This may be the only time you see a post about organization and clutter on this blog. I am not a neat freak and never have been. But with two kids in school, a busy law practice, and all the demands of life, I can certainly see the value in taking the time to get organized in life. This summer, I have been thinking a lot about this because we did some cleaning up around my own house. It made a big difference because getting rid of old, unused items helps make space to live the life I wanted.
At the same time, my friend Monica Jenkins published her book, The Cost of Clutter. I met Monica through a book writing program that I did last year. Since she is also interested in attending law school, I thought it made sense to connect with her here for an interview. If you want to learn more about ways to manage clutter or get started with better organization, check out the video interview below. If video is not your thing, scroll down for the full transcript.
Hi, everyone. This is Claire Parsons, the founder of the Brilliant Legal Mind blog and author of How to Be a Badass Lawyer. I am here today with my friend Monica, who actually went through a book coaching program with me last year which for any lawyers watching this is a little bit like one year of law school, except our coach was, I think, a lot nicer than a lot of law professors are. Monica actually published her book shortly after I published mine and I have it here. It’s called the cost of clutter. And it’s about learning how to get a little bit more organized in your house and your life and your work, so I wanted to have Monica here to talk about her book and herself.
I want to introduce Monica first before I get some questions for but Monica Jenkins Jenkins is a speaker and bestselling author of the cost of clutter a billion dollar vision for culture, communities and companies. She helps executive leaders and professionals have more peace of mind clarity and direction at work and at home. Monica has trained leadership teams and global corporations, faith based organizations and diverse communities. She draws on my personal experiences with racism being let go from a job and as an overwhelmed mother and wife in her book and she offers a step by step guide to personal and professional transformation that begins with cleaning out your closets. So I’m sure a lot of us here today can definitely benefit from that. So, Monica, do you want to tell me a little bit more about yourself that your bio doesn’t cover?
Sure sure. Thank you for having me too. Well, one of the things that probably doesn’t say is that I am a Jesus freak. Yes, I am. Yes, I’m a wife. I have an amazing husband. I’m a mother of two beautiful children. And something that I find interesting about my life is I was born in Detroit, Michigan. I grew up on an island and more states. I attended probably seven different schools before I graduated high school. I do have a bachelor’s degree from University of Connecticut – Go Huskies.
As far as my work career has spanned from banking, higher education, social services. And lastly before I went out on my own to do all this work, legal work in a corporate legal department. So with something else I would add to is that I’m an author, as you just said, which is you trimming out of an author, I am also a coach and I, I kind of defined my coaching as clarity, clarity, lifestyle coaching, and so we can talk about that a little more as we dive into some of the questions but that’s kind of my coaching model and I’m also the managing partner of our family home business called CMON enterprises and that CMON enterprises LLC. And the book is one of our first babies born from that business. And my coaching services are aligned with that as well.
And I thought at some point, Monica that there was some interest in adding on a J.D. to that long list of accomplishments and maybe going to law school?
Yes, yes, you are definitely accurate in that and I still plan to make that happen for myself. What I found with the book and everything that’s come from the book, the business, and having had an opportunity to kind of share more about it in my coaching. I feel like I’m kind of trying to balance when that start with that start will look like. So yes, I am studying for LSAT.
I am looking to possibly apply for 2024. And so that’s that’s still on the table. Because I’m very passionate about some things that really kind of still everything I do aligns with our book and so something that I’m passionate about my law career can hopefully support is housing matters. It happened concede standpoint and also from a federal kind of standpoint, federal Fair Housing law, things of that nature. So yeah, you got me on that one.
Well, I understand the importance of picking your projects and having to take your time when you’re managing a lot of things. I definitely get that myself. I can say from my law practice, that some of the housing issues from an advocacy standpoint for individuals and I work with some local government entities that have dealt with that as well. It’s just really important because there’s so much need right now. Affordable housing is such an issue. So I wish you well on that.
I do want to talk about the book though. You know? I kind of want to start out with this blog, my blog is really about lawyer mental health and mindfulness and well-being. I can definitely see how clutter and, having read your book, I can see how that ties in with it. But, I think you’ll explain it better. So can you bridge the gap for people about what clutter has to do with mental health?
I absolutely can’t thank you for asking that question. So one of the things I would start with is what comes to mind when you hear the word clutter? So through my research and talking with in conversations, so we started conversations, a lot of people are overwhelmed, they’re stressed and they just feel stuck when it comes to clutter. The way in which we define it is often very different. So it’s always in terms of a physical space. Like my closet is messy. My closet is unorganized. My shoes, everything isn’t organized, or a particular space that we utilize in our home. It’s messy, it’s junky didn’t have time for that.
And so how I think the two lines that people are finding out and definitely I found out that mental clutter alliance with your physical spaces, so you can be you know, your spaces. In other words, we see the space, right? We see the space, we see their stuff all around, but what’s going on in our on our minds, our lives are full. And I talked about this a little in the book about busyness, lawyers in particular, just because I’ve had the opportunity to work with some high profile attorneys and see how they function throughout the day.
And also just as I explored the profession of myself, and having worked also in a law school, I have been able to see kind of firsthand the type of I don’t like use the word business without their full lives, you know, what’s the focus that’s required? Having a certain mental capacity to do a lot of reading and writing. And so what I would say is that letter is really about like, one of the first things is how we use our time and it starts with time, like what’s going on in our lives. How are we valuing our time? So I would I would start with that.
So you mentioned that you would work with lawyers, and you mentioned that you have in the past even worked with lawyers in your actual work. You kind of alluded to this a little bit, but if you can dig into it a little bit more. What makes it so hard for lawyers, what makes clutter is such a hard thing for lawyers. In particular, like what gets in the way and no pun intended with that question, but what’s our what’s our big issue, maybe extending from the idea of lack of time.
Lack of time is definitely a big one. But also I’ll use a case study to kind of give an example of a woman who was a lawyer who battled cancer, and she survived and reached out to me and was getting her life back. But it starts in our home. So are lawyers maybe second, maybe third, because if you’re a mother or a father or you know a wife or husband, those kinds of things do matter in how we show up every day.
And so in talking with this woman and going on a journey with her to try to claim her house back so that she can then begin to get back to work. Our model was going to be that she was gonna be working from home as she just you know, was starting out and she were doing major cities so she’s working from home, but also it didn’t really start with the workspace. It started with like her personal space. What’s the priority? What is the priority? What was the priority I had to ask her as he walked around her home and I saw that it was a home that was lived in that really represented there was she was built, you know, it became her hospital almost.
So I think that recognizing that although you have such a humongous responsibility that we need and appreciate. We also at the end of the day are human beings who get colds, we get sick, like things that happen. We get fired. And some other things you know, that happen in our lives and sometimes one part of our life overtakes another and we don’t have time for the other and I will say that not only for lawyers but the time issue because one of the biggest straightening up a certain room.
At the end of the day, no one’s going to turn right back to that after the week is over. So my book is also about lifestyle. You as a lawyer are creating a lifestyle with mindfulness. And so it’s not going to just be for the summer when you’re on vacation or on your breaks are supposed to be better your lifestyle. And that is exactly what the crux of clutter is about. That’s exactly what clarity, clarity coaching life coaching is about. It’s about creating a lifestyle, that you live with less clutter so that you’re able to have some direction and have a little peace of mind.
Monica, I think you already answered my next question, which was going to be why is it worth it? I think you’ve already spoken to that a little bit. But I wonder about like the initial difficulties of deciding to invest the time or maybe even the resources to have someone come and help you and I have a personal story with this.
This summer I started getting some of my backyard area a little bit more cleared out and getting some new things. We don’t have any shade in the back and I really love like swings and rocking chairs. So I kind of did that this summer. But the first thing I had to do was get rid of an old hot tub that hasn’t been working for years and has just been sitting there and like I actually had to hire someone to come in and get it cuz it’s so having a big and it took me forever to do that. And finally, the thing that ultimately got me there was when I started to imagine what I’m going to do with that space if the hot tub was gone, but I had to like go through this weird long process you know of doing that and it was kind of honestly a little silly.
How does how does someone like you come in and help someone you know get past that initial block so they don’t waste years? You know, with a dingy space or you know, having too much stuff around it gets in the way of living their lives.
I think we start small. I think there have been people that I’ve met with examples and case studies actually even in the book, people that I’ve met with who were overwhelmed with that place that they saw like you like Oh, I’m going to use this for this or that. And one of the things that I said was what you said, “What do you imagine for that to be?” That’s one of the that’s one of the one of the steps in the book, like what do you imagine that to be?
You know, like someone who’s overwhelmed like what are you thinking, putting it on paper. What are you thinking about what you want was the priority for that space? And so there’s one particular client I had that I like to call a 911 call or 911 text or DM, was that okay? You’re in this space right now and you’re like, what is it supposed to be? Alright, so you’re not going to do that today, right? We’re going to decide like, what’s going to be the timeline for this like I would like it done in like 90 days.
Okay, so then you need to map out what 90 days will look like. And you know, I often times people want to just start going with the stuff and I always say don’t go with the stuff just sit with the back like I know myself as myself. In this case. I have a basement there’s still some areas that I need to tackle and it has been actually a two year project. Okay, because we’ve set it you know, there’s people there’s this empty nesters now, we have adult children and out so it’s a two year project. Why? Because in talking to my husband who would be the client or in talking to this other person who’s on the phone, like you have to determine that space that you want is specifically for you. But, you have all this stuff in the basement alongside three other people for the people, their adult kids who doubt like similar to me that was the case although kids didn’t data left me tonight.
So it’s like five weeks first and we start small. We write out what we want that area space to look like. And then we go from there. We have to have a conversation about journey because oftentimes we start getting rid of things and letting go. It brings up a lot of that stuff that stops the project, because we haven’t thought about it most people well. I would say most people know what’s in spaces that they need to reimagine, organize so there’s that thought of like, okay, well, Johnny and Susan stuff is here. And we had a conversation about this particular call. So when are you going to let Johnny and Susie come and get their things? Or is there like some creative zone for Johnny instances things so you don’t go so crazy about it?
Yeah, it’s always about starting small. It’s always about like, you know, for me writing things down. You know, taking those things out. And I’ve actually tack them on to spaces in the house like because I need to remind myself that this is something we’re not gonna like go another year. And metaphorically and like for real. So yeah, I think that’s that’s kind of important, starting small.
And I always read inhale, exhale, because anytime we’re going to tackle something that we know that is going to just take you into stress. I know I’ve been through that. That’s why I say that. So it’s like inhale, exhale, breathe. Let’s do exercises that three times before I tackle it, and after I finish it because an anxiousness comes, when you see how inspired you are to kind of do this and then you can just want to everything all quick and fast. And that’s not always the way it’s slow and steady, I believe into the race in this process, but it’s also how much time someone has. And so that’s part of kind of like my assessment process when I talk to people so I kind of getting an idea of what’s your priority? How much time do you want to do this? And you know, asking for help was the first first part so I always said in the book lock, ask for help you can do everything. So help me help.
I agree with a whole lot of that and I of course love that you’re using breathing to help. One of the things that I often do when I present on mindfulness and compassionate whatever for lawyers is I kind of know that probably most of the audience is not going to go start a meditation practice just because they heard me speak. So what I tried to do is have this kind of blend of here’s how you can meditate. And by the way, here’s also these few little practices that maybe these micro practices that you can sort of bring into your day, maybe test what I’m trying to tell you and you can experience it yourself, but maybe not it just helps you and it just a little thing.
When it comes to clutter, Monica, maybe there’s some people out there who aren’t ready to go clean out their basement or read your book or whatever. Can you give me a few practices or little things that people can do to help manage their clutter where maybe they can they can try it out for themselves and say hey, that Monica is really smart. Maybe I should go buy her book. Can you give me some of those kind of things?
Sure. I like how you said “micro.” So I would say micro-organizing and I’ll go back to starting small. What might this mean looking in your purse or backpack or a bag? I think it’s carry with you every day. Or it might mean looking at the well, I’ll say multipurpose drawer, formerly known as the junk drawer. Okay. And that’s in the book. I tell a little story about that. And so I would start there. When I got fired from a job many years ago, I thought the world was watching and I never knew anyone who got fired before it was like something that I felt like it was really taboo. I felt like I felt shame. I felt shame. Shame is big enough.
And so as I began to kind of create this work that I am now presenting to both now through the book, I started with my verse I was depressed. I was not going to inhale, exhale briefing. I am a person of faith but I felt like it failed me. And so I’m just like, and what studies show you start with this something and it’s gonna do something to you. Endorphins and things are gonna happen mentally. So I started with something like a drawer or something that you a person something for me and for others who carry backpacks or whatever you carry daily. That that was something that was very intentional for me.
So I started to look at my bag and I said, What’s the vision for the bag? Because that’s part of my part of my method was the vision for the bag. So I then began to declutter my bag and now I carry only certain things in my bag, a habit that now I’m creating a habit every week. I will look at my bag on a Sunday night or early Monday morning and make sure I have what I need to start the week and that’s gonna look different for everybody. So there’s certain things that I need to have in my in my purse or my work bag, I like to call a tote bag that I need. That’s very simple. And what ends up happening from there is you start moving to other things. So then I went to a junk drawer.
We had multiple, I’ll call them multi-purpose drawers, several of those, but I went to one of them. And I said okay, what do I want this to be based on his location, I, you know, I put certain things in it, so that I knew that they would be there. So that is one way that we can start we have to create, I believe schools and little habits. Another thing I would say is, you know, again, it’s gonna go back to time and I talked about this in the book, and I talked about value a lot. So how are you valuing your time? Like what are you doing when you get up in the morning and is it serving you for when you get to work? Or what are you doing at work when you get there? And is it really serving you? It’s I think that that’s that’s very important, we create these little micro habits that then kind of start to make us start to look at other things. So I’ll give those to you. And then the rest of them are in the book.
All right, Monica. So my last question is, is just where can people find you and this wonderful book?
The book is on Amazon currently I always thought there will be any other other spaces online right now. It’s definitely on Amazon. I mean, if people have questions want to reach out the class, the clutter, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently getting ready to release the website very soon and it’s going to have all of the fun things that we’re doing. And so if you reach out via email, you want to know when all that happens and you’ll be in the know, that’s our campaign, the in the know kind of do you know the cost of clutter? So that’s people who have bought the book know the cost and the hashtag is #DoYouKnowtheCostofClutter, so that means you might get the book.
I’m hoping that the website will be a blessing to people that’ll be coming out very soon. That’s thecostofclutter.com. So it is currently under construction right now but certainly go on there and I believe there’s a link for you to order the book. And I’m also excuse me, all things social media, Facebook, I have a group and I am also on Instagram. So my handle on Instagram is @TheCostofClutter. And yeah, and I’m also on LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn and I’m gonna feel bad because I’m not going to know how to tell you how to find me on LinkedIn, but I’m there under Monica Jenkins.
You can totally make a custom link if you haven’t, but we can talk about that later. But yes, you can find our Monica Jenkins and I will be doing a blog post and tagging Monica there if you want to find us that way as well. So I will also just kind of show you that one last time and let everyone know that August is National Black Business Month, so if you want to support Monica’s book, it’s a great time to do it. So please help her out and get the wisdom from her book that probably all of us need. So Monica, I appreciate you being here. Any parting words?
Yeah, I’m just holding on to this. Mine’s a little different than hers cuz I have the bestseller tag on it. But okay, the one that that’s alright. Alright, so the ones that people that will order that’s the one that’ll come to you with the tag on it. So I was pretty exciting. I guess I would say about decluttering your life, that it’s one step at a time. It’s lifestyle change. And all you need is a little faith, a lot of courage, and really the motivation to clean out your closet and that’s just not your physical fitness metaphorically because your closet, the clothes and the things we can keep in your closet help you show up day to day. metaphorical positive what’s going on in your professional and personal life. And I think that’s very important to tie the two together so that you can live with less clutter, get direction and have more peace.
Alright, that is my goal too. So thank you, Monica. And I hope I hope everything goes well with the book and all your new ventures.
Thank you so much for having me again, Claire. Bye everyone.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.
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