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A Peaceful Home or a Stressful Home?

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“Your home should be the antidote to stress, not the cause of it.” —Peter Walsh

I recently discovered this powerful quote by Peter Walsh, a famous organizer and author. As someone whose profession is helping people organize their homes, I am well aware of how much stress our homes can cause us. We long for our homes to be a place of peace and rest, but so often that is not the case. The reasons are numerous and diverse. But I would venture to guess that the most familiar reason is because of disorder, most commonly as a result of clutter. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. Whether the issue is one isolated space or your entire home, getting organized can be life-changing. I can tell you confidently that bringing order to your home can drastically reduce your stress level. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are a few comments from my clients:   

“With the piles of clutter disbursed, there is a calm here that has been lacking. She is great!! I appreciated her gentle manner, her non-judgmental acceptance and the hard work she did to help me regain that sense of peace a home should have.”

“Are you stressed out that between job and family you don’t have the time to organize your home the way you wish? Do you have “presentable” rooms and others filled with clutter that haunt you because you know you’ll never get to around to organizing them? That was me, until Angie stepped in.”

“In small and big ways, Angie’s organization skills are helping our home run more smoothly, and she is equipping me with tools that are making our family’s life so much more fun! Thank you!”

“I just didn’t realize how out of control my STUFF was until I saw clean organized spaces. She gently guided me in what to keep, donate and trash. I now to go to all the different areas of my home and just marvel at how good it looks and feels!”

“Angie is amazing! I needed to completely organize and declutter my garage which had become the central zone for so much clutter. Trying to organize it myself and rid it of the clutter became overwhelming and daunting…to the point of paralysis. Angie helped me not only work through the clutter but also come up with a solution for what to keep out and what to box up since we were going to be moving in the next month or so.”

Yes, you can organize your home on your own. But you may have reached the point where there is just so much to do that you are completely overwhelmed and you don’t know where to begin. You may know exactly what you need to do, but you just know that with your schedule, you literally don’t have the time to put into it. You may have attempted to organize on your own, but either weren’t able to complete the organization or weren’t able to maintain the order. You may be thrilled with the idea of getting help with organizing, but are uncertain whether you would be able to afford it. Whatever the situation, I can help! My passion is helping you get organized so that you can be at peace in your home and can spend more time doing the things you love. I offer a free, no pressure assessment visit where we sit and discuss your needs and how I can help. It could be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. 

 

Hire an Organizer or See a Dermatologist?

time-481445_1280I bet you’re wondering about that title. Organizers and dermatologists are completely different, right? An organizer helps people bring order and efficiency to their lives. A dermatologist diagnoses and treats diseases of the skin. What in the world do they have in common? Why would I be writing a blog entry comparing organizers to dermatologists?

Let me explain. Frequently when discussing with someone what I can do for their home or business as a professional organizer, they express initial interest. They admit that they need more order in their life, and that it’s not something that comes naturally to them. They might describe certain sections of their home that are particularly troublesome and how much they would love to get it organized. However, when I pursue the idea of working together, the most common response is something like, “I wouldn’t want you to see my house like that.” I reassure them that I understand, I won’t judge them, I most likely have seen much worse, and that it’s what I do every day, but they are still reluctant. It’s very difficult to get beyond that mental and emotional barrier.

On the one hand, I totally understand. As a former full-time homemaker and full-time mother for many years, I remember that right or wrong, much of my self-image was directly related to the state of my home. It’s always difficult to admit that a skill that comes so easily to many could be so elusive to others. You may feel that you should be capable of keeping an orderly home, and when that proves unattainable, you feel like a failure. We are our own worst critics, and we have such high standards for ourselves. But the truth is that everyone struggles with something. We all need help with something. The ability to organize a space and keep it that way isn’t entrusted to all. In addition, there are certainly seasons of life when we simply don’t have the time or the ability to do it. There’s no shame in admitting that and getting help.

I have thought so many times of the proper response to the statement, “I wouldn’t want you to see my house like that.” One day I thought of this parallel. Bear with me, because it’s going to sound a bit strange at first. Imagine that I had a very painful, unsightly rash. I tried a few home remedies to no avail, and I was desperate for relief. My well-meaning friend might say, “You should go see a dermatologist. I know they would be able to diagnose and treat that rash, and you would feel so much better.”

While internally I would admit this was the truth, what if I was unwilling to go because I was embarrassed? I might say something like, “My rash looks terrible. I wouldn’t want the dermatologist to see me that way.” My friend would probably be very frustrated and might point out that in order to treat the rash, the dermatologist has to see it. That’s what dermatologists do. They look at rashes, diagnose them, and treat them every day. My friend would probably try their best to convince me to look past the embarrassment so that I could be healed.

Now do you see the similarity? As an organizer, I specialize in helping people transform their spaces from chaotic to ordered. But I have to see the disorganized space in order to help bring order to it. I help with this very problem every day. It’s what I do best. I work with kindness and compassion, realizing that taking the step to get help is not an easy one. But it is certainly worth it.

If you can relate to this scenario or know someone who can, I would love to help. Peruse my website and see some of the projects I have worked on. Read the testimonials of clients that I have helped. We can talk on the phone first, or meet at a neutral location to talk about your needs. Take that step today. I feel certain that you’ll be glad you did.

Do You Have a Cluttered Mind?

brain-2062048_1280Every day in my work as a professional organizer, I help people deal with clutter. We work with physical clutter, which could be as varied as books, kitchen utensils, office supplies, tools, or toiletries. We work with digital clutter like email, documents, or passwords. But so many times, I find that the most harmful clutter in our lives is the clutter in our minds.

Do you ever feel that you have so many things swimming around in your brain that you can’t even think clearly? In the space of five minutes, I might be having all of these assorted thoughts:

  • I need to remember to send that email.
  • I need to take that shopping bag with the clothes I need to return when I go to Target later today.
  • Why is my shower always dripping? I need to call the plumber about that today because it’s driving me crazy.
  • What are we having for dinner tonight?
  • I really should exercise this week, but my schedule is really busy. Hmmm….
  • This junk drawer is ridiculous! I can’t ever find anything!
  • I better start working on that presentation that’s coming up soon.
  • Why can’t Republicans and Democrats agree on a good solution to our country’s health care problems?

And on and on and on it goes. Then, if I don’t do anything about these thoughts, five minutes later, like Dory with a short-term memory problem, I’m on to more and more scattered thoughts. It’s no wonder we are all constantly feeling overwhelmed. We have so much on our minds, so many tasks we want to accomplish, so many plates to keep spinning. Even if we are at the top of our game intellectually, our brains can only hold so much information. When our minds are cluttered, we are not able to focus on the task at hand for fear that all the other extraneous thoughts will be lost forever.

I have been thinking of this more than ever recently as I am reading a fascinating book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Originally published in 2002, this book has gained international acclaim. I am only about one fourth of the way through it, but already it has me excited about its potential. This excerpt from Amazon’s book review gives you an idea of his primary theory: “Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.”

I have found that in my own life, I have made some attempts to deal with my own mind clutter. I have a few “trusted systems” (borrowing from Allen’s terminology) to release a thought from my brain and put the idea into a format that will be remembered at the appropriate time. For example, if I find myself thinking, “I need to remember to send that email,” I am likely to either send it right away to clear it from my mind or to set a reminder on my iPhone to send it when I arrive at home (I love my smart phone!). When I come across a good idea for a future blog entry, I enter this into a list on my Trello board. If I need to remember to take something with me, I will either set it by my purse at the door or go ahead and put it in my car.

The exact system of clearing the clutter from your mind isn’t as important as just having a system for it. I can’t wait to read more so that I can deal more effectively with my own mental clutter and so that I have more useful information to share!

If you’d like to read more of my blog entries about organizational topics like this, you can read my article in the Kingsport Times News every other Sunday. Or sign up to follow my blog on my website, beshipshape.com. You can also “like” my business Facebook page.

 

A Home for Everything

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I was listening to an excellent podcast yesterday that I wanted to share with you. One of my favorite podcasts is called “Organize Mindfully”, and on Podcast #32, professional organizer Bonnie Jo Dewkett gave a great example of how having a place for everything in your home can simplify your life and help you accomplish more.

Her analogy involved the simple task of emptying the dishwasher. It’s a task we do almost every day. We may dread it, but once we get started, it doesn’t usually take very long at all. Why? Because most of us have a place for everything we unload from the dishwasher. We know where to put the cups, the plates, the bowls, the silverware. We can do it almost mindlessly, and it usually takes less than 5 minutes.

What if your whole house was just like this? What if there was one place for everything in your home? Wouldn’t keeping things picked up be so easy? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look around and know that even if things got a little messy (an inevitable reality in our lives), picking up would seem almost mindless because we would simply have to put everything back in its proper place?

Does this seem too good to be true? It is entirely possible to reach this state of organization. It will take some time, no doubt. You may think you don’t have that time. But did you know that for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned? You don’t have to do it all at once. There are many excellent plans for getting your whole house in order that require just a few minutes per day.

Are you too overwhelmed to even begin? I can help you get started! I offer a free, no pressure assessment visit. I can come to your home and talk with you about how we can work together to get you organized. Contact me today, and let’s get started!

If You Only Read One Organizing Book, Choose This One

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As a professional organizer, you probably aren’t surprised to learn that I frequently review organizing resources. I read books, listen to podcasts, read articles, peruse websites, take classes, view webinars, and participate in email and Facebook group discussions. I do this because I want to be the best that I can for my clients, but also because I truly love learning about and talking about organizing. My favorite format is listening to podcasts or audiobooks. I spend a lot of time driving to client’s houses and to meetings, and I love using that time to learn. Sometimes I’m even able to directly pinpoint what I need. For example, if I am on my way to organize a client’s closet, I might listen to my favorite podcast about closet organization. 

There are so many wonderful resources available. In fact, it can sometimes get a bit overwhelming. More often than not, those who struggle with organization have frequently purchased many books on the topic. Sometimes they read the books and try to put the principles into place, and other times, the books end up contributing to piles of clutter and never get read.

Many of these resources are well-written and practically helpful. But not all of them are applicable in every situation. Every organizer has a different style and approach, just as every reader has different perspectives and needs. One book may be perfect for one group of individuals while leaving others uninspired. Just as there is not just one way to organize, there is no one size fits all perfect organizing resource.

So what if you don’t want to review multiple resources?  What if you’d be lucky to find the time to only read one book? If that’s your situation, the book I would recommend for you is Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. Julie is one of the most well-known organizers in the field, and her book is practically required reading for any serious organizer. You may be wondering why out of all the multitude of resources out there, I have chosen this particular one. Here are a few of my reasons:

1. By the time this book was written, Julie Morgenstern already had many years of experience working with clients. She used this extensive knowledge base in writing the book, and everyone can probably relate to at least one of the stories she shares.
2. This book has stood the test of time. The book was first written in 1998, with the 2nd edition being released in 2004. Organizers around the world have read and reviewed this book, and it is on the National Association of Professional Organizers’ (NAPO) recommended reading list for new organizers.
3. Instead of going directly to the “how to’s” of organizing, the author starts with a thorough discussion of the many different reasons why a person might struggle with organization. These different reasons can lead to different solutions, so figuring out which applies to you is essential.
4. The book is well-written with practical advice and plenty of specific examples of how to implement the principles. However, instead of using a “one size fits all” approach, the author encourages the reader to analyze their individual situation meticulously. This will make it much more likely that their organizing efforts will be effective and maintainable.
5. In the resources section, there is a helpful appendix that can be used when organizing any area of your home or business.

There are so many other valuable resources on organizing available, many of them free. If you would like other recommendations, I would be happy to recommend some to you. If you have an organizing challenge you’re struggling with, I’d love to help. Organizing is my favorite discussion topic, so feel free to contact me anytime. My email address is beshipshape@gmail.com, and my business number is 423-567-4273.

What’s in Your Junk Drawer?

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You probably won’t be surprised to learn that there is nothing in my junk drawer because I don’t have a junk drawer. I am an organizer, after all, and a junk drawer goes contrary to everything I believe. But then again, I realize I am definitely on the edge of the bell curve when it comes to organization.

My favorite quote when it comes to organization is, “Clutter is postponed decisions.” Barbara Hemphill, one of the most well-known organizers in the industry, actually trademarked this phrase over 30 years ago because it speaks so well to the root of the problem when it comes to clutter. A junk drawer is the very epitome of this concept. We have something in our hand. We want to put it in the right place, but we are in a hurry. The drawer is handy. We open it, we hesitate just a moment, but then we toss it in the drawer. This drawer might have started out with a specific purpose and some order, but with time and multiple scenarios such as this one, it has become a junk drawer, filled with numerous categories of stuff.

So what’s wrong with a junk drawer? Ideally, every item in a house or an office should have an established home and stay in that home unless it’s being used. Then after its use, that item should be returned to its home. But we all know that in the real world, this is not always practical. So while as an organizer I despise junk drawers, I also realize that despite our best efforts, they will crop up.

How do you prevent a junk drawer from developing? Get your household and office drawers organized in the first place with clear distinctions as to what belongs and what doesn’t belong. Live by that “a place for everything, and everything in its place” axiom every day. Don’t delay those everyday decisions – take the extra few seconds to think about where an item really belongs before tossing it in that oh so handy drawer.

What if all of that seems unattainable and a junk drawer is just a fact of your life? If that is the reality of your life right now, that’s ok. Give yourself a break. There may come a time when you’ll be able to prevent it, but for whatever reason, at this point in time, it’s just not feasible. So what do you do? Here are my suggestions:

  • Limit your junk drawer to ONE drawer only. Don’t use this “free pass” as an excuse to let every single drawer get out of control.
  • Before tossing something in there, if you have a few seconds, go ahead and put that item in its proper place (another room, another drawer, the recycling container, the trash can). Maybe you can make it not quite as junky as quickly. 🙂
  • Force yourself to dump everything out and organize it on a regular basis. Schedule it if you can, because we all know that something is a lot more likely to occur if it’s planned. If not, when it really gets out of control or too full to close the drawer, take the time to put it back in order.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are junk drawers inevitable? Have you had success in preventing them? What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found in a junk drawer? Has this post inspired any change?

 

My “Organized” Does Not Equal Your “Organized”

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When you walk into a space, can you tell whether it’s organized simply be looking at it? Consider the following example of two offices. When you enter Office A, you see a clear desk, a clean floor, bookshelves with matching baskets neatly arranged, tasteful decor on the walls, and a file cabinet with labeled drawers. Office B looks completely different. The desk is covered with stacks of papers. There are several piles of books and binders on the floor, along with a a tower of milk crates filled with items. The bookshelves have collections of mismatched baskets and boxes, and giant Post-It notes with sloppy handwriting line the walls. Which office would you say is organized? In this example, I think we would all assume that Office A is much more organized.

Let’s examine the two offices a little more closely. In Office A, what if I told you that when you open the labeled drawers of the file cabinet, they are full of a huge assortment of various papers, the desk drawers contain a random collection of unrelated objects (office supplies, snacks, pictures, tools, coins, make-up, etc.), and the matching baskets on the bookshelves are mostly empty except for a few wads of paper and candy wrappers? If I were to ask the person working in Office A if I could borrow their stapler, this person might respond by stating they’re not sure if they have even one and suggest I try asking someone else. In Office B, the stacks of paper on the desk are divided by categories, the piles of books and binders on the floor are grouped according to ongoing projects, the mismatched baskets and boxes each have a separate category of supplies, and the Post-It notes define current job responsibilities for an office team. When I ask the person in Office B for a stapler, they go straight to the bookshelf and find it in one of the mismatched containers. Now which office would you say is more organized? Clearly looks can be deceiving.

You see, organization is much more about function than about structure. Being able to find what you need when you need it is a truer measure of organization than whether the space is pleasing to the eye. There is a place for neatness and pleasing aesthetics, especially in a public space, but when it comes to organization, the true test is in how the space functions. If a significant portion of the time it takes to complete the task is taken up in looking for supplies, I would argue that the space is NOT organized, no matter what it looks like.

The picture above is from a scene of a play I performed in last year with Kingsport Theatre Guild called “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. This play, an adaptation of the classic novel by C.S. Lewis, was one of my very favorite theatre experiences. One of the most difficult scenes for us to perform was the final battle scene where the army of King Aslan fought against the forces of the evil White Witch. During this scene, the stage was covered with actors, many of whom were involved in their own skirmish in the midst of the larger battle. Weapons of all kinds were wielded (I even had the opportunity to participate in a sword fight, which was my first experience with stage combat), fists were bared, hand to hand combats abounded, and there appeared to be a general sense of disorder. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every single movement in this scene was planned out to the smallest detail during countless hours of rehearsal. Every actor knew exactly what to do at exactly the right time to ensure safety and to convey the mood of the scene. Although it appeared chaotic, the stage was extremely organized.

Now think about your home or your office. Are your spaces organized? How can you tell? When you are ready to prepare a meal in your kitchen, can you easily and quickly find the recipe, the ingredients, and all of the tools you need to prepare it? When you were ready to prepare your taxes for 2017, could you find all of the essential paperwork and/or digital files you needed to file your taxes? Or did you waste hours in frustration looking for them? What about if you need to perform a minor home maintenance task? Can you  quickly find the manual you might need to consult and all of the supplies you need to accomplish the task?

Hopefully now you can look at all the areas of your home and office with a more fine-tuned vision. Look with an eye to function and efficiency. That doesn’t mean it can’t also look great. If your space is functional as well as pleasing to the eye, that’s a bonus! True organization can only be assessed by seeing how the work in a space is accomplished. It goes much deeper than what meets the eye.

Variety is the Spice of (My Working) Life

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I love my job as a professional organizer! There are so many aspects of my job that I enjoy. I am challenged and fulfilled. I constantly learn new things. I get to work with so many amazing and interesting people. I have a flexible schedule. But what I love most about my job is the variety. Every day is different. Each day I have a new organizing challenge. I’d like to tell you about some of the different organizing jobs I have done. It could be that there is something I can help you or a friend with that you hadn’t thought an organizer could do. Or at least it might be an interesting read in the theme of “A Day in the Life of an Organizer”.

  • I unpacked and set up an apartment for someone moving into the area. I was given only the instructions “set it up like you would your own home”. The new resident didn’t have to lift a finger, and the apartment was live in ready!
  • I am helping declutter and organize an entire house, one drawer, cabinet, closet, and room at a time.
  • I organized a storage shed with tools, fishing equipment, and car maintenance supplies.
  • I teach free organizing classes to groups.
  • I organized costumes and props for a community theatre.
  • I helped someone organize all of their paperwork and set up a system to maintain that order.
  • I decluttered and organized a basement and garage for someone preparing for a move.
  • I organized a storage closet with special event supplies and cleaning supplies for a small business.
  • I organized books and craft supplies in a school classroom.
  • I organized toys in a playroom.
  • I organized all of the files in a non-profit office.
  • I organized a library storage area.
  • I organized a craft closet.
  • I can help you organize your schedule and find ways to be more productive.

I’d love to help you with your unique organizing challenge! Contact me today, and let’s get started!

 

Why I Don’t (Want to) Live in a Perfectly Organized Home

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This picture of a disorganized attic wasn’t taken at a client’s home. This is my attic. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but I think it’s important that you see it. Although my home is definitely well above average as far as organization goes, it still has problem areas, and this is one of them. Although you might think the home of an organizer would be nearly perfect most of the time, the reality is that it isn’t. And I am ok with that.

Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to a certain standard. We browse on Pinterest or thumb through a home magazine and see pictures of beautiful, perfect houses with everything in its place. We desperately want that! We try to figure out how we can achieve it. We think that if only we could finally get our house organized, life would be calm, and we would be at peace. We wouldn’t run around like the proverbial chicken, frantically arranging our belongings and our plans so that we can deal with the crisis of the day. But try as we might, the goal remains elusive, just out of our grasp. And we feel like a failure.

I interact with other organizers daily on email groups and Facebook pages. Recently one of these groups has been discussing the reality of our own homes. Organizers across the country are making statements such as, “I sure hope a client doesn’t drive by when my garage door is open!” or “If my clients saw my home, they wouldn’t hire me!” It’s been liberating to admit that even as specialists in organization, we still struggle. I love that about these groups! My comment on that thread was that I think it’s important for our clients to know that we can relate to them, that we are real people with busy lives and our homes reflect it.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that even though my house can sometimes get in disarray, I know how to recover. I have high standards for my home and my life, but I am also realistic. I don’t let my desire to keep things ordered keep me from enjoying life. And neither should you! The homes you see on Pinterest and in the magazines are wonderful, and we can use those pictures for organizing ideas. But never lose sight of the fact that a model home is just that – a model. Our homes show signs of being lived in. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Magazines and Coffee Cups

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Everyone has something they have a hard time parting with, even if keeping that item defies logic. Old magazines are a common item for accumulating clutter in our homes. Many people have boxes and boxes full of old magazines. They may be convinced that someday they will read them again. Or then again, they may know deep down that they probably won’t read them again, but still they want to hold onto them.

I recently read a great analogy concerning keeping old magazines. Once again, I owe this one to my favorite organizer, Lisa Woodruff of Organize 365 in Cincinnati. Lisa was talking to a client who had saved hundreds of old magazines. When she questioned her client about them, she learned that her client had actually already read every single one of those magazines from cover to cover. Here’s an excerpt from her blog entry, “Are Your Magazines Empty Coffee Cups?” 

That morning, I was 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Some of you may remember that I posted on Facebook that my first cup of coffee didn’t quite do it, so I stopped by Starbucks and got a tall Caramel Macchiato. Yum.

It was SO yummy and warm. And when it was gone – I THREW THE CUP AWAY. Even though I spent $3.55 on it…and even though I loved it. It was empty. I had enjoyed and consumed the product.

At the end of my story I said, “Your magazines are like empty Starbucks coffee cups.”

So then I asked, “Are there any titles you can part with?”

Her reply was, “All of them.”

Personally, I don’t have a problem with saving old magazines. I am happy to pass them along to someone else or recycle them as soon as I finish them. I only have a subscription to one, and I receive a few just from being a member of several organizations. In fact, I don’t hang onto many things at all. I am moving more and more toward simplicity and minimalism, especially since becoming an organizer. I delight in getting rid of what I don’t need any more. So at first, I thought this article didn’t apply to me.

But now that I am reading the blog entry again, the last sentence really hits home for me: ‘What are you holding on to that you have already “consumed?”’ For me, it’s not magazines. It’s not books.  I have given away many books and have almost completely switched to reading books on my tablet. In looking around my home, I realize the category I have the most trouble parting with is home decor. If you look in my attic right now (please don’t, because it’s kind of a mess), you’ll see that I have saved quite a few items that really aren’t my style any more. I like all of the decorations I am using in my home right now, and there isn’t room for anything else. I enjoyed those old decor items for quite a while, so maybe like the cup of Starbucks hot tea (I am the only Hyche who doesn’t like coffee), one might say I have already “consumed” them. So why do I continue to keep them?

Why do any of us keep things we don’t need? Well, that might just have to be another blog entry. In fact, it really could be a whole book! I think the first step in dealing with clutter of any kind is recognizing it and being willing to admit that maybe it’s time to make a change. I’m vowing publicly right here and now that I am going to part with some of my home decor items. And clean up my attic. Yes, even an organizer’s house has unorganized areas sometimes. 🙂

What about you? Think about your house and your belongings. Ask yourself the same question: What are you holding on to that you have already “consumed?” Are you ready to make a change?