I keep breathing in, and breathing out. Mostly breathing out. I have never taken pictures of my office anywhere before, because I have never had a beautiful workspace. I’ve always been plagued by lots of piles of paper, and quickly get overwhelmed at the prospect of finding the next organizing system that will finally work for me.

Things had gotten completely out of control in my extra bedroom/office at home. When I first moved here – from a five bedroom home in Cleveland to a two-bedroom apartment in Menlo Park – I thought I would seamlessly transition from pantsuit-wearing frequent flyer to solo entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. The only thing I thought would change was the company name and title on my business cards. Everything else I liked about the way I lived – so I thought – would remain the same.

So I had a guest bedroom which also served as my home office. Before the end of my first twelve months here, that room was filled with my brainstorming – which I do on large pieces of white paper taped to the walls, and ideas written in permanent marker – and market research – which I stored in cardboard boxes (a la New York choreographer Twyla Tharp, whose filing system for her creative projects is cardboard boxes labeled in permanent marker). Piles of papers – the contents of my information packets for the school I was starting – sat on the bed in this guest bedroom. I found that the surfaces in the room were insufficient for the work and ideas pouring out of my head and heart.

Fast forward three to four years. The business is humming, I’m answering everyone’s cocktail party questions easily and satisfactorily – “How many students do you have?” and “Do you have a studio space?”. I was foolish enough to believe that just because people asked those questions in polite company that they were the most relevant questions to answer for my business. Haha! But I forged ahead and made them my goals anyway.

Done and done. More than enough students. Got my own space. Now what?

Well that’s when the silence of the stillness within my heart began to sing to me.

My home office was the one room in my apartment that I could not explain to myself or anyone else. It was just a chaotic collection of things I didn’t know what to do with. When I wanted things out of sight when other people came over, I shoved them in my office and closed the door. When people gave me gifts and cards I didn’t have a use for, I put them on the floor in my office. I never really did anything with the closet, which ever since I moved in five years ago, has housed all of my boxes of medical school texts and binders full of notes.

It had gotten to the point where I could not enter the room. I didn’t want to but there was also barely any floor space that didn’t have a pile of something that was “to be sorted later” – when I found the perfect organizing system.

Ha! Well, lucky for me, exactly when the timing was right – about a month ago – the universe sent me the words of my beautiful friend Rayme, The Organizing Queen. She said, “I know you’ve joked before about having me help you organize, but if you’re serious about it I’d enjoy helping you.” She’d ENJOY helping me ORGANIZE? I knew she was sincere, but I really couldn’t believe there could be another person who derived JOY from organizing clutter! Now I am a believer:

Rayme spent seven hours today with me – we stopped only for a brief dinner break – moving through my office piece by piece, sorting, shredding, donating, trashing, filing, asking the direct questions about why I have certain things. I felt like a child getting the mothering I wished I’d had. But most of all I recognized the pattern that all of the things that cluttered my office – and I am NOT DONE cleaning up at all! this is merely the beginning of a process of developing new habits cultivated every day. Everything I was holding on to was a monument to the things I had achieved in the past – all the evidence of things I had proved to myself I could do. But they were all done! I had transitioned several times since medical school, for instance, yet all of the available storage space in my room was occupied with boxes (untouched in over five years) of things associated with that time and an identity I no longer associated myself with. This was just one example. Later on I found all the business cards I had ever accumulated in my brief career as a venture capitalist. I learned I was quite a networker! I had thousands of business cards from those years – people who had long since moved on to other positions, companies which had long since run out of money, legends in the biz who I wanted to make sure I met (and I did!). All of them happily went in the trash today.

I am creating a new folder to capture names for my new mailing list, the one I will be building for my new creative endeavors and directions in life. it is fresh. I intend to start it fresh and keep it alive by frequent revisiting and cleaning. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to do that – Rayme may have to teach me again – but I know now that letting go of the past is such a necessary step in making room for change to happen. People will come and go – this is good! This means you are growing and expanding your possibilities. The love you project for yourself will remain in the hearts of every single person who has met with your love. Whether or not you still have their business card in a box somewhere has no bearing.

There were some gems of inspiration hidden among the piles of old stuff. I had been collecting inspirational quotes for quite some time. These moved with me all the way from Cleveland, but are interestingly still so central to what I am exploring today:

“Something happens when we consciously choose to become still, to let go of all thinking, and just be very quiet….We can listen more easily and hear more clearly. There is more space for what really needs to be said, to be voiced.” – Jim Dreaver, “The Power of Silence”

“We must become hospitable to change. If we do not, then just as today is like yesterday, every tomorrow will be like today. The price tag for what you want is hospitality. Pay it, and all the grace in the universe is yours.” – Darshani Dean, Wisdom, Bliss, and Common Sense

“Instead of manufacturing it ourselves in the little love machine inside our chests, we complain about not getting enough of it, search frantically for someone else to give it to us, and try to make ourselves more lovable by improving our looks or earning more money….By cultivating caring, loving feelings you can actually provide yourself with the nourishment you seek.” – Stephan Bodian, Meditation for Dummies

Ahhhh. I’m going to sit back and enjoy my office now. I am thankful for the amazing blessing of a friend with a heart like Rayme’s.

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