Alpine woman’s gift for organization leads to ‘Lemonade Life’
By Briana Stewart, utahvalley360.com
Every night, Alice Fulton-Osborne stood behind a podium dressed in a striking red suit. She held a microphone in her hand and an audience gathered before her, hanging on her every word. And every night for four years, it was only a dream.
Alice’s dream woke up in 1987 when she spoke nationally about her co-authored organization book, “It’s Here … Somewhere.” And everything was just as she imagined. The microphone and audience were both present and accounted for, and she even donned that same red suit. Her dream was, quite appropriately, in perfect order.
But Alice’s life hasn’t always been so orderly. In fact, it was her own struggle with clutter that propelled her to become an expert on organization and ultimately launch a consulting company called Lemonade Life, which is designed to help people get organized and make the best of what life hands them. So for more than 20 years, Alice has made a living of turning lemons into lemonade.
THE HOUSEHOLD SHOVEL
Alice was tired of saying, “I’m sorry.” But in 1983, with seven young children at home, it became her mantra.
“You can’t do things, and you are always apologizing and making stupid excuses for how things look,” Alice says. “Wondering, pondering, looking for things – it was exhausting trying to maintain a home.”
But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Alice cleaned her house regularly, read several how-to books and frequently bought organization boxes, gadgets and gizmos. Yet without a set system, it meant there were more things to organize and no space to do it. To vent her frustration, Alice, who lived in Washington at the time, commiserated with her friend and eventual co-author, Pauline Hatch, who had five kids and clutter concerns of her own.
“We would be on the phone all the time complaining about not being able to keep track of our space,” Alice says. “What we discovered was we were bright ladies. There ought to be a better way to do things.”
That better way included getting down to basics — namely, out with the unused and in with the necessary.
“We were organizing too much stuff,” she says. “We were doing the household shuffle, when in reality we should have been using the household shovel. That was our epiphany.”
But even epiphanies need a plan.
After Alice and Pauline identified their goals of organization, it was time to develop strategies to achieve them.
“Today we live in a space poor, thing rich world,” Alice says. “We’ve got to look at all our stuff and make evaluations. It’s deciding what to keep, and everything else goes.”
Alice says she knows this is easier said than done, especially since there are three main reasons people hold on to things they don’t need.
The first is sentimental reasons: “My Aunt Esther made me that Afghan.”
The second is cost: “We paid good money for that!”
And the third is potential regret: “But I might need it some day.”
“I guarantee you’ll need it someday,” Alice says, “but there’s somebody who does need it today. So move things on to those people.”
With the average home between 1,800 and 2,200 square feet, getting down to the “bare bones” means 33 to 50 full trash bags. Of all those bags, 80 percent could go to charity, and 20 percent would be trash, Alice says.
And clutter is no respecter of persons.
“Everyone has clutter,” Alice says. “Wealthy people just have clutter we’d like to take home. But when we streamline down to the goals, it creates a home that’s easy to manage. Organization is a result of the system. Once you’re living with ‘keepers,’ anything will work.”
BOOK-ING THE DEAL
Once Alice and Pauline settled into their new, streamlined routines, friends and neighbors started asking to be streamlined themselves. And since the pair was interested in writing a book and needed research to back up their theories, they were happy to oblige.
“We couldn’t streamline the world fast enough,” Alice says.
On a typical day, Alice started working on the manuscript at 4 a.m. She would also steal moments to write when her kids took naps or after they had gone to bed, and then Pauline would come over at night and they would go over their notes. Aside from demanding schedules, the other challenge was their families’ lack of enthusiasm.
“Nobody encouraged us,” she says. “They said it was a waste of time. But while we’re writing, we’re dreaming of speaking to audiences. We knew we had something.”
The manuscript would be rejected 21 times before a publisher knew it was “something” as well, but the 22nd time was a charm. Writer’s Digest published “It’s Here…Somewhere” in 1984, and its popularity has remained strong. Barnes & Noble recently picked the book up for its bargain line, and it has even been translated into Spanish. But when it came time to dedicate the book, nothing was lost in translation.
“[Our families and friends] didn’t want anything to do with it,” Alice says. “We’d been the ones working, so we thought, ‘We’re going to dedicate this to ourselves.’”
RISING ABOVE THE CLUTTER
“It’s Here…Somewhere” may have been dedicated to the authors, but its message is meant for families and households everywhere.
“Big isn’t better,” Alice says. “I wish I could rent 1,000 billboards and spread that across the world.”
Alice says her passion for “spreading the word” comes about because of the profound effect organization can have on people’s lives and relationships.
“People are more important than things, but the order of things affects people,” she says. “Once you simplify, you have more time and energy for what matters most. So many women have put to bed their talents, but when the clutter is out you have the mental time and energy to make a difference.”
And that is exactly Alice’s intention – that people will use her concepts to strengthen and elevate their lives.
“It saves marriages, and it improves mental and emotional health,” she says. “What an amazing alternative to Prozac!”
WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS
Alice’s own streamlined life has given her a variety of alternatives. In addition to her book, she’s lectured across the United States and Canada, taught at BYU education week and was a spokesperson for the American Paper Recycling Institute. She currently hosts the weekly radio show, “Lemonade Life,” which airs on Grapevine Radio, and she also works extensively with Women Celebrating Life, an organization designed to uplift women 40 and older.
For a short time, Alice traded her lemons for the lime-light with appearances on national TV. She and Pauline streamlined a home on Good Morning America with the late Erma Bombeck, and a year later the pair starred in commercials for the cleaning product 2000 Flushes.
If it seems like Alice’s life is overflowing, or even cluttered with her commitments, it’s because it is. But luckily for Alice, she practices what she preaches.
“I’m streamlined down to the bare bones. When my children were home I could have been gone and been paid very well to speak. But as the children started to leave, I did more. I feel strongly that we should give back,” she says. “Make lemonade, and share it along the way.”
Forget those organization gadgets and gizmos. Here are Alice’s eight streamlining steps to a clutter-free house and a happier life.
Step 1: Prepare your family.
Step 2: Collect containers.
Step 3: Work in a clockwise pattern.
Step 4: Evaluate and assign.
Step 5: Ask the right questions.
Step 6: Group and store like items together.
Step 7: Use treasure boxes.
Step 8: Enjoy the empty space.
Alice Fulton-Osborne says we wear 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time. Here are three tips to help you even out your ratio.
• Don’t keep clothing to wear when you’ve lost those last few pounds. “Those clothes send messages about what a loser you are. We don’t need that kind of input. We need positive dialogue going on in our lives,” Alice says.
• Only keep clothes you love. “Whatever your eyes fall upon in your closet, your heart should go, ‘I love that,’” Alice says. “Everything I’m surrounded with I feel good about.”
• You are what you wear. “Clothes send silent messages,” Alice says. “They tell us you’re either successful or you’re not.”