How to Shift out of Robot Mode and Engage with Life

Some days can feel like a blur.  Work, emails, appointments, kid activities, meal prep, exercise – the list goes on and the clock ticks as I continue to push through one item after another.  These are the days when I can easily slip into “robot mode.”

When robot mode gets turned on then my day revolves around production.  I become very efficient and very determined.  I find myself driven by the voice in my head that thrives on “Look how much you are getting DONE!”  A mechanical human with eyes focused on the next thing & a heart guarded to keep emotion at bay – no time for that!! 

And robot mode feels very stiff.  I am unable to flex with life’s curveballs.  The clock & the to-do list are constantly on my mind & when something unplanned gets introduced, I get resentful & cranky.  “How dare you mess with my timeline!” I scream inside.

It has taken years of falling into this pattern to realize that a robotic life is not the life for me.  It may be efficient, productive and keep the machine of my family & work running, but it doesn’t account for joy, creativity & the wholehearted love that I need & crave.

I know that in order to live a fulfilling life I need to take my time on things and be open to embrace moments of spontaneity.  I long to enjoy beauty and feel the wonder & awe in everything that surroundings me.  I want to be engaged and ready to connect with the people in front of me. And I am happiest when I sing and laugh each day.

But the stiff armor is always waiting for opportunities to trap me into it’s more, more, more mentality, so I work to stay watchful and be proactive.  Here are a few simple strategies that keep me from getting stuck in robot mode or pull me out when I am head down & my to-do list is running on overdrive.

Create A Daily “Enough” List 

Each day I write down the three things that I really want to accomplish for the day.  These are the items that feel the most essential to complete given all of the moving pieces of the day.  Keeping a smaller daily list of tasks allows for a sense of completion and the freedom to invite spontaneity.

When I catch myself trying to add more items to my daily list, then I stop, turn the page & instead write them on a separate list that captures ideas for the whole week.  This practice eases the urgency.  I haven’t forgotten about these ideas/projects, but can give myself a break about getting to them right now

Shift the Focus

When my head is spinning & I can’t stop watching the clock, I use a simple trick that I learned years ago on a yoga retreat.  I shift my focus to something far off, like the sunset or the top of a tree and allow my gaze to blur – zoom out.  After a few minutes, I turn my eyes toward something close by & focus on one tiny aspect of that thing – zoom in.  This shift from grand to tiny is a simple practice that brings me back to the present & keeps the big picture in mind.

Take A Daily Dose of Nature

Each day I make time for a few moments outside.  I might spend it walking my dog, eating lunch in the sunshine, or stepping out to watch the trees in the breeze.  The amount of time varies, but this time in nature offers the expansion that keeps my focus from becoming narrow & rigid. 

Make Eye Contact

If I have stopped making eye contact with the people around me, then I know that I am in robot mode.  I stop & look into eyes of the person right in front of me and there is an immediate shift that breaks down my armor.  I am no longer running on auto-pilot, I am open to whatever emotion is present in front of me. 

Be Moved by Music

I find that I switch right out of robot mode when I turn on some good music.  I can’t help but engage with the words & feel a lightness in my body when songs that I love are playing.  I love to listen & sing along while I cook & find that music makes me feel flexible & light- no robot allowed unless I choose it as a dance move! 

End the Day in Gratitude 

I keep a small dated journal by my bed & each night I write 3-5 simple things that bring a sense of gratitude, contentment, or joy.  This simple ritual doesn’t take long and has become a peaceful way to re-center & take stock at the end of the day.

On the days when robot mode is in full gear, it requires a little searching to find gratitude.  But those are the days when I remind myself of immediate things like my warm bed or the ability to breathe in and out.  This practice is simple, consistent & has become a habit that allows me to tune in to my heart each day.

It is easy to get stuck going through the motions, but my life is so much more enjoyable when I am engaged, flexible, open & present to the people & things around me.  I know I wasn’t meant to be a robot.

Can you relate?  What helps when you find yourself stuck going through the motions?



My Recipe Clutter was Causing Stress in the Kitchen!

Are your recipes and cookbooks an overwhelming mess?  Do you google or use your phone to save recipes rather than pull out recipe cards?  Are you always ripping recipes from magazines and losing them in piles?  Are your cookbooks gathering dust on a top shelf?

I wouldn’t be surprised if you answered yes to every one of these questions because I was right there with you on all of the above!

My recipes had gotten out of control.  And the desire to make some sense of this project was continually nagging at me every time I sat down to put together meal ideas for the week or find something to make for dinner.

It all started years ago with a subscription to Cooking Light.  It was a great magazine & each month I took time to thumb through &  pull out the recipes that looked tasty & fairly simple.  I then slipped them into sleeves in 2 white binders – one for main meal ideas and one for sides, desserts, salads & soups.  (This must have started pre-kids or at least when life felt a little less chaotic!)

Eventually the binders got full & a file folder was used to corral the overflow.  Fast-forward through gluten-free diet experimenting, Whole30 eating, detox recipes and years of changing taste buds.  The small cabinet over the stove was overflowing with an abundance of paper recipes, plus cookbooks & 2 more binders of hand-written recipes that were rarely consulted.

All of this recipe clutter was causing trouble for me and anyone else in our house that wanted to spend some time cooking or baking.  It was time for a change!

Here are the steps that I took to decrease the clutter & create some ease around getting meals made in our house.

First, I started with some goals
  • Decrease the quantity by 1/2.  I had two 3- ring binders, a file folder, 2 recipe card binders & multiple cookbooks.  No way did I need or want all of this.  I like to experiment in the kitchen but not enough to support that much stuff!
  • Be realistic!  That meant “getting real” about the recipes that we truly like to eat and that I like to make vs. the ones that I either thought I wanted to try or that have been out of rotation for a long time.
  • Find an easy solution that saves time.  I wanted to create an easy storage solution for NOW -how our life works right now & the time I want to spend on this project.  I went into this project knowing that this would not be the last iteration with recipes.

After I had the goals in mind, I got down to the SORT.  I needed to spread out & be willing to make a mess!

I labeled sticky notes with the words:  YES, MAYBE, and RECYCLE and started with the loose paper recipes.

I wanted the first sort to go quickly so I gave myself a little wiggle room.  If the recipe still looked yummy & I wanted to look at it a second time then I put it in the MAYBE pile.  This allowed the work to go fast & kept the decisions pretty easy.  I followed the same process with the recipe cards.

After the first sort, I cleared the recycling (actually I did this a few times!)  And then it was time to get REALISTIC!

I noticed I was saving a lot of recipes (especially the ones on the recipe cards) because they were sentimental.  And this was taking up space.  I had to get clear on the recipes that I wanted access to & which one I could let go of or save in another way.

I also had tons of printed out papers that were in bad shaped – wrinkled from spills and just plain hard to read.

I decided that the easiest solution for the way our life works NOW was to continue using a binder, but keep all the loose paper contained to just one.  A 2″ binder was as big as I was willing to go, so that decision set the parameters for how much to keep.

Then it was time to get the categories pulled together.  I sorted the recipes, made new copies of the pages that were wrinkled or worn out, as well as many of the recipe cards.  I saved space by copying multiple cards on a single sheet.  Finally, I added some blank divider pages & labeled those pages with tabs

And now I am ready to cook again!  It feels like such a relief to open that cabinet & be able to find the recipe I am looking for.

This project is STEP ONE of a bigger goal to decrease paper recipes & this is a good solution FOR NOW.  And that is the whole point of decluttering – getting to a solution that makes sense for how life works right now.  In the future, I probably want to store my recipes in Evernote & utilize my iPad instead of a binder, but for now, this will work.  It’s the step in the right direction that I needed to add some ease around feeding our family!

Your Turn…

The holidays are almost here and for many people that means spending more time in the kitchen.  If your cluttered recipes, drawers, cabinets, or pantry are keeping you from enjoying that time, then reach out.  Together we can make sense of what you truly need, clear out what you don’t, & bring back a sense of ease to your kitchen!



How Creating Beauty Feeds the Soul

A couple weeks ago the kids were out of school for the annual MEA break here in Minnesota so it was the perfect time to take a couple days off and head up north to my parents’ lake/retirement place in Northern MN.

As the kids are getting more involved with friends & activities it can be harder to find weekends to get away, so this fall break is something we count on & look forward to.

And I love being up north at this time of year!  The slow mornings for tea & a warm blanket, the quiet lake, the bright sun coaxing us outdoors, the leaf piles, and the last bonfires snuggled under the stars, wrapped once again in blankets.

Often the “cabin,” as we call it, is full of family on these kinds of weekends, but this time it was just my kids, my parents and I.  And I was determined to have some days to shut off the “should” button on work, but I continue to find that the designer, organizer, improver, creator in me doesn’t really ever shut off.

What began as an effort to straighten a rug, evolved into rearranging and moving furniture from all around the house to create a more functional, cozy main living area for us all.

First, I pulled in a larger rug from the porch to ground the 2 couches that had been floating around a tiny rug.   Then the side table from one bedroom and a desk from another were tucked into corners & will now get regular use & balance the heft of the couches.  A coffee table on sale at Target was ordered & a few fresh throw pillows were picked up in town.

Five years ago, we began furnishing this cabin for function with extras.  We all added items pulled from our collective houses, unique finds from second-hand stores, & bargains that we came across.  And now that we have had a few years to find out exactly how we use the spaces & what we need to be comfortable, it’s time for this home to function well and find it’s style.

Here is the cabin on move-in day 5 years ago.

Here is the space as the REDESIGN is in progress. Stay tuned for an updated pic.

Reminder that we are not going for Pinterest-perfect pics & designs here- this is real life.  I value the Permission to share and love your spaces because they work for YOU.

I came home & thought about the excitement that a project like this brings to my day.   There were other things that I could have done with my time,  but re-creating this space felt necessary to better fit our growing family & the upcoming holiday get-togethers.

And it brought me joy!

I came home refreshed and then ran across this quote from Alice Walker.


“Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”


It was affirmation that creating beauty, as well as function in a space is what I love to do.  And when my mom called and mentioned how she was enjoying the cozy new living room – well, that was just icing on the cake!

PS.  The other rooms weren’t left in a shambles, they also got tweaked to make sense with less furniture clutter & a plan to be on the lookout for up-cycled pieces that might be perfect for our cozy, yet practical cabin vibe!

Inspired & Ready for a Change?

Sometimes all you need is fresh set of eyes to see the possibility in your spaces.  I love being those fresh eyes.  Schedule a Clarity Session and in one hour you will be able to see your space in a new light.

And if you don’t live nearby or your schedule is too full to meet in your space?  We can make this happen with a virtual session.  All I need are a few pictures and an idea of your goals & I’ll create a plan that will offer the shifts you are looking.

Make the seasonal shift & donate the extras

The Tip for your Tuesday is to Donate your EXTRA SWEATERS & COATS

If you have sweaters or coats that have been hiding in the back of your closet for so long that you don’t remember if they fit, if they are still your style, or even how many are stuffed back there, then it is time to take stock  AND THEN DONATE.

Now is the time to make the seasonal switch – Move the spring/summer clothes out of the high-frequency areas & organize the warmer items so that they are front & center for you every day!   Spending a a little time now to sort, organize & donate will not only create greater ease getting dressed each day, but will allow your extra items to be snatched up by someone in need before it gets even colder.

Corral Your Books!

A book lovers Tip for Your TUESDAY!

If your bedside table or the side-table beside your favorite chair is overflowing with books, then it’s time to corral them!  Grab a basket, box, or bin & put all of the books that haven’t gotten any attention in the past 3 months into it!  Leave the books that are REALLY calling to you NOW on the table!  Let yourself off the hook about reading every good book right now (they will still be waiting for you when you are ready) and you will avoid the mess of the book tower falling!