This blog features over 300 articles by international bestselling author and leading clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy home expert, Karen Kingston.

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Structured procrastination

Structured procrastination

University students are notorious for procrastination and it seems some professors are too. John Perry, emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford University, achieved international fame in 2011 by winning the Ig Nobel prize for Literature for his Theory of Structured Procrastination.

Ig Nobel Prizes are given to ‘honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.’

John Perry’s theory

The theory that won John Perry acclaim was this: That to be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important.

A classic example of this can be found on his website:

The most perfect situation for structured procrastination that I ever had was when my wife and I served as Resident Fellows in Soto House, a Stanford dormitory. In the evening, faced with papers to grade, lectures to prepare, committee work to be done, I would leave our cottage next to the dorm and go over to the lounge and play ping-pong with the residents, or talk over things with them in their rooms, or just sit there and read the paper.

I got a reputation for being a terrific Resident Fellow, and one of the rare profs on campus who spent time with undergraduates and got to know them. What a set up: play ping pong as a way of not doing more important things, and get a reputation as Mr. Chips.

Why structured procrastination is so seductive

Practising structured procrastination means you get a lot of non-essential things done, but you do so at the expense of tackling more important tasks. It makes you look and feel productive, but it’s actually an avoidance. It’s also a sure-fire recipe for getting to the end of your life and realizing you never got around to doing what really mattered.

However, because you do at least get some things done, it can feel like an improvement on procrastinating about everything. You may never achieve great things in your life, but structured procrastination will enable you to do more than you would have done without it. And because life provides a never-ending stream of tasks that seem important but really aren’t, you can convince yourself that you are making progress each day.

Why successful people don’t practise structured procrastination

One of the things that is different about successful people is not just that they rarely procrastinate. It is that they don’t succumb to structured procrastination either. They ignore the more trivial tasks and do the most important ones first, whether they feel like it or not. They do this because they know how effective this strategy is.

This approach to life is very much in line with Pareto’s Principle that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. It means that 80 percent of the results come from doing 20 percent of the tasks you do each day. In fact, when you tackle the most important 20 percent first, it often turns out that you don’t need to do most of the other 80 percent. They turn out to be unnecessary time-wasters.

In his book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy explains how to identify the important 20 percent:

It has been said for many years that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it now. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

It has also been said, “If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”

How to overcome structured procrastination

The first step to overcoming structured procrastination is to become aware that you are doing it. Procrastinators are masters of self-deception and can easily persuade themselves that all the tasks that come their way have equal value so getting anything done is a good thing.

But deep down, you do know when you are running around doing smaller tasks to avoid tackling the most important ones that can really make a difference in your life and open doors to new opportunities. Becoming more honest with yourself about this is essential.

This will free you to change your behaviour. Ruthlessly prune your To Do list down to essentials and cultivate the habit of tackling your top priorities each day before any other tasks. At first, this will feel like a battle of will, but after a while it will seem nonsensical and a waste of time to do anything else.

Zero Procrastination online course

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2012, updated 2019

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Consultations in Sydney and the Central Coast area

Sydney visit - Karen Kingston and Richard Sebok

Once or twice a year, Richard Sebok visits the Sydney and Central Coast area of Australia to do consultations. His next trip is 28 May to 10 June 2019, and this time around, it’s worked out that I can join him too.

Richard will be doing two weeks of consultations. I’ll be available for just one week.

So if you know you’d like to have a consultation with one or both of us, please contact us as soon as possible to ask for a quote and book the dates(s) that will work best for you.

Sydney area

Richard: 28 May – 6 June 2019
Karen: 5 & 6 June 2019

Central Coast area

Richard: 7-10 June 2019
Karen: 7-10 June 2019

Types of consultations offered

Space clearingClutter clearingHealthy homeFeng shui
Double whammy consultations for couples

More information
About Richard Sebok
About Karen Kingston

Get a quote

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Double whammy decluttering consultations for couples

Decluttering for couples

We call them double whammy consultations, and boy, do they work!

What’s a double whammy consultation?

It usually begins with Richard or I working with one partner to help them declutter. Then the other partner sees the results, gets interested, and wants in. So after discussing this with them, we both turn up to the next session and Richard works with one person while I work with the other.

In the case of a male-female married couple, it usually takes the form of Richard working with the husband and me with the wife. We find that men like to begin in “manly” places such as the garage or garden shed while women prefer to begin inside the home.

What are the benefits of a double whammy consultation?

Without anything being said, a playful competitiveness usually develops between the couple for who can throw out the most stuff by the end of each session.

But it’s not really the quantity that’s important so much as the sense of satisfaction that is felt at the end. In one consultation we did, the husband decluttered his entire garage and let go of enough items to fill a skip (what Americans call a dumpster) while the wife tackled her paper clutter and only threw out three trash bags of documents. But both felt equally delighted with their achievement because they had been struggling for years by themselves to make any headway at all in these areas.

Each partner taking responsibility for their own clutter and clearing it also has the effect of bringing a couple closer together. It brings a new level of honesty to their relationship.

We’ve also seen that it’s very much quicker and easier when a couple decides to declutter their home at the same time rather than just one partner doing it without the support or active participation of the other. It creates a greater momentum and is much more fun. They are more able to help each other through any tough decisions they have to make and can celebrate together and enjoy the benefits of the clutter-free home when the job is done.

Do we like doing double whammy consultations?

Yes, we do! Richard and I love working together, so it feels very natural to work with other couples to help them improve the quality of their lives and fulfill their potential.

Where are double whammy consultations available?

We are based in Perth, Australia and offer this service anywhere in the Perth Metro area. We also sometimes travel to the East Coast of Australia to do consultations and occasionally to the UK.

East Coast Australia consultations
Our next consultation trip to Sydney is 28 May – 6 June 2019, and we’ll be in the Central Coast area 7-10 June 2019. Click here to request a consultation quotation.

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2019

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Why everything in life works better without clutter

Sending out a warm invitation to anyone based in Perth, Australia to come to a one-hour talk that Richard and I will be giving on the evening of Thursday, 28 February 2019.

Karen Kingston & Richard Sebok

Date: 28 February 2019
Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm (doors open 6:00pm)
Location: Ellenbrook Main Street (exact location to be announced)
Hosted by: The Chamber of Commerce & Community

What the talk is about
In this talk, you’ll learn why clutter is a problem in your home and in your business, and how clearing it can radically help you move forward.

Most people have no idea how much their clutter affects them and holds them back. No matter how much or how little clutter you have, you’ll find there’s something for everyone in this talk and you’ll leave with some great insights and tips for getting and staying organized.

About Us
About Karen Kingston
About Richard Sebok

Ticket prices
Members: $16.91 (incl. $1.91 booking fee)
Pensioners/Concessions: $11.64 (incl. $1.64 booking fee)
Non-members: $22.19 (incl. $2.19 booking fee)

Book it now

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How to create clutter-free zones in your home

Clutter-free zone

In any home there are certain areas where daily clutter tends to accumulate. You don’t know quite how it happens, but it does.

Often it’s the entrance area, where things get dumped when you arrive home or where you put things you want to remember to take with you when you leave. In some homes it’s the kitchen table, countertops, the dining room table, and so on.

Identify the problem areas

The first step is to go around your own home and identify the areas that act like a clutter magnet. If you share your home with others, it may be their stuff as well as yours, or it may be all their stuff and none of yours. Whatever the case, the way it slows and stagnates the flow of energy around your home will affect you and everyone else who lives there in some way, so it’s in your interests to do something about it.

Clutter clearing these areas presents a different kind of challenge to other places in your home because it rarely stays that way. You roll up your sleeves, tidy it up, and a few days later, it’s started to fill again. Clutter, by definition, is unconscious, so the only way to prevent this is to consciously own the space and declare it a clutter-free zone.

What is a clutter-free zone?

A clutter-free zone is a place where you never put anything “just for now” because it doesn’t have a home, or it does have a home but you can’t be bothered to put it there. You make the extra effort to put it where it belongs. If necessary, make a CLUTTER-FREE ZONE sign and place it there to remind yourself and others you live with, until you all get the knack.
You can still use areas such as your dining room table for other purposes (doing paperwork, etc) for a day, but then you pack it all away again and return the table to its clutter-free state so that you can use it for eating.

Training your family

If you share your home with other family members, some persistence may be required. I stayed at a friend’s house recently and watched as a 9-year old child arrived home, kicked off her shoes in the hallway, threw her jacket and bag on a chair, and left it all there for her mother to tidy up later. She’d never been taught any other way.

But allowing children to live like this is doing them a great disservice. They will grow up to become the next generation of clutterers, with no idea how to organize their own home or manage their own affairs. You can start by introducing clutter-free zones, and then gradually expand this to other areas, such as tidying their own bedrooms.

Untidy partners can be trickier to handle but as with all types of clutter, the underlying issues are the problem, not the clutter itself. Agreeing to specific clutter-free zones can be a very helpful first step towards resolving this.

That thing doesn’t belong here

Here’s a lovely example of a clutter-free zone created by a woman who took my Fast Track Clutter Clearing online course and kindly gave me permission to share this. The bench had been a family dumping area for keys, wallets, phones, laptops, tablets, newspapers, food, anything taken from the garage and not returned, as well as assorted clothing, towels, hair accessories, and so on.

So she cleared everything off it and chalked in large letters: That thing does NOT belong on this bench 🙂

Clutter-free zone

At first the family didn’t take her seriously. The husband left his watch on the table with an attached message, saying ‘Surely this is a wind-up?’ Then the son changed the message to ‘That s*** ABSOLUTELY belongs on this bench’. But eventually they got it, and no the area is clutter-free, bringing a much lighter and brighter feeling to the entire kitchen space.

Related article
I’ll just put it here for now

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2014, updated 2019

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