Agilizing Your Mind: Unlearning Clutter Producing Thinking Habits

UPDATE:  I’ve been blogging since 2005 and I’m in the process gradually reviewing and editing the content to decide what is worthy of staying and what has become clutter.

I found this article I wrote in 2007 and decided it was worth keeping.  It’s actually a great example of how mental agility works.

Getting unstuck and cultivating agile thinking habits was one of the most significant ingredients in healing my traumatic emotional attachment to things.

Becoming able to release things that were clutter up my home (and my heart) and has enabled me to function with greater ease than ever before in my life.

My things no longer have such intense power over my emotional state.  Although I will always have a certain amount of “strategic” clutter, inability to let go of things does not keep me from being able to use my home the way I want to.   I am willing to take care of the things I keep and I let them go easily when I no longer need them.

Resolving my PTSD related traumatized attachment to things and the chronic indecision I had about how to organize the things taking up space in my heart, mind, home and office spaces is among the most liberating and educational experiences I’ve ever had. My journey isn’t over, I’m still learning, but the progress is beyond what I ever dreamed was truly possible for myself.  And it feels much different than I thought it would. I never expected to give birth to AgiliZen in the process of healing my life and in helping over 1000 clients and program participants heal their relationship with things and resolve the inner conflicts that lead to chronic disorganization.

I hope you find my story inspirational in your journey to making peace with things.


Things I had to UnLearn so I could Let Go of My Clutter

by Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed. Agile Lifestyle Design Coach, ADHD Coach, Organizing Coach, Author Chronic Disorganization Specialist

Like many of you reading this, I have had a tendency to hold on to things long past their useful life as far back as I can remember.  Especially sentimental things, books, clothes, furniture, gadgets and paper.  Okay, pretty much everything.  When I was 30 years old, I still had most (95%) of the clothes I had ever owned and I had over 1000 books.  Out of an un-questioned need to document my life, I was accumulating photo albums and souvenirs at an alarming rate. I had outgrown all my storage and was using any available surfaces and spaces to hold it all. In my journey to let go of the massive clutter I’d collected I had to “unlearn” lots of habits and beliefs that caused me so much stress and anxiety.

Here are a few beliefs I had to unlearn [2102 Note:  I now call this “relinquishing or updating default settings] so that I could experience the freedom of living with less stuff – or better yet, just enough stuff to function with ease.

UNLEARNING my need to take responsibility for the ultimate fate of the things I own – as if they were people and had feelings.


This is what I now think of as the “earth mother” syndrome.  I couldn’t let go of things unless I knew they were going to good homes where someone really needed them. I couldn’t throw anything away that was still in usable condition. (Kind of like leftovers. I also used to not be able to throw away food unless it was already rotten.)  Once things were destroyed, it was a lot easier to put them in the trash. 

I even kept a lot of broken things thinking I would fix them someday.  I have to admit, I still have broken watches and necklaces in my jewelry box but I’m working on it. : )

I unlearned this belief to some extent by realizing that my approach was basically turning my home into a junkyard full of rotting stuff.


Why was I doing this to myself? That’s a whole other story I won’t get into here, but I will say that PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) had much to do with it.


I started learning how to donate and began to give things way like a pro.  But there are things you can’t donate, so I had to make peace with the fact that sometimes I have to throw away things that still “work” simply because no one wants them and I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE for the fate of all things. 


Things do not have feelings and ultimately, everything has to return to the dust it came from. It’s only a question of when. My updated belief?  Some things have to be sacrificed so that I can have a home I love being in. My well-being is, for the first time in my life, worth more to me than keeping stuff just so the STUFF could have a good life.  Seriously, I would never have said things were more valuable than a human life, but i was treating myself like they were. 


UNLEARNING my fear that if I got rid of things I would never be able to replace them.

This one was really hard to get over because some things truly can’t be replaced.  The solution for me was to question the fear itself.  I had to ask “So What?”

My time and energy can’t be replaced either!


So what if an item can’t be replaced?  Does that mean I won’t be able to go on living?  Will my life be irreversibly damaged?  I will have to get used to the fact that the item is no longer available. I have done it before. I will have to do it when I die. I will have to learn to fulfill the need for that item in some other way or just learn to live without it. It can be done.


It’s amazing how we as human beings can adapt to whatever life throws our way. I had to unlearn this self-limiting belief that because something can’t be replaced it’s importance is magnified. By practicing this thought process over and over, like an exercised muscle, I’ve gotten so much stronger. I still have thoughts like this from time to time, but now I can stop myself, course correct, and make better decisions. Some items I keep, but not if they are detracting from the quality of me life.


UNLEARNING my feeling that things I owned were a part of me and if I let them go I was letting go of all the hopes, dreams and feelings I had when I was still using those things. 

It may sound weird but I honestly felt that by letting go of a book I had read, I would also be letting go of the experience of reading the book and in some weird way, what I learned from the book would be gone too.  In effect, I’d be losing a part of my identity.


In my defense, I actually do have a tendency to forget the past.  My personality type is ENTP – creative, sentimental, interested in many things, spontaneous and future-oriented.  A personality type shared by many people who are disorganized and have a lot of clutter


I’m always thinking ahead, and tend to take a long time to recall trivial things like the names of movies I’ve seen and titles of books I’ve read.


Keeping things was my way of remembering what I’d done and staying connected to who I used to be.  I was an idealistic teenager of the 70’s who wanted to make the world a better place and didn’t want to become part of the bureaucratic machine. I swore I would never lose touch with that part of myself. I didn’t want to grow up to be just another cog in the wheel of the machine. 


What I finally realized was that this part of me was so strong I could never forget it. It IS me. I will always be me, stuff or no stuff. After letting go of so much of the stuff, I realized that I will always remember the truly important things that shaped me and make me who I am today. Whatever I do forget was probably not important anyway. 


The BIg AHA Paradox


Oddly enough, I came to realize that keeping too much stuff actually makes it harder to remember things.


How can you distill your experience when you are immersed in so much stuff that the important lessons can’t be noticed? 


Eventually, I adopted a kind of “So What?” attitude toward forgetting. We are designed to forget things for a reason.  Let’s face it, why do we have to remember every detail of our past?  Who really cares?  What’s really important to remember about the life you’ve lived anyway? 


Is it really important what the date of that trip to Disney World was?  Or is it more important to become the best person you can be and make a contribution to society and the world?   


Clarifying my values and looking at my things with a fresh perspective required a lot of “unlearning” my need to document every aspect of my life.  Not to say that I don’t still take photographs or acquire souvenirs when I travel, etc. But I do take far fewer photos, and sometimes my only souvenir of a trip is a postcard.  I no longer spend excessive time and energy creating a museum of my life.


Instead I use that time to learn, write, travel and help other people. I relax more and enjoy my vacations more instead of worrying about documenting them so much. If I can contribute more to the world by writing. Isn’t that a much more valuable legacy than a photo album or a collection of stuff? 

I hope you find inspiration in questioning your own attachment to things that clutter up your space and drain your time and energy.



© 2007-2009 Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.

Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed,  Agile Lifestyle Design Coach, ADHD Coach, Organic Learning and Performance Strategist offers hope to creative, gifted, neurodiverse people, people with ADHD and anyone whose quality of life is impaired by  chronic disorganization and time management challenges.  She guides people in clarifying priorities, prioritizing, making difficult decisions and learning the tools needed to heal and agilize their relationship with clutter, change habits, and regain self-confidence. She is the author of a best-selling home office organizing book “Neat & Simple Guide to Organizing Your Office” on Amazon, and the popular organizing and decluttering blogNeat & Simple Living. She offers a free Agile Life Design toolkit at


Who are Agilizers? We are Creatives. Thinkers. Change Agents. Challengers. Outliers. Different. Neurodiverse.

Since discovering my tribe of outliers, agilizers, and creative neurodiverse thinkers, I will never see myself the same way again. I’m more at peace today than I even knew was possible. The power of understanding that you are not defective, and you are not alone – that there is a group of people where everything you think is freaky about yourself is actually NORMAL can’t really be described in words.

We are outliers.  Outliers are people who fall outside the normal ranges of the bell curve. 

We are uncommon. We think differently from the average person. We are neurodiverse – our brains and nervous systems are wired differently from the average or neurotypical brain.

This does not mean we are disordered – it’s more like Continue reading

Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed. Vita

Ariane Benefit, M.S. Ed
Agile Performance Strategist |Learning Design and Facilitation
Designer | Coach | Consultant | Writer | Speaker

Ariane has been a coach, facilitator, teacher, speaker, author, and business consultant since 1983. Prior to starting Lotus Bridge, LLC in 2008 and Neat & Simple Living in 2005, she was a corporate performance improvement consultant to many of the Fortune 500 providing expertise in adult learning psychology, performance development, instructional design, leadership development, management development, organizational development, change management, sales training, and customer service.Ariane has worked with many of the Fortune 500 to create successful change and get results through the design and delivery of hundreds of performance improvement “solutions that work.” 

Ariane has always been known for her exceptional creativity, high energy, and deep commitment to helping people succeed and exceeding client expectations.  Ariane offers clients a rare combination of creativity and insight, combined with the ability to quickly get to the heart of the matter, and compassionately help people discover the deep roots of their challenges so that they can transform their lives.She has superb learning facilitation, instructional design and group facilitation, communication and technical skills making her a unique one-stop-shop for designing strategies and implementing solutions that really work.

2011 to Present     

Starting in the summer of 2011, I began consolidating my life’s work and multiple websites back into which was first established in 1996 as the home of my corporate consulting business.

2008 – Present  Lotus Bridge, LLC

Design, develop and deliver multimedia skills courses for the Agile Life Design and AgiliZen Curriculums. Coached clients to overcome life challenges, including ADD, Creative Personality, Chronic Disorganization and excessive clutter.

2005 – 2011 Neat & Simple Living

Provided custom organizing and productivity coaching services to several hundred clients in their offices and home offices.

Shared expertise, learning, ideas and views on life with neurodiversity in the popular Neat and Simple Living Blog.

1993 – 2005  Ariane Benefit Consulting

Partnered with clients to understand their needs and design and deliver performance improvement “solutions that work.” 

Companies worked with include: IBM, Cendant (Real Estate Franchising Division, Coldwell Banker) UPS Information Systems, Avaya, Lucent Technologies, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Winthrop Pharmaceuticals, Beckman Coulter, Chemical Bank,  Merrill Lynch, Ryder, GE Aerospace, PBS and others.


Below is a sampling of the over 100 leading edge projects I had the privilege to contribute to over the last 25+ years.

“Quantum Leadership” University of Denver
Worked with top leadership experts and conducted extensive research to design a 6 month action learning experience for high potential c-level executives for the University of Denver.

Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity with John Kao” PBS

Designed the supporting materials for various satellite presentations delivered by PBS’s The Business Channel

Corporate Credit Analyst Performance Development, Chemical Bank
Worked with leading business professors from Fordham University to redesign the Credit Analyst Training “school” and convert it to a blended training + on-the-job work experience.  Enormous productivity, cost savings and work quality increases were achieved immediately as Credit Analysts started working within 2 weeks after hire vs. the previous 6 months of training before getting on-the-job experience. Designed and developed extensive case studies and content outlines for trainees to practice using real corporate financial statements, audit reports to perform ratio analysis, operations, inventory, industry and economic analysis and assess the credit risk for financing publicly held companies’ business operations.

Intellectual Capital Management System, IBM

One-to-One Performance Coaching, Merrill Lynch
Designed and wrote training materials plus self-study book for managers to use Coaching principles, strategies and practices to cultivate on-the-job performance.

1989-1992Education Manager, Arthur Andersen, Professional Education Division, St. Charles, ILManaged worldwide training division for the Business Systems Consulting and the Computer Risk Management Practices. Responsibilities and accomplishments included:

  • Worked directly with partners and managers from 12 countries to ensure emerging technology and client service training needs for over 600 staff were identified and addressed
  • Managed training development and delivery budgets over $1 million
  • Pioneered use of rapid development techniques to increase efficiency and reduce project cycle times up to 500%
  • Facilitated various classes including: management development, listening skills, teamwork, presentation and instructor skills, and instructional design to content experts
  • Managed the delivery of training
    • Ensured tuition revenues covered 100% of training delivery costs
    • Reduced tuition rates/delivery costs by 15% in one year
    • Improved course quality ratings to be at or above 4.4 on a 5 point scale
    • Ensured all courses complied with Continuing Education standards and were properly accredited
1985-1989, and 1992-1993Project Manager/Senior Designer, IDG, Morristown, NJDesigned, developed, and managed custom training and other performance support projects.
1982-1985Trainer, Brickell Key Associations, Miami, FLDesigned, developed and conducted bilingual (Spanish/English) training for a staff of 50. Topics: Controlled access security systems, fire safety/rescue, and supervisory skills.Created new hire orientation system, policy and procedures manual, performance appraisal system, compensation and career path system.Also certified as Systems Administrator for state-the-art technology communication and control systems:  CardKey Access Control, Simplex Fire Safety, TCI, and Southern Bell Horizon PBX.
1983-1985Adjunct Faculty, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FLTaught new teachers how to use technology in the classroom to and produce multi-media lessons.
Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FLManaged Instructional Media Lab and supported faculty in using multi-media technology in the classroom.Assistant to Director of the Instructional Design and Technology Masters Degree.
Master of Science in Education, University of Miami, FL, 1983Specialties: Adult Learning Psychology, Instructional Systems Design and Technology, Organizational Training Design & Development, Human Resource Development, Multicultural and Bilingual Education, Testing and Evaluation, Computer Assisted Learning, English as a Second Language, Language Acquisition)Bachelor of Arts, University of Miami, 1981
Major: Spanish Literature (Fluent in Spanish)  Minor: Hispanic American Studies (Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, Philosophy, World Religion)   Magna Cum Laude

Continuing Education

My NSGCD Learning Transcript

  • Level 2 Specialist in ADD ADHD Organizing – Coursework completed,
    Sitting for Exam in Spring 2008
  • NSGCD Conference, Mt. Laurel, NJ, 2007
  • Level 2 Specialist in Chronic Disorganization – 10/2007
  • Certificate of Study in ADD – 6/2007
  • Certificate of Study in Learning Styles and Modalities – 6/2007
  • Certificate of Study in Chronic Disorganization – 9/2006
  • NAPO Conference, Boston, 2005
  • NSGCD Conference, Boston, 2005

Toastmaster’s Certification, 2004
Leadership and Emotional Intelligence, UPS, 2003
Wealth, Innovation and Diversity, UPS, 2002
Internet & Network Communication, Global Knowledge, 2000
How To Stay Focused On The Customer, Rowan University, 1997
Group Process & Strategic Planning Facilitation Certificates, 1992, Conexus
Model-Netics Training
Management Development & Communication Skills Instructor Certification, Arthur Andersen, 1991
Accelerated Learning Certification, 1988, Multivariant Learning Systems

Book: Neat & Simple Guide to Organizing Your Office, December 2007“Accelerating the Instructional Design Process,” P&I Journal, ISPI, Sept., 1995
“Leadership and The New Science,” Video Review for the HRD Review, April, 1994
SEE LISTING of over 60 Events since 2005 HERE_______________________________________________“Volunteer Recruiting, & Retention Strategies,” Dumont Mental Health Centers, 1995
“Fundamentals of Not-for-Profit Boards,” Hispanic Leadership Opportunity Forum, 1993
“Building Credibility as a Performance Technologist,” Toronto, NSPI Conference, 1990
Addressing the Seven Aspects of Intelligence in Training,” Denver, NSPI Conference, 1989
“Computer-Based Learning – Screen Design Principles,” Washington, DC, NSPI Conference, 1988
Career & Life Skills for Teens, United Way, Paramus, NJ, 2003 – 2004 Developed and taught 10 week program for teens living in foster / group homes. Topics include financial literacy, entrepreneurship, filling out job applications, creating a resume, interviewing, and how to keep a job.
Professional Associations
National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD)
Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) 
Served on National Awards Committees, NJ Chapter Programming VP, 1992 and Membership VP, 1987
Other Skills
  • Agile Problem Solving and Decision Making Process
  • Intuitive User Interface Design
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Agile Project Management
  • Performance Development / Appraisal / Measurement Systems Design
  • Money Management, Budgeting
  • Web-based Learning Design, Development & Facilitation
  • Iterative, Organic Systems Design
  • Strategy Development, Facilitation and Implementation
  • Process Improvement
  • Information Design | Instructional Design | Graphic Design


  • Camtasia  E-Learning Course Production, Video and Audio Editing
  • Webex E-learning Design and Delivery (Also Adobe Connect)
  • Sound Forge Audio Editing
  • Authorware Course Authoring System
  • Toolbook Course Authoring System
  • Advanced Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel,
  • WordPress, Typepad, Dreamweaver
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • PaintShop Pro

My Story of Becoming Agile

butterflyMy whole adult life has been spent learning everything I could about what it takes to overcome chronic disorganization, clutter, and overwhelm to achieve not only higher  performance, but also a higher quality of life.  After all, who cares about productivity when you are depressed, anxious, or exhausted from feeling overwhelmed?

I have been driven to figure out a theory, but more importantly to figure out what people really need to support them in putting theory into action and practical application.

This is my story of getting unstuck and becoming agile – going from a childhood of abuse, domestic violence and welfare, to sending myself to college, to becoming an performance consultant to the Fortune 500,  to ultimately designing my life to fit me and becoming a coach, writer and organic learning facilator – aka Teacher.  Continue reading

Online and Evolving since 1993 – My Digital Timeline

My agile philosophy takes inspiration from many sources.  I have several themes, symbols and metaphors that help me simplify my understanding of the complexity of agility.  I share a few of those with you here.  Many of these are parts of the branding I have used in all my previous businesses.  I love how they have all retained their meaning to me, and yet have become part of a bigger story in the evolution of my whole life. I see them now as chapters in my story.  : )


Here’s a few of the chapters in the story of my online legacy and evolution of my agile philosophy…

2014  Distilling the next iteration of Aglizen into a cohesive curriculum and set of books.  Getting ready for Agilizen 2.0.

2013   Agilizen – The 10 Mantras of Self-Leadership

Launched a full year program teaching the 10 Mantras.  Created and delivered the pilot Foundation Program teaching skills needed to implement Agile Life Design and Master the 8 Dances of Life.

2012  Agile Life Design

Created a delivered a pilot curriculum teaching Agile Life Design, ADEPT Design Model and the 8 Dances of Life.

2011   Becoming Agile and Becoming Ariane Benefit again : ) 

My personal and business Reintegration. Making sense of all evolutions of the past 5 years. “Becoming Agile” is being born. Joined Elizabeth Marshall and Janet Goldstein’s Mentor Program to help me cultivate the content of my work and rebuild my foundation for sharing and publishing the body of my life’s work and all that I have been teaching for the past 5 years with clarity, purpose and simplicity.

Oct. 2010 – May 2011  Quantum Productivity

Joined Andrea J. Lee’s Mentor Program to help me through the complexity of my evolution that I could not contain on my own. I gave birth to Quantum Productivity and 5 full day video webinar coaching and learning programs which were a resounding success with my clients and community.  Before I could even get these programs published, Becoming Agile was begging to be born!

2009 Published 3 of my audio-workbook e-learning programs

 Creativity and Disorganization  (includes 35 page e-book PDF)

 Getting Unstuck: 8 Keys to Overcoming Chronic Disorganization and Cultivating the Gifts of ADD and Creative Personality Type  (includes 13 page PDF booklet)

 Overcoming Perfectionism: 


2008 -2010 Getting Unstuck Program – Whole life Coaching for Women with ADHD

2 years of leading, weekly group coaching and classes in an intimate private online community setting group of women of 50 – 100 at a time. Over 350 women participated in this program over it’s lifespan. Further deepened my Learning about what it really takes to overcome the blocks to agile performance.  Developed hundreds of hours of teaching with the theme of becoming agile (though I was calling it getting unstuck and become flexible) emotional processing, needs assessment, decision-making, relationships, perfectionism, procrastination, handling criticism, handling “failure”, embracing imperfection, agile project management, iterative approaches to decluttering and organizing, critical thinking skills to empower decision making, boundary setting, relationship skills, listening to resistance, thinking like a designer, financial management, money management, paper systems design, overcoming overspending and more.

This program helped make it affordable for women to work with me for 2 full years and without realizing it, leading this community introduced me a whole new audience for my work. It gave me a chance to do longitudinal research.  In other words I got to see in depth
1)  how women really applied my teaching in their real lives.

2) how to better teach the skills that make you CAPABLE of engaging in transforming your life.  and

3) What kinds of people needed these skills.  All kinds of women joined this program.  Many did not have ADD.  They were neurodiverse though.  Most were, like me, “addicted to insight” which is a way of describing the personality trait of “hypersystemizing”

All the while I was teaching, I was also healing my own PTSD and I was transforming my own life at more and more rapid pace as I myself was continuing to master the art of becoming agile.

2008 – Lotus Bridge is Born 

[The Lotus Inspires me:  I wrote this for Lotus Bridge.  Lotus Bridge was the beginning of breaking out of the “organizing” container I had built for my self.  I moved into whole life coaching with the Getting Unstuck program. ]

 Like the lotus flower that blooms even in the most challenging of environments, you CAN overcome the challenges in your life. Even though your natural personality traits (like Gifted, Talented, Intense, ADD and highly creativity) make you vulnerable to emotional reactivity, impulsivity, and distractibility, you can succeed.

The Lotus Bridge is an actual bridge that connects China and Macau – two countries that speak different languages, have dramatically different cultures and drive on opposite sides of the road..

The bridge not only connects the two countries, it facilitates people in switching from driving on the right side of the road to driving on the left side. (I love this as a metaphor for brain differences)

My philosophy is that even though your natural brain differences like really high creativity, or having ADD create challenges for you in a “vanilla” world, you CAN learn to use your gifts to succeed in your own unique way.

That’s my mission. To provide Coaching, education and support that empowers you to DESIGN more success into your life!

“No matter how bad it seems now, it’s NEVER TOO LATE to
get unstuck, design more fulfillment into your life, and step into your true calling so that
you can achieve more of your potential.”

2008 Published Book version “Neat and Simple Guide to Organizing Your Home Office” Sold out 2 print runs of 500 within 5 months (In 2010 Realized it had to be updated to 2nd edition but Quantum Productivity was being born : )

2006 Published E-book version of “Neat and Simple Guide to Organizing Your Home Office”

Started with a seed when I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for a story on Organizing and Careers.  It evolved from a 20 page freebie to 150 page ebook that I sold.  It sold over 1000 digital copies

2006 Neat Web Solutions

(Business Coaching and Web Design and Development to help small businesses develop their web presence profitably)

2005 – 20011 Neat and Simple Living
Organizing Coaching services, Deepening my Learning about the blocks to agile performance.  Synthesizing and seeing the connections between ADHD, Creativity, Chronic Disorganization, Procrastination, Perfectionism, Trauma, PTSD, addictions, conflict, clutter, impaired productivity and more.

2005 Let’s Clear Your Clutter
During the period of transitioning from corporate consulting to personal coaching, teaching and writing, I gave several public classes and workshops live.  This was one of them. It is a book also that I have never published.

I also have a blog call “It’s not about the stuff” that I inherited from Jessica Duquette when she left the online blogging work.  I also inherited a blog called “The Psychology of Clutter” from Dr. Amy Ragan when she left blogging.  I think they both sensed my passion for this work and trusted me to use their work in some way.  They just gave me the work…I didn’t buy it.  They didn’t want their contributions to just die…and I will use them.  It’s coming….: )

1996 Ariane Benefit Consulting

1993 Bridges to Performance (Corporate Performance Consulting)

Leadership and the New Science – Lessons for Agile Living and Thriving in Chaos

Leadership and the New Science

A Review

by Ariane Benefit
Originally Published April 1994,in the Human Resources Development Review Quarterly

LEADERSHIP AND THE NEW SCIENCE – Video, 1993, 23 Minutes, by Dr. Margaret Wheatley.available from CRM Films, Carlsbad, California, 92008. 1-800-421-0833

2011 – I posted an updated review of Leadership and the New Science on Amazon here

This is the original 1994 Version.

Continue reading