simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

December 05, 2012

There’s more than one way to get there…

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In January this year, just like every January for as long as I can remember, I wrote down a few goals I wanted to accomplish in the 12 months ahead. When I wrote down those goals, little did I know the bumps I would encounter just a few months down the road.


One of my goals was to run in a 10K. When I set the goal, this was twice as far as my previous longest distance. Nonetheless, in January the goal felt doable. I had mentally targeted the fall for running my 10K, and by June I was halfway there. But then, the road got bumpy. Just after I ran in a 5K race, my dad’s health took a drastic turn for the worse. Needless to say, my goal of running a 10K was quickly replaced with the goal of spending as much time as possible with my dad in Michigan.


After my dad passed away in August, it was running that kept me going. The goal of running a 10K was still in the back of my mind, but a different, shorter race called out to me. On September 22, 2012, I ran in the Race for Mesothelioma, which was a 5K. I ran in honor of my dad and in hopes of taking one step closer to a finding a cure for the disease that took his life.


When I ran that race, it felt like it would have to be the replacement for the 10K. I didn’t feel like there was enough time before the end of the year to find a 10K to run in and to also double my distance. By chance, and with my goal of a 10K fading, I joined an online challenge to run 43 miles in the month of October. I ended up running more than 45 miles that month, and then decided to bring my total miles to 100 in November. My last run in November—the one that pushed me over the 100-mile mark—was a 10-kilometer run by myself on the streets of my town. It wasn’t the organized 10K race I had pictured in my mind in January, but it was very much my 10K goal achieved. I simply took a different path to the goal. While there was no cheering crowd, timer or finish line at the end, the sense of accomplishment I felt on November 30 was remarkable.


I share this story because often we get so hung up on how we are going to accomplish something that we forget the original intent of the goal. My goal wasn’t to run in a specific 10K race—the race was simply the path I pictured myself taking to accomplish my real goal:  being able to run 10 kilometers without stopping. 


If there’s something you want that feels out of reach today—whether it is a clutter-free home, better relationships, a higher paying job or more time to do the things you love—try a different path. There’s always more than one way to get there, and that applies to anything you want to do. And you just never know…the next path you try may turn out to be the ultimate shortcut to your goal.



November 01, 2012

We're taking the 30-day gratitude challenge. Who is with us?

Focusing on gratitude is something I mention a lot around here, particularly in my Get Organized for the Holidays workshop. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, I make an extra effort to keep my mind focused on gratitude. I have learned that this foundation carries me through the hectic holiday season. It's easy to feel stressed out and overwhelmed this time of year, but it is so much more rewarding to feel grateful and seek out the good that is already present in my life.


Jennifer stumbled upon this 30-day Gratitude Photo Challenge and we both love, love, love it! It’s another great way to commit to recognizing and recording what we're grateful we both decided to join the challenge. Check out the link for all the details, and see if this is something that you’d like to participate in, too. If so, we thought it would be fun to do this together!


If you’d like to share your gratitude photos with us on Pinterest, include the hashtags #simplify101 and #gratitude30 so we can see your photos and what you're grateful for each day. We'll set up a Gratitude Pinboard and repin the photos you share on Pinterest. Jennifer and I also plan to share highlights from our daily gratitude photos on Thursdays, right here on the blog, throughout November. 


Simplify101 gratitude30 iphone copy
Jennifer saved the 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge image to her phone and saved it as her background and wallpaper. This is her way of keeping the challenge top-of-mind, and since she will be using her phone to capture her images, she's got the list exactly where she needs it. Love this!


So what do you say, are you in? Let us know in the comments...and the let the gratitude, photo taking, and pinning begin! I can't wait to see what fills your heart with gratitude. 

Aby's Signature in Blue

P.S. You can find us on Pinterest here and here

October 24, 2012

Lessons Learned from a First-Time Marathon

Last week, I mentioned that Jennifer was running in her first marathon on Sunday. Today, I asked her to share her story with all of us, including the “secrets” to her success and what she learned along the way. Yay, Jen!

  Run a Marathon - Check


Yes! I can officially check this one off my bucket list. I completed the Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis marathon last Sunday. How was it? It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At different times it was fun, excruciating, exciting, daunting, easy, and impossible. And now that it is behind me, I am euphoric and also a bit numb. (But not physically numb. Ouch!)


I feel very fortunate that Aby asked me to write about it on the blog, and I’m honored to share what I learned from this! I have no secret weapons or super powers, but I think the following things were absolutely key.


I had a plan, or more accurately, I found a plan and followed it. Fortunately there are a lot of smart people out there who know far more about marathons than I ever will, and they’ve done all the groundwork. I just had to choose the one that seemed the best fit for me, which ended up being a training program by Hal Higdon, a renowned running expert and author.


I carved out the time. The very next thing I did once I had a plan was to actually put a schedule in my calendar. Having 18 weeks to get ready for something is great, but without assigning tasks to days, that time would have gone by and I would have been no closer to running a marathon. Having things on the schedule solidified my commitment, kept me on track, and also kept my family members in the loop with my training.


I had a team. Speaking of family members, it was imperative that they were on board. Before I even began training, we talked as a family about what it would mean for them. After all, they were not the ones signing up for this, and so I committed to do whatever I could not to take away from family time. This meant some very early runs and some late evenings on the computer mapping out routes and researching nutrition, but I was willing to sacrifice so that my family wouldn’t have to. I was also honest in letting them know there would be 3-4 long weekend runs towards the end that would take up a decent chunk of time and would likely leave me pretty wiped out for the day. I think it was critical to have them on the same page as me. They may not have run with me, but they were most certainly my team.

Marathon Family Hugs
Coming in for hugs from my family along the course.


I also had coaches. Or, perhaps they were more like mentors. Either way, I have two seasoned marathoner friends who were gracious enough to train with me. I have told them I don’t know how anyone trains for a marathon without Julia and Emily, to which they smirk, but I am not kidding. They joined me for my longest training runs, coached me about injuries and recovery, answered my questions, and most of all believed in me. Emily even met me on the course at the bottom of the very worst hill and ran up it with me, filling me with encouragement the entire time. Their expert guidance was invaluable. I’m so grateful!


I had fans. (Hey, why should celebrities have all the fun?) I chose to be pretty vocal about my goal and shared it with many people. I know from past experience that having other people cheer me on keeps me going and keeps me accountable. Thank you to everyone who commented on this blog, the race day spectators and volunteers, and my family and friends. I think we often times underestimate the power our words have. But, I read the comments. I saw the signs. I heard the cheers. And, I believed you. Thank you for believing in me.

  Honk for Jennifer


I celebrated my accomplishments along the way. I treated myself to the occasional piece of new running gear. I celebrated long runs with chocolate milk (because it is both a treat and a good way to refuel the body after a hard workout). But, I also celebrated in less tangible ways, and these were possibly the most meaningful. I celebrated running in different parts of the country, running through season changes, running through various types of weather. I celebrated beautiful views and encounters with nature. I celebrated starry nights and sunrises. I celebrated that not only was every run taking me closer to my goal, but was also allowing me to experience so much that I would have otherwise missed.


I changed my life. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t achieve this goal and then wake up as a different person in a perfect world. However, I learned important things about myself, and I gained new perspective. I think anyone who achieves a goal can identify with this. More than just checking the goal off a to-do list, it’s what happens along the way and as a result of reaching it that has the lasting impact. That’s how we truly change our lives.


Marathon Medal
If you look closely, you can even see the tears rolling down my face. I could not stop crying!



Happy day,

Jens signature black

June 05, 2012

Letting it be easy...

This past weekend, my husband Jay and I took care of something that had been on our to-do list since the beginning of April. We had been dreading this task for weeks…because it felt hard. Really. Really. Hard.


Our task was to sell one of our vehicles on Craigslist, something neither one of us had done before. The car needed a bit of work, so we thought, “Who would want to take care of all of that? Who would want to buy this car?” We considered doing the repairs ourselves, and then selling the car. But, what if someone still didn't want the car? Then we'd have the car and be out the money for the repairs. It felt like we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.


We stayed in this state of indecision for several weeks, until finally the hassle of moving our third vehicle several times a day felt like a bigger hassle than selling the car. We decided to list the car “as is” and be very up-front about the needed repairs. We'd drop the price enough to cover the repairs and then just see what happened.


And guess what happened? Within three hours of listing the car on Craigslist, we had a happy buyer driving it home! Three hours! We couldn't believe how easy it was. We were elated. For a few minutes anyway. See, after the elation settled my next thought was, “Oh no! We must have sold it for too little!”


Have you ever done this? Have you ever believed a project was going to be hard only to discover it was much easier than you expected? And then, did you go so far as to think if it was easy that you must have done something wrong? If so, then know you’re in good company!


I’ve had many people in my life tell me, “It’s supposed to be easy.” And yet, “easy” often feels wrong. As Jay pointed out on Saturday night, isn’t it funny how we feel we must be doing something wrong when something is easy? When, in fact, the opposite is true! When it’s easy, it means you’re on the right path! Easy is good.


The young man who drove away with our car on Saturday left me with a terrific gift. He reminded me that it’s okay if it’s easy. In fact, it’s supposed to be easy. Thank you, young man. I hope you enjoy your new ride.


Is there something in your life right now that feels hard? Why not give yourself permission to let it be easy…and just see what happens? You may just surprise yourself. 


P.S. The above is a sample of my weekly quick tip newsletter. Not on the list yet? You can join here. 

May 22, 2012

Summer Bucket List: D is for The Book of Doing


Continuing on with our summer series, in my next few posts I’m going to share a few add-ons for your alphabetized summer bucket list. The first one is THE BOOK OF DOING: Everyday Activities to Unlock Your Creativity and Joy by Allison Arden. 


Here’s what the publicist shared with me about the book:  Arden, the Vice President and Publisher of Advertising Age, never intentionally set out to write this book. In fact, THE BOOK OF DOING came out of her decision to start living life rather than just going through the motions. Approaching her fortieth birthday, Arden wondered whether she needed to leave her job in order to find passion in life, or if she should continue with her day-to-day responsibilities (working and being a married mom) and just commit to figuring it all out eventually.


Arden kept thinking about her childhood and how she loved arts and crafts. Even as an adult, simple creative tasks like decorating cupcakes with her daughter or going to a crafts store excited her more than she ever thought it could. She loved trying out new activities and getting her hands dirty: “What I loved most of all was the physical act of ‘doing.’ With it came a simple focus on pure delight.” Arden took this newfound strategy to the workplace and to her everyday activities. She tested new concepts and reworked packaging at work while making up local tasting tours and park visits at home. The joy and freedom she discovered while doing this led her to write the fully illustrated and designed THE BOOK OF DOING, in which Arden passionately encourages readers to do what they love most, create new ideas and engage with the world around them. She includes 94 fun activities such as learning code, making a popsicle stick replica of your five favorite people, crafting something special out of a sentimental article of clothing and learning the meanings behind flower types and colors. 


THE BOOK OF DOING is a fun, must-have guide for anyone looking to reawaken their senses and reclaim the serenity of doing the things that they love.



I wanted to share what the publicist had to say about the book because it really encapsulates the book and what it’s all about. Plus, I wanted to give you a feel for why I said yes when the opportunity to review this book landed in my in-box. What really struck a chord with me was that Arden originally contemplated leaving her job to find her passion. But instead, she figured out how to make her job and the rest of her life more rewarding by bringing her passion into her job and life. She discovered that what she needed to live a creative and joyful life was already inside of her. As she says in the book “No need to vacate your life. You will find all you need in your daily acts of doing.” 


The book includes 94 fun activities that you could do to ignite your own creativity and joy, and if you’re like me, as you’re reading the book you’ll think of even more. The book begins with "The Laws of Doing" which are 18 terrific suggestions for how to digest the concepts in the book. And they’re also pretty terrific guidelines for life in general. For example, Arden suggests that you can always find time for things you want to do, and when you do make that commitment to yourself, you’re better in the process.


So if your summer bucket list is short on books to read, or you’re looking for an idea that starts with D, or you’re looking for a resource that will give you loads of inspiring ideas for your bucket list, or you’re ready to reignite your creativity and joy, check out THE BOOK OF DOING. I found this book to be incredibly inspiring – and that was before I even starting doing any of the ideas in it! I started thinking about my life and my to-do list in a different, more creative and joyful way. 


One final note:  When I am offered books to review I tell the author’s people that I will share the book with my readers only if I like it. In this case, it was a no-brainer. I couldn’t wait to tell you about the book so you, too, can be inspired to start doing the things you love to do.


Now it’s your turn:  What books are on your must-read list this summer? Thanks so much for sharing!


April 09, 2012


Last week, my family and I snuck away for a few days of vacation in Michigan. I always call this “going home” since I grew up in Michigan and this is where most of my immediate family lives. It’s funny though, when we go “home” to visit, we don’t actually go back to the house I grew up in. My Mom sold that house many, many years ago. Yet somehow, for me, Michigan still feels like home.


It turns out that for me home isn’t a house. It isn’t four walls. And it isn’t stuff—pictures, or furniture, or knickknacks. It isn’t a place or even a state—as I sometimes think it is with Michigan.  


For me, home is people. Home is being with the people I love. My family.


I am struck by this as I come back to the place that I now call home—the house my family and I live in. I spend a lot of time creating this home—organizing and cleaning and decorating and making it a place we want to be. I think it’s important for me to remember, from time to time, that I don’t need things to create a true home. Home isn't a place that is perfectly clean or perfectly organized or perfectly decorated. Home is simply the three people I share my house and life with.


I love going away for a few days and giving myself time to slow down, time to think and time to gain a fresh perspective. My takeaway this time:  spend more time with the people that make my house my home.

Ahh…it’s good to be home…though in some ways…I guess I never really left.


What is home for you? I'd love to hear.


April 03, 2012

Time Management Tips for Mom: How to feel better about a day full of thankless tasks

I’ve been meaning to blog about this topic for quite a while now. It’s something I think many mom’s can relate to:  how do you make yourself feel good about a day full of thankless tasks? Have you been there, too? This is how a participant in last summer’s It’s About Time online workshop described it. 


Other than tranquility because the house is picked up, I have no reward for completing tasks. I don't get thank yous, I don't get praise. How in the world do I make myself feel good about a day full of thankless tasks?


...I go go go until I drop and then I resent everyone and everything around me. I feel like I am doing all the support work (house cleaning/errands/school support/etc) and everyone else is enjoying the fruits of my labors. It is almost as if I want to stop so someone will notice the nice things they are missing.


Of course, when I stop laundry piles up, dishes are everywhere, the visual clutter drives me nuts and I feel depressed. Eventually I pull myself up by the bootstraps, get everything back in order and the cycle starts again.


Laundry basket-72-copyright-simplify101I would bet most of us mom’s have felt this way at one point or another—feeling as if we’re doing so much for our family without thanks or recognition. Plus, so much of what moms do in a day get’s undone almost before our eyes. The kitchen stays clean only until the next meal. At best, laundry stays caught up for a few hours— as soon as someone goes to bed and changes into their pj’s, the hamper is back on its way to full! It can be so frustrating. 


So what’s a mom to do? Here are some ideas:

Ask for help.
If you find yourself taking on most of the household responsibilities yourself, ask for help. Even young kids can help with simple tasks, and little kids get great pleasure out of being a helper. Tap into your child’s interests and natural desire to help. For example, when my son was little he loved garbage trucks. So getting him to empty the trash cans was a piece of cake! Make helping out part of the family culture and everyone wins. Your kids will learn basic home keeping skills which will serve them in adulthood, and you’ll get some much needed assistance. Your family members may even begin to appreciate everything you do for them. 


Remind them. From time to time, I will remind my kids about what I (and my husband) do for them. For example, if my kids complain about having to put away their clean clothes, I ask them if they would also like to sort, pre-treat, wash, dry, fold AND put away the laundry, or simply put away their clothes like they have to do now. After having this short conversation, their reluctance to put away their clothes passes quickly, and their complaints turn to thanks each time I drop off a batch of freshly folded laundry. 


Remember the big picture. When I start to get frustrated by what feels like a never ending household to-do list, I remind myself that I chose this. I chose to be a mom, and honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. When the laundry starts to pile up I remember that I won't always have to do laundry for four people. In the blink of an eye, I’ll be doing laundry for three and then it will be for just two of us. Keeping the perspective that this is a choice (and one I would make again in heartbeat) really helps, as does the recognition that my current to do list is temporary. My to-do list will continue to shrink as my kids get older and take on even more responsibilities, until ultimately they (gasp) move away. 


Orange-clock-250Carve out time for you.
Take intentional, rejuvenating breaks from your to do list. What activities relax you or make you feel like your needs are being met? When you start to feel resentful of your to-do list, make it a point to take some time for yourself. Think back to a time when you felt better about your to-do list... what things did you do for yourself then? For me, exercising is huge rejuvenator, whether it’s yoga, running or boot camp. Exercise is good for the body and it’s great for the mind—it’s a little slice of quiet time where I can even complete a full thought. What activities rejuvenate you?


Give yourself permission to have fun, even when there’s work to be done. Here's the thing:  there will always be work to be done! So waiting until ALL the work is done to give yourself a break simply won’t work. Stake a claim to some fun time just for you. Decide how much time feels right and will fit into your schedule, and then figure out when it will happen. Could you get up earlier on weekdays to do something fun before the kids get up? Could you go to a dance or exercise class on the weekends? When you do take time out for fun, it’s a win-win. You’ll resent your to-do list less, and you’ll be more energized to get things done.


Are you a mom? I’d love to hear from all you! Do you ever feel burdened by your to-do list and if so, what do you do? Thanks for sharing!


P.S. The winner of From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is Mickey who said:  ok - sorry, I don't do twitter, so, I didn't follow Amy there, I did like on facebook and I tried to subscribe,but not sure if it worked.C: laugh, cry sometimes and write about it!! I got married to a man that had two kids and within our first two years of marriage added two more! It was all way more than I ever dreamed...being a mom/step-mom is hard, challenging and the most awesome thing all at the same time.


Congrats Mickey! Email me at aby at simplify 101 dot com with your full name and mailing address and Amy will get your book sent out to you right away! Thanks. :)


March 21, 2012

10 Organizing Mantras

10 organizing mantras_edited-1

Do you have a favorite organizing mantra? I've pulled together 10 of the tops tips I’ve shared in my online workshops and quick tips. These mantras are designed to stick in your mind and help you cut clutter and get more done. Pull them out anytime you need an extra dose of motivation to take action!

Read all ten mantras and download a free printable here >>>

February 16, 2012

10 Ways to Get Your Organizing Mojo Back

Has this ever happened to you? You decide that this time it’s going to be different. This time you’re really going to get organized and stay that way, too. You start off with a bang and make great strides on your organizing projects for the first few days, weeks or maybe even months. Then, suddenly, wham! You hit the proverbial brick wall. Out of nowhere, something gets in the way of your progress. Maybe your kids get sick. Or perhaps your babysitter quits or you have to spend more time at the office. Perhaps you’re discouraged because the projects you’ve finished seem to be unraveling as you move onto the next project on your list. Whatever the cause, losing your organizing mojo is nothing short of frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the organizing journey. Here are ten simple ways to start shifting the momentum back in your direction so you can get your organizing mojo back. 

Read the rest here >>>

December 31, 2011

Six Ways to Turn Your Resolutions into Realities

As the new year approaches, have your thoughts turned to setting New Year’s resolutions? As someone whose life is centered around helping others create change, I find January to be the most exciting time of the year. It’s time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. It’s time to leave the old and turn your thoughts to creating change. If you’ve set resolutions in the past, only to find your enthusiasm fading a few days into January, there are simple things you can do to make this year different. 


Following are techniques you can use to transform your resolutions into realities. These strategies are things you can do on your own and they’re also built into simplify 101’s online workshops. I hope you enjoy reading about these ideas, but most of all, I hope you use them to create exciting, positive change in your life in the months ahead! Here’s how to do it. 


Tap into what you really want. Is your typical resolution list a list of things you should do instead of a list of things you want to do? Give yourself permission to dream about what you truly want. Maybe you’ve grown tired of the clutter in your home, or the stress of the morning routine as you and your family race around looking for homework papers, backpacks or something clean to wear. Or perhaps you keeping wishing for a new job, or you dream about eating healthier, getting in shape or going on a tropical vacation.



Regardless of the nature of your dream, the first step in making your resolutions a reality is to listen to those little whispers (or loud shouts) that are telling you what you really want. Capture those dreams in a journal or simply jot them down on a piece of paper. 


simplify 101’s online workshops include worksheets and exercises to help you become crystal clear about your goals for the workshop and the changes you want to make in your home and life. I share a simple formula you can use to create an ultra-compelling goal statement that motivates you to take steps forward. 


Focus on fewer things to create more lasting results. If your New Year’s resolution list typically looks like a laundry list of every single thing you’d like to change about yourself and your life, try a new approach this year. Focus on just one or two meaningful changes. You’ll create results more quickly and those results are more likely to stick. Last year, for example, I started the year by adding just one more workout session to my weekly routine. And guess what—I’m still doing it! If you start to want to do it all now, say this mantra to yourself:  Fewer things. More results.


Our online workshops are designed to help you stay focused on fewer things, so you create lasting results. In Organizing 101, you start with one small organizing project—so you’re certain to start and finish during the course of the workshop, and then you put together a plan for tackling the rest of your projects—one at a time. 


Decide to do it! Once you’ve created a list of things you want, the next step is to decide that you’re going to do it! Deciding is the difference between saying “I wish I was more organized” and “I am getting more organized!” Once you’ve decided to do it, cement your decision by doing something that shows your commitment.  Tell a friend about your resolution. Or join a simplify 101 workshop and share your decision with me and the online community. By deciding, and then going public with your decision, you’ll motivate yourself to take action. 


Give yourself permission to ask for help. As someone who is very independent, I know this one is tough. But asking for help is truly an empowering thing to do. So if you don’t have all the answers about how to accomplish your goal, or there’s something that you know for sure is standing in your way, reach out for the resources, ideas and people you need to get moving. Help can come in many forms. You could research ideas online, read a book, take a class, ask a friend for help, or work with a coach or mentor. Regardless of the form of assistance you choose, you will get where you want to be more quickly and you’ll enjoy the process more, too. Last year’s goal to start a new weekly exercise class is a terrific example. My instructor inspired me to work harder than I ever would have worked while exercising at home alone, and as a result, I felt better and got in better shape much faster than I would have on my own. 


Simplify 101’s online workshops include great information AND access to the expert who created the content. This means you’ll get answers to your questions, stay motivated, and achieve your goals! 


Take action now! Here’s another mantra for you:  Action creates change! So the sooner you begin taking steps in the direction of your goal, the sooner you’ll cross the finish line! So why not start right now? You don’t have to figure out every single detail before you get started. Instead, figure out one or two steps you could take, and then just take them. As you move forward, you’ll create momentum and enthusiasm, which means all the steps to come become easier and easier to take. Believe me, the hardest workout class I went to in 2011 was the very first one. (I was sore for four days!) Every single class after that was easier, because I had the confidence that I could do it! As you take action, you’ll gain confidence, and the next steps forward will become easier and easier to see and accomplish. 


simplify 101’s online workshops are designed to make it simple to take action! Every workshop includes straightforward action steps you can take right away, as soon as you’re finished reading each lesson. Plus you can share your progress with the online community, which means you’ll feel accountable to move forward, and you’ll be inspired by what your classmates are doing, too.  


Build your goal into your schedule. Regardless of the goal you’re going after, you’ll be (much, much!) more likely to achieve it if you make it a part of your regular routine. Decide when you will work on your organizing projects, or go to the gym or search for that new, fulfilling job. When I think about my new exercise habit, there are many reasons I was able to make this change stick. But one of the biggies is that I found a way to fit fitness into my schedule. My workout class happened to be at exactly the same time as my daughter’s Saturday Taekwondo class, which meant it was simple to fit the class into my regular routine. As you consider the changes you’d like to make in 2012—whether it’s to get more organized or go after another goal—carve out time in your schedule to make it happen.




Our online workshops always fit your schedule. You don’t have to be online at any set time to take a simplify 101 workshop. Instead, once a lesson is released, you can log in and access the lesson materials any time that works for you—day or night!


So there you have it, six simple and effective techniques you can use to transform your resolutions into realities in 2012! I wish you the happiest of new years and much success on your journey to your goals.


 P.S. We’ve also made our online workshops risk-free to try. Check out our cancellation policy, and then, sign up for a workshop! Let’s make 2012 the best year yet!  

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