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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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In The Other Side of Organized, Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions. Already, thousands of clients and readers have found help and inspiration in her advice, personal reflections on change and connection, and vision of what can be accomplished when you find that sweet spot between chaos and perfection.

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« What If? | 12 Ingredients For Successful Appointments »

Ask the Expert: Dorothy Breininger

Dorothy Breininger "Ask the Expert" interview about SuccessIt’s time again for the “Ask the Expert” interview series, which connects you with industry thought leaders. This year we’ve spoken with Dr. April Lane Benson about enlisting help, Leslie Josel about motivation, David Allen about time management, Peter Walsh about clutter, Sheila Delson about letting go, Laura Berman Fortgang about next steps, Judith Kolberg about change, and Sue West about fresh starts. This month I’m exited to bring you organizing expert, Dorothy Breininger, to share her insights and experience about success.

Dorothy and I go way back, having met many years ago through our industry association, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO.) Dorothy exudes positive energy and confidence that I’ve always admired. I recently had the pleasure of hosting an excellent teleclass she presented for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) about Hoarding Interventions. She is a wonderful presenter with a vast wealth of knowledge and a clear way of evaluating options. My sincere gratitude goes to Dorothy for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about her.

Dorothy Breininger is America’s Most Innovative Professional Organizer, best-selling author of Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff, and creator of the “Curb The Chaos” System, which helps individuals conquer their clutter (physical, emotional and body clutter) in a pleasing and fun way. Dorothy is one of A&E’s expert organizers on the Emmy-nominated weekly TV series, “Hoarders.” She appears on the Today Show, the Dr. Phil Show, the View, QVC and PBS in addition to being featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and O Magazine. You can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, blog or website.


Linda Samuels:  As a nationally recognized organizing expert, author, speaker and coach, you inspire others to make positive changes in their lives? How can we best prepare ourselves for success?

Dorothy Breininger:  It may sound silly, but I have found most of my success has come to me in these recent years. I truly believe that by getting plenty of sleep (yes, that means a bed time), studying or learning about my current and focused goals, and meditating on BEING successful are the best ways to prepare ourselves for success.


Linda:  How does failure relate to success?

Dorothy:  I love this question! Failure is the KEY to success. Failure gives you the opportunity to review your mistakes, self correct, and develop a new strategy to make the project, relationship, or goal work. With failure, you get a complete “do over” if you are just willing to look at it as a learning strategy for your own personalized success.


Linda:  What are some essential success ingredients?


  • Maintain life balance. Do not forsake relationships with friends and family for the sole purpose of success.
  • Say “No” often. Be very selective about the people you hang with, the meetings you attend, the volunteer positions you accept. 
  • Avoid responding to nasty emails, social media posts, or phone calls when you are angry or frustrated.  Always ask for guidance from the universe (or a trusted friend) to help you respond to others in a dignified way – even when they are inappropriate in their dealings with you.


Linda:  Do you have a philosophy about success?

Dorothy:  Hang on just a little longer than everyone else.  Many people will “self eliminate” themselves from the competition, job, or goal. Don’t give up before the miracle happens.  Being impatient for your success to arrive might completely knock you out of the game. Hang in there and repeatedly tell yourself that the success will come and it will.


Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge with navigating success?

Dorothy:  I have had soooooooooo many personal challenges in navigating success.  One example was thinking that workaholism was the answer to creating success.  I worked around the clock – at the expense of my good health and intimate relationships. This was a clear mistake.  Now, I get more sleep, eat more healthily, have most weekends off and am experiencing more success than when I was a workaholic. Go figure!


Linda:  Is there anything else you’d like to share about success that I haven’t asked?

Dorothy:  Apologize to others when you’ve made a mistake.  Sometimes our colleagues don’t like to accept our apologies – they may wish to hold a grudge instead.  The apology on our part however releases any resentments YOU may have and you will always be able look back proudly and say, “Yes, I handled this in the best way I could.”

Thank you, Dorothy for sharing your ideas about success. I love how you emphasize the importance of self-care and balance as essential success ingredients. I also like how you regard failure as a learning opportunity and chance for a “do over.”

I invite you to join Dorothy and me as we continue the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts about success. What resonates with you?

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Reader Comments (37)

Powerful expert advice. I concur on getting rest, being balanced and most especially hanging on longer! Tenacity makes a difference. Thanks for sharing these insights on success!

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Great interview. Really like the way she spoke about success, you need to be mature enough to accept success whenever it happens, not being obsessive with obtaining. We misunderstood the idea of success, not always has to do with money, you can be successful and living a modest life, having success is being happy with what you do, enjoy life and having an honest way to earn your sustenance.
Thanks to Dorothy and Linda for this interview.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

I love her thought about hanging on longer than everyone else. Tenacity & perseverance are undervalued in our "quick results" survey. Just continuing to show up is actually a key to success!

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

I really needed to read this today especially about tenacity and self-care. Dorothy is always such a good role model in our profession, and I love her outlook.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanice Simon

Loved this interview, Linda--especially Dorothy's philosophy about success. I'm going to write what she said on a post-it and stick it on my computer. Then, I'm pasting it into Evernote so I can always have it with me as a reminder.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Agin Murray

I have a lot of respect for Dorothy. Her authenticity and class always shine through. Love the thought about holding on. I agree that in this quick fix culture we are always expecting it to happen in an instant. Tenacity is key as well as passion and paying it forward.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

I love Dorothy's spirit and life philosophies. Taking care of yourself and forgiving yourself are wonderful paths to success. I truly admire her outlook and commitment to being her best self. Thanks for sharing,

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndi Willis

Really enjoyed this interview Linda. Thanks for your powerful questions and Dorothy's insightful answers. Having balance in our lives is important for good health and happiness. Dorothy's suggestions and success strategies are greatly appreciated.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRandi Lyman

Love "hearing" all of your wonderful voices! What a great community.

"Tenacity" resonated with many of you (Ellen, Seana, Janice, Stacey, and Leslie.) The importance of self-care as a success ingredient also was noticed and mentioned (Janice and Andi.) Other success themes that resonated were defining success in your own terms (Nacho) and having balance (Randi.)

Am grateful for all of you.

September 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, another great series! Success means something different for every one of us. I think how we measure it, is based on how well it matches up with our priorities and life goals. It could be about money, life-balance, healthy living, family, or personal relationships. There is no quick fix for acquiring any one of these "riches", It absolutely takes perserverence and fortitude. Above all, it's not a race. You get there when you get there.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Having recently read Seth Godin's "The Dip" I too enjoyed Dorothey's comment about hanging on just a little longer. Thank you for this gentle piece.

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracey Foulkes

Thanks, Dorothy, for the reminder that failure is an opportunity to learn from mistakes. Success can also mean celebrating the fact that you took a risk - even if you didn't achieve the outcome that you wanted.

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJuliet Landau-Pope

More wonderful voices! So great to "hear" from each of you.

@Nancy- Love the idea about pacing and success, "You get there when you get there." So true. And that success means something different to each of us.

@Tracey- Will have to read Seth's book. It sounds great. The "hanging on a little longer," reminds us that success is a process, not a singular event.

@Juliet- I love the perspective you offer, "Success can also mean celebrating the fact that you took a risk, even if you didn't achieve the outcome that you wanted." Yes!

September 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you, Linda for this wonderful interview. Dorothy's comments regarding being willing to look closely at the reason for a failure, to use it as a valuable learning tool and apologizing as well as self-care really resonated with me. Learning to selectively pick and chose the activities you engage in outside of work is also something to keep in mind!

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Great interview!! I particularly love the point about "hanging in there." History is full of people & ideas that wouldn't have seen success if they hadn't had persistence. And a point I like to make to my clients is that success doesn't have to be something BIG. Sometimes the success is just in the Showing Up -- in the being there, being part, or just being.

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Blinder

I agree with Dorothy & Ellen's echo in the first comment. It takes time to build your "brand" & many of us are used to instant gratification these days. It doesn't happen that way. Sleep is my Achilles heel. If I don't get 7-8 hours/night I'm not as good as I need to be the next day, so important!

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie Meek

Linda, this blog + comments are a sure success. I like how Dorothy "says no often". Taking the weekends off and not being a workaholic = success? That sounds amazing. This post was a nice reminder to take a break. Thank you both for your inspiration. @Nacho, the definition of "success" is not always monetary, so true!

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Seavey

Linda and Dorothy, thank you so much for this powerful interview. I love your advice to "hang just a little longer" and your answer on success/failure is so liberating. We often forget how our mistakes forge us into better beings and better professionals. I love your work!

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

You guys are awesome! Great expansion of the success conversation.

@Diane- Great additional tip you offered about being mindful and selective about your non-work activities.

@Robin- Wonderful reminder that success shows up in not just big ways, but also in small ones like "just being." Lovely.

@Laurie- Patience and sleep...Yes! Essential success ingredients.

@Rachel- Isn't it fascinating how we each define success? From being able to say "no," to setting boundaries around our working hours and more. Success isn't one thing, but a combination of "ingredients."

@Helena- One of my favorite Einstein quotes is, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." Tenacity, patience, curiosity...all success ingredients.

September 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Failure as a complete do-over ! It sounds exciting and something never to fear again! Self-eliminate. Say 'no' often.

I'm writing this in bed, as a cold tries to overtake me. I'd been doing well on the self-care front, but I think I just found some new limit I need to add to my self care portfolio. My body's way of asking me to slow down usually brings on a cold.

Soooo, thank you both for your advice, creative turn of a phrase, and gentle reminders to be our own best friend.

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue west

Congratulations on your many successes Dorothy!

"Be selective about the people you hang out with." BINGO!

Surrounding yourself with good people who support + encourage you is critical to self-preservation and balance. There's a motivational speaker named Jim Rohn who once said something like, "You are the sum of the five people you hang out with most" and that's a really good thing to keep in mind when accepting invites - professional or personal.

September 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeralin Thomas

This hit me yesterday - something I've noticed twice now with Dorothy's comments - I heard her wonderful ICD class about interventions and now this interview.

What struck me is this: She gives her opinions and advice, and then she asks us to slow down enough to think about what is right for us, giving us (or asking us to take) responsibility for ourselves. It's not a direct 'ask,' but I've heard it twice in the past few weeks, listening and reading her interviews.

It's a subtle point, but it's different from what I've heard before. And when her clients hear this, wow, there must be some wonderful progress and successes in those partnerships.

September 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersue west

You two are awesome! Thank you for joining us and adding your brand of wisdom to the conversation.

@Sue- So sorry to hear that you have a cold. No fun. But how wise you are to allow your body to speak to you. It's great that you're listening, slowing down, and taking care of you. And how interesting that the message also segues into what you noticed about Dorothy's approach about slowing down enough to "think about what is right for us." Powerful indeed. Feel better soon.

@Geralin- Thank you for bringing forward the "selectivity" advice that was tucked neatly between saying "no" and not responding to nasty emails. The Jim Rohn quote is golden. Who are your five?

September 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks Linda for providing these insightful and inspiring posts.

NAPO conferences hold such wonderful memories and hearing Dorothy speak many years back about her `story`was a life changing experience for me....and now to hear how she has shifted to this place of peace, being in the flow and allowing just inspires me all over again.

Thanks Dorothy for hanging on and showing us that it does work.

xo Elaine

September 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElaine Shannon

I love the reframe of failure: it is an opportunity for a "do-over." A fresh start, a new chapter, and the first step to a new journey.

September 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Lee

I love every answer in this interview. Very inspiring!

September 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMonika Kristofferson

Thanks for this Linda! I love the spiritual aspect of Dorothy's perspective, which feeds our organizing practice(s) and the underlying healing nature of our work.

September 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Deinstadt

Wonderful to "hear" from all of you...the success conversation continues...

@Elaine- How terrific that you have Dorothy as a strong inspirational force for you both then and now!

@Denise- Re-framing is such a powerful tool, isn't it?

@Monika- Thrilled to know you're feeling inspired by the interview.

@Andrea- It's so interesting to see which ideas resonate with everyone. Lovely how you picked up on the spiritual perspective.

September 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love the apparent dichotomy between tenacity and stepping away from the work. It's a shrewd move but a difficult balance to achieve both without dithering, but it's a worthy goal. Thank you for sharing this inspiration.

September 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Bestry

Julie- Great to have you with us! Is it fair to say that success is somewhere in that balance? The mix will be different for each of us.

September 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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