Your surroundings impact your health, productivity, and happiness. This is not just the literal space, but what is in that space and why – including digital content.

Making a sustainable, healthy environment is not just about recycling and composting. It is about setting up the physical space you spend your time in to reflect the person that you are. That does not need to be as woo woo as it sounds. It is about letting your space work with you and reflect who you are, whether that means you are a collector of beloved cat figurines or a minimalist. For me bringing the outside world of nature to my indoor spaces is important, but it needs to generally be in an organized way that leaves plenty of “white space.” And don’t forget your digital world. Our gadgets give us vast amounts of storage in email inboxes and shared drives, incoming messages of all types and originations, and outgoing content that may or not be as meaningful as you want it to be.

Look around – is the space you are in now reflecting who you are? Who you want to be? Who you want the world to see? What needs to be added, removed, or changed to support the life you want to lead?

Case Study: Environmental Productivity

Just in case you think I am knocking life out of the park, today will be a case study of environmental productivity. Or lack thereof.

Last month our oldest got an apartment of her own. Not a dorm room, not campus housing. The kind of place where you have to furnish it yourself. Which cause a mass exodus of furniture from our house. 

Which is absolutely ok and what we planned for. We raised our kids to become independent young adults. But this rite of passage has left left a hole in our environmental productivity. We are slowing puttering our way through this home makeover, but it has left my environmental surroundings unsettled. 

  • We moved beds around so I no longer have a bed in my office. Yay!
  • There is a closet I could podcast from, but there I no power in the closet. Boo. 
  • I now have more space for craft supplies and activities. Yay!
  • There is no budget for purchasing furniture to reorganize supplies and activities. Boo. 

I want to use what we have in our home to creatively furnish these repurposed spaces instead of buying new. I am less excited about the hassle of navigating used purchases from Facebook Marketplace or yard sales. 

So this is the current state of things – podcasting from the floor. 

I can make it about 5 minutes before my foot falls asleep and I have to pause the recording and change positions. My back hurts the whole time I am sitting here. I certainly won’t be able to have guests over to record with me on the floor. But I am not sure where I want what activities to happen so I am trying to be patient and let the solutions evolve. 

It reminds me of the story I shared in episode 24 of the Sustainable Productivity podcast about physical clutter. A university task force could not agree on where to put the sidewalks for a new construction project. Finally they decided to just wait to see where people walked and put sidewalks there. 

I am going to stop worrying about finding the perfect space for things or perfect things for the space and just live with what I have for now. Sometimes Sustainable Productivity is about accepting the current status.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Is there something in your environment that is making you uncomfortable?
  2. Do you feel uncomfortable NOT making a decision and just sitting with several options? Why do you think that is?

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that work for you. 

By |2023-08-06T11:11:32-04:00August 15th, 2023|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments


Remember when I said the only thing I wanted to get done during Christmas break was to clear the clutter in my Tupperware drawer? Then I took 6 months off from writing and still did not clear it out?

Welp, the day of reckoning came last weekend. Our Tupperware situation became unsustainable and unproductive. As with all behavior change, when the pain became too great, change happened. 

Unproductive / Unsustainable

Unproductive / unsustainable is a state that has a clear, distinct look depending on what the root cause is. For ContainerGate it was 2 drawers that would not open reliably (the Tupperware had spread from 1 drawer to the drawer below), covering containers with foil or plastic wrap because we could not find lids, and considerations to just buy new and start over. 

My name is Susan, and I am powerless over plasticware and my drawers have become unmanageable.

I know plasticware might not be your issue though so I want to share what is below the surface of ContainerGate:

  • Frustration when the drawers stick, and we can’t get to non-Tupperware pans
  • Misdirected anger because lids are missing (I am sure no one is pranking me, but damn it feels like it sometimes)
  • Shame that my kitchen does not look like The Home Edit reveal with everything perfectly aligned in rainbow order or uniform plastic bins

Wait – are we still talking about Tupperware? Well, yes and no. It is never just about the containers, is it? It is about the feeling that you want to chuck it all and run away. Dumping the whole drawer in the trash and shelling out money for new is the equivalent of avoiding hard discussions, drowning emotions in alcohol, and numbing feelings with food or busyness. None of this is getting a desired result of smoothly opening the drawer, speaking your truth to a friend or matching your insides to your outsides. 

And friend – avoiding what got us to the messy drawer (or its equivalent) is not sustainable. The mess will come back. It is like brushing a tooth with a cavity and wondering why it still hurts. 

So I did the work one Saturday morning first thing (eat the frog first), and it literally took 30 minutes. Here is how the results broke down in each dimension of Sustainable Productivity.

Health & Fitness

We do need lots of containers even though it is just the two of us. We often freeze parts of meals for leftovers, make big batches of soup or chili, and make stock from leftover veggies and carcasses. This helps us eat healthier and save on groceries. 

Mental Well-being

I admit to having an overall hard time parting with the take out containers. However, some of that comes from the fact that when the kids come for dinner, we pack up leftovers in these take out tubs. This way they can keep them if they want, but if they get tossed out or recycled it is ok too. Keeping these disposable items indirectly helps me take care of my people.

Lucille says she is a people and would like to be take care of. Pro bonus tip: if you are testing lids (taking them off and on tubs to check for mates) the dog in your house will think leftovers are being divvied up and come running for her share. Please plan accordingly.

Environmental Surroundings

I am convinced the mismatched lids and tubs are hiding somewhere else in the house. See above about issues parting with take out tubs. I am the same way with socks – its a whole thing. But having the oddballs “in play” in the drawer is just physical clutter waiting to piss me off. Until I am able to part with them, the oddballs get sequestered in a seldom used / out of sight space in the laundry room. Occasionally they come in handy for projects like when my daughter painted her room and needed a small container to climb the ladder to trim. Boom – Sustainable Sue to the rescue. 

I know, I know! But it is about progress, not perfection. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Wrap Up

I want to bring this essay home with a few points.

  1. The clutter is never just about the clutter. It is about postponed decisions, avoided feelings, and ignored issues. 
  2. What seems insurmountable is doable if broken into small chunks or tackled when your energy is at its peak. I avoided this chore for FOURTEEN MONTHS and it took 30 minutes. 
  3. The results will reap more rewards than you can imagine – in all areas of your life.

Now it is your turn to get to work.

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. What project, task or idea have you been putting off?
  2. Decide what pain it is really causing you or what it means underneath – it is not about the containers. 
  3. Observe when your energy is highest and make a plan to take the first step on this project in the next 7 days.

I can’t wait to hear about your results. Send me your stories or photos to or find me on Instagram or Facebook. 

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.

By |2023-02-07T08:52:42-05:00February 21st, 2023|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Why I Don’t Track Phone Usage

People are surprised to learn that don’t track phone usage. We are still in January – the month that has 8,064 days in it. Many of those days we are bombarded with messages that we need to change just about everything about our lives in order to become a better person. 

One of those hot resolution topics is how much we are on our phones. I have zero interest in this goal during this season of my life. 

I was working on some digital clean up and found the setting on my phone where it outlined how much time I spent using my phone. On my Android phone it is called, “Digital wellbeing and parental controls.” This title really caught my eye because digital clutter is a component of Environmental Surroundings – one of the three pillars of Sustainable Productivity. 

So I tiptoed into this section with more than a small amount of hesitancy – it can be hard to have your habits shown to you in cold hard data. But alas, what is measured is managed so in I went.


There was no “MOVE THAT BUS” big reveal. It was pretty much what I expected with a few pleasant surprises added in. 

The truth is I use my phone a lot. But it is used for good as much as it is used for evil. Of the time spent that day, there was a greater percentage of time spent to support positive habits and activities. Here are a few examples:

Supporting Good Habits

  • Audiobook apps: I listen to audiobooks while walking the dog, doing my physical therapy exercises, folding laundry, driving, and more. 
  • Spotify: While writing I need some ambient noise and instrumental playlists on Spotify provide this. 
  • Timehop: As part of my morning routine I look through Timehop to see what this day in history brought me (plus a little trivia). I often share the photos that come up with the people in them. It is fun to share with the kids and it often spurs conversation about what was happening in the memories. 
  • Alexa / Google Home: Each day Bixby and I use the Jeopardy skill to play our daily “J!6” over breakfast. Although it is still surprising to hear Mayim Byalik instead of Alex Trebek, it is a fun ritual we have over breakfast every day. 


  • Apple Music: Sometimes while drafting spreadsheets, closing support tickets, and updating meeting notes for my day job I just need a little hype to get moving. My “Mix Tape” playlist on my phone provides this.
  • Clock: I use timers, alarms, and stopwatch features all day long. Timers to write or stretch for a certain amount of time. I have been using the stopwatch to time manuscripts I’m writing for YouTube videos. Alarms are set to put the laundry in the dryer or leave on time to get to the class at the quilt shop.
  • Reminders: This is another feature that I could not be Sustainable Sue without. I don’t want to keep stuff in my head any more. I set a reminder to floss and do my gratitude journal at night. Other reminders nudge me for several activities for my elderly dad throughout the week. The “set it and forget it” approach clears space in my brain for creativity instead of the invisible work life gifts us. 

Social Media

Let’s talk about the elephant in the living room. I do use social media for more than just posting for Sustainable Sue business. I consume it as well. But I am clear about my purpose when I am opening these apps: mainly entertainment,  connection, distraction. I know very clearly that when I am wading into Twitter at the end of a long day that I am just going for the train wreck. No one is more delighted than me to hang up from a contentious phone call at my day job and scroll Instagram Reels looking for videos of pandas somersaulting down a snowy hill. 

Sometimes I catch myself just scrolling for the sake of scrolling – sometimes our thumbs have a mind of their own, right!? When I notice, I acknowledge (not shame) and close the app. 

Sustainable You Questions

I share all of this to float the idea that just because others preach social media breaks and analog living, does not mean that you have to. You get to decide what is best for you. In order to do that you need to be aware. I encourage you to apply the Sustainable Productivity questions to your phone use. 

  1. Is it productive – are you getting the result you want?
  2. Is it sustainable – can you continue this pace lifelong if you choose?

Based on the answers to these questions you can start to make small adjustments to those habits. Connect with me directly to learn more about how to do that or let me know how your phone usage is impacting your life. 

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Until next time –

By |2023-01-11T07:51:27-05:00January 17th, 2023|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Closet Clutter

I cannot even with this closet clutter. 

There are 54,879 tennis balls in this closet and no one that currently lives in our home is playing tennis these days. For nine months of the year I don’t even care about this clutter cave. But the other 3 months of the year I need to get a coat and gloves. It sucks my will a little bit every time I go in there. It is not nice to look at nor functional. This is the opposite of Sustainable Productivity.

Until recently. 

Remember the time lapse habit tip from a few weeks ago about writing? Check out the time lapse video of my declutter session – it kept me accountable to not being distracted by all those dumb tennis balls! You can watch the time lapse declutter session at this link. If you like what you see, I would greatly appreciate it if you would subscribe to the YouTube channel while you are there and share with a friend.

Sustainable You Questions

  1. What decluttering project is taunting you?
  2. What day in the next week can you set a timer for 15 minutes to do a small step forward on this project?

If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find podcasts. 

By |2022-10-18T09:04:38-04:00October 25th, 2022|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Quick Tips to Declutter

It is always darkest before dawn.

You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

There are dozens of pithy sayings to describe the “hit by a tornado” look that happens when you finally tackle your clutter.

But those pithy sayings resonate for a reason – there is a kernel of truth there.

The Storm

Last summer I brought home my mom’s cross stitch supplies. Reorganizing them and incorporating them into my supplies seemed like a daunting task – physically (there was a lot) and emotionally (it made me sad to think of her death).

But every time I went in my office, I saw the pile of floss, needles, and patterns sitting there abandoned.

I decided the effort of organizing this section of my office was less than the effort of seeing the abandoned stash for one more day. I grabbed my tissue box for the tears that would inevitably come, set aside several hours and took over a large space to tackle the work.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” Cynthia Occelli

My starting point. The key here is to expect the chaos – and don’t stop when you get to this point. Get rid of what is not working and categorize what you want to keep. Group like items together.


Midway – Messy thread contained onto bobbins. This could be a natural stopping point if the day and emotions required it. I still have labeling and storage to do here.


The final result. I have seen other crafty people use a label maker on their bobbins, but hand written was good enough for me. This was how I defined “done” before I started – thread on bobbins, organized in their boxes.

The Payoff

Once the chaos of decluttering passes, you know you will be pleased with the outcome and glad you did it. Here are some of the ways you might notice yourself feeling post-decluttering:

  • You will feel light a weight has lifted from your shoulders.
  • The mental clarity you feel at not looking at the clutter will be noticeable.
  • This wont be a space you avoid going to – you can fully enjoy your home.

Quick Tips to Get Started

  1. Define what done means before you even start. For me on this project, I wanted to get the labeled thread on bobbins in boxes. You might say you are done when your clothes fit in your drawers or the linens fit in the closet.
  2. Start small. Then go one step smaller. I originally was going to sort all of my mom’s sewing supplies this day, not just her cross stitch stuff. I thought I was starting small (just crafts, not all her stuff I brought home – clothes, books, jewelry, etc.). Then I went smaller and landed on just cross stitch. Instead of organizing the whole garage you might do the outside fridge or just the sport corner or shelving unit.
  3. Identify bailout points. Taking breaks or tackling project in small bits of time requires identifying natural bail out points. On this project, I could have sorted one session, labeled the next and stored the third. If you are taking your kitchen one drawer at a time, maybe this is something you do while you watch TV each night. The key is to stop at those bailout points – even if you feel like you have mojo to continue.

Your Turn

What is an area of your Environmental Surroundings that you want to declutter? How can you break it into smaller projects with defined breaks with an identified goal in mind?

By |2021-06-06T13:42:35-04:00June 8th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Chip Away at Everything That Isn’t David

Sustainable Productivity is pretty much what Michelangelo says about creating a masterpiece:

You chip away at everything that isn’t David.

Let me explain.

Before a masterpiece is a masterpiece, it is a block of marble, a ball of yarn, ink or paint in a jar, dirt. Or in my case – a kitchen table piled with crap.

At least most people would call it a kitchen table. I referred to it as a dumping ground. If we ate dinner together (which was already rare), we ate in the dining room so the kitchen table did not get used very much.

Unless you had a bag when you came in the house, then it went on the kitchen table. Same thing with sport equipment, mail, tools on their way back out to the garage, or any number of things. And these items never left. At one point I had a jock strap cup on my kitchen table for DAYS.

This was not sustainable.

What I Wanted

Let me tell you what my “vision of David” was – I wanted something welcoming and inviting when I came in the door from the outside. For me this means:

  • Uncluttered spaces
  • Inviting furniture
  • Restful colors
  • Meaningful knickknacks

Instead I had the home version of a block of marble.

I had a vision of the kitchen corner equivalent of the statue of David. I just needed to chip away at all that was NOT David – like the nut cup missing its strap.

Eliminate what is not working

Instead of trying to change the behavior of My People, I just got rid of the table. We took it down Thanksgiving of 2019 to put up the Christmas tree. Then decided to live without it “for a few weeks” to see if we missed it.

During that few weeks my mom died, a massive work project went live, then the world shut down for COVID.

Add what works

Needless to say, we had quite a bit of time to plan our next steps. We decided we wanted a cozy coffee corner vibe. I went to town on Pinterest boards for couches or chairs, end tables or coffee tables, book cases or cabinets. We spent time talking about what we would do in that space – I would read a book while Bixby cooked or he could work on his computer while I cleaned up after a meal. This would be a more welcoming and comfortable space that sitting on a bar stool across the counter in the kitchen.

We decided not to shop for a couch online because we just needed to sit on some couches to decide what we wanted. After a few shopping trips in early 2021, we got the tape measure and painters tape out to help us imagine using the space how we wanted with the set up that the furniture allowed.

After we got the couch in place, we lived with it for several days talking about what else to add to the space to create the look and feel that we wanted.

We chipped away at what was not working. The first was not having a spot to put our phone or coffee cup (or Diet Coke can). The second was how sterile it looked with just empty tables. We took knick knacks from other parts of the house to make this corner look cozier.

One miss we had is assuming we knew better for everyone. What is cozier than a having your dog snoozing on her bed next to you while you read under a blanket on a rainy Sunday morning? We bought Lucille’s dog bed before we even had the couch delivered. She loves her 2 beds in other parts of the house. We were wrong about this one though.

Your Turn

Do you have an area in your home that is not working for you? What could you chip away in order to make your home more of a restful masterpiece? It does not have to be clearing a space and waiting 4 months for furniture. It could be moving photos around or resorting books stacks. Purging a shelf to give more open space. Check out the Edit Your Life podcast episode 233, ” Small Yet Powerful Home Edits” to hear about some of the ways they recently chipped away at what was not working.

By |2021-05-23T08:02:33-04:00May 25th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

10 Ideas to Conquer Digital Clutter

One of my goals for 2021 is to conquer digital clutter. That is a vague, ambiguous goal so I set a more specific, measurable goal to clear the digital clutter from my phone weekly. Generally my digital clutter falls into three categories: photos, notes, and websites. Here are ten ideas in these categories that will help you reduce the digital clutter.


This is the largest bit of digital clutter I have – and I bet most of you are in the same boat. Right now I have 685 photos on my phone. It is overwhelming to go back and declutter all of them so I am starting where I am. Each week I deal with those photos I took in the previous week. There are a few of the actions that you can take.

  1. Delete. I cannot be the only one who tries to carry too many things and ends up taking photos of the side of the car. Or trying to get a cute photo of the dog sleeping, I end up with 10 of the same snoozing pup. Delete the obvious, narrow down the precious.
  2. File. Screenshots fall into this category. Some examples might be the screen shots of books I want to read or products I might want to purchase. Each week I add to my To Be Read list on Goodreads, buy the item if is a no brainer, or add it to my Amazon wish list.
  3. Inspiration. Quotes, ideas, or other inspiration I want to use for Sustainable Sue work goes to Trello or Scrivener. Trello is a project management app where I can create a “card” with the quote (or whatever I took a photo of) and add it to the board. For example, the board might be quotes on digital clutter I could use in a post about the same topic. Then when I want to write about digital clutter, I pull that quote off of my Trello board and place it in the post.
  4. Save. Some photos I save for scrapbooking – these live in Lightroom. Each week I put a heart (on my iPhone – I bet Android has an equivalent) on those photos I want to save. On the first day of each month, I have a reminder that pops up telling me to move photos to Lightroom. I don’t have to scroll through 600+, I just get the hearts and move them to Lightroom and then delete from my phone once Lightroom is backed up.
  5. Share. I share memes and old photos with friends and family. Here is a gem that came up this week of me and The Girl back in the day.


This is the digital equivalent of Post It notes.I keep notes in a couple places on my phone so decluttering my notes is a critical component to conquer digital clutter.

  1. Lists. When I am driving down the road and need to capture a thought, I ask Siri to capture it and she adds it to my “Braindump list.” This is a catch all that is sorted at least weekly. Sometimes I add things to my calendar, sometimes things move to another list, sometimes things are deleted because I have no idea what I meant.
  2. Notepad. This is another catchall spot that builds up. If I hear something meaningful I want to remember later I will open the Notes app and jot it down. Same with a website I want to check out later from a webinar I am watching or perhaps shared notes. But these notes are not helpful if they just live in the Notes app. Weekly I move them to a place that is more useful. This might look like any of these:
    • Set a time block in the upcoming week to review the website.
    • Move the quote to a Trello board.
    • Delete the idea that seemed brilliant in the middle of the night, but seems useless in the light of day.


This is a recent pain point for me. I am not sure when my browser got so out of control. Today I have 64 windows open. Experts disagree on if this impacts your phones performance or not. What I am interested in is whether or not this is Sustainably Productive. When you shine the lens of sustainability on 64 open Chrome tabs – no big deal. But the productive side of the equation is different. I can’t find a ding dang thing amidst 64 open windows. Not productive.

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” Peter Walsh

For this task I set a timer as part of my weekly digital declutter session. 5 minutes to close windows. I start with the most recent and close. I look at the website that is open before closing it in case there is an action step I needed to take.  For example, I may have left the window open because I was halfway through paying for an online meal pick up for the week when the doorbell rang and I forgot to go back to it. Some windows are quick – when Facebook opens in Chrome, for example. No brainer – close it, I would rather use the app.

I would love to help you conquer digital clutter. Check out the Sustainable You Environmental Surroundings course to learn more today.

By |2021-01-23T18:47:55-05:00January 26th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

3 Step Plan to Decluttering

The end of the year is a time we all need a 3 step plan to decluttering. Holidays often have an influx of STUFF. Especially if you have kids. Christmas and Hanukkah means gifts galore from friends, family, school, and houses of worship.

In cold weather months we can find ourselves spending more time inside, which means we see more of the clutter.

Getting organized is one of the top 5 resolutions that Americans make each year. I want to give you a 3 step plan to decluttering that is Sustainably Productive.

Start Where You Are

If you have clutter in only one area of your home, congratulations – you know exactly where to start. That is not most people though. Where to start can cause analysis paralysis for many.


I encourage you to start where you are. This might be literally or emotionally.

  • Literally – Where do you spend the most time? Since I work at home, for me this is my home office. Specifically this is the desk in my home office.
  • Emotionally – Where do you feel the most negative emotions? Although my desk is a hot mess and that is where I spend the majority of my awake hours, I can power through the piles and focus on the computer screen. I feel negative emotions when the kitchen is cluttered. Not the cabinets and such, but the surfaces.

Which space is it for you? It does not have to be a room. It could be your nightstand. What about that drawer that sticks every time you try to open it because it is too jammed with stuff? A closet or box in the corner perhaps?

Once you identify where you need to start, you can move towards a plan to tackle it in a Sustainably Productive manner.

Identify Small Steps

This is the part of the plan where you make it productive. If you don’t see progress, you will lose interest in the work. Let’s say your nightstand is piled with stuff and the drawers cannot hold one more thing. You know it is where you need to start because it is an energy drain to look at first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Old Method

Let me know if these steps sounds familiar to you. This is the old way of getting things done.

  1. Add “Organize Nightstand” to your to do list.
  2. Get overwhelmed and avoid it.
  3. Berate yourself for being lazy and a quitter.

Sustainably Productive Method

To make decluttering your nightstand Sustainably Productive, break the job into small steps. Then make them even smaller. Ridiculously small. Nope – smaller than that. Let me give you a suggestion on a small step to start with.

  • Take the dirty dishes off your nightstand, put them in dishwasher.

Boom. Done for the day on Project Nightstand. You can cross that off today’s to do list. What feels more productive than that? Productivity is accomplishing a task towards a goal. you just nailed it.

Feeling like you might be able to do some more? Try one of these:

  • Throw away obvious trash (ex: dirty tissues, crumpled paper) on the surface.
  • Recycle anything obvious on the surface (am I the only one with a Diet Coke can on her nightstand?).

Notice the keyword there is obvious. This does not mean to go through the drawers and find trash. I did not even suggest you open any drawers. Yet.

Which leads us to the sustainable portion of Sustainable Productivity.

Continuous Improvement

This is the part of the plan where you make it sustainable. Plan to continue the progress in a way that you can maintain. This could look different for each person.

I encourage you to find the MVP – the Minimum Viable Product of the project you are working on. Back to the Project Nightstand example. Maybe the most you can dedicate to this project each day is 15 minutes. Great – add that to your calendar during a time you generally feel motivated. This might be mornings before you start your Pandemic-Home-Schooling-While-Working-Full-Time-Remotely job. If you are a night owl, this might be after everyone else goes to bed.

Literally add a time block to your calendar, “Project Nightstand.” If you use a digital calendar, you might want to add a reminder to pop up. Another option is to do a reminder on your phone. You can now make these recurring reminders so you can actually “Complete” the reminder and still have it fire the next day.

When the reminder goes off, pick a small task and knock it out.

Now you have a 3 step plan for decluttering!

  1. Start where you are.
  2. Identify small steps.
  3. Continuous improvement.

If you are stuck on how to break down your decluttering project or getting motivated to start decluttering at all, check out the Environmental Surroundings lesson of the Sustainable You program.

Reply to this message or comment below to let me know what project you decide to tackle. Join me on social media so I can celebrate each small step you accomplish!

By |2020-12-24T10:20:18-05:00December 22nd, 2020|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

3 Ways Your Environment is Causing Burnout

Just like factors contributing to climate change crisis, we have personal factors causing a burnout crisis in our lives. I want to bring awareness to 3 ways your environment is causing burnout. 

What is Burnout

Burnout is a real thing. It is not something you can manage through or toughen up against.

There is a difference between stress and burnout. Think of stress as overwhelm and burnout as a drain. Stress is the piling on. Demands on you may look like taking care of kids and parents or covering another person’s job during a hiring freeze. Or the pressure of weeks of daily carpooling that never lets you have a moment to yourself. With stress, you still feel there is hope to find a system, route, or process that can improve things.

Burnout, on the other hand, is empty of that hope. It is the drain of mental exhaustion. Often people who are burned out don’t always notice when it happens.

In the Sustainable You course, participants learn about the differences between stress and burnout, but let me tell you this here: The same ways your environment is causing burnout begin by being stressors in daily life. The canary in the coal mine if you will. The Universe tries to be be good to us signaling politely that there is a problem. Then a kick in the pants. Then a brick wall falls on us. Then our world chews us up. 

The hard truth is that part of this is our own fault. We choose what to consume every day. Not just food, but what we see and hear too. Let’s dig in. 

News Media

Here at Sustainable Sue, when we talk about media consumption, we talk about all of the news, movies, books, TV, podcasts, social media, and magazines that you take in on a daily basis. Consider these the nutrients in your media diet. Media is all aroundus. It is not productive nor sustainable to avoid it altogether. Just like the nutrition component where we have to eat three or four times each day, we do need to take in media at various points of our day.

The issue is keeping it in balance of a sustainably productive life. A study by Johnston and Davey in 2011 found that participants who viewed the negatively skewed news show (as designed by researchers) showed increased anxious and sad mood as well as a significant increase in the tendency toward catastrophic thinking related to a personal worry.

If you feel drained and anxious after watching the news, perhaps that is a signal it is time to make some changes. Different sources, less consumption, different timing of consumption, etc.

Beware of jumping from the frying pan into the fire though – social media can be just as damaging. 

Social Media

If you have watched The Social Dilemma you know have heard the terrifying statistics of what social media is doing to our brains and the brains of our kids. But it doesn’t take a panel of experts in Silicon Valley to tell us this. Conduct an experiment of one – how do you feel after scrolling Facebook and seeing everyone’s perfect back to school photos when your kids covered their face with their book bag and ran out the door? What thoughts go through your mind when you see photo after photo on Instagram of everyone’s perfect Thanksgiving table when you did not have the energy and ended up having Indian takeout?

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

― Jose Ortega y Gassett

Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides. Those posts are rarely the whole story and the photos often include filters. If social media drains you, perhaps it is time to turn to the real life relationships instead of the ones online.

But alas, those relationships can be tricky too!

Friends, Family, and Others

This blog post is live the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – a holiday where often families sit around the table and argue about politics. Because of COVID many families instead had to get on Zoom to rehash the pandemic and who is and isn’t following protocol. Family relationships can be hard.

And what about friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.? Do you continually surround yourself with people who drain you? Sure it is hard to make friends after we leave school, but that is no reason to settle for less. If a relationship feels off or unfulfilling or one-sided, I encourage you to explore why.

  • Is your friend always late and you feel like your time is taken for granted?
  • Do the other neighbors on your street ask you to join a party planning committee, then you end up doing all the work? 
  • Are you only accepting invitations out of obligation or fear of making other people mad? 

Let me ask you this question, my fellow people pleasers: WHERE ARE ALL THE PLEASED PEOPLE?

You deserve more. You deserve people in your life who delight in your presence. You deserve to feel fulfilled and lifted up when you are among friends and family. 

Be selective about who and what you surround yourself with. Each choice compounds to contribute to a sustainable you – towards creating a life you don’t need to escape. 

By |2020-11-29T19:59:07-05:00December 1st, 2020|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

3 Reasons to Let Go

As we develop sustainably productive habits, there is a need to flip the coin over to look at what we need to stop doing. To let go of what is not serving us physically, mentally, and environmentally means we make room for what we want to build in our lives. 

Let’s be clear – letting go is hard. But we can do hard things. I am inspired by what Louise Smith has to say about it.

“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are full of junk.”

Louise Smith

Today’s post will apply this idea to each of the three dimensions of sustainably productivity. 


For many years I considered myself an endurance athlete. I raced in dozens of triathlons, half marathons and marathons. I am turtle slow, but they gave me a race bib so I call what I did racing. All the miles eventually caught up with me and running became unsustainable for my body. I had a few orthopedic surgeries. Then the doctor said if I wanted to be able to hike and walk the dog in my 80s I needed to stop running now in my 40s. 

I cried right there in the office. I did not want to let go of running. Which is so ironic considering 

1 – I am not good at it. See Team Turtle comment above.

2 – For years playing basketball, running was punishment.

3 – Running hurt.

But alas, love hurts, right? All the songs tell us that. But Tina Turner reminds us: What’s Love Got to Do With It? 

Lucky for me I was in a place in life where I was making changes towards sustainable productivity. I knew that continuing to run was not something that would be productive for me long term. That surgeon knew exactly what button to push with me.

Yes – I do want to be able to get out in nature in my 80s (and beyond!). If I needed to leave my ego and my running shoes behind to do that, I was open to it. 


Speaking of Tina Turner, have you ever been in a relationship you knew had run its course. You knew it was not good for you, but you just did not seem to leave it? We may not have an extreme version like Ike in our lives. But I bet we all have Ike-light relationships we are hanging on to because it’s hard to let go. 

Do any of these sound familiar to you:

  • A friend who is always bashing her spouse and encourages stories about frustrations with your partner. 
  • A coworker you go to lunch with regularly who has to “one up” everything you say.
  • A book club where you are the only one who actually reads the book and didn’t just come to drink wine. 

Relationships can weigh heavily on our minds, drag down our spirits, and even negatively impact our physical health. After following 10,000 subjects for 12 years, a study found that compared to subjects in healthy relationships, those in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing cardiac issues – including fatal heart attacks.

We need to let go of relationships that do not support who we are or who we want to be. This will make space for relationships that are sustainably productive. Maybe that relationship is with yourself. 

What would happen if you ate lunch alone instead of with your needy colleague? You might read, listen to music or podcasts, or just sit and eat with no distractions. What if this is the break you needed to take your afternoons by storm. Could you finally make headway on that project that has been stalled? 

What if you surround yourself with other women who cherish their partner? Sure they still have conflict in their relationships. But they have encouraging stories about how they worked through it because they had a partner who was worth it. 

Without letting go of the relationships that are not working for you, you can’t make way for the ones that will serve you and sustain you. 

Let go


Decluttering is always popular and it seems like this quote applies most intuitively here. If you are hanging on to your literal junk, you cannot reach for anything new. 

I have a section of my closet dedicated to my business suits. I no longer wear business suits. If I am honest, I probably no longer fit into said business suits, but am unsure because it’s been 15 pounds 10 years since I tried. 

But alas I cannot let go of these suits. As I have been cleaning out closets in our home, these suits have loomed large in my conscience. They seem to be waving at me (or flipping me the bird) when I go into my closet. I seem to be given them lots of power. 

Instead of just fabric, for me they represent moments in my career where I felt strong and in flow:

  • Job interviews
  • TV segments
  • VIP presentations 
  • Community lectures

I finally took down one suit over the weekend and channeled my inner Marie Kondo. As I took it off the hanger, I thought of all these moments of flow with fondness. I had a moment of Wizard of Oz type of clarity that the suit did not give me strength and flow to deliver on these occasions. It was in me all along. I am still here, the business suit was just a witness to it. And now it is time to allow it to witness for someone else. It is time for me to reach for something new. In order to do that I need to let go of these suits. 

Now to be clear, I was still a little sad and still have about 10 more suits in the closet. But a start was made. That is all we need to do today is start. 

What do you need to break off a little piece and let go of? Is there something in your life that you are holding tight that you might need to release? What if you just loosen the grip?

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