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3 Ways To Change The Story We Tell Ourselves

By November 19, 2023May 25th, 20246 Comments

I’ve been thinking and talking about the stories we tell ourselves. I started this series with thoughts of whether the stories are based on fact or fiction. Then I talked about the stories which are driven by either negative or positive self-talk. I want to round out this series of blogs with thoughts about wishful thinking and ‘when I’ stories. Then I’ll share three ways to change the stories so we can be more present.

Let’s start with wishful thinking stories

We all indulge in wishful thinking from time to time. These stories can start with thoughts of wishing we could change something we had done in the past or alter what is now.

Wishful thinking stories sometimes bear little resemblance to the facts at hand. They lead to unrealistic expectations or may cause the person to make decisions that are not based on a rational assessment of the facts.

A person in a home which is filled up to the point of not being able to use the rooms as they were intended may indulge in wishful thinking. They may think that they can declutter the space in a couple of days.

The reality is that when a home is that full of stuff, it may take weeks or even months to unpack the layers of things. Decluttering carefully so that important documents and belongings are saved while the rest is released so others may benefit.

People indulge in wishful thinking when the truth of a situation is not as they want it to be. If they want to change the story, they need to ask themselves what they are willing and able to do to bring about change so reality more closely matches what they wish for.

Let’s move on to ‘when’ stories

These stories always go like this: ‘I’ll feel better about myself when I ___’ . You can fill in the blank with any number of things. The story could also go like this: ‘I’ll have friends over for a party when my house is perfectly organized’. Or ‘I’ll be happier when I have no more clutter in my house’. Or, ‘I’ll be able to wear the pants I’ve held onto for years when I lose 15 pounds’.

I could create any number of scenarios using this story line.

My problem with the ‘when’ story is that the storyteller is not engaging in what is happening now. They are looking to some undetermined future time when they will have changed their current situation to be more in line with what they want it to be.

Let’s start changing the stories

How do you get from dreaming about things being different to creating the difference you want to have in your home or in your life? I believe that change needs a catalyst; something to kick it in the pants and prompt action.

For some people the catalyst will be an eye-opening moment when they realize that this is not what they want to come home to. For others it will be understanding that all this storytelling has kept their heads in the clouds while life was passing them by.

Where can you find the motivation to make lasting change? It’s easy to try something new once. But it’s not so easy to keep plugging away, to do that new thing over and over repeatedly to turn that change into a new habit. This requires maintaining a certain level of motivation.

There are several ways that Jonda Beattie and I have created which help to motivate our clients.

3 Ways to change the story

1. The Clear Space for You clutter support group

Jonda and I run a clutter support group called Clear Space for You. We are the cheerleaders for our participants who want to make lasting change in their homes. Jonda and I guide the participants as they decide what action they will take each week to take one step closer to their stated goal for the month.

 We start new groups every month (except for December). If you think having an accountability partner will help keep you motivated so you can change the story you are telling yourself join our clutter support group.

2. Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time deck of cards

Each one of the 50 colorful task cards gives step-by-step instructions to organize one small space in the home. These cards are fabulous because they tell you exactly what to do, where to do it, and that it will only take 10 minutes.

Everyone has 10 minutes to give to organizing a small section of their home. The more our clients use the cards, the more organized their home becomes.

Using these cards helps our clients change the story they tell themselves. The negative self-talk story about never being able to get organized shifts to I can do this, a little bit at a time. They can decide to follow the instructions on all the cards dedicated to a specific room or to pull a card at random.

This keeps it fresh for our clients who may have ADHD and need more variety.

3. My List Simplified

This is an undated journal with fields to let our clients track the things they want to do and a whole page for Notes which will capture all their wishful ideas. Once these dreams are corralled, we can look at them objectively and decide which one makes the most sense to tackle first.

Dreams are great. I dream of spending a week on a beach with absolutely nothing to do other than read good books, eat good food, swim in the ocean, and spend time with my family. Sometimes I say to myself when the grandchildren are older, we will be able to… you can fill in the blank. I have come to realize that thoughts like this take me away from enjoying what is going on NOW.

So, when I start to walk down that road and indulge in wishful thinking, I pull out My List Simplified and make some notes about ways I can engage with my grandchildren now. Then I schedule the time.

When you start to indulge in wishful or when I thinking ask yourself if one of the options Jonda Beattie and I created to help ourselves and our clients will help you change the story you are telling yourself.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.


  • I love how you help us focus on now. And all of the solutions you offer do exactly that. They allow you to work on those things that are keeping you stuck. At the same time, by making progress, you are changing the trajectory for a positive future. Actions and the scripts we run over and over as thought-loops are important. It’s great to work on both, and I love how you help people do just that.

    There’s nothing wrong with dreaming or wishing for something to be different. And sometimes, the timing isn’t right to pursue those dreams. But as you said, that doesn’t mean we can’t do something now and appreciate where we are at this moment. Now is all we have.

  • Julie Bestry says:

    Excellent points. Aspirational clutter, like aspirational thoughts, keep a person mired in the faux-future. dreaming isn’t bad, as Seana notes, but you can’t GET to the real future from your aspirational one, only from laying the groundwork in your present reality. (It’s just like how in dreams, you get from one location to another without traversing the land or space; you never get somewhere fun in your dreams after two connections of late flights as happens in reality.) We have to start changing something today if we want a changed tomorrow.

    This series has been wonderful.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    This is an important post because you are NOT saying that dreaming and wishing are bad, only that we need to not allow these activities to sabotage our progress.

    Delaying our happiness until a point in the future when our circumstances are a certain way can be a recipe for many sad days. We only have limited impact over our circumstances. So much better to focus on being happy when we take a particular action, because this is something we can control.

    That said, I also dream of a week at the beach with a book!

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