The blog

Stopping Clutter Before It Begins….

IMG_1072For years when someone asked me to autograph one of my books for them or a friend, I always included the book recipient’s name in the inscription. When I started autographing Less Clutter More Life, for some reason, I recalled all the times I was with clients agonizing over what to do with a personally autographed book they no longer really wanted. In fact, for years, the only books I personally never donated were autographed!

With that realization, I stopped adding the recipient’s name, unless specifically requested to do so. If you have an autographed copy, you will see the inscription, “Blessings, Barbara Hemphill.” Now when you are done with the book, you can easily give it to someone else.

That experience encouraged me to give some thought to what other clutter I could be creating for others without meaning to, and what can I do to avoid it. Now when I give a gift, I often say, if it turns out this ____________ doesn’t work for you, please feel free to donate it to your local Goodwill, or someone you think might enjoy it.

Recently during an 8 Hour Miracle, applying the “Does this help me accomplish my work or enjoy my life?” test, my client discovered several photographs of the children of her colleagues. I really don’t need them, she said, but I feel badly throwing them away. I totally understood. I suggested that she say a prayer for the children before she discarded them, but the experience has made me wonder how I could be more proactive in helping others to eliminate what I give them.

I have spoken with hundreds of people who are concerned about what their children are going to do with the things they are leaving behind for their children to deal with because they were unable to do so themselves. I have also worked with dozens of clients who were simultaneously grieving over the loss of a loved one, and agonizing over what to do with everything they left behind.

Based on my experience in over three decades, one of the most wonderful gifts you can leave your children is the message that whatever they do with your belongings is fine. After all, as the Good Book says, “This world is not my home.” Everything I have has been loaned to me by my Creator, and I’m off to an even more amazing place where I can truly accomplish my work and enjoy my life.

10 Tips to Turn Your Clutter Into Someone Else’s Blessing

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1. Start with your own stuff and don’t tell anyone what you are doing. Be a LeadHer by example.
2. If you don’t feel you can do it alone, invite a friend to join you. As my mother always said, “More hands make lighter work.” Offer to do the same for her. You may even have a child who is naturally organized, and would love the opportunity.
3. Decide whether it would easier for you to do a little at a time – or set aside a larger block of time for sorting. Either works!
4. Identify places that would appreciate having what you don’t need. Our county has a non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence.
5. Before you begin, get a trash bag, for those things no one needs, and paper and marking pens.
6. For every hour of organizing, allow ten minutes for “clean-up.” Set a timer as a reminder!
7. Go through the area you have identified and ask, “Does this ______ help me accomplish my work or enjoy my life?” If your answer is “Not really,” you have an opportunity for a blessing.
8. If you’re still not sure whether to keep something, ask “What’s the worst possible thing that would happen if I got rid of this, and I was wrong?” If you can live with your answer, let it go. If you’re still not sure, don’t stop – just go on to something else, and keep asking.
9. If you find something that belongs somewhere else, don’t go there – just put it in a pile to take when you are finished. Make a sign to indicate destination.
10. Before you go to your next activity, make a date with yourself to tackle the next cluttered area. Once you have gone through all the areas in your home, you can sustain your success by making it an annual event.

Drawing by Myers Taylor

Sometimes clutter comes in small boxes…

IMG_1029This week I was planning a luncheon for my husband’s cousin’s 86th birthday. All of the attendees are women who enjoy food, and especially trying something new — not a thrill for my husband whose philosophy is “Why mess with a good thing?” I thought of all the recipes in my recipe box that I hadn’t tried for years — decades in some cases, so I decided this was a good opportunity to take a look at what I was saving. As I began browsing through the recipe box, I realized that the majority of the recipes I would never make again. A few I could toss easily, but others were more difficult — not because I would use them, but because of the memories…

I frequently tell my clients that I teach what I have learned, or in many cases, am still learning. I realized the recipe box was another great place to apply the principles of Less Clutter More Life. I didn’t actually do the math, but I’m sure it was a great illustration of “80% of what we keep we never use.” I decided to do what I recommend: start by doing what is easy. The first ones to go were the those made with Jello — a popular ingredient of recipes when I was growing up on the farm, but not something I would do today. Then there were the ones I would never make now because I can buy them from the store 10 minutes away, probably for less than it would cost me to make them. (Quite different from the farm where the nearest grocery store was 20 minutes away and not open 24 hours!)

The box is less than half full now. I’m sure there are many that I’ll never use, but I’m not ready to let go yet. I think of my own advice: “You can keep everything you want if you’re willing to pay the price: time, space, money and energy.” And for now, I am. I’m sure that at some point in the future, I’ll be ready to let go of more. In the meantime, I found the recipe for “Summer Corn Casserole” made with fresh kernals of corn, radishes, and scallions. Everyone loved it.

Your Clutter is Another’s Blessing

IMAG0074Research shows that 80% of what we have, we never use. Look in your clothes closet, the kitchen cupboards, the linen closet, the garage, the children’s playroom, the attic…Here are 10 tips to help you turn your clutter into a blessing for someone else:

  1. Start with your own stuff and don’t tell anyone what you are doing. Lead by example.
  2. If you don’t feel you can do it alone, invite a friend to join you. Offer to do the same for her. As my mother always said, “More hands make lighter work.” You may even have a child who is naturally organized, and would love the opportunity.
  3. Decide whether it would easier for you to do a little at a time – or set aside a larger block of time for sorting. Either works!
  4. Identify places that would appreciate having what you don’t need. Our county has a non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence.  Check out www.thestuffstop.com.
  5. Before you begin, get a trash bag, for those things no one needs, and paper and marking pens.
  6. For every hour of organizing, allow ten minutes for “clean-up.” Set a timer as a reminder!
  7. Go through the area you have identified and ask, “Does this ______ help me accomplish my work or enjoy my life?” If your answer is “Not really,” you have an opportunity for a blessing.
  8. If you’re still not sure whether to keep something, ask “What’s the worst possible thing that would happen if I got rid of this, and I was wrong?” If you can live with your answer, let it go. If you’re still not sure, don’t stop – just go on to something else, and keep asking.
  9. If you find something that belongs somewhere else, don’t go there – just put it in a pile to take when you are finished. Make a sign to indicate destination.
  10. Before you go to your next activity, make a date with yourself to tackle the next cluttered area. Once you have gone through all the areas in your home, you can sustain your success by making it an annual event.

Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile!

I just spoke with a woman who attended a Less Clutter More Life presentation I gave and expressed an interest in learning more about how to create a  “Finding System™” as opposed to a “filing system”  for her home.  When we talked today she said, “I think I’m going to put this off until the end of next year.  We are building a home.  I’m so busy, and there’s really no point in figuring out something for this house when we are moving.”

Last week I spoke with a couple who are planning to open a new medical office in another year.  Both of them admitted to having lots of paper clutter, but said, “Let’s just wait until we move, and then we’ll figure out what we need.”

So here’s my challenge to anyone who is frustrated with too much paper, or an inability to find what they need:IMG_2674  The best time to solve that problem is NOW!  If you will give us four hours of focused time, we will help you implement a Finding SYSTEM (Saving You Space Time Energy Money!) which will STOP the filing problem in your life forever.  As you have time, you can go through old papers to decide what you want to incorporate into the new system.  If you never go back, it won’t matter, because eventually they will become old enough you don’t have to go through them — or you can let you kids, or the next owner of the business, through them away!