Overwhelmed by Spring Cleaning? What to do, in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

April 2023 Vol 5 Issue 4

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Communication
Let me teach you to tell your story!

Welcome Mid-April, 2023!

After what felt like an interminable winter, we felt on April 8th an ushering in of more seasonable temperatures and sunshine. Nights of minus 20 degrees (Celsius) have finally yielded to minus single- or even plus-digit temperatures. And Saskatchewanians have breathed a collective sigh of relief (and we hope that this week will bring rain, not snow)!

Although it is brief or even non-existent some years (when winter morphs into summer), spring offers small miracles–the return of birdsong, a rapid melt of residual snow, the thawing of the ground for those who farm or garden, and the budding of trees and bushes . . . . Special thanks to those dedicated neighbours who have cleared storm drains this year, so that enormous puddles don’t impede walking, cycling and driving. (Beware those sinkholes!)

And speaking of spring, in “Article One” this month, I’ll discuss the common issue that many Saskatchewanians face this time of year–of “overwhelm” with “spring cleaning”–the need to declutter our living and work spaces.

And in “Storytellers’ Corner” this month, I feature some truly “wretched writing” from expert editors, Ross and Kathryn Petras. Some of it will make you laugh!

And even if spring is a fleeting (barely existent) season in Saskatchewan, may it be a time, good reader, to renew your health by being outdoors, to achieve the culmination of professional accomplishments, and to relax, as summer approaches, with family and friends–all blessings that still grace our lives, even in these late pandemic days.

Elizabeth Shih
Storytelling Communications


ARTICLE ONE: Overwhelmed by spring cleaning? What to do in this month’s issue
Purple prose to make you laugh from Wretched Writing by Ross and Kathryn Petras

Article One:  Overwhelmed by Spring Cleaning? What to do, in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

Entrepreneurs might wonder about the relevance of an article on “spring cleaning” to their lives. But recent articles have abounded on how to improve our workspaces (for work-from-home or hybrid offices) and how to shed the severity of last winter by purging and decluttering!

Spring cleaning, when it involves decluttering, can be essential to this newsletter’s theme of “entrepreneurial wellness.” Whether you dig-in up to your elbows with seasonal cleaning tasks (such as cleaning windows, rugs and boot racks), or whether you delegate such work to others, every entrepreneur needs to know how to pitch and purge. So if your home office (or your entire home) lack order and calm, read on!

In an online article last week, CBC journalist Jenifer Norwell addressed why so many of us find “spring cleaning” a grinding chore. Given that economic challenges in these late pandemic and war-torn years have exacerbated both
rental and buyer housing markets, many people—and entrepreneurs, especially—find we must downsize to live and work in smaller spaces.

Consider the “tiny homes” movement and how living as a minimalist has become desirable for a growing number of people, worldwide.

Either purging and pitching excess belongings in your living or work space, or doing a simple seasonal cleaning, many, many people find “spring cleaning” to be overwhelming. But the work won’t “go away” if we avoid it.

In the CBC article, one interviewee commented: “I am finding things I didn’t even realize I had!” Things you’ve lived without for a year, or maybe even a decade (or more), can and should go “out the door.” You don’t really need that old toaster oven or those back issues from eight+ years ago,
of “Time Magazine” or the Times Literary Supplement.

Canadians across all disciplines have reported that reducing unneeded belongings is the best way to make clearer and better-organized spaces that help us both to be productive (at work) and to relax (in leisure time).

When maintaining a space “takes longer and longer to do, that’s a good sign that it’s time to reevaluate,” says Canadian space organizer, Celeste Imus.
The global tidying-up phenomen Marie Kondo has won followers around the world with her approach to decluttering, in which she shows us how to “pare down [our] possessions,” and only keep what “sparks joy.”

Kondo frames the cleaning/decluttering process as positive, not agonizing, and her approach has benefited those who love minimalism. Some have even become professional organizers—making careers out of training and working with Kondo’s methods.

Economist and writer Tim Harford told Norwell that such reorganizing of your space can work well in a kitchen or bedroom, but not in “dynamic situations”–such as workplaces where there is a constant (high) intake of email, digital or hard copy paperwork, or books. Harford says: “When there’s this constant flow of stuff in and out of a working space, Kondo’s method of asking, ‘Do I
really need this? Does it spark joy?’ does not apply.”

So what can we do to make “decluttering” more manageable? Organizer Celeste Imus provides six tips to succeed in the process:
(1) “Start small”: Begin with a small area, like a closet or dresser drawer, instead of feeling overwhelmed by an entire house, apartment or room. Work by one item at a time, so you don’t over-pitch, she says.

(2) “Take breaks”: Don’t work to declutter, purge and pitch for more than two hours at a time, because after that, our brains stop engaging and we can feel “frantic,” pitching out things we should keep, like passports and birth certificates.

(3) “Declutter with a buddy”: Working with someone you trust will make the process more enjoyable and give you a chance to share stories about your things, after which it becomes easier to get rid of some of them.

(4) “Choose comfort”: Bringing items up to table height and working in a well-lit room at a comfortable temperature can reduce the feeling that decluttering is drudgery. Be aware that decluttering is hard on the body, as well as the mind.

(5) “Customize your process”: Know that some organizational approaches might work well for some homes but not always for yours.

(6) “Cut yourself some slack”: Allow yourself to keep some things because they could be useful later, or just because they have sentimental value. Imus says: “Sometimes it just makes you feel comfortable to have the things you love around you.”

And yet, organizers also warn, that what may start as clutter can become for some a hoarding disorder. Jenifer Norwell asks: “ When is clutter just clutter and when is it a hoarding disorder at work?” Psychiatrists say that extremely severe cases of clutter are associated with clinical “hoarding
disorder,” a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment. Hoarding is a form of obsessive/compulsive disorder, in which an individual finds they cannot discard old possessions, even those that have no value.

Purging your home of excess stuff needn’t mean discarding its stories, altogether. Do consider keeping a few items or pieces that have particularly sentimental value.Consider what life would be like without the public who share stories on “The Antiques Roadshow” on both sides of the Atlantic!

In the end, “for some people. . . if they can clear their abode a little bit, it helps to clear their minds,” says B.C.-based counsellor, Murray Anderson. He concludes: “It’s a matter of having sense and order and being able to make space for other things in your lives.”

And now it’s your turn: do you feel overwhelmed by the disorder of your living and/or working space? Do the above tips help to reduce the overwhelm?
Please write in: I’d be delighted to hear from you!

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, stories, riddles and jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: “Wretched writing”: Ross and Kathryn Petras on ” ‘crimes against the English language’ “

In a 2012 volume aptly called, Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes against the English Language, sibling editors, Ross and Kathryn Peters, define bad writing as “a felonious assault on the English language.”



They continue: “It is the lowest of the low. It plumbs the depths of literature and spelunks in the caves of nonfiction. In other words, it stinks. . . . [It] comes in numerous and quite varied forms and modes . . . . exhibiting a blatant ignorance of the constraints of grammar and . . . exuberantly and
brazenly excessive prose. . . . [It] can be marked by overusage of literary tropes or underusage of good taste.”

Such writing, they add, is regrettably “timeless,” implicating writers of the past, present and future. Here are some fun(ny) examples to tickle your funny bone this month. If you’ve ever regretted writing poorly, consider that it couldn’t be worse than the following examples:

(1) A blatant case of “purple prose” (i.e. overwritten, under- or un-edited, self-indulgent and excessive writing) comes From Samuel Alexander White’s book, Called Northwest (1943). Every noun in his writing has one or more adjectives, exhausting our imagination:  “Her slim arms, agile as darting javelins, alternately waved and reined, fluttering the open collared, gray, pearl-buttoned waist that she wore with her chamois-colored riding costume and striking tan boots and copper-hued chaps encasing her mobile thighs with whipping jacket

(2) Some writers write anatomical impossibilities in descriptive prose:
(a) “She stood at the foot of the stairs, narrowing her eyes and breathing through her hips” (from a short story in The Saturday Evening Post, no date given).

b)“People who leaned over backwards, McCullough thought grimly, frequently fell flat on their face . . .” (James White, All Judgment Fled, 1948).

(3) Some governments and corporations write bureaucratese that says “absolutely nothing about something”: “No unmet needs exist and . . . current unmet needs that are being met will continue to be met” (Transportation Commission on Unmet Transit Needs, Mariposa County,

(4) Faulty translations abound, to the detriment of the English language:
(a) “Here you shall be well fed up and agreeably drunk. In the close village you can buy jolly memorials for when you pass away” (In a brochure for an Italian hotel in the Dolomites area).
And (b) “You are properly exhausted after journey or business work. Worthily divert yourself from boredom and create new sense of perception that makes you completely relaxed and happy, please call on LONGMAN HOTEL where our multifunctional recreations will surely feast your tastes. YOU ARE ADDED WITH FUN. Welcome to Piano lounge, where you could enjoy abundant beverages besides cocktails in an elegant atmosphere while being introxicated With pianists famourse musics from home and aboard. YOU ARE AN EXTRAORDINARY VOCALIST AT KAROKE” (In a brochure from
the Longman Hotel, Shanghai, China).

Do you have a story, riddle or joke on any aspect of writing or communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue.

Thank you to the administrative and operating staff at The Franklin Retirement Residence (Revera), for working hard to support seniors of all ages and abilities, in their later years. The quality of life, including diet, transportation, social activities, openness to home-care support and
other programming are excellent, and have created a positive home for a senior in my family.



Special thanks to Vinod (Executive Director), Steve, Mason, Charmaine, Dea, Danae, Sharla, Amrit, Bonnie and others whose names I may temporarily have forgotten (with apologies).

Currently, when our senior health care system is woefully neglected and neglectful, assisted living facilities like The Franklin are providing options even for advanced elderly with disabilities in our communities, for which I am deeply grateful.

To tour the various sizes of suites and discuss many options for residents, please contact Daniel Knudsen, at Daniel.Knudsen@reveraliving.com or call (306) 241-1092.

And even more overdue thanks goes to the mature care professionals of “Home Instead, Inc.” in Saskatoon, including Starr, Amanda, Lavern, Lil, and administrators Rita, Helen and Marina.

Enabling the elderly to “age in place” in homes that are familiar to them is a tremendous service to our community. Thank you to you all.

Another essential supporter has been my faith group’s parish nurse, the amazing Laura Van Loon. Although mandated to work only a handful of hours each week, Laura deftly arranges everything from infant baptisms (at one end of life) to bedside vigils for those in palliative care (at the other).
She continues to be my guiding light as I shepherd an elderly relative through the complex and very broken bureaucracy of our senior “care” system.

Thank you, Laura!


Special thanks to Lisa Focardi, organizer of Saskatoon Open Door Society’s conversation circles for newcomers, for welcoming me back as a circle leader, on a schedule that will accommodate my commitments. Helping newcomers with language training brings me (and so many ESL teachers)
much joy.

Entrepreneur of the month: Meet Silvana Cracogna, ESL teacher and administrator, Global Infobrokers! This month’s entrepreneur is my fellow ESL teacher, Silvana Cracogna, coordinator and facilitator of language programs at Global Infobrokers (home of the Praxis group of schools).

Silvana has been the primary assistant of Praxis -Global CEO Monica Kreuger for over 10 years, but prior to that taught ESL to various students, including children in a Korean elementary school.

Born in Argentina, Silvana moved to Saskatoon with her parents when she was eight years old.  She earned a BA in Spanish at the University of Saskatchewan and an MA (focused on Latin American literature), at the University of Ottawa.

While at university, Silvana was a teaching assistant, taught ESL to a Pfizer employee from Colombia, and to two RCMP employees. She was later certified in a 150 hour TESOL/TEFL course through Global Leadership College,
while she was also working for Praxis.

While Silvana prefers teaching adults, she has also worked with teenagers and children, including some with varying abilities.

Silvana looks forward to taking new ESL students, although she currently works full-time for the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. She comments on why she loves teaching ESL: “I love languages and helping people acquire the
ability to work within a new language. . . “There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the lights go on, as students navigate the world with new-found skills.”

Thank you Silvana for your commitment to the ESL industry. And I hope we can collaborate in the field soon!
Four years after undertaking nine months of programming through startSMART at the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE), I continue to find fruitful relationships with talented individuals, including Silvana Cracogna and Deanna Litz.

All of this is only possible due to the vision of Global Infobrokers’ CEO, Monica Kreuger; VP Global Infobrokers Inc., Brent Kreuger; and Praxis program administrator and Principal, EDM Business Services, Elaine Mantyka.


Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada land better jobs by improving their English skills; I help small-sized businesses close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca)