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Mom decided suddenly last October to move herself. To leave her home of 50 years, the home in which we spent most of all our childhood, and move to a retirement complex where she would have the three things she needed most: company, meals and freedom from the constancy of caring for her beautiful but rambling and now empty home.
Thanks to Barbara’s wisdom and the five-step program’s guidance, we had resources and a clear approach.
I hadn’t reckoned with my own internal sense of loss. It hit me, powerfully, like a tractor dragging a load of 100-foot tree trunks. The weight and enormity of going through 50 years of our family’s stuff and helping her determine what she wanted – I quickly realized that I needed help.
Fortunately, there is a local firm (Gentle Transitions) that specializes in having these conversations, holding mom’s hand and spending time with her so that she could, a few hours at a time, tackle what she needed to go through.
As is her nature, mom immediately started worrying about what was to go to everyone else, but I was able to calmly and firmly say, “Let’s start with you. What do you want and need? They will help you get that selected, organized, design a new floor plan for your apartment, figure out what will fit and where you will have to make some choices and then, only then, we will worry about the rest. Let’s get you moved and set up first! Whatever you want you take.”
So we did just that. The team at Gentle Transitions headed by dear Nan was wonderful. Their system was just like it says the book – File, Act or Toss became Move or Stay – a green dot sticker for Move, a red one for Stay.
It took six weeks to go through and prepare, meeting a couple of times a week so as to not do too much at once, and then it took one day to pack and one day to move and set up. Before the packers arrived I went around and took pictures of the colorful green and red dots scattered throughout her home. After the move I took pictures of mom in her new home with pretty much most things where she wanted them. She commented, “It is so wonderful having all my favourites in view. In the big house I often missed seeing them.”
Then the next step: we went forward with the File-Act-Toss technique, which turned into three piles: Give to Family, Give to Charity, and Junk (we color-coded all of the family members’ items and kept a written list of each person’s requests in mom’s little book as she requested a record of what was going to whom).
We had to go through every cupboard and every drawer. I laughed when my sister visited after we thought we had finished and she said she had found two drawers and a cupboard full of stuff. I replied, “Yes, I was sure I had gone through every drawer and had the cleaning done and I also found another full one last week”. Big houses are complex, with lots of nooks and crannies.
Then, we called the charities and had them walk through and see what they wanted, at which point we found a man who specializes in clearing the junk. They hauled off the oddest objects: rusting old bed frames, dilapidated wooden picnic benches, stained rugs, old blocks in the basement, paint cans, hardware, broken kitchenware, etc.
As the house gradually cleared and the piles diminished to just a few to be delivered, including two books of interest to the local library, the feeling was one of rebirth. The open, fresh joy of our family home came to life. Mom said she “loved seeing the house empty with its beautiful hardwood floors she had cared for.” She could renew her memory of joyful years spent within its adobe walls. And so could I. The last night there I could not sleep and found myself spending an early morning just breathing in the feel of the place in the living room on the old leather couch (which needed to be refurbished and ended up going to a foster youth organization that will refinish it and resell it to help fund their program), and for just that morning I was back as an eleven year old doing my math homework and getting help from my dad with the logic problems.
Thank you, Barbara, for your life’s teachings that made it possible for me to go through this transition with joy.
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 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.
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.”
I began my journey to doing a Bat Mitzvah, which is the jewish coming of age tradition, when I was 12. At that time, the world was all flower power, but I didn’t feel powerful, nor enough self-confidence to stand in front of the entire congregation and my family and risk failure. In those days, I defined failure as making even one mistake. So I let myself down, and did not complete that which as an adult I realize that I always wanted to do.
As I stepped up to the Bimah to begin my reading this past Saturday, I was standing together my mother, my brother, one son and one daughter. My voice trembled as I began to sing the Amen. So many times I had practiced and still in this moment I felt my voice shake. Our dear Cantor Ruth, standing behind me reached and put her hand on my back; I felt the warmth of her hand suffuse and give me strength and the blessing was that my voice began to flow. I chanted my portion correctly and was able to be in the moment and enjoy chanting the portion as each word began to come. It was exactly as she had suggested, I didn’t look at the congregation; I was just one with me and each word on the Torah scroll. How magical. I feel today that an important part of what has been missing is now whole within me.
Without releasing the clutter, I would not have been able to focus these past two years. It has been an important part of the journey of becoming fully me. I am grateful for the 15 other women and men in the Adult B’Nai Mitzvah class; together we reached this life giving moment.
This evening, together with 15 other B’Nai Mitvah students, I will be completing a two-year course of study by helping to lead the services and will be called to read from the Torah portion for this week. I wish everyone much joy, as I feel, in being able to reach this point in my life and choosing to complete that which I began and interrupted when I was 12. At the age of 12, I didn’t have the life experience to appreciate what it means to connect to our spiritual roots and the joy that is visceral in singing the ancient hebrew text. I am not religious as a person, but I am spiritual and I am so happy to now have the calm to focus and enjoy this experience.
Beginning the process of releasing clutter has helped me to see clearly what is most important in my life. I wish each of you the same discoveries.
Today’s task was clearing the back room of the studio. I have been here four years and it is time to make a move. As happens, the back room has accumulated all manner and assortment of leftovers and duplicates and fragments of projects completed yet needed for future possibilities. How to organize them? How to retain them in a useful manner for future reference and utility? Which ones can simply be tossed? It is so freeing making the decisions. The result, ClearView = releasing=more time for Life and opening to what is Next!
Now on to decluttering my schedule and focusing on the choices of how I spend my time, my energy and realize my intentions. It has taken a month of consistent focus an hour or two at a time to get through the top layer on my desk. I am grateful for the progress and the renewed energy and excitement for life I feel and now my camera has a clear home for its time in my life.
Here too, uncovered, are two books loaned to me by my dear friend and covey consultant Andrea Blum Edwards. I took their courses and a software partnership with Franklin Covey years ago. Now I am continuing along the path of assisting others to realize their leadership goals. It is time for me to apply myself to help improve what matters for our world to thrive.
My girlfriend is attending to her parents’ inherited clutter. A big trunk full of letters and gems. She is slowly wending her way through this treasure, enjoying her parents’ stories along the way. It is a kind of literary treasure and she doesn’t want to just throw it away. Look at the left side of her table where she is putting things into the files – for the three key decisions: File Act or Toss.