Hi everyone, I am beginning again with my weekly blogs. I have set an intention to begin again. It is a mindfulness practice that I am bringing to my decluttering work. Thirty years of clutter takes time to work through. I have too much to simply take it all out as Marie Kondo suggests in her book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, the book that has taken the country by storm; but for me, that would be simply overwhelming and physically take too much time.
So I am continuing with a little at a time; scheduling an hour a week and sometimes three, to begin again, take another pile and work my way through it. Now that I have the Action Files and Reference Files and numbering system established – a part of Barbara’s 8-hour miracle -approach to staying organized, I have the system in place to describe and place each item so that I will no longer lose it again in future; and now that I have the mental check intact of asking myself for each item – will this item help me accomplish my work or will this item help me enjoy my life – I know how to simply File Act or Toss.
This weekend another chunk – large pile is no longer underneath my desk – and my feet can move freely, extend into the lovely, delicious, sumptuous empty air and stretch out with joy.
It’s not something we like to think about, but you don’t have to look far to realize it only takes minutes for your life to go from peaceful to panic.
Lee was working on a scaffold in New York City when it suddenly collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital in a coma. His wife Beth had focused on taking care of their five children, and hadn’t taken the time to pay attention to how Lee managed the bill paying on their computer. When he woke up after three days, her first question was “Lee, what’s the password to the computer?”
John, who lived alone, was riding a bicycle when a motorist suddenly opened his door in front of John, and he was left in a coma on the street. Finding the information needed to care for him became an overwhelming challenge.
One of the most important gifts you can give your family, or if you live alone, yourself, is to address these seven questions regarding the information that someone will need if you pass away or are incapacitated:
1) What Information Do We Need To Keep?
Start now to identify the information others will need to take over the “business of life.” It’s easy to find books, software and other resources to collect the information, but don’t let perfectionism prevent your progress. Pick one, and begin today. You can always change to another system later. Just putting notes in a file folder (easily accessible by the person you want to have it!) is a place to start.
2) In What Form — Paper or Electronic?
This question should be answered by the person who is collecting the information – or procrastination will prevail. If the person who is collecting the information prefers paper, but the person who will need the information prefers electronic, they can make the change either now or when the time comes they are actually using it.
3) Who Is Responsible for Filing It?
Of course, the answer is obvious if you live alone! In a family, the answer is the person who most often deals with the information that needs to be shared, but ideally it should be a shared task, since one person is quite likely to think of things the other person does not.
4) For how long?
It will be easier for someone else to take over your records management if you don’t give them more than they need. Create a habit of purging your information annually while you are updating any information that has changed.
5) Who Needs Access To It?
There should be at least one person who has access to everything in the case of accident or illness. (You may want to identify a second person in case the first one is not available in a timely manner.) Other people may need/want access to certain types of information. For example, you might want all your children to have access to the information you are collecting, or your primary doctor should have access to all your medical records
6) How Can We Find It?
The key to finding information you are keeping in paper format is a file index – a list of the names of the files/documents. The advantage of electronic filing is the search capability of the computer, but even in that case, make sure to put enough words in the file names to make it easy for others to find. Use consistency in recording dates – e.g., xxxx-xx-xx (year-month-day).
7) How Is It Backed Up?
If you are using paper, at least store the information in a fire proof safe, but a safer solution would be to have a second copy in a separate location. Obviously this makes updating a bigger challenge. History demonstrates that the only thing between you and a computer crash is time, so if you are storing your information electronically, and the people who need it are in various locations, the most effective solution is storing the information in the “cloud.”
Clutter is postponed decisions. Through the years, I’ve seen families with filing cabinets, boxes, and drawers filled with important information. When the unexpected happens, panic ensues, and the pain of the situation is increased multi-fold.
Start today to collect the information someone else might need to take care of your affairs. It will be a treasured gift.
It is now January and I am on track and working through implementing my decluttering plan I set last year. This past week I finally got to the boxes under my desk. Now I can twirl (truthfully almost!) but actually I will be able to twirl my legs under my desk soon. the boxes that have been there for the past ten years and it feels terrific. Approximately 90% was thrown away, one pile is still to be shredded, but at least they are now designated so and are permanently off my internal mental anxiety list of wondering what was there and an added bonus- I found the list I needed to complete a project that has been sitting dormant for over a year. Conclusion? The FAT system works. See page 56 in Less Clutter More Life and make your plan! And remember to be easy on yourself. Take it steady. It took however many years for the clutter to accumulate, it is ok for it to ease out over the coming year or so. I am feeling easier seeing the marked steady progress.
It’s so easy for clutter to accumulate in a building which is frequented by volunteers, since everyone wants to be respectful of each other. This article tells about the annual “Clear the Clutter for Christ” we have been doing in my church. http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Green-Living-Archive/Green-Congregations/
Had a great interview with Shannon Rosenberg of BuzzFeed with tips for making 2016 your most productive year ever! Some of the tips are SO simple, but can make a BIG difference! It’s not too late…
You can read the article here.
Barbara and I were speaking the other day and she asked me, “Louise, how can I communicate to entrepreneurial leaders that they need to do the 8 hour miracle – I have an easier time getting them to pay for the training than to get them to complete it – what is the block? Can you help me figure it out?“ I am a good example. Barbara and I have known each other for 20 years and for 20 years I thought I understood her approach and that I could do it, but that I just hadn’t taken the time to do it for myself. I had resisted Barbara’s teaching over the years thinking that I understood it and could do it myself anytime that I wanted to, but that other things were simply more important right now. Each successive moment of other things being more important, continuing for years and years on end.
My epiphany came while helping Barbara to create this book, while sitting for hours with her words and my images working on the design and layout and sequence and taking the time to feel which image was needed to reach the emotional block corresponding to each pages’ words and stories. Often accomplished Entrepreneurs and Leaders, we spend so much time in our heads, focusing on solving business problems, helping and guiding others’ work and building others’ systems, that we forget to take care of ourselves. Our offices can be a mess, but our companies can run smoothly. The mess however takes a toll on our psyches…the hidden cost. It wasn’t important enough. Something else was always more important.
Finally, I agreed to experience the 8 hour miracle myself. Barbara and I did it over the phone. I had my assistant, April, here with me, and we tackled the creation of the system that would work for my home office. It isn’t the thinking about it, but the doing it, and having the help of someone to do it with you, that makes the difference. Barbara is able to work with strong-minded individuals to help them see what they didn’t see – that actually we are better together, and that how we care for ourselves and do the things that we need, supports us to do our work better.
I feel a weight lifted to know that everything I had in my papers strewn on my desk, beneath my desk, and across the piles in the house, is now on action and reference lists, and indexed so that I can find and work with anything in seconds. We aren’t done, as I still have a few boxes under the desk to process and take through the system we have established, but each day, or week, I end by completing and taking the ten minutes to put things where they need to go, to maintain the system. I feel lighter, free-er, en-abled and my spirit lifts in joy.
Take the time for you!
We are so grateful for this kind review from Merrill Joan Gerber:
“There is a gentle urging in this book that encourages rather than instructs; the message ‘Are you enjoying your work and are you enjoying your life?’ opens in us a dialogue with ourselves. We are encouraged rather then given criticism for the years of our accumulations and indifference to the weight it presses upon us. The photos by Louise Wannier are likewise gentle and peaceful. They urge us to appreciate beauty, space, color, and all nature has to offer. One particular photo of the shadow of a woman against the grass is sweetly seductive, suggesting a walk in beauty.
When I finished reading the book, I sorted through years of holiday cards, keeping only a few photos of those I love, and sent the rest to inhabit some other space, not mine. This book is a deep meditation, and a kind teacher.”
Your ability to accomplish any task or goal is directly related to your ability to find what you need when you need it. The next time you experience poor customer service, ask yourself “What information was needed that the customer service provider didn’t have?” This article outlines The 7 Information Management Questions EVERY business needs to answer to provide great customer service. http://www.articleweekly.com/barbara-hemphill/how-companies-thrive-in-the-digital-age/