Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
December 20,   2016
 Start Right Where You Are

Start Right Where You Are:

How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference

for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists


Samantha Bennett

Reviewed by Henry Reed

Those who speak from an enlightened perspective, voicing the perennial philosophy, note that everything is perfect as is, including you! This perfect moment is happening just as it is because it is just the perfect moment you require to become enlightened. If you are ready, your teacher will appear to you, having already been there all along, simply wearing the constantly changing disguise of the present moment. It should not come as a surprise that this universal basic reality gives rise to certain correlates. One of them being that your very best next step derives naturally from your current position. In our hyper-informational age, we are so inundated with notions that it can be hard to recognize our own feet from the tracks all around. The result can be overwhelm and procrastination. What to do? Samantha Bennett to the rescue!

Her latest book, Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists, helps us recognize the two feet in front of us and encourages us to kickstart right from that very spot. Simple advice, but not everyone can deliver it in such a way as to make a difference. See what  you think after reading this excerpt* on clutter:

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The Seven Kinds of Clutter Nobody Ever Talks About

An excerpt from Start Right Where You Are by Sam Bennett

As the creator of The Organized Artist Company, bestselling author Sam Bennett’s mission in life is clear: to assist people in getting unstuck by helping them focus and move forward on their goals. That is also the intention of her new book Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists, which is based on the premise that small shifts in the right direction can yield big results in the realization of our creative dreams.   We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book. 


Whether we’re talking about clutter that’s physical, paper, electronic, or mental, its defining characteristic is that it’s stuck. You can tell it’s clutter because there’s no movement, no progress, and no life — it’s just the same old story over and over again. If you have a lot of stuff but it’s in movement — for instance, you actually wear all of those clothes or use all that kitchen equipment, or the piles of paper on your desk are being handled, worked on, and pruned each day — then that’s not clutter. That’s just having a lot of stuff. Which is fine. You’re allowed to have all the stuff you want.

Much of the advice about getting rid of clutter seems to start with the cheerfully abrupt command to “Just do it!” But when you can’t identify the underlying beliefs that are causing you to become buried in clutter, that’s almost impossible. So I’ve listed a few of the root causes of clutter that rarely get discussed and a few tough-love strategies to initiate change.

1.       Nostalgia. You love the memory. You love the person who gave it to you. You love the size you were when you bought it. None of these is a good reason to hang on to something you’re not using. Savor the emotion, make some 5-Minute Art about it, take a picture of it, and let it go.

2.       Your fantasy about your future life. “Someday...” Yes, maybe someday. But not now. You don’t yet have a mountain cabin to decorate, so the moose head can go. You don’t yet have the sailboat, so the plastic tumblers with the cute anchors on them can go. You don’t have the time right now to turn that pile of old T-shirts into a quilt, so they can probably go, too. And if all this rough talk is causing you pangs, that is excellent news. Those pangs mean that you really want that fantasy future to come true. So then take a step toward that today. Start a penny jar for the down payment on the cabin, book an afternoon sail for this weekend, or start cutting the quilt squares this evening.

3.       Future scarcity. “I might need this sometime.” Yes, you might. In which case you can go get another one then. I think this belief is actually a form of perfectionism in disguise: we perfectionists feel we must be prepared for every eventuality. This is an understandable and admirable goal but still no reason to hang on to something that’s just taking up space. Also, if you are going to let an imaginary future make your decisions for you, why not imagine a future in which not hanging on to whatever it is turns out to be the best possible decision?

4.       Loyalty. There are few things more pleasing to a human person than the feeling of being in the right, and few things less pleasing than the feeling of being in the wrong. Sometimes you don’t want to get rid of clutter because it feels like admitting you made a mistake in buying this thing, that you misjudged. You want to believe in your past decisions, so you keep recommitting to those decisions long after they’ve been proved erroneous.

For example, you thought the yellow curtains would look great in the guest room, but they don’t, so you’ve never put them up. And now every time you see them in the bottom of the linen cupboard, you think, “I really thought those would look nice, but they don’t.” And then, to keep from feeling as though you miscalculated, you think, “Maybe they’ll look nice somewhere else someday.” My mentor David Neagle did me a big favor when he taught me Leland Val Van de Wall’s quote, “The amount of success you achieve will be in direct proportion to the amount of truth you can accept about yourself without running away.” The ability to calmly accept that sometimes you blunder will hasten your spiritual maturity and probably improve your decorating skills.

5.       Anthropomorphizing. As a child, I believed that things had feelings. I remember giving extra good-night kisses to my stuffed Dumbo when he was new, because he had missed out on all the kisses I had given my other beloved wubbies over the years, and I wanted him to catch up. (Wubbies is my family’s word for all baby blankets, teddy bears, or special cuddle toys that a child loves especially and refuses to sleep without.) Well, I still believe that things have feelings. I thank my car for its faithful service, I express gratitude to English muffins for being so delicious, and I usually say goodbye to the house as I leave it, even if I’m just dashing out to run errands. I was recently near tears at the thought of replacing some old dish towels, because I felt it was disrespectful to all their years of hard work. If you’re feeling simpatico, then try making some 5-Minute Art about the thing. Then, say thank you to the thing and ask someone else to get rid of it for you. Just because you’re willing to say goodbye doesn’t mean you have to be the one to deliver it to the thrift store or, worse yet, the dumpster.

6.       Replaying old tapes. Worry is mental clutter. So is repetitive self-criticism. Any other thoughts that never lead to an outcome or a new thought are just taking up space in your head. It’s important to your continued growth to distinguish between actual thinking and those old tapes.

Whenever you catch yourself running old tapes, clap your hands loudly, or start to sing an uplifting song out load. Perhaps you can imagine the old thought falling deep into the earth where it can be composted. You can also interrupt your own pattern by yelling out an unusual phrase like, “Peeny-Weenie Woo-Woos!” and then force yourself to think of something else. (A Peeny-
Weenie Woo-Woo
is a fairly horrible cocktail that has achieved legendary status in my family, as its effects caused several of the normally quite reserved adults to get down on the floor and leg wrestle.)

7.       The law of diminishing returns. The first one was great, and the second one was even better. But now you’re on your fifth, and the thrill is wearing off. Whether we’re talking about collectibles, books about space exploration, or red cashmere sweaters, take a look at the redundancies in your life, and see if there are a few items in the collection that can go.
When you are an expert on something, you tend to see minute variations as highly significant. Luke, a musician, composer, and teacher who is, at this writing, getting a PhD in music theory, informs me that his Telecaster and his short-scale Telecaster are completely different guitars, although I cannot really tell them apart. But he’s the expert, and he really does play them both. By the same token, I have six varieties of black high-heeled shoes in my closet, and they each serve a very different purpose. If you are enough of a shoe-lover to actually be using all your black high-heeled shoes, then that’s not clutter — that’s just having good taste. But if you are only using one or two, you can probably afford to let the rest of the throng go.

*Excerpted from Start Right Where You Are. Copyright © 2016 by Sam Bennett. Printed with permission from New World Library

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Compliments of the publisher, New World Library, we have reprinted below an interview with Samantha:

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Just twenty years ago, you were depressed, broke, exhausted, and fed up with yourself. What changed?

          I realized that the only way to be happy in the future was to be happy in the present. In other words, I had been thinking that I could be happy only if my career worked out in a certain way, or if I had a certain amount of money or if my body looked a certain way. Once I realized that I had the power to be happier right now – mostly by taking better care of myself, getting enough rest and softening that inner voice of endless self-criticism, the future started to take care of itself.

You say, “This self-help stuff actually works.” Is that really true?

          Absolutely. In my experience, self-help stuff encourages two things: inquiry and responsibility. Once you start asking yourself the right questions and taking 100% responsibility for your own life, anything is possible.

Start Right Where You Are is based on based on the premise that small shifts in the right direction can yield big results in the realization of our creative dreams.  How so?

All the power you have exists in the present moment. So when you focus your attention on the present moment, and work with whatever is right in front of you, you are bringing your dreams to life. If you want to be a writer, pick up a pen and write a paragraph. If you want to have a deeper spiritual life, take a deep breath and endeavor to perceive the divine that’s happening all around you right now. Procrastinating on your dreams hurts so much, and taking even the tiniest step toward the life you want feels so good.

What’s your number one bit of advice for those of us who feel overwhelmed a lot of the time?

          Get your cell phone out of the bedroom. Deloitte’s 2015 Global Mobile Consumer Survey shows that 43% of consumers check their cell phones within five minutes of waking up, and that’s a guaranteed way to feel overwhelmed. Give yourself back the glorious experience of waking up. Stretch. Snuggle. Breathe. Pay attention to those lovely loops that your mind makes when you’re still half-asleep. There’s nothing happening on the Internet that can’t wait for a few minutes while you allow yourself to wake up gently.

Your book offers 66 small, do-able changes that can lead to big joy. Please share a couple of your favorite examples. 

          The all-time easiest and most effective one is this: whenever you are stuck or troubled, make some 5-Minute Art about it. So if you’re feeling frustrated with some situation in your life, take just a moment and draw a picture or make up a little song or do a little dance that expresses how you are feeling. Feelings just want to be felt. And once you’ve put your feelings into form, you can get a better perspective on what’s bothering you, and maybe see things in a new way. By the way, it shouldn’t be “good” art – don’t worry if you’re not artistically gifted – just pretend you’re a little kid again and scribble away. You’ll be amazed by how quickly you’ll feel better.

Another easy way to improve your life is ask yourself, “How can I make this moment more ME?” Whether it’s an email or an outfit or a recipe...finding ways to insert a bit more of your authentic self into each thing you do will have you feeling more engaged, and will allow others to get to know you better.

I must say that I love how the book itself is made up of little steps; all the chapters are really short, and they each have a “do-it-right-now” action step, so you can feel some progress even as you’re reading.

One of your suggested changes is to turn complaints into requests. Can you give an example of what that looks like?

          I was raised with the idea that you weren’t allowed to complain unless you could offer a solution that might make things better. So rather than focusing on the negative things that I couldn’t change, I was encouraged to focus on making positive changes. Complaining is the hobbyhorse of a victim mentality. So instead sitting around grousing that Mr. TalksALot always dominates the team meeting, why not request that no one gets to speak a second time until everyone has had a chance to speak once? Or rather than just complaining about a restaurant’s bad service, ask the server if there’s anything that can be done to improve your experience. The answer may be “no,” of course, but at least you know that you took responsibility for yourself and spoke up.

Please tell us about “Happy Grown-Up Naked Time”.

          In a time when people are feeling increasingly disconnected from each other and even from their own bodies, I think it’s important that adults take time each week – even just half an hour – to be naked. It’s not about having sex. After all, some people are single, some people don’t want to have sex and some aren’t able to. It’s about exploring your own skin. It’s taking time to touch, to tickle, to massage and to play. No goal in mind. No pressure. Just making sure that as adults we take time to honor and enjoy our bodies.

Even right now – clasp your hands together. Notice the warmth where your palms meet and the texture of your skin. Notice the muscles in your fingers, and how strong your thumb is. Simply taking one moment to really inhabit your own body and pay attention to the sensations of your body is a wonderful way to find joy.

What is 4:7:8 breathing and why should we do it?

          This simple breathing technique is astonishingly effective, even if you just do it one time: simply inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and exhale for a count of 8. I usually do it at least three times in a row, any time I want to calm down, get present, or relax. It’s great in traffic jams, or when you find yourself having racing thoughts. It’s also fantastic for getting to sleep.

You say the phrase “nothing bad is happening” helps you. How does that work?

          I finally figured out that just because things aren’t going the way I’d planned does not mean that things are not going well. Reminding myself that even when things seem unfortunate, inconvenient, or unpleasant, I can still remain calm and find the positive things that are happening, too.

The last time my assistant made a mistake that resulted in half of my mailing list not getting the information about a new program I was offering, I reminded myself that “nothing bad is happening” and immediately adapted my sales strategy to work around the error, and I think I ended up enrolling at least 30% more people because of that shift. I didn’t waste time getting mad; I just assumed it was all for the best and kept working. Everything that looks like a mistake can be a blessing, but you have to keep yourself from freaking out, you know?

Please talk about self-care and why it is so important. 

          Taking excellent care of your self isn’t selfish. In fact, it’s the opposite of selfish. When you spend all your time giving to others and you’re tired, stressed out, overwhelmed, and exhausted, you are no fun to be around. In fact, making the rest of us deal with you when you are a humorless wreck is really quite selfish of you. (I’m kidding. We love you.)

On the other hand, when you are rested, fed, meditated, walked, cuddled, and creatively satisfied, you bring your best self to the world. You have more to give, and you give more freely. You think more clearly, and you don’t sweat the small stuff.

Your book offers a unique perspective on goal setting. What advice do you have to offer in that area?

          I like to set “good/better/best” goals. That is, I’ll set three versions of a goal – the one I must meet, the one that seems reasonable, and the one that feels like a bit of a stretch. That way I’m not constantly moving the finish line on myself.

As far as working to achieve goals, I recommend that people set a “minimum daily requirement.” Make it something super-easy to do, but still meaningful. If you want to write a book, perhaps your MDR is to write one sentence on an index card. If you’re trying to declutter the garage, maybe you will commit to spending five minutes a day in there, whether you do any work or not. And of course there’s my favorite “fifteen minutes a day” strategy. I firmly believe that spending just fifteen minutes a day on the project that is dearest to your heart has the power to change your entire life. Try it and let me know.

What do you most hope readers will take away from your book Start Right Where You Are?

          Change doesn’t have to be risky or hard. By taking little, tiny steps to shift your beliefs and behaviors, you can see wonderful results – quickly. A happy life is not one of perfection, but rather of continuous improvement. You don’t need anyone’s approval to lead a joyful, creatively fulfilled life that’s full of love and good work.

To Explore Start Right Where You are on Amazon.com, click here!


Sam Bennett is the author of Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done. She created The Organized Artist Company to help creative people get unstuck and achieve their goals. She is a writer, actor, teacher, and creativity/productivity specialist who has counseled thousands of artists and entrepreneurs on their way to success. Visit her online at www.startrightwhereyouare.com.

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