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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How to tame car restoration clutter

Car

When I buy a car, I expect it to work. It’s a deal-breaker if it doesn’t.

But my husband Richard’s latest idea of fun is to buy a 43-year old maroon red Jaguar XJ6 with immaculate bodywork and an engine that doesn’t run. He then scoured the country for two rusty old 307 Chevrolet engines and a TH700 gearbox (whatever that is). From these he hopes to extract everything he needs to get the car working. I think it’s madness but he loves the challenge.

During the last two weeks, I have watched with interest and some growing concern as our previously pristine garage first became home to a car that can’t be driven and then to a growing pile of engine bits randomly heaped in a corner alongside old paint cans. I’ve seen too many cluttered garages in clients’ homes over the years for warning bells not to sound.

But I needn’t have worried. Richard had seen far too much of this himself while out and about looking for all the bits he needed and he had it all under control.

The right storage makes all the difference

The “before” photo here shows the sad state of the corner yesterday afternoon. The “after” photo shows what it looked like later on after he’d installed a metal cabinet and some racking and organized it all.

Before and after photos

He gave me a guided tour.

On the top shelf is a drive shaft that he needs to check to see if it fits. The next shelf down is for pistons, pulleys and things like that. The middle shelf is for electrical bits such as the alternator, distributor and air-con. I must have temporarily lost consciousness when he explained what’s on the fourth shelf down but came round in time to hear that the bottom area is for something called transmission.

‘And best of all’, he beamed ‘is that after the engine is built, I’ll be able to use the racks for any bits I take off the car.’

He completely lost me there, I must confess. I own a car myself and never feel the urge to take any bits off it because I know it won’t work properly without them. But he tells me that’s Phase Two of the project. Many pieces will need to be taken off, lovingly restored to their former glory and put back in place again.

I stared open-mouthed in wonderment at this point as I mentally racked up how much time this will take and how I would die of utter boredom if I were to attempt it myself.

Three and a half hours from chaos to order

Knowing how many home garages in the world could use a makeover like this, I asked Richard how long it had taken him to do it. I thought six or seven hours, for sure. But no. It took him an hour to go out and buy the storage at our local hardware store, then just two and a half hours to assemble it all and organize the stuff.

The end result is not a thing of beauty or something I would want inside the home. But it’s as presentable as a collection of rusty old car parts can be and our garage now feels orderly instead of sinking into chaos. Richard can find the bits he needs without rummaging around and I have a tiny bit more understanding about what the appeal of this car project could possibly be.

In many homes, the garage is the man’s domain. But what many people don’t realize is that the state it’s kept in affects everyone who lives there so it’s in everyone’s interest to bring it under control. It takes three simple steps:

1. Get the right storage
2. Group things according to type
3. Discard what you no longer need or won’t fit in the space

Job done!

For Richard this is a one-off project — something he’s always wanted to do. My guess is that when he’s finished, he’ll sell the storage, dump anything he didn’t use and just enjoy driving the car. And if it turns out he doesn’t have time to complete the project after all, he’ll sell the car and parts for what he paid for them and move on. The trick to a happy life is to keep up-to-date so that energy doesn’t stagnate.

Related article
How to keep hobby clutter under control

Resources
Fast track clutter clearing online course

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018


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Why cloud collecting can be good for you

Cloud

At last, for people who love collecting, here’s something that won’t clog your energy or weigh you down. You can collect as many as you want and it won’t even cost you any money. It’s etherically refreshing and psychologically uplifting. And all you have to do is go outside or to a window during daylight hours and look up.

I’m talking about clouds.

Types of clouds

Clouds come in many shapes and sizes, from small and wispy to huge and majestic to black and thundery. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, who started the Cloud Appreciation Society in 2004, authored a cute pocket-sized little book called The Cloud Collector’s Handbook which contains clear descriptions and photos to enable you to spot the different types as you go about your life.

There are only ten main cloud types, which you can easily learn, and some of them enticingly combine together like German nouns. So, for example, there are stratus clouds and cumulus clouds, and when they morph together you get a stratocumulus cloud. The naming convention, first published in The International Cloud Atlas in 1896, designated the tallest clouds (cumulonimbus) as the ninth type, which gave rise to the phrase, “being on Cloud Nine”. In later editions, this type of cloud was moved to number 10 on the list, but the idiom persists to this day.

Clouds are light and fluffy, right? Apparently not.

In his other book, The Cloudspotter’s Guide, Pretor-Pinney explains that a medium sized rain cloud contains as much as ten billion water droplets per cubic meter and can weigh the same as eighty elephants!

In fact, he says, ‘Sanskrit creation myths describe how elephants created at the beginning of time were white, had wings to fly, could change their shape at will and had the power to bring rain.’ According to Hindu mythology, clouds are the spiritual cousins of elephants.

How cloud collecting can help you

Most people rarely look up and notice clouds. Our attention is more focused horizontally on what is happening around us rather than on the cloudscape above us. But clouds affect us in many ways, whether we realize it or not. A simple example is how different we feel on a grey, overcast day (stratus or stratocumulus clouds) compared to a day when there are just a few high-level wispy clouds (cirrus) in an otherwise clear blue sky. The low-level sun-blocking clouds can make people feel confined and dejected whereas a cirrus cloudscape creates a feeling of space and elation. Some of the uplifting effects of clearer skies can be attributed to the quantity and quality of sunlight, it’s true, but it’s amazing how much the different types of clouds influence this.

If you live in a place where there are clouds most of the time then it makes a lot of sense to get to know how they can affect your wellbeing, so that instead of being subject to it you can look up and say, ‘Ah, that’ll be a cumulonimbus (thundercloud) effect I’m feeling today’, and enjoy the power and drama of it rather than let it ruin your day. Not forgetting, of course, that for people living in a drought-stricken region, a cumulonimbus with its promise of rain is one of the happiest sights there is.

Looking up is good for you

Besides, looking up is good for you. Just the simple act of looking up when you feel down changes your psychological condition and raises your energy. And developing a relationship with the skies above allows your consciousness to expand to fill bigger spaces and your creativity to soar.

So even if you don’t go as far as becoming a cloud collector, a little bit of cloud spotting once or twice a day can be very inspiring. It only takes a moment and it’s free.  And once you’ve had one of those ‘Wow, that’s one of those rare clouds I saw in that book’ moments, you’ll be more inclined to discover more.

Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2010, updated 2018


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What kind of clutter clearing help do people need the most?

Group of people with thumbs up

Many thanks to everyone who took part in the survey I conducted last month to help me discover how I can structure future online courses to help people the most. The results were so useful and interesting that I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Support and advice when you feel stuck

53% of the people surveyed said that the most challenging aspect of clutter clearing was making decisions about what to keep and let go and what they value most about my courses is getting expert support and advice if they get stuck.

Group support
Many people commented on how alone they feel when clutter clearing and what a huge difference it makes to be part of a group of people who are all going through the same process, supporting each other and sharing their struggles and successes along the way:

‘It’s much more motivating than tackling clutter alone’
‘I enjoyed feeling the support of the group and knowing that I was not alone’
‘Reading the comments of other participants helped me to find the courage to try it myself’

My support
Some people said that having my personal support and being able to ask me questions when they got stuck was what they appreciated the most:

‘The best thing was the support, guidance and advice from Karen along the way’
‘I liked being able to ask questions and get answers from Karen’
‘I now want my whole life to feel like a Karen Kingston online course’

Help to get started and keep going

44% said that getting started or keeping going was the most challenging aspect of clutter clearing for them so they loved the step-by-step structure of the courses that helped them do this.

The step-by-step structure
Each course consists of 7 or 10 steps, with a new one posted every three days:

‘I liked the clear and concise instructions and the logical progression of the steps’
‘Having a new step to be completed every three days kept me motivated and going’
‘I liked the steady, predictable pace of a new task every three days’

Three days to complete each step
Some people said they would have liked a longer period of time to complete each step but twice as many said that three days per step was just the right amount of time to keep the momentum going and allow them to achieve their goals by the end of the course:

‘The pace of the course was enough to push me without stressing me’
‘Having three days to work on each task was great as I could fit it into my busy life’
‘I liked having three days to complete each task and that I could follow at my own tempo’

Expert clutter clearing help

I’m still working my way through the suggestions for how I can make future courses even better so will write more about that in the New Year.

In the meantime, if you need clutter clearing help you are warmly invited to join me on my next Fast Track Clutter Clearing online course where you’ll have my personal support for 21 days and the opportunity to ask me questions if you need to. You’ll also enjoy the camaraderie of a lovely group of people who have all embarked on a similar clutter clearing journey to you. This is so much easier than tackling clutter all alone.

The course takes place on a private message board where confidentiality is assured and all posts are deleted on the last day so no-one ever has to worry about their comments being stored online.

The next Fast Track Clutter Clearing course runs from January 5 to January 25, 2019. The cost is just $160 AUD, which at today’s exchange rates is approximately $117 USD, £92 GBP or €103. Many people tell me that it’s one of the best investments in themselves they ever made. It’s open to anyone in the world, age 16 or over.

More information about online courses
Calendar of online courses Jan-May 2019
About online courses

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018


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10 ways to counteract harmful blue light from screens

Blue light

I’ve always been able to get to sleep very quickly. I have a good wind-down routine at night and within a few minutes of getting into bed, I’m asleep. But this changed about four years ago when it started taking me longer and longer to get to sleep, sometimes up to an hour or two.

This puzzled me greatly. Nothing of any note had changed in my life. I was happy and not worried or stressed about anything. I was sleeping in the same bed, in the same room I’d slept in for a number of years. But still the difficulty with getting to sleep persisted, night after night.

My eye test

Then I went to an optician to get some prescription sunglasses for driving. First, he commented on how red my eyes were. I’d managed to get chili in one eye earlier that day when cooking so I said I thought that may be the cause, but I could see he wasn’t convinced.

He peered for a very long time through his ophthalmic equipment, took photos of the back of my eyes, and informed me that I might possibly have early signs of macular degeneration. That definitely got my attention, and no stretch of the imagination could dismiss it with tales of chili-related incidents.

As to my red eyes, he diagnosed dry eye blepharitis syndrome, sold me some soothing eyelid wipes that he said would help, suggested I return for more retinal photography in a year’s time, and sent me on my way.

Seeking the cause

Most people would have gone home, used the wipes, worried about going blind, and carried on. Not me. I always want to know why something is happening. Treating symptoms is never a long-term solution. Real change can only come from knowing the cause of a problem.

So, I thought to myself, what can possibly be the reason for this? My optician had offered no clues, so I did what any savvy person would do and googled “blepharitis”. This delivered many pages of information about how to treat it but still no clue as to the cause.

I persisted and eventually found an article about Daniel Ezra, a consultant ophthalmologist and oculoplastic surgeon at London’s prestigious Moorfields eye hospital, who sees so many people with blepharitis these days that he’s calling it an epidemic. And what does he think the cause of this is? Staring at screens for many hours a day.

He estimates that 15 percent of Londoners have the condition, and 60 to 90 percent of office workers have some form of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Symptoms are blurred vision, double vision, dry, red eyes, eye irritation, headaches and accompanying neck or back pain. He says working in an air-conditioned office exacerbates symptoms because it increases tear evaporation from the surface of the eye. Bright lighting can also be a problem.

Clearly, we are not designed to sit in sealed boxes staring at screens all day. I never use air-conditioning myself but, as a writer, I do spend long hours working at my computer and I prefer to use three screens rather than just one. I decided I needed to train myself to blink more and take frequent breaks, and this helped a little, but I still wasn’t able to get to sleep at night.

Blue light

I continued my researches and discovered that CVS was just the tip of the iceberg. Far more worrying is the global rise in macular degeneration and insomnia, not just in office workers but in anyone who uses screens for long periods of time, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and other digital devices.

At that time, there was very little information about this on the internet but I did find one helpful article on the Harvard Medical School website titled Blue light has a dark side. It explained that blue light at night interrupts melatonin production, which makes it difficult to get to sleep, and advised against using screens for 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Finally I was making progress. But this still didn’t explain why I might have an increased risk for macular degeneration.

Then three months ago, I read about a study conducted at the University of Todelo, Ohio, in which researchers had found that excessive exposure to blue light from screens causes poisonous molecules to be generated in photoreceptor cells. This kills the cells and unfortunately, they do not regenerate as other cells do, which is why macular degeneration is incurable. Finally, I felt I had all the elements of the puzzle.

Solutions

I’m happy to say that I still use my computer but for the last three years I’ve been able to fall asleep as easily as I always used to and annual eye-checks have confirmed my eyes are now in excellent health. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this field, but for anyone who is interested, here are the lifestyle changes and solutions that have worked for me.

1. Blue light filters on screens
First, I tried installing free screen-dimming software such as f.lux and Iris. These automatically dim screens according to the time of day and claim to filter out blue light (they are the PC/Android equivalent of the Night Shift feature that Apple has introduced for their iPhones, iPods and iPads). However, the software didn’t make any noticeable difference to my eye or sleep problems so I continued my hunt.

Next, I tried blue-light reflecting glasses from an optician but they also did nothing for me. Perhaps some opticians have improved their technology since then but back in 2014, it wasn’t impressive.

Then I came across blue-light blocking glasses made by Gunnars, primarily designed for gamers who sit in front of computers for hours each day. I ordered a pair and started using them. Within days, I was sleeping normally again. It was that quick. However, I found that the amber lenses changed the colours on my screens, and after two years’ continuous use, I had to stop wearing them because they made me feel dizzy, most likely because the built-in 0.5 diopter adjustment (to make it easier for eyes to look at computer screens) didn’t suit my particular vision.

Finally, I arrived at a solution that works perfectly for me. I now use anti-blue light screen filters that simply slot over each computer screen and block the most harmful portion of the blue light spectrum (420nm – 460nm, with 450nm ± 10nm as the peak point). This is the range that has the most dramatic impact on vision health and also ensures that image colours remain true instead of turning a hue of orange. There is mounting evidence, too, that blue light exposure can exacerbate photo-aging, wrinkles, skin laxity and hyperpigmentation, so covering the entire screen with a filter gives protection for skin as well as eyes.

The anti-blue light filters I use are available direct from Fiara in Australia or through Amazon and are very reasonably priced. The range also includes filters for iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, laptops and LED TVs.

2. Good quality lighting
I had a commercial Solatube skylight installed in my home office to bring in as much natural daylight as possible. And if I have to work in the evening, I use halogen lights, never LED lights, because LEDs emit a very much higher level of blue light. Halogens use more electricity than LEDs but the light they emit is very much kinder and healthier for our eyes. They are the closest thing to old-fashioned incandescent lights which, although energy-guzzling, did no harm to our eyes at all.

3. Reduced screen brightness
I have reduced the brightness of my screens down to a more comfortable level than the default set by the manufacturer and have positioned my desk so that there is no window glare reflected on the screen.

4. Conscious blinking
I have trained myself to blink more often when working at my computer, and every 20 minutes I look away and blink slowly ten times to lubricate my eyes. To be effective, the blinking has to be done so slowly that it’s at a similar speed to nodding off while watching TV. Some opticians recommend using eye drops instead but I prefer this natural technique instead of putting chemicals in my eyes.

5. Change of focus
Every 20 minutes, I also look away from my screens for at least 20 seconds to something at least 20 feet (600cm) away. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule to help relieve eyes from rigid staring, and I find it helps. It has the added bonus that I also get some of my best writing ideas in these breaks.

6. Good posture
I sit cross-legged and vertical on a bespoke wide, comfortable chair without arms, and my screens are elevated to eye height so that I can look straight ahead without tilting my neck.

7. Regular sleep/wake cycle
I’ve become mostly a 9 till 5 gal. I don’t mean working from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm but sleeping from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am during the summer months and naturally shifting to sleping from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am during the winter months, when the sun rises later here in Perth.  Either way, I get eight hours sleep during the maximum melatonin-producing hours of darkness. It also means I am rested enough not to need an alarm clock to wake up by or to want to lie-in at weekends, which recent research at the University of Arizona has shown to substantially mess with a person’s body clock and have possible health consequences.

8. Early morning walk
Most days, I take an early morning walk which helps to reset my circadian rhythms for the day.

9. No digital devices in the bedroom
I never use digital devices late at night or in bed except for my Kindle Paperwhite, which uses e-ink technology that is kind to eyes and does not emit blue light. It’s as eye-friendly as reading a printed book. In fact, it is arguably better because the print can be enlarged to a more easily readable size.

10. Sleep in total darkness
The blue spectrum of electric lighting interferes with melatonin production so I never sleep with a light on in my room and use blackout curtains to block out lights from external sources. If I ever need to go to the bathroom in the night, I do so without turning on a light, and when I stay in a hotel, I usually use a small flashlight with a red bulb to help me find my way (red light has little to no effect on melatonin production).

So that’s what has helped me, but there’s no need to take my word for it. There’s now a wealth of scientific information on the internet about this.

Related articles
Health effects of blue lights from screens
Teens, tweens and technology

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018


Posted in Healthy home | Read 4 comments...»

The emotional clutter of a chip on the shoulder

Woman with huge chip on shoulder

We’ve all met people with a chip on their shoulder. They carry their burdens with them wherever they go, and their energy silently screams, ‘Why me? Why this? Why is my lot so unfair?’ It’s one of the most self-destructive forms of emotional clutter there is.

The young boy

During the 20 years I lived in Bali, I would go for a walk at 5:30am each morning. It was the coolest time of the day, the sun had just risen, and the world was waking up.

My house was at one end of the village and I would walk to the other end and back, which took about an hour. I would see the same people every day going about their routine tasks, and there are two I remember in particular.

One was a young Balinese boy who went from trash bin to trash bin on his delapidated old bike, collecting discarded cardboard and plastic bottles to sell for a few rupiah. He lived at the opposite end of the village to me and we would usually pass each other somewhere in the middle. He was about 12 years old, tall and thin, and with stooped shoulders that seem to say, ‘I’m not really here. Don’t notice me.’

Most Balinese people in small villages make eye contact with you, give you a broad smile and say hello if you pass them in the street, especially early morning when there are few other people around. But not him. He would always keep his eyes averted and was clearly ashamed of what he did. Someone told me his family desperately needed the money he made to help them all get by, but it was clear he wished he didn’t have to do it. He tried to make himself as invisible as possible.

The old man

The other person I saw each morning was an old man who was employed by the village to sweep the pavements. Dressed from head to foot in a regulation gaudy yellow one-piece work suit, he carried a cheap broom made of bamboo spines, a plastic shovel, and a basket he pulled behind him on a string in the same way that a prisoner might haul a ball and chain. Like the young boy, he looked ashamed that his life had come to this and always looked down when I passed.

They both carried their perceived burdens so heavily.

Not one to be put off so easily, I always gave them a cheerful Selamat Pagi (Good Morning in Indonesian) each time we met. It took many months but eventually we reached the stage where they would look up, smile, and reply. Sometimes we would even stop and chat. I coaxed this out of them, like you coax trust out of an animal that’s been hurt too many times. I couldn’t change their lives but for those brief moments each day, I discovered I could get them to drop their load and come out of themselves. For a few brief seconds, at least, their essence shone.

There were usually three or four other people out and about at that early hour of the day hunting through bins for various items, and two other people who swept the streets. The attitude of these people was completely different to the young boy and old man. They just did their job and laughed and joked with friends as they got on with it. The jobs they all did were the same but their emotional engagement was completely different. They had no chips on their shoulders.

What I learned from observing this day after day was that chips truly only exist in the mind of the chip-carrier. They are self-generated.  And worse than that – they are disconnecting. They push other people away and make the person feel isolated, miserable and alone.

The middle-aged woman

Another person I knew at that time was a middle-aged Balinese woman who worked as a masseuse. She had excellent skills but carried a monumental chip on her shoulder about what a hard life she’d had. She’d get you on her massage table, make you feel wonderfully relaxed, and then tell you all her troubles and financial woes while you were her captive audience. She would dump all her emotions on every client she worked with, hoping they would take pity on her and help her out. Sometimes a kind-hearted person would give her a generous tip, but of course they felt uncomfortable and were unlikely to book another session with her again.

I got to know her as a friend and saw this same pattern repeating. Then one day, I sat her down and explained how she was creating her own problems. ‘Tourists visit Bali to relax,’ I said, ‘and they can’t enjoy your massage if you’re telling them all your problems while you do it.’ I showed her that she needed to change her ‘Poor me’ attitude to ‘How much can I give this person, even though my own life may not be all I want it to be?’

She took my advice and soon became the most sought-after masseuse in town. The lack of money she had been moaning about all those years came to a stop when she stopped moaning about it.

Emotional clutter clearing

These three people, each in their own ways, perpetually lamented their lot in life, which kept them locked in their own circle of misery. Yes, the hardships they faced were real, but they made them harder to bear by the attitude they took. When they were able to step out of this, they shifted into a very different space with very different possibilities. The world had not changed, but their attitude to it and their engagement with it had.

Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, Auschwitz holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, knew a lot about the importance of attitude, and his insights were summed up beautifully by Harold S. Kushner, who wrote the preface to the 1992 edition of Frankl’s book:

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

And Eleanor Roosevelt had a very similar message:

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

So, what chips do you carry on your shoulder?

Your chips may not be as obvious as the ones I’ve described in this article, but most people do have chips of some kind — some burdens they feel they have to bear or some ways they feel they are being treated unfairly.

This can take many forms, such as working at a job you wish you didn’t have to do, feeling resentful about doing all the housework or laundry in your home, or feeling frustrated because you don’t have more money, better looks, more enlightenment or any of the other worldy or spiritual qualities you believe you deserve. In short, the chips you carry are anything you approach with a victim mentality, railing openly or secretly against the injustices of what life has dealt you.

The good news is, you can always change this and a very different world will open to you if you do.

The first step is to really understand that it’s not what happens to you but how you handle it that determines your destiny. That’s immediately empowering.

Then take the time to locate any attitudes you have that carry victim, martyr-like or poor-me frequencies and do the personal work to change these. Sometimes just becoming aware of an attitude, seeing why it doesn’t serve you and consciously changing the behaviour is all that’s needed (as with the massage woman). In other cases, deeper levels of emotional work may be required to help you to turn this around, such as working with an IST practitioner or similar type of therapist.

Emotional clutter clearing can be more challenging than physical clutter clearing, but very worthwhile.

Take a tip from Denis the Menace

There’s a great cartoon that I remember seeing in a comic book when I was a child. It featured the irrepressible boy, Denis the Menace, who had been forced by his teacher to wear a dunce’s cap and sit in the corner. The thought bubble coming out of his head read, ‘I may be sitting down on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside!’

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018


Posted in Clutter clearing | Read 5 comments...»

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