter. We can help ourselves for free!
  • Even if we are facing tough economic times ourselves, we are reminded that it isn't how much we have, it is what we do with what we have that matters.
  • Donating clutter supports a charity we believe in.
  • Donating clutter helps those having economic difficulties in these tough times.
  • Donating is living green. It isn't adding to a landfill!

    If you are looking for ideas to motivate yourself to declutter and for help with clutter clearing techniques. Please check out the ideas, resources, and free monthly newsletter on my website: Thank you!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Cleaning Thoughts

"No matter how large a home you buy, keep donating!"

"Just because you can store it, doesn't mean you should keep it."

In tough economic times, donating clutter is a win-win situation. We can make our homes less clutter and more peaceful and we can help those who are in need.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How do you simplify bedding/comforter choices?

I feel like I've been through it all when it comes to choice of bedding covers:

Cotton: Wrinkles easily and looks faded almost from the day you bring it home but doesn't pill.

Cotton/Polyester: Pills and seems to fade faster than cotton.

Satin/Jacquard: Snags and pills a lot.

Microfiber: Dog hair and other debris stick to it like nobody's business.

Quilts/Quilted spreads/covers: Don't snag or pill, but because they aren't fluffy, they show the indentations in our pillow top mattress.

Help! There has to be something that looks nice, is easy to maintain, and also durable! Isn't there? Please share what works for you. Do I expect too much in my quest for simplicity?

Monday, February 2, 2009

January was "National Get Organized Month" but we don't have to stop now!

Paperwork, taxes, crowded closets linger in the middle of winter. I live in the Midwest, so this always seems like a naturally great time to "turn inward" and address these types of clutter. How about for you?

What projects have you been tackling and what is motivating you? I will tell you what is motivating me: My mother-in-law is coming over next week. Back in the 1960's, my mother-in-law was nominated for Suburban Homemaker of the Year of St. Paul, MN. Talk about mother-in-laws to live up to! Can you identify with that?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Photo Organizing

Photos. Before digital cameras, we had kids. We took photos. Lots of photos. It has gotten significantly cheaper in the last few years to convert paper photos into digital images.

Check out:,, or for a few possibilities.

I am not sure if I am ready to take the plunge, but I am getting closer! Has anyone scanned photos or negatives in themselves? Have you found a service where you were happy with the price and quality?

There is a great blog at too.

Thank you!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Company is Coming!

Clear clutter and clean up before company comes. My company is coming this weekend. I am glad because it is motivating me to drop the procrastination and get ready. If you don't have company coming, maybe you could pretend? After all, don't you and your family deserve a comforting, clean, and reduced-clutter home?

I just finished reading "Coming Clean: Dirty Little Secrets from a Professional Housecleaner" by Schar Ward. It is a small easy-to-read book for busy folks that provides clear, simple ideas for cleaning a home and keeping it that way.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One Clutter Clearing Step Per Day

I am struggling to get back into the swing of things after the holidays. I find when I struggle that it helps me to go back to basics. For me, that means I am trying to do one thing per day in each area of my life I am trying to work on.

To clear clutter today, I went to my "bag" cupboard. After holiday shopping, I realized I had accumulated more paper and plastic bags than I needed, so I recycled all but four of the paper bags and six of the plastic bags (assorted sizes, of course). The cupboard was instantly less cluttered and that gave me an emotional lift to continue!

What works for you to restart clutter clearing after the holidays and get back on track?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Clear Clutter & Simplify Your Life

We can do this. We can resolve, in as little as ten minutes per day, to reduce our clutter and free up time and energy for our priorities--the people in our lives, our passions, our interests, and more.

No matter where you are in your clutter clearing resolutions, you can do this. You can do this. Set the timer for 10 minutes and give it a try! You will get more done than you think you can. Please try it!

We can always make better choices--even if we're beating ourselves up for a poor choice made just a few minutes ago. That was then. This is NOW.

What do you think? Please share what you accomplished if you are willing.

Happy New Year!