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

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.

The Gift That Keeps on Taking…

The director of a non-profit organization told me that one of her challenges is that donations given to the center are carefully stored by her staff for just the “right” recipient – which creates a storage problem, and eliminates the opportunity for other donors to “fill the vacuum” which results when there is a real need.

In my first marriage, my in-laws has beautiful gold-rimmed china given to my father-in-law in exchange for legal servicesIMG_5607. I was told the only other set like it was in the White House. The china was carefully tucked away in a cupboard and never used, because it was too “precious” – but my mother-in-law never purchased any “good” china for special occasions, because “we already have some.”

What are you keeping – but not enjoying?