I am so excited to introduce you to one of our contributing experts for the SBF Revolution Challenge, Sheri Bertolini! I recently interviewed Sheri about clutter, living intentionally, her book My Intentional Life, and I asked her what the top 3 tips for de-cluttering and finding freedom in organization are. I was blown away by what she had to say and can’t wait to share it with you!
A little about Sheri: Sheri Bertolini is not perfect. She’s genuine with her own share of struggles and flaws. But she’s learned how to determine what matters and how to organize life around it. Her home reflects her heart, and she believes others’ can too. Sheri has served as a professional organizer since March 2005. She’s also been a teacher, a coach, a speaker, single until 41, a stepmom, and now a grandma. She’s moved twenty-one times, living in homes from spacious to the size of a porch. Sheri and Roger (her “crazy Italian” husband), facilitate training and marriage seminars. Her passion is simply to help others live a full and intentional life, true to their heart. And that starts at home.
Suzanne: Where did your passion for organizing and teaching the freedom from de-cluttering come from?
Sheri: For as long as I can remember, I have liked order. I had a very energetic mom who loved reorganizing and rearranging. I joke about her getting up in the morning, hands on her hips, looking around the house and saying, “Let’s re-arrange the farm!” My creative nature thrives in a tidy, minimalist environment…somehow the pairing of creativity and home organization became my favorite way of living. Nothing gets me more jazzed than helping someone shed unnecessary weight and baggage – in home clutter and heart clutter. The two are so connected I’ve found it’s best to work with both!
Suzanne: From your experience what do you feel is the main thing that is holding people back from “connecting their heart to their life and home” as your site says?
Sheri: Being interested in making a change, and being ready to make a change is completely different. I can normally tell with one conversation if a person is truly ready to tap into heart and home issues. It is very normal for shame, fear, or some kind of emotional pain to be a root cause of clutter. If you are still hurting badly enough, you may not be ready to move forward. But when I hear words of resolve and sense the attitude of “I am so done with this and I’m ready to face this and put in the work necessary to push ahead,” I know they’re ready and we’ll make progress. Teachable hearts are so much fun to work with. But some folks just aren’t ready. They want to be but they may need a longer runway to truly begin making headway and feeling successful in our work together.
Suzanne: What are the most common lies that you hear women believing about themselves, their homes etc?
Sheri: The most common phrase I hear spoken is: “Yeah, I need to go through that” when referring to a box, a pile, a closet, some papers etc. And all of those “I need to go through that” piles create an enormous amount of guilt and shame that forms the lie that they’ve failed, they’re lazy, they’re bad housekeepers, they’re irresponsible… and there’s nothing I love more than to say “NO! It’s not true!” Life gets crazy, messy, and out of control. We all do our best to deal with any day, week, or season of life. Sometimes, we manage things valiantly. Other times, we feel like we’re being crushed and can’t ever get ahead no matter how hard we try. Those are the times when you just need help. Period. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you need help. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It means things got crazy. You’re not a bad mom, wife, or homemaker. It’s simply time to draw a line and say, “Hey! I need help. I need extra hands, or tools or principles I didn’t even know I didn’t have!” When you’re drowning, it isn’t time for a lecture from the lifeguard… It’s time for others to drag you to safety, and make sure you’re breathing!
Suzanne: What are some simple ways that you have learned to overcome those lies?
Sheri: Any time I hear someone speak about their perceived failure and personalize it as their identity, I see a red flag. When I hear, “I’m such a bad homemaker,” or “I can’t have people over because I’m such a slob,” I go into red alert mode and make sure they separate themselves from the problem. YOU are not a failure. You may have experienced a breakdown in communication, suffered a lack of time, gone through an emotional trauma, or over-committed to an activity. But let’s separate your identity from your behavior. I love asking questions like, “Whose rules are you following?” or “Who told you you’re a failure?” Asking the right questions brings gentle perspective and hopefully, allows the homeowner to step back for a moment and see that the problem isn’t their identity. “What’s keeping you?” is a good question to follow with “and where did that belief come from?”
Suzanne: Do you feel like a person’s home reflects who they are and how they are feeling?
Sheri: Absolutely! I can normally walk into a home and tell you a few things about those living in the home. Some homes hide what’s really going on. The more perfect the home, the more I wonder what’s really happening day-to-day. Perfection isn’t the norm. I prefer to see signs of life and tons of clutter with a heart that is aching to see relief. That’s when I see a teachable heart and willing spirit. I love working with that combination! We laugh and cry together and make progress. Homes that break my heart have an overabundance of stuff that they expect me to just alphabetize and make it all fit in their closets. They don’t want to learn or get rid of anything or even entertain the idea of making changes. They just want me to fix it and leave. I much prefer a teachable spirit who is ready for change. We can work together with that!
Suzanne: You wrote a book. Tell us about that!
Sheri: After organizing for several years and seeing the amount of stuff weighing down really amazing women, I just couldn’t wait to offer some ideas for lightening the load. I see everyone as valuable and deserving of a life filled with purpose and meaning. It makes me crazy to see the guilt, shame, and paralyzing indecision that overcomes so many people. I’m not perfect and certainly don’t have perfect answers. But I believe that we are all blessed with a gift of life – one that doesn’t need to be occupied or overwhelmed with material stuff. Stuff is here to serve us. Not the other way around. I want to inspire and motivate, teach and equip. But most of all, I hope to bring a sense of relief to those who struggle, and let them know their home can be as unique and beautiful as they are!
Suzanne: Where did your inspiration to write this book and speak come from?
Sheri: I started out as a teacher and coach, and oddly, the heart of a teacher has stayed with me regardless of my job. I LOVE empowering and educating. It just totally jazzes me to see anyone get unstuck! I’ve also loved writing since I was in eighth grade. The passion for helping women get free, love of writing and teaching all came together. I hope to write more!
Suzanne: What kind of freedom have you been able to see with people learning and applying your principles?
Sheri: A divorced, single friend of mine decided she was still weighed down by the emotional influence of furniture that connected her to her ex-husband. She used to paint and had shelved her artistic gift due to the emotional wear of the divorce. After reading my book, she told me that she realized she was being held back by furniture in her house. She got rid of it! And she created a bedroom that she named her “Start” room where she began to paint again, and learn to play guitar. She was determined to make a fresh start and move forward so she dedicated a room in her home to that very purpose! One friend put her house on a “weight-loss” program and her home has lost 800 pounds so far! She literally goes through every room asking every item if it deserves the right to stay in her house. If it doesn’t fit her life or support what she loves, she bags it, weighs it, and donates it! Another gal realized a bed her father had given her had a magnetic hold on her due to the memory of her deceased father. She pursued the root of the hold it had on her and had to walk through some forgiveness issues. Then she felt free to pass the bed on to a daughter, shedding tears, but knowing that the bed wasn’t her father. If was just a bed. And she had made peace with his memory!
Suzanne: What are your top 3 tips for de-cluttering and finding freedom in organization?
Sheri: Ask every item in your home, “Do you represent who I am now?” Then ask everything in your home, “What gives you the right to live in my house?” If it doesn’t have a good answer for reflecting you or supporting you and where you’re headed next, it’s dead weight. It probably needs to go. The biggest key is this: When you know who you are and where you’re headed, you know what fits in your life and what is just extra baggage. Building a home that reflects you and supports you… and gets you where you’re headed next…is a very intentional journey. Live your life instead of serving stuff!
Sheri also offers My Intentional Life Workshops!
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