Julie Morgenstern Interview

A Conversation with Julie Morgenstern

Q: What is SHED?
JM: SHEDing is a process for decluttering your life to make room for change. By letting go of the tangible clutter in your physical space and schedule, you gain the clarity, energy and insight to move forward and discover what’s next. Developed over years of working with her clients who were feeling stuck in their lives while craving change the SHED process involves 4 steps:
  • Separate the treasures—What gems are truly worth hanging on to?
  • Heave the trash—What’s weighing you down?
  • Embrace your identity from within—Who are you without all your stuff?
  • Drive yourself forward—Which direction connects to your genuine self?

Q: In our current economy, how important is SHEDing?
JM: It’s more important than ever. We are in a new era that requires we let go of old, unhealthy habits and behaviors, and move toward a stronger, healthier future. The physical and time clutter in our lives generates an enormous amount of waste, and at the same time prevents us from seeing what is possible. Under the inspired leadership of our new President Obama, the country itself is going through a major SHED—embracing what is good from our past (our founding values, hardworking spirit, history of prevailing through tough times, drive to lead), while releasing the unhealthy habits and behaviors which were bogging us down. On a personal level, each individual needs to do the same. In a tight economy, we have to be agile, making the most of our space, time and energy and clearing the space to bring our best selves forward.

Q: How do I know if I am ready to SHED?
JM: When you need or want to make a change in your life, but are feeling stuck and unsure, you are ready to SHED. Anyone facing a transition, such as a job change, downsizing, move, marriage, divorce, empty nest or retirement, will benefit from SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life. People of all ages, from all walks of life are candidates for SHED, and will know they are ready to SHED, if the following three feelings sound familiar:

There is a spectre of some better future in your mind. It may be hard to articulate, but it’s a deep-seeded wish, a hope, a dream, that’s been rattling around inside.

You don’t know if you can do “it”; whatever “it” might be.

You feel weighed down by something that’s preventing you from moving forward.

Q: What is the difference between organizing and SHEDing?
JM: Organizing works when you know where you want to go, but don’t know how to get there. When you want or need to make a change, but are unsure of your destination, you don’t need to organize, you need to SHED, eliminating the clutter so you have room to think about what’s next.

Think of it this way: if organizing is dropping anchor once you know what you want, SHEDing is lifting anchor so you can go some place new. Here are some additional distinctions:

You can be entirely organized and still need to SHED. A pristine closet filled with items you never use or an orderly calendar (with commitments that only weigh you down) can be cleared for something new.

It’s possible to get organized without throwing anything away. It’s impossible, however to SHED without letting things go.

While organizing has a clearly defined end point (e.g. you can organize your garage or home office in a weekend), SHEDing is an ongoing process that generates movement, and fuels transformation. SHED is another phase in the journey of living a rich and fulfilling life.

Q: What makes SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life different from other books about de-cluttering?

A: There are plenty of books that extol the benefits of throwing things away, yet most take a superficial, cavaliere approach, proliferating a broad strokes “toss it all” approach, which shames people into getting rid of things, Producing short term results at best. People dutifully empty their offices, closets and basements, only to end up back where they started months later. SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life offers a more thoughtful process, encouraging the reader to identify the items of value buried in the clutter, and recognizing the attachments we have to our old stuff before releasing them. Morgenstern debunks conventional wisdom by teaching that lasting success depends on what you do before and after letting go—not what you get rid of. Others will tell you how to get rid of things. SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life teaches you how to make it last.

Q: How is clutter defined in the context of SHEDing?

A: Clutter is defined as any obsolete object, space, commitment or behavior that weighs you down, distracts you or depletes your energy. Clutter, in the context of SHEDing, represents our attachment to something from the past that must be released in order to make room for change. Readers are instructed to search for suspiciously stagnant areas in their physical spaces and schedules: piles of untouched papers, clothes that haven’t been worn in years, a de-energizing to-do list that never seems to reduce, a bad habit they just can’t shake.

Morgenstern calls these pockets of clutter “Points of Entry”, because they provide an insight into an old belief system, a clue to your core identity, a very healthy impulse gone awry. Taking the time to find the value in the clutter before heaving it overboard provides a gateway to self-discovery, insight and growth.

Q. What strategies make SHEDing so effective?

A. Morgenstern recognizes how scary life can be without all our familiar stuff. How lonely it can feel to suddenly be without the reliable company of a messy room, an over-packed calendar or a comfortable role. With her signature wisdom, insight and understanding of reader’s psychological experience, Morgenstern provides practical techniques to overcome the panic that is often associated with letting things go, including such insights as:

· Remember that no one lets go into a vacuum – it’s hard to let go of something without reaching for something else to replace it. In SHED, readers create a theme or a vision, a focal point, a topic, for their future. The theme accompanies readers through each step of SHED, acting first as a broad feeling, and ultimately as the beacon, focus and filter paving the way during each step of the process. Samples themes include: Finding Deep Love, Building Wealth, Connectedness, Self-Expression, Contribution.

· Aim for a radical release in each point of entry, one area at a time. This requires readers to change their “set” point, the number of physical objects or level of busyness they are accustomed to. Holding onto more than 10-20 percent of the stuff in each stagnant area is dangerous, because it can keep you glued to the past.

· Be prepared to hit the wall of panic. About halfway through the SHED process, every reader (and client) experiences the overwhelming urge to clutch back for what was just tossed, or haphazardly lurch forward for something, anything new, even if it’ is not a good fit. Morgenstern helps readers tolerate the ambiguity and find the courage to stand empty-handed, filling the space instead with a directed exploration of who they are, what excites them, and the many possibilities they can pursue.

Q. What does life look like after I’ve SHED?

A: After you SHED, the world is in high resolution. The ultimate payoff? Clarity, “lightness of being,” and living as your most authentic, fully engaged self. You’ll feel confident to explore new paths, take chances, and identify what is right for you moving forward. Yet, SHEDing is almost never a straight shot – there are plateaus and even regression that are part of the process. Morgenstern counsels readers to beware of the 30% slip, and provides a diagnostic that redirects readers to the SHED step that will put them back on track.

SHEDing enables you to enjoy the journey through your transition rather than dread it, and in time you will begin to feel ready to anchor down again. And that is when it’s time to get organized. SHED is a cyclical process you can come back again and again. The moment you feel complacent, restless, or that your life could be something more, it’s time to SHED all over again. With SHED, Morgenstern showcases her unique gift for transforming a mechanical task into an opportunity for self-discovery and renewal.