This is a valuable exercise and one many people imagine they can easily skip. You may be thinking, “I just want it cleaned up, cleared off, and efficient.” That may be “good enough for now,” but it isn’t the best that is possible.

This is the time for total and complete luxurious honesty. Ask yourself, “What setting would encourage me to operate to my highest and best purpose on earth?”

What colors, textures, tools, light, air, furniture, fixtures, sounds, and aromas would help you to concentrate, dream, and perform?

Actor Jeremy Irons played twin gynecologists in the l988 film, Dead Ringers. One twin was amiable and one was evil. Irons knew how much focus and concentration he would need to bring subtle differences to each character. He wanted to play them absolutely distinctly for each scene, and never let even a single mannerism spill over from one brother to the other.

One element of his solution was to insist on two dressing rooms, each carefully decorated and outfitted to match the character and behavior of the separate personalities. Before appearing in each scene, he would spend time in the room matching the character he was about to play. His performance was flawless.

Your performance, too, derives in part from your setting. It becomes a circle. Character becomes setting becomes character.


Mary tells her own story:

“I never imagined that I could define a dream environment, because I always felt I had so little control of my setting. I work with second graders, and everything is designed for safety, cleanliness, and the height of children.

“Then one day, a neighbor was finishing up her yard sale. She called over to me across the driveway. ‘Mary, would you like any of this stuff for your classroom? I’d be happy to donate anything you want to cart away.’ I selected two of the items—a carpet with numbers printed on large squares and a child’s musical keyboard. I took them both into school and designed some learning games for each that my kids could do in their free time. I was pleased that one formerly reluctant learner would finish his worksheets just to earn time on the keyboard.

“The bigger surprise, though, was that these yard-sale items and a little creativity could help make me happier at work. I started setting aside ten dollars and one Saturday morning a month to search for similar treasures at local yard sales. Another teacher joined me, and we turned the enterprise into a treasure hunt. Sometimes we found no treasures, but we had a great visit, and once or twice we went over our budgets.

“It didn’t take long before we realized we could turn our classrooms into clutter traps too. So one Saturday, we skipped the yard sales, and went to our school to draw diagrams and floorplans of our classrooms. We sketched the desks, furniture, and learning stations. Then we did something I’d never done before for any of the settings in my life. We sat down at a neighborhood cafe, and talked about our ideal settings.

“This was the most engaged I had ever felt in designing my working environment. And it felt good. We still went back to yardsale bargain hunting. But finally, and for the first time in my life, I was operating from a picture of what I wanted, rather than from an impulse of the moment or a circumstance of the marketplace.”

Sheryl had a different proactive approach when she was assigned a small inside office with no window.

She went to a hardware store and bought a standard sash double-hung window. She mounted a landscape poster behind it, hung it on her office wall, added a sheer window treatment and enjoyed the new “openness” of her small space.

You just read a part of a chapter from the new 20th-Anniversary publication of my book, Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever, which my friend/colleague Maggie Bedrosian and I wrote together.

Get your own copy today at Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. -

Author's Bio: 

In 1978, Barbara took out a $7 ad in a New York City newspaper to advertise her professional organizer business. For 20 years, she focused her business on organizing paper and physical clutter for home offices and organizations. Then the Internet Age came about, and she utilized her principles and expertise to help clients with digital clutter.

Over the past 40+ years Barbara has helped 1000's of companies, and became an icon and top expert in the industry. She has been featured on national media platforms such as Good Morning America, The Today Show and CNN Nightly News. She has also been showcased in publications including USA Today, New York Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple and Guideposts.

Barbara and her team teach business owners a 9-step system to go from overwhelmed to optimized. Step 1 is a free Assessment that can be found at