top of page

CALM Down!

CALM Cull, Ask, Locate, Maintain

Our last blog post was about how to make wiser decisions by thinking about what to consider when choosing. Fortunately, for most of us, the vast majority of decisions we make aren’t matters of life or death.

Yet the results of even simple daily choices affect the quality of life, and making decisions is harder for some people than others, a lot harder.

At the core of everything I have accomplished with clients over the last 22 years as an organizer and coach is to help them figure out what and who serves their best interests and what (or who) doesn’t.

When I work with a client, the focus of our time together may be how to arrange their paper information, process mail and pay bills, assess ways to support a struggling employee, or organize a plan and track a project.

But the underlying process has always been about making choices. Pay this, not that. Organize the paper this way and create a file for that email. We find ways to understand and choose how to communicate with an employee to do their best for the company and themselves. Sometimes the focus is choosing what to start or stop doing to develop a process that saves time and money.

Everyone wants to find ways to reduce the stress that comes from being overwhelmed with too much to do and too many decisions to make. Ironically, people are working hard to calm down.

I created this simple method to use for less complicated choices that affect your time and surroundings, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.


Cull What doesn’t serve you. (With apologies to Marie Kondo, not everything in your life “sparks joy.”)

Ask Where and when you will use this “thing?” Where can you fit this project on your calendar? Where are the resources that can help you?

Locate Your answers will tell you how to arrange things, items, or projects in places that are logical to you.

Maintain Repeating this process consistently maintains your surroundings, time, and even relationships without as much struggle.

During a recent Understanding Chronic Disorganization class, someone called out, “What does cull mean?”

“It’s similar to sort but stronger,” I told the class.

“Sorting items, and even time and tasks, means putting similar things together in groups, like sorting socks into pairs.

Sorting implies that you’re choosing what to keep after you’ve categorized them into groups."

Culling is going one step further by separating what’s valuable to you from what’s not as important. It’s critical because whether we’re talking about time, possessions, or obligations, it lightens your load,” I added.

Oddly, the word comes from an old French form of cuiler, meaning to collect. Or maybe that does make sense since you must collect things before you can cull them.

The first step to organize anything is to ask what needs to happen next and where something should be logically located. It’s not enough to just name it, which is where most people stop.

Once you’ve gathered your options, in this case, your socks, the next task is to sort them into categories — solid blue with bananas, green with pears, and repeating penguins. Or maybe you prefer to ignore the patterns and just separate your high-top socks from ankle height. There’s no right or wrong answer, but a decision has to be made to begin the culling process.

The CALM process works for organizing furniture, tasks, appointments. It can even improve your relationships when you choose how to CALMly arrange your time for maximum attention to those you care about.