Check out Part Two!
Today's post covers Peter Walsh (organization) and Dr. Laura Berman (sex & relationships).
Who spoke? Peter Walsh
Peter Walsh is a noted international organization expert, New York Times best-selling author, and television host who describes himself as part contractor, part therapist. Peter is currently a regular on The Rachael Ray Show. While a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was dubbed "the 'Get Your Whole-Life Organized' Guy." Peter has organized thousands of homes between his hit series on TLC and OWN, and through his column in O, The Oprah Magazine. Peter's aim is to help families declutter their homes and help them live to their full potential. Born in Australia, Peter now lives in Los Angeles clutter-free and travels extensively, helping homeowners and corporations organize their living and work spaces for optimal efficiency and liberated living. [Official bio from the O YOU! program]
Peter Walsh says there are "Four Types of Clutterers":
1. The "Behind Closed Doors" Clutterer:
This person is usually a perfectionist of sorts - that it's either "all or nothing" when it comes to cleaning.
One room may be spotless, while another might be completely a mess, but you shut the door to it instead of dealing with it and it "goes away". This person thinks that either "if I can't do it perfectly then I won't do it at all" OR "it's just not worth it".
Peter said that in reality, you give TIME to what you believe is important.
He said "The GREAT is a huge enemy of the GOOD". It doesn't have to be all or nothing, in other words. Stop worrying about being great/perfect and just be good, do good, allow good.
He suggested that if you have a difficult time getting started with de-cluttering a problem area, then get a friend to help. Team up with someone NOT in your family so that they can help you make the hard decisions about what to throw away...then, help her the next day/week to clean up an area of her home she struggles with de-cluttering. Start with a manageable task. "Small victories yield huge results."
2. The "Knowledge" Clutterer:
This person tends to collect things. Magazines, newspapers, books, albums, even clippings that are usually meant for wonderful intentions at a later date. This kind of clutterer loves the idea of something - perhaps they clipped a recipe from a magazine hoping to cook that for dinner but never did...ever...but still hang on to the recipe because "maybe they will someday". Or maybe this person has a bulk of fabric and a box of craft supplies because "sometime" they will make that Halloween costume for their kid (that is now too old to wear it anyway). Full of good intentions, but never follow through, but still can't part with the idea of it all.
Peter basically suggests throwing it all away - or bringing in a friend to help you throw it all away. You should only keep magazines back two issues and no more. If you haven't read it in two months, you never will. If you only have a book shelf that holds 52 books, when you get a new book, you choose one to part with and give it away or loan it out or donate it, so that you never exceed what fits in your shelf.
3. The "Sentimental" Clutterer:
This person can't part with anything that holds memories. Kids' art, photos, memorabilia, etc. He told a story of a dad who had now-22-year-old twin sons who (no lie) kept every single piece of their school work they had ever done. Every test, ever science project, every artwork, everything. It took over his house.
Peter also told the story of a man who had lost his mother. He had inherited everything of hers and it was a LOT of stuff. The man just couldn't part with any of it. He was having an awful time dealing with the loss and just couldn't bring himself to get rid of any of her things. When Peter asked him how long it had been since his mother passed, the man replied "Two years." Then, the man's wife calmly interrupted and said, "No, dear. It's been 8 years."
Peter is sympathetic that items can bring up memories. We can look at an object and get flushed with emotions and recall a moment or person that was dear to us. But, Peter says in order to move on and be happy and fulfilled in life you need to "shift your mindset". Those people want you to treasure those memories and live a happy life, not be burdened by "all this stuff" around.
He suggested that for family that passes, you choose key items that truly allow you to "treasure" who that person was to you. Select a very few special things to keep, display, or use so that you can be reminded of how special they were. Then, take photos of the other items, maybe make a scrapbook or photo book of those things, and part with them. Donate them, trash them, repurpose them if you can. For kids' items that tend to pile up, he suggested getting each kid a "bin" of their own. Each year select an item or two that helps capture a highlight from that year and keep it. Take photos of the rest, make a book, and throw it away.
He emphasized that for children, this also is a teaching opportunity for you to take time and help your kids learn the value of things. That what they have matters, but it is still just "things" - and lessons in how to donate, how to clean, how to repurpose, how to focus on what is really important.
4. The "Bargain Shopper" Clutterer:
Peter asked how many women are "really good shoppers"? Several women pride themselves in being great at finding bargains. But, he says you shouldn't just shop for recreation or out of boredom, or to just feel better. You should pay attention to the "QUALITY of your life more than the QUANTITY of your stuff".
"If PRICE is the best things about something - you should NOT buy it EVER." He said "If you focus on the STUFF, you will never get organized." He told a story of how a mom was a great bargain shopper but storing toilet paper in bulk under her children's beds. He said the secret to organizing is that you have to have a VISION for the LIFE that you want.
When you look at a room, you need to have a vision for it - "What do I want from this place? Do these things, does this clutter, give you that vision?"
Things either create vision or get rid of it. Organization and happiness are not accidents.
So - where do you start with good organization? Grab 2 trash bags and do the "trash bag tango"! One trash bag is for TRASH, the other is for DONATIONS. He suggests at the end of each day, everyone in the house grabs two trash bags and takes 15 minutes and goes around the home filling up the bags as best they can (even if you take 5 minutes, it works) and by the end of the week you will see a drastic change.
You need to model behavior now for young children to develop these skills early and to help give them the concept that there are LIMITS. For example, when your toy bin is full and you get a new toy, you need to part with a toy. Teach them about giving to others. Teach them about parting with things when there is no longer use for them. Establish ROUTINE. Teach contributing to a home, respecting things, taking responsibility.
Finally, he suggests that you should only have three kinds of clothes in your closet: Those that 1. Fit well 2. Feel great 3. Get compliments from others! A good tip is that if you turn your hangers around in your closet (so they are hung up from the backside of the closet out) and as you wear something, you turn the hanger around, then at the end of six months you will be able to see what you haven't worn and can part with it (barring it wasn't seasonal). This will keep you from hanging on to "dream jeans" or "fat pants"and keep you looking and feeling good in the present.
What did I think?
I love this topic. It's not that I'm so great at it - I have a dining table that is used for storage more than eating and a junk drawer that resembles a miniature recreation of Chernobyl - but, the ideals are so enticing that it feels great to hear how clean and polished my surroundings have the potential to be. Listening to Peter talk (that Aussie accent doesn't hurt) was like roaming the aisles of The Container Store. He gave you hope and ideas and solutions that seemed so effortless, it was daydreaming a team of makeover specialists were waving their wands over my cluttered counter and Voila! everything in my home suddenly had the potential of being perfectly labeled, color coded, and placed with magazine-photo-op purpose.
I don't really know if anyone besides Peter Walsh actually lives like Peter Walsh. As much as it was lovely to listen to and envision and dream about, part of me wanted to secretly sneak my 1 and 2-year-old daughters into his home when he is away for an hour and let him come back to see what us moms are TRULY dealing with on a daily basis. Does he really get it? Does he understand that a "clean and successful" day in my home can simply mean the difference between getting the play-doh out of my carpet or not?
But, I do believe this man has seen it all. I mean, the tales that he told were pretty unreal. And, being a fairly normal, rational, boring human being, it mostly just made me sit up straight and think "Whoa, there's a lot of crazies out there!" But, that's what really got me thinking. Peter's not just about grabbing two trash bags and going to town on your staircase-size collection of old Cat Fancy Magazines. He's not just about chucking the 60 pairs of Doc Martens you don't need. He's about the crazies. He's about life. He's about healing.
Hmm. Peter is a great guy and all. I'm sure he's a quick draw on the ole label maker and can clean up a pantry like nobody's business. But, is he the best we can turn to when a man is so debilitatingly paused in life that his mother's death stopped his life from moving forward???? Of course you know where I'm going with this...of course Peter Walsh and his label maker are not the answer.
C'mon, Church, we can bridge this gap. God gave unbelievable examples of organization in creation from the very beginning. Yet, how many times have you been in a church service where someone stood up and gave testimony to how "Yeah, I was a hoarder until I met Jesus." Um, never. Seriously. Never.
Why aren't we the ones coming up with awesome ideas like "get together with a friend and help de-clutter each other's closets/garages/lives"? Isn't that an amazing example of fellowship, giving way to numerous opportunities for building trust, reflecting compassion, and initiating creative generosity?
I thought Peter gave great suggestions to help organize one's home and teaching value to your children. I'm only a little sad that I've never ever heard about these ideas from the Christian community - at least, not in the way that is proactive and engaging and practical and honest. Sure, we all can help with the food drive our Sunday school class is doing, or give coats to the local Mission...but, how about taking it a step further?
How about getting into each others CUPBOARDS and PANTRIES and GARAGES and exposing our clutter for all to see? How about asking for HELP and HELPING OTHERS and then creatively coming up with ways to repurpose (does your local shelter need that sewing machine you never use?) or reinvent (could the youth group meet in your basement that is full of newspapers and other junk you don't need?) or reach out (could you hold a community garage sale and give the money to a non-profit?)
This stuff doesn't have to be heavy or guilt-ridden. Organizing life can start with small steps like Peter talked about. But, it doesn't mean we have to take these steps alone, or in fear, or with embarrassment or any of that. I think we can have FUN and live in FREEDOM and enjoy our surroundings and support each other in these efforts.
I don't want you to think every little thing we do has to be turned into a "God thing". Nope. SCRATCH THAT. Yes, I do want you to think that. Yes. Think that! EVERYTHING WE DO can be turned into a God thing! That's the whole point, in fact! So what if someone thinks you are a little crazy for inviting them over for a "cleaning party" (I mean, maybe offer refreshments and a helping hand in return)...living a transparent life is not going to get any prettier than it is right now. But, we worship a DIVINE DESIGNER, the ULTIMATE ORGANIZER, if you will. It might not get play-doh out of my carpet any sooner...but, it certainly helps me remember what I truly envision for my home.
Who spoke? Dr. Laura Berman
Dr. Laura Berman is a world-renowned sex and relationship expert. As a researcher, and a therapist for more than 20 years, she has helped countless couples build stronger relationships, improve their sex lives, and achieve a heightened level of intimacy. Dr. Berman is a New York Times best-selling author, and a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Dr. Berman has appeared on numerous news shows; her new television show In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, appears on OWN as she continues to provide general and sex therapy to help couples build stronger relationships. Dr. Berman is a wife and the mother of three boys.
Dr. Laura says that the three keys to a satisfying sex life are having a
1. Healthy Body
2. Creative Spirit
3. Open Heart
She said dark chocolate can raise your libido. Age and stress affect hormones differently and hormones can affect your health dramatically in various ways. Hormones and muscle strength (i.e. practicing kegals for your pelvic floor muscles) are the "health" side to keeping sexually "fit".
Creative spirit inspires action. She talked about how the phenomenon of "Fifty Shades of Grey" intrigued her as to why it was so popular, and in her discovery it was because so many women don't know how to surrender or give up control in a healthy way - so they read a book like that and are filled with new inspiration. Women don't know how to give up control to their husbands in general. Oftentimes husbands can just be "one more thing for us to control", especially after kids come along - it can seem as if the husband is just one more task for us to deal with.
But, men like to feel like they are doing a good job in the relationship. Basically put, men want to have sex and make sure you are happy, and that will make them happy. He knows what he's doing, he wants what's best for you, he may even want to take control of some situations, but often as women we don't allow them that control.
Dr. Laura suggests trying a "Surrender Date". Let the man come up with everything and plan it all. Have him pick out what you wear, where you go, even order for you off the menu. You don't get to make any decisions all night long. Many times, men will rise to the occasion and we will be delighted at them taking the reigns. Men are more capable of stepping up if we just give them the chance.
Another creative suggestion Dr. Laura gave was to make a "Fantasy Box". Each of you write down creative/sexy/fun things you want to try (this could be a date, this could be in bed, whatever) and you review each other's list without judgment and agree upon what you would like/be willing to try. Then, you put the ideas in the "Fantasy Box" and when you are needing a little spice, pull out an idea and use it that night.
Dr. Laura said that women over 40 need more stimulation to have fulfilling sex. However, she said the woman's brain, the context of the situation, and the closeness of the relationship is the biggest stimulating factors overall.
Having an "open heart" is like having an untethered soul. That there is unfinished energy everywhere that needs to go somewhere. Every feeling comes from a thought - and, all thoughts are arguable. We tend to partner with people that we want to learn from. When you get stressed by your partner, stop and picture your heart opening up, like a light of compassion is bursting forth from it, and you can almost recapture that true feeling about how you really feel about that person. You have a choice to see the bigger picture.
Try to speak your partner's love language. We tend to act and love the way WE want to be loved, but try to think about how your partner communicates. Dr. Laura says that it is a fact men who do more housework get more sex. She says this is simply because "he gets it" and we feel understood and helped out/loved by them. His help opens her heart.
But, he needs sex in the same way (the housework sort of way) in order to feel understood and feel close to you. What truly makes your man feel loved?
Dr. Laura gave "homework" for the next 2 weeks:
1. Give your partner 3 genuine appreciations every single day. Tell them what you appreciate about them and why.
2. Make an appointment 2 times a week for 15 min to JUST talk, kiss, and make out. Take sex OFF the table. No pressure, just kiss.
3. Have sex at least twice a week or more. And never, ever let your partner go more than 2 weeks without sex. Ideally, never more than a week, barring extenuating circumstances.
She also answered a few questions from the audience I thought were worth including:
What should we talk about when we set that time aside?
Dr. Laura suggested talking about a future vacation/dream vacation that you'd still like to take together someday. Talk about where you might see your family in 10 years. Talk about things that he does that make you feel loved. DON'T talk logistics or about kids. Talk about how to kiss - "I'm going to kiss you the way I like to be kissed for a minute, then you do the same to me." Allow the sexual energy to build. Try to let go of the pressure, believe him, trust him.
How do I talk to my children about a healthy sex life?
Dr. Laura suggested starting at an appropriate yet early age. Call the body parts the real names. Teach them the real words. Send them the message that you are a safe and reliable source for this information. As difficult as it sounds, think about what you would hope for them to be their perfect first sexual experience, and when talking to them about sex, set it in that context. In other words, if you hope they don't have sex until marriage, any time they come to you with a question you would simply start your answer with, "Well, after you are married..." or "On your wedding night..." etc. They will naturally assign that value to it, because you are naturally instilling in them expectations and maintaining that "sex is a gift".
Yes, there were a few other graphic questions I'll be withholding from this blog for obvious reasons. Though, as you read my evaluation that follows, it is important for you to know that much.
What did I think?
SEX! Okay. I admit it, I was a bit nervous to go to this session. I had seen Dr. Laura on The Oprah Winfrey Show before, but I'm pretty sure almost every time she was on I ended up changing the channel at some point either because I found it irrelevant, uncomfortable, or just plain icky. Now, I don't want you to think I'm a prude (you don't think that, do you?) but, all that to say I wasn't sure what to expect from this lecture. I mean, I figured she wasn't going to be preaching abstinence from the stage, but was she going to just start tossing around sex tips like the cover of Cosmo??? I wasn't sure.
I was amazed at how Dr. Laura quickly and easily put the entire audience at ease. You'd have thought we were all there for a cooking demonstration by the way everyone's heads were bobbing in agreement and interest. The audience was diverse too...men (the few that there were), and women, of every age, race, orientation, and religion...all nodding with attention fully on what she said. Why? Because, come on people, this is SEX we are talking about. You are either getting it, or you want to get it, or you want to want to get it. Get it?
We are sexual beings, and God created us that way. Oh, and God created sex...so, if I'm starting to make you uncomfortable (and you start looking over your shoulder to see if someone is catching you reading a blog mentioning the word SEX too many times) then let's all remember that sex as God created it is an amazingly holy, totally beautiful, perfect gift that actually offers praise and honor to His name (again, when held in the context of His intention - that is, monogamous, heterosexual, marriage).
Yes, I am getting bolder by the moment. Yes, I may have just lost a few readers right there. (Don't go - just ask me more questions! Let's talk!)
And, you know what, I gotta say, the main thing I took away from Dr. Laura is this: people want and need a safe place to talk about sex.
C'mon, Christians, let's do this. We can do this! The Christian community has come a long way in overcoming the taboo of talking about s-e-x. But, it seems to me that people are still reserving their judgment and advice for sexual sin or marriage advice. That is, you don't get a lot of married folk out there finding a safe, Christian environment to throw around crazy questions and get the scoop on where to go after the wedding night.
I'm blessed to have a women's Bible Study that tackles some crazy issues in marriage...but, I know it is a rarity. Even within that Bible Study I have seen uncomfortability and reservations about some topics. I get it - it is SUPER AWKWARD. But, hearing a sex therapist dish it out to a crowd of thousands made me realize how ridiculous we are being.
OUR GOD CREATED SEX!
We need to offer each other the chance for this awkwardness to subside. We need to cut through the embarrassment and fear of judgment and just get it out there to deal with and go to GOD (don't make me say...okay, I'll say it...the ULTIMATE SEX THERAPIST) and get a grip with these questions.
Questions like "How does my body change after menopause and how does that affect sex?" "How can we spice things up after 5, 10, 30, 50 years of marriage?" "How do I talk to my kid about masturbation?" "What do I do if I no longer feel attracted to my husband?" and the list goes on and on and on.
Look, I know that this door isn't going to just come crashing down overnight. I know that we can't just invite all our married pals over to have a pow-wow over keeping marriage sexy. But, we can start with just being honest. Just being normal. Just being unashamed that heck YES we have awesome sex lives as Christians because that is exactly what God hopes for our lives and marriages.
Whew. Okay. Now, go kiss your husband.