Who Is This Crazy Person?

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One Highly-Crookedy Path To A Simpler Kind Of Life

As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Guru, I teach folks how to make their days easier. But that doesn’t mean I’m some kind of Little Miss Smarty Pants Perfect — who’s known the answer to life, the universe, and everything since conception. (It’s 42, by the way.) My own road to simplicity is littered with plenty of curves, twists, and brake-slamming crank-that-wheel-hard-to-the-left-before-you-smash-into-a-brick-retaining-wall u-turns. (Need proof? Read this, this, this and this!) When folks express envy about my existence as an entrepreneur and full-timer, I make sure they realize that the life I’m living now is not the result of any single magical event. It’s a gigantic culmination of the many choices (both wise and dumbshit) I’ve made, the people I’ve encountered, and the serendipities I’ve experienced — as well as boners I’ve pulled, trains I’ve wrecked, pooches I’ve screwed, and lessons I’ve (hopefully) learned up to now.

Achieving your dreams is not about overnight luck — active engagement in conscious decision-making is what sparks that long, slow, gradual coming-together of your goals. The cool thing about this process is that ANYONE can make it happen. You just have to be aware of how the available options align with your values at every fork/knife/spoon in the road. (Sounds commonsense — but you’d be amazed at the number of people who find themselves careening the wrong direction down a one-way street, and just keep going!)

A Little Left Of Center

Ramona SkeletonI was born in Alabama — and even though I say “y’all” and “fixin’ to” (and know what “bless yore heart” REALLY means), I’m kind of a fake southerner. You see, my folks had parented 3 kids amid the Birmingham race riots of the early 60s in one of the country’s worst school systems. They weren’t particularly excited to have me experience the same upbringing a decade and a half later — so (for no other reason than we’d vacationed there and my father liked fishing), we moved to South Florida when I turned 4. I spent 100-degree summers minus A/C, burned every time I set foot outside, came to accept sand in my crotch as a functional inevitability — and grew up talking like a snowbird. I’ve been mistaken for Canadian (which I take as a compliment). But I draw the line at Dubuque or DesMoines — when folks ask what part of the Midwest my accent-less self is from, that’s when I pull out the really thick twang. (I can still sound like a hillbilly if I need to!)

I may have been surrounded by transplanted yankees, but I was still (at least to some degree) brought up the southern way. Like most G.R.I.T.S. (girls raised in the south), being “good” was drilled into my head — however, my family was just the right brand of eccentric (no one’s crazy below the Mason-Dixon line) that I avoided becoming a shy and wilting magnolia. I was an A+ student, well-behaved enough to dodge both jail and knocked-up-ed-ness. But I was taught to have a mouth on me, to speak up when I encountered something unacceptable in the world — which got me booted straight out of the “southern belle” category at an early age. (They took away my hoop skirt in kindergarten, when I asked too many annoying Sunday school questions. My revenge was stealing the bonnet for costuming purposes.) When I look back at what I might have become if I’d had different parents, dear lord am I grateful for the unconventional upbringing!

As the first in my family to attend university, I was expected  to make a difference with my education. I’d spent my high school years spouting statistics about crime/poverty/hunger/oppression, I repainted a low-income elderly widow’s home for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, and I volunteered with Habitat — Social Work was a no-brainer. Pairing a B.S.W. with an M.U.R.P. (to create a learning experience that sounds very much like serious digestive difficulty), I did my best to improve conditions for the bungled and botched (quoting either Nietzsche or Terry Gilliam, depending on your frame of reference). Post-graduation, I signed on at the Atlanta Housing Authority, where I busted my ass, stayed nights/weekends, and took my work home with me — giving 110% to my career (the way I thought you were supposed to when you loved your vocation). No one clued me in that it was important to have a life outside of work, as well. Dammit!

An Unexpected Turning Point

Ramona -- What I PlannedI climbed my way up the non-profit step stool (you get 3 rungs max, then there’s nowhere else to go) — and was eventually put in charge of my own welfare-to-work program. I can safely say that I ran myself ragged, trying to create an environment supportive of client self-sufficiency. But it was near-impossible to change lives without resources. (No supplies, no cash, no staff — if I couldn’t beg/borrow/steal it, my peeps were S.O.L.) When I suggested increasing the budget to “more than zero” so I could actually help some folks, I was told point-blank that our only goal was increasing enrollment to get H.U.D. off our backs. I made it known that this most assuredly was not MY priority (and if that’s all my employers cared about, they could make it happen sans me).

So I went home and (at the tender age of 26) had my first nervous breakdown — I spent the weekend eating chocolate, drinking red wine, watching Lifetime women-in-jeopardy movies, and wondering what the hell I wanted to be when I grew up THIS time around. (Mid-life crises ain’t just for half-centenarians — they’re incredibly cathartic at any age. I’ve experienced several not-yet-menopausal meltdowns, and found each to be tremendously beneficial. In fact, I plan to have a few more before I’m done!)

Folks have always teased me about being O.C.D. (at least until the mental health community labeled such jokes “offensive”). As a kid, I sorted my Barbie wardrobe by season, arranged picture books categorically-then-alphabetically, and stored my homework in a Trapper Keeper far more orderly than many corporate filing systems. Why then, didn’t a single teacher (especially one who’d suffered through my infamous color-coded class reports) ever tell me that I could be anal-retentive for a living?? During the darkest moments of my career conniption (when things were so bad, I’d actually turned to Oprah for inspiration), I stumbled upon the organizing industry — and with it, a pile of overly-efficient-excessively-tidy-wonderfully-methodical-ducks-aligned-with-a-yardstick-and-spirit-level folks like me. They spent hours talking about hangers and drawer dividers and calendars — they took field trips to IKEA and The Container Store. And what’s more, people actually paid them to improve their homes and offices. That’s what I was going to do!

As I typed up a letter of resignation (and put it in my bag for Monday), I was struck by the magnitude of this impending decision. My parents had practically tattooed it onto my brain that quitting was bad, quitting was for losers, quitting meant giving up. I’d suffered through several truly horrible experiences earlier in life because I feared losing face if I bailed — what made this situation any different? Then at the juncture where total surrender and deepest despair intersected (surrounded by bon-bon wrappers and pinot bottles, with Terms Of Endearment on the tube) — something wonderful happened. I learned that letting go of a “toleration” (a situation which drains your energy, sucks the passion from your days, and in no way enriches your existence on this planet) is one of the most empowering things you can ever do. Common sense told me, “Sleep on it.” But my heart sat straight up in bed the next morning and said, “I’m quitting my job today!” That’s how a little W.C. Fields-ian wisdom became the core of my personal and business philosophy. (“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Then quit! There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”)

Now I’d aligned and containerized and labeled like a pro since pre-K, but I knew nothing about being a solopreneur — so I hit the library and read every instructional manual I could find. I learned how to draw up contracts, manage finances, protect business interests, and structure appointments. Most importantly, I mastered the fine art of “networking” — I got really good at telling everyone I met how easy I could make their lives by getting them organized. (This was before I’d landed a single paying client, you understand. Fake it ’til you make it, right?) I was so convincing that folks hired me for realz — to set up filing systems, clear out their junk, redesign closets, and trim those to-do lists down to a reasonable size. My peeps loved me and I loved them — nothing strokes the ego like having your services proclaimed more valuable than therapy! Plus no boss over my shoulder, no bureaucracy getting in the way of my work, and I called all the shots. Screw the 3-car garage and big screen TV — entrepreneurship is the true American dream!

Taking A Bite Out Of The Web

Ramona Creel -- VampireThen after a few years, my fabulous self-employed way of life had begun to feel a bit limiting. I’d escaped punching someone else’s clock, but I still had what amounted to a 9-to-5 job — if I didn’t book appointments, I didn’t bring home a paycheck. Even as the captain of my own ship, I was butting heads with that age-old dilemma of money versus freedom. Dammit!

At the same time, I’d unearthed a heap of cool storage what-nots and clutter-controlling doo-dads, paper management paraphernalia, and time-saving gizmos scattered across the interwebz. But much as they could use the help, I knew my already-inundated clients weren’t going to spend hours searching online for organizing resources. What cyberspace needed was one comprehensive, cohesive portal to help the chaotic and cluttered!

Being addicted to problem-solving (and now believing that the key to professional independence was “passive income”), I had a vision. I’d launch a website that brought every component folks needed to successfully get their lives in order together in one centralized location — helping the overloaded and overwhelmed wade through a sea of options for regaining control of their time, space, and paper. (And of course, living comfortably off the commissions I earned selling other people’s productivity merchandise, while simultaneously having more leisure than I’d know with what to do.) Moron! If I’d had any clue what was required to build a self-sustaining e-commerce business, I’d have turned tail and run. (Good thing I tend to jump feet-first into new projects without considering the consequences!) Lucky for me, OnlineOrganizing became a truly awesome sight (site?) to behold — a super-duper-one-stop-shop-clearinghouse-a-rama for service referrals, do-it-yourself products, and insane quantities of helpful information.

I adored being a virtual touchstone for those in need of a little structure — but it tweren’t all about me, anymore. I now represented POs all over the world, and their behavior reflected back upon my business. No matter how touchy-feely helping someone get organized might be, it was still a professional enterprise — we anal-retentives had some flippin’ standards to uphold, if we were to gain the respect and recognition we deserved! I didn’t want our collective web presence to be the online equivalent of holding hands and singing Kumbaya with the discombobulated masses, so I took it upon myself to help my colleagues become better business people through education and training. I uncovered (then maximized, then more effectively marketed) their strengths, found ways to connect them with their wet-dream clients, offered the ongoing guidance necessary for long-term success, and created a forum where vets could share their knowledge and experience with newbies. Holy-crap-and-lo-and-behold, I’d become a career mentor! While I dearly cherished my organizing/coaching clients, teaching my tribe about the business of doing business fulfilled me in a way that curing clutter never had — and combining both was orgasmic. Happy-happy-joy-joy!

Not Such A Bright Idea

Admin -- Ramona Creel BrainJust as my company was seriously taking off, I decided I’d grown tired of my living environment. (Isn’t that always the way?) Weary of featureless apartments, I’d been seduced by the simplicity of homesteading — growing food, off the grid, composting anything that would sit still. I wanted to be the ideal anti-suburbanite, a model teeny-ecological-footprint-Ø-household-expense greenie. That’s when I bought a reduce/re-use/recycle fixer-upper — yes kids, I’d managed to eschew the corporate ladder and traditional 2.4 children (unless you count the small-furry-poop-in-a-box kind), then bought hook-line-and-sinker into America’s favorite white picket fence myth. If only I’d known how complicated real estate possession was. (The ONE time I follow society’s rules. Dammit!)

Home is where the heart is — so I poured my heart (and soul and brain and body) into that place. I painted, I stripped, I sanded. I swapped fixtures, I upgraded appliances, I replaced windows. I evicted 7 layers of grody kitchen linoleum and 20-year-old gag-worthy living room carpet. I refinished hardwoods and laid tile, put crown molding up and quarter-round down. The end result was beautiful, and folks complimented me to no end on what a great job I’d done — but I was pure-D miserable! It was so stressful that I couldn’t enjoy the process. (Even worse, that fucking house signaled the beginning of the end for my marriage.) I inherited a serious D.I.Y. streak from my family, but this turned into more doing-it-myself than was strictly healthy!

And the money I spent — not just on one-time renovation costs, but ongoing mortgage, insurance, and property tax bills. (Whenever someone talks about IRS interest deductions balancing out the expense of homeownership, I want to punch them in the throat!) Utilities were higher — I now had twice as many rooms to heat and cool, a lawn to tend, and a washing machine that sucked up gallons of water each week. The shift from 900 square feet to 1,800 also meant I needed double the furniture — cha-ching! (Even at IKEA and thrift-store prices.) Oh, and don’t forget upkeep — a $2,000 flood in my basement when a drainpipe overflowed, a stack of dead presidents to replace the furnace (which waited until temperatures dipped below zero in mid-February to die), and enough “little” fixes to nickel-and-dime me to death. Bleh!

Maintaining order also took a lot more time and effort. (Domestic mathematics aren’t linear — residential size versus energy expenditure is an exponential relationship.) A condo-scrub-down was an hour-long affair — but with 2x the space, it took one whole day every week to achieve the same standard of cleanliness. Evenings and weekends that could have been filled with fun were devoted to chores. (No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to ever “finish” that damned honey-do list!) And don’t even get me started on the yard — what a waste! I did set up a compost bin (yay me) — but beyond a half-assed attempt to beat the weeds into submission, I was working too hard on the inside to spend any time outdoors. I never planted a vegetable, set up a solar panel, or even had the energy to enjoy a backyard barbecue. Dammit!

New Horizons

Admin — Ramona Creel Airstream Inside

Indentured servitude and debt slavery in the name of domiciliary territoriality did not agree with me — I felt more burdened with belongings, fiscal liabilities, and personal responsibilities than ever before. I’d also entered a phase in my life where I wanted to travel. (Ye olde Creel wanderlust had kicked in, and my feet were itching!) Unfortunately, I still had to pay the frigging house bills, even when I was in another part of the country. Every time I hit the road, I was doubling my expenses — all the usual rigamarole PLUS hotel, airfare, rental car, and restaurant meals. I’d moved my business online so I could work from anywhere, yet I’d never felt so trapped. And I was supposed to be a minimalist — this was all wrong! I needed to downsize my habitat, my stuff, my frustrations, my debt. I wanted freedom, I wanted simplicity, I wanted out — but how?

Then one fateful day, I passed by a beautiful silver Airstream travel trailer while driving down the road — and the first thought to enter my mind was, “Oh hells yeah!” The idea of being a full-time RVer, living and working on the road, going wherever-I-wanted-whenever-I-wanted-whyever-I-wanted — oh-my-god-yes-please! And I’m sorry, but there are just too many places in this glorious country that I’d like to experience for me to stay in any one forever. I was going to run-Forest-run away from home, and keep on running!

I’m not especially new-age-flakey, but I do believe in kismet. I’ve experienced it over and over again — when the time is right for something to happen in your life, the necessary components come together almost effortlessly and opportunities fall into your lap from out of nowhere. This was certainly the case when I went looking for an Airstream — once I’d made my intentions clear (via a really cheesy vision board), everything snowballed completely out of control. I’d penciled in a 2-year timeline for converting this dream into a reality, but the universe had other plans. In April, I posted a classified ad outlining my requirements for a suitable tin can — by June, I was the proud owner of a 29-foot Excella (named “Stella,” for heavens sake) that had been completely renovated to better-than-move-in condition. Best of all, my new pad cost less than vehicle that tows it, and I paid for my digs in cash — how many people can say that?

I spent 18 months getting organized for full-timing — turning what most folks consider a “recreational vehicle” (suitable only for weekend camping) into a permanent home, selling anything/everything that didn’t fit in my trailer, handing that blasted house over to a rental company, moving my financial accounts online, declaring domicile, setting up a mail forwarding service, you name it. The day I finally rolled out of the driveway was simply sublime — but with that weight off my shoulders, I almost immediately started to notice troubles in my professional life. (Seriously? Can’t both parts ever run smoothly at the same time??)

Starting Over Again (For The 3rd Time)

Ramona -- Same Mistakes My site had grown into one of the planet’s largest virtual organizing resources — and (at some point when I wasn’t paying attention) become a more-than-full-time job. The day I awoke to 2,500 in-box messages, I realized I was at the world’s cyber-mercy. (That interwebz is a bitch of a boss — 24/7, demanding immediate attention, zero grasp of office hours, and completely unforgiving of vacation days). Even with help, I was chained to the computer, unable to walk away for one damned afternoon! I’d dreamed of being wireless, untethered, able to pick up and go anywhere at a ‘s notice — running my business effortlessly from Paris, Majorca, Schenectady. Turns out “anywhere” was only as far as my longest extension cord and wi-fi signal would reach. Dammit!

I’d stopped looking forward to each day’s work. My days were sunup-sundown promoting other people’s projects, no time for my own — I’d become a retailer, when I wanted to be an artiste. I had problems with my employees, problems with my vendors, problems with my customers — I absolutely dreaded e-mail, knowing how many motherfrakkin’ fires would need extinguishing. Instead of making anyone’s life better, I tracked lost packages, fielded complaints, or (even more awesome) refunded my hard-earned income when some drop-ship manufacturer screwed up an order! I was in a bad place. Most of all, I loathed the fact that my reputation hinged on whether or not OTHER people did their jobs correctly. But I stuck with it (for a lot longer than I should have), because my site was extremely profitable even during the worst bits — then the economy tanked. Enough! I chucked that towel as hard as I could, and put my company on the market.

Over the next few weeks, I spent a tremendous amount of time collecting information showing my earning and expense history, outlining the potential my website had for continued growth, and describing how the whole enterprise ran on a daily basis. (If I never see another account statement or spreadsheet in my life, it will be too soon!) I met with brokers and buyers and bankers. I talked product line expansion and new service offerings and social networking. I did my baby’s hair up in curls, slapped some rouge on her cheeks, pulled out her best party dress, and put her on display. The whole thing felt like it took forever — I wanted to be free today, not tomorrow! But everyone I’ve spoken to is amazed at how quickly I found a buyer at the front end of a recession — I closed just 2 months after posting my “for sale” listing. I was officially rid of OnlineOrganizing, and had been rewarded for my efforts with a nice wad of dough in the bank. Hallelujah!

I got to enjoy my freedom for exactly 2 years — did some more traveling, took my photography to a few art shows, published a couple of books (including The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career and The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized: A Grown-Up Picture Book For The Cluttered And Chaotic ). Then my life went into a SERIOUS tailspin, far more dire than anything I’d experienced before. The property management company I’d contracted with to rent-and-maintain-and-eventually-buy my house defaulted on the mortgage, forcing me into a panicked short-sale — then the woman who’d taken over my site declared bankruptcy while still owing me money. (Both are long stories best told over many drinks.) The next year sucked even bigger donkey phalli, when my mother died unexpectedly from an “idiopathic” lung disease. I lost my oldest friend, loudest cheerleader, and most ardent supporter without warning. It was like having an icepick stuck through my heart every day of the 3 months it took to clear up her affairs and empty her house (she was something of a hoarder) — and not a yoctosecond passes even now that I don’t miss her terribly. I am forever changed by her absence.

One Relationship Ends, And Another Begins

Ramona And BenBut the pièce de résistance was still yet to come — when my rock-solid marriage flamed out and melted down like a ginormous dumpster fire. What had been 25 years of friendship, love, and business partnerhood devolved into a series of hateful screaming matches that ended with me spending more-nights-than-not on a friend’s couch. Blame it on whatever you like (wed too young, incompatibly different from the start, grew apart) — we’d stopped bringing out the best in each other. I’d been tolerating a lot of intolerables, and I was no longer willing to compromise my life.

I fell down a deep dark couple-year-long bipolar-tinged hole. Most of the time, I gave not one shit about anything — couldn’t focus, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t work, couldn’t think. Then during those other-end-of-the-spectrum shifts, I packed in an insane level of activity as a form of distraction — a year of manic travel up the east coast, writing 16 hours a day with no break for weeks on end, spending more waking hours at the gym than I did at home. I experienced brief periods of pleasure — but I also entertained the idea that I could just quit (I mean REALLY quit) if it ever got to be too much.

I finally extricated myself from marital bliss in the most painful manner possible, doing great psychological harm to us both. I ran away from everything, landed face-first in the city of angels, and skidded full-length down the boulevard of broken dreams — until I finally came to rest, bloodied and battered, on the front doorstep of some very dear friends from college who’d offered me refuge. As I set about recovering my rolling home and rebuilding my shattered existence, I wondered if I’d forever ruined my life — or finally done something I should have had the courage for years ago. I doubted that I’d ever be happy again.

Then I met my soul mate on hide-my-face-as-I-admit-it-match-dot-com. I cringe every time — ‘cuz online dating equals stalkage by some dial-up-AOL-chat-room-weirdo-who-might-be-a-serial-killer. (Fortunately, only one degenerate sent me an unsolicited penie pic — and he left me alone after I suggested that if this was the best he had to offer, he should keep it to himself.) No crazies for me — I was blessed to connect mind/heart/body/soul with a kind and gentle man who was also recovering from a terminal spousal situation, and who was going through much the same process of re-evaluation and reclamation as I.

Ben’s laid-back nature balances my high-strung-ed-ness, but he’s also an active partner-in-crime — so refreshing after years of dragging my other half begrudgingly along behind me every time I got silly or outrageous. My man willingly dresses up like a fool, isn’t afraid to commandeer the local playground equipment, gets naked with me at Burning Man, and encourages all my creative endeavors (even the misguided ones). Out of nowhere, he’ll grab me for a spontaneous public dance/smooch, never worrying about people “watching” us. He tells me (several times a day) how brilliant I am and how much he adores me. His honesty and tenderness have thawed my cynical heart, teaching me what true intimacy feels like. (And when we got affianced, that sweet boy custom-designed a SKULL ring for me — is he perfect or what??) I’m more closely linked to Ben than I’ve ever been with another human being  He’s exactly what I always needed but never had, and I’m that for him. Together, we’ve discovered that it’s possible to come out the other end healed — wiser, better, stronger, more fulfilled. It’s been said that one day someone is going to hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces will stick back together. We did that for each other.

Finally Coming Into Focus

Ramona Creel -- Skeleton FairyOnce the cracks in my personal life had been sealed with psychic crazy glue, it was time to rebuild my poor neglected business. My professional life was a hot mess. For starters, my I.T.-ex was halfway through a million programming projects when our coexistence spiraled down the drain — every vital functionality on my site was broken, and I had to rebuild it all from scratch. (Party!) Then there’s your whole “fuckrupt” factor — if I couldn’t muster the will to shower or get dressed, I certainly wasn’t going to care about marketing. But now, (after consulting my vocational crystal ball yet again), I was ready to don fairy-wings-cum-sugar-skull-makeup, grab that glitter wand, and get back to causing occupational mayhem!

I returned to direct client services, focusing as much on tough-love-reality-check accountability coaching as hands-on and virtual organizing. I expanded my  mentoring of other POs. I developed lines of toolkits to help entrepreneurs jump-start their businesses. I devoted more time to public speaking and dug back into my blogs (sprinkling each with a nice dusting of swear-words this time around, just to keep things interesting). I dabbled in every possible visual arts medium (emphasizing sinister/impertinent subject matter as much as inspirational) — and finally got serious about my photography. I flipped Shakespeare’s Taming Of the Shrew  on its head (in a re-imagining suitably called Untamed ), started penning a young adult novel (with the none-other-than-what-you’d-expect-title Slut ), and committed to finishing my delayed-on-account-of-divorce RVing narrative (Tin Can Travels: From Key West To Nova Scotia In An Airstream ). I also added the credentials “fixer/ass-kicker,” “not-so-tortured artist,” “talking head,” “wordsmith,” “philosopher,” and “wanderluster” to my CV. Finally, I had outlets for all the different aspects of my creativity. I was in heaven — and the best news is that I’m still there!

A Different Kind Of Family

Admin -- Ramona Creel Cats

One thing I haven’t mentioned throughout this whole story of simplification is children — a hugely complicating factor in most folks’ lives, and one I’ve quite purposefully chosen to avoid. (Fortunately, Ben’s on board with that one — his first birthday present to me was a vasectomy.) When a stranger asks if I want kids, my response is generally something along the lines of, “Heeeeeell no! I had a maternal instinct once in grade school, but it thank-sweet-jesus-in-heaven went away. I actually asked for a tubal ligation on my 16th birthday, but I got a stereo instead — honestly, the only way I’d have children is if they invented an automatic rug-rat-feeder, like I have for the cats (and I could teach them to use a litter box).”

When I’m done delivering my no-kidding spiel, most people laugh, exchange some witty banter about the not-so-joys of raising offspring, then move on to the next subject — but every once in a while, I’ll hear the word “why.” I’m fairly easy-going (ha!!) — so I don’t get offended. However, I do find it ironic that I’m expected to defend a perfectly valid personal decision in a way that someone who’s squeezed a mini-me out of her southernmost bodily orifice isn’t. I made the active, conscious, and completely intentional choice not to reproduce. I took the batteries out of my biological clock a long time ago and I regret nothing!

Ramona Creel -- Regret Nothing

I knew early on that I didn’t need crotch-droplings to lead a full and complete life —  and I never could have experienced the amazing things I have with a passel of mealy-mouthed brats in tow. (Melanie Wilkes, anyone?) Plus, I’m way too “selfish” for a house-ape. (Some of my cohorts prickle at that word, but I’m reclaiming it as a positive accolade — like the L.G.B.T. co-opting of the term “queer.”) And there’s nothing more satisfying than beating conversational troublemakers to the punch with a little reverse psychology. When I suggest that I’m too egocentric for parenthood, even those who might oppose child-freedom can’t help but argue — “Gosh no! You know what you want and don’t want, and that’s great.” I win!

Believe me, I’ve given this a lot of thought. I have many friends who’ve reproduced, I know exactly how hard it is to raise a child, and I prefer not to add that much stress to my life — nothing about modern parenting comes anywhere close to resembling my definition of “simple!” It’s not that I’m lazy — anyone who knows me will tell you that they’ve never met someone who can get as much done in a single day. And I’m certainly not allergic to responsibility. (I’ve run my own business since 1998, and that’s at LEAST as hard as converting a baby into an adult.) I am however, fundamentally averse to screaming, crying, temper-tantrums, drool, snot, smelly diapers, and something that’s only 3 feet tall telling me “no!” ‘Nuff said.

Up, Up, And Away

Ramona -- Got BoredIt’s only after typing all this, that I can see how much my life resembles the Up documentary series (one of my all-time faves). Next time you’ve got a few free minutes, try to recall what your life looked like as you entered each new septade:

  • age 7 — living in South Florida, I was a girl scout and a straight-A student in the gifted program — I routinely dressed the cat in doll clothes and pushed him around the neighborhood via a miniature pram (pretending he was my “baby”), spent my free time at the beach, and wanted to be a doctor or the first child astronaut — I was a short-haired tomboy with an anal streak, already organizing my toys into neatly-aligned color-coded categories
  • age 14 — still a Neapolitan, I’d become a clarinet-playing-band-geek and possessing-more-shoes-than-Imelda-Marcos-crazy-80s-fashionista, plagued with braces and a horrendously regrettable perm — I went through a vile “week-old-burrito-under-the-bed-slob” phase, a rebellious “screw-homework-call-your-teacher-a-bitch-and-get-in-school-suspension” phase, and a fairly pathetic “crush-on-a-snare-drummer-I-relentlessly-stalked-but-to-whom-I-never-spoke-once-during-3-years-of-infatuation” phase — I wanted to teach elementary school, but flatly refused to babysit because little kids were “stupid”
  • age 21 — now living in Tallahassee, I was a Social Work major and Marching Chief pledged to Tau Beta Sigma music service sorority — I’d dated my high school sweetheart since age 16, wanted nothing more than to become a yuppie in a shoulder-padded power suit, and had grown my hair down to my ass (which earned me comparisons to Nicole Kidman) — I spent weekends scouring yard sales for the perfect cheapie home decor and making wedding plans (although I had no interest in a larger family)
  • age 28 — having married and moved to Atlanta after graduation, I’d quit my job running a welfare-to-work program to start an organizing and coaching business — I’d downsized to a minimalist condo in Midtown, dressed like a hippie-chick in birks and long skirts, ate a mostly-raw-vegetarian diet, and worked out 6 days a week at a kickboxing gym — I’d hacked my hair pixie-elfin-boy-cut short, sang in a feminist choir with 60 lesbians and 2 other straight girls, and had firmly decided to never have children
  • age 35 – now living outside of Washington DC, I’d bought-and-fixed-up-a-house-’til-it-nearly-killed-me, and been running a successful retail website with my husband — I’d dyed my hair flaming red, then got my first tattoo and nose piercing — I’d been to India and Canada and London, was gone from home about 3 months out of each year traveling, was trying to become a digital photographer with my little point-and-shoot — I’d joined a simplicity circle and was growing weary of the suburban existence
  • age 42 — living on the road as a full-time RVer with Los Angeles as a semi-home-base, I’d sold the web business, ditched the house, bought an Airstream, and upgraded to a professional digital camera — I was split from my husband and had met what would turn out to be the love of my life — I got 4 more facial piercings (including an eyebrow ring), then expanded my tattoo up my back and around my stomach — I’d traveled around the country multiple times, and had also visited Tokyo — I’d published 2 books, become a public speaker, expanded my coaching/organizing, and even acted in a play

So there you go — my life story. Should be changing again in another 7 years — check back for updates!

PS: Wanna instantly rack up some serious virtual cred? I've made it easy for you to share this content with your social networking friends, e-mail it to your peeps, or republish it in your own blog (thereby showing off how smart you are) with these links.

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"I Have More To Say About This... No Surprise!"

Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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One Response

  1. Catherine Stevens says:

    I loved reading your story. Mine is not quite so dramatic. I taught in elementary school for more than 30 years, developing my interest and expertise in spiritual development and energy healing. I now work from home as an intuitive healer and coach.

"We Don't Need No Steenkin' Badges!"