7 Tips to Help a Hoarder with Feng Shui

Chi/energy becomes stuck in a hoarded home

Chi/energy becomes stuck in a hoarded home

It is bizarre – I literally had the book Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter in my hand this morning, and then lo-and-behold her newsletter pops into my inbox not a few minutes later, which then led me to another article on her blog titled: Can a Hoarder be Helped with Feng Shui?

I have been helping hoarders to declutter for a number of years now and I am always interested on other’s experiences on what has worked or what hasn’t so this article was perfect for me. I am guessing it will be for you too! Read on…

I recently had a consultation with a full-on hoarder, so I thought I’d share some ideas on this subject in case you aren’t sure if you are one, or in case you know someone who is but doesn’t know it. I don’t really think that the label is necessary mind you, but if it helps, as in this case, I say use it.

I have helped and have seen other colleagues of mine help the chronically cluttered and the hopelessly hoarded. It can be done. I admire the friends and family members that try to take this job on for their lived ones. My caveat to you before helping is that you support yourself as much as possible first.

1. Make sure you have a clean, neat home that makes you feel alive and vital, so that when returning from helping your friend or family member, you can rebuild your personal energy. Just like the hoarder, you can’t afford to have anything dead (plants, animals or people in urns,) dirt, clutter, grime, or anything that is sitting on the floor (like a stack of magazines, boxes of papers or tools, etc.) or anything that has literally not moved in your home for years.

2. Give your furnishing a little shake and wipe-down to freshen-up the energy.

3. Open a window to exchange the air.

4. Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT bring anything home from the hoarder’s home and place it in yours – I don’t care how much room you’ve got to spare. Results I’ve seen from taking this on are weight gain and lung issue ailments.

5. A space clearing or ground  blessing may help start the process (rituals can be helpful in helping the person who needs the help to actually switch from being resistant to being willing to see from a different perspective and want to change.) You can use salt with the intention of absorbing negative energy (place a bowl of salt water on the front porch and invite stale energies out to be transformed into positive energy or released from the home – warning this is akin to the house throwing up which actually may make the client feel nauseous.)

You can also ring bells, bang drums or pots and pans or even play loud classical music as you circle the house (or property, as I’ve seen hoarding in the form of many cars on the property.) There are many other space clearing rituals out there – look one up and try it. I like the ones in my friend Denise Linn’s book Sacred Space.

Read the entire article here.

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How to declutter your life

It's time to start...

It’s time to start…

When it comes to decluttering your home and your life, there are many excuses not to start and many road blocks that hamper you along the way. If we let the overwhelm consume us, it is a lost cause before we have even begun! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Zen Habits had a great blog recently that shared many of my favourite tips. So take a read and see if they help you in your organizing endeavours:

Declutter Your Life

There was a time, about 8 years ago, when my life was cluttered. I had too much stuff, and it kept coming in all the time. I had too much to do, and didn’t know how to simplify my schedule. I was in need of some decluttering, and I knew it.

The question became, how to go about it? How do you start when you’re facing a mountain of clutter, and another mountain of commitments, and piles of files and mail and email and other digital information?

The answer became clear, as I got started: start simply. Keep it simple as you go. Simple, each step of the way.

That said, I found complications that made things harder at every turn. I’d like to help you with some of those here, briefly, in hopes that you’ll be inspired to start decluttering.

Start Decluttering

How do you get started? As simply as possible:

  • Take just 10 minutes today to sort though a pile, or declutter a shelf or table or countertop.
  • Put everything into one pile, and start with the first thing you pick up (no putting things back in the pile).
  • Ask yourself: do you really need this? Do you use it regularly? Do you love it? If the answer to any of these is no, then recycle, donate, or give it to someone who might want it. Put it in a box for these purposes.
  • Put things back that you need/use/love, with space between things. This is their “home” and you should always put them back there.
  • Stop after 10 minutes, continue tomorrow for another 10 minutes, and so on, one small spot in your home at a time.
  • If you want to do more than 10 minutes, go ahead, but be careful not to overdo it in the beginning or you’ll think it’s difficult and not want to continue.

Keep Going

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, here’s how to keep going:

  • Keep decluttering in small bits. Pick an area to focus on each week.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Just get it simpler. You can always declutter it more later.
  • Put your box of donation/recycling/giving away in your trunk, to get rid of next time you’re out. Email friends/family to ask if they want things — often you can find a good home for perfectly good things you don’t really use (that workout equipment).
  • If you’re on the fence, use a Maybe Box (put things that you think youmight need in a box, mark it with today’s date, put a reminder on your calendar 6 months from now to check on the Maybe Box. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you probably don’t need it and can get rid of it.
  • Get help. Sometimes you just can’t bear to part with yourself, but if you can get an outside person to make the decision (friend or family member), they are usually much more dispassionate and ruthless.
  • Enjoy the space. Once you’ve decluttered an area, really focus on how much you love the simplified space. Once you’re hooked on this simplicity, you’re more likely to keep going.

Read the entire article from Zen Habits here.

Image courtesy of http://www.getorganized-stayorganized.com/

How Clutter Affects Your Brain…

Which sides looks greener?

Which sides looks greener?

When we have finished decluttering at a clients home, I always get the same response: “I feel so much lighter now!” And it is true – decluttering your physical environment also declutters your thinking and emotions too.  Here is a great article I found on Lifehacker.com that goes into this phenomenon in a bit more detail.

How clutter happens

You collect things for a number of reasons–maybe you think you’ll need to use it later, it has sentimental value, or you spent good money on it so you feel you need to keep the item, even if you haven’t touched or used it in weeks, months, or years. You might be holding on to that book you bought a year ago that you swear you’ll read or those killer pair of shoes that you’ll bring out for just the right occasion. But the reality is, you probably made a mistake in buying those things and it literally hurts your brain to come to terms with that fact.

Researchers at Yale identified that two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards: This is the same area of the brain that lights up when you feel physical pain from a paper cut or drinking coffee that’s too hot. Your brain views the loss of one of your valued possessions as the same as something that causes you physical pain. And the more you’ve committed emotionally or financially to an item, the more you want to keep it around.

When you introduce new items into your life, you immediately associate value with these items, making it harder for you to give them up in the future. This psychological connection to things is what leads to the accumulation of stuff.

Clutter’s Impact on Your Brain

Whether it be your closet or office desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. That’s exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.

Clutter isn’t just physical

Files on your computer, notifications from your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and anything that goes “ping” in the night competes for your attention. This creates a digital form of clutter that erodes your ability to focus and perform creative tasks. Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy, a New York Times best seller on controlling the flow of information in the digital age, put it best when he said: When you have to-do items constantly floating around in your head or you hear a ping or vibrate every few minutes from your phone, your brain doesn’t get a chance to fully enter creative flow or process experiences. When your brain has too much on its plate, it splits its power up. The result? You become awful at:

  • filtering information
  • switching quickly between tasks
  • keeping a strong working memory

The overconsumption of digital stuff has the same effect on your brain as physical clutter.

Read the entire article here.

Feng Shui’s No. 1 enemy: clutter!

My Chi is definitely choked!

My Chi is definitely choked!

You know that feeling what you arrive home and it just feels stuffy, heavy or depressing and you don’t know why? It could be your home’s Chi! Chi (the Feng Shui term for energy) needs to be fresh and flowing, not stale and stagnant. The number one reason for this could be staring you in the face – your clutter!

Clutter is the No.1 enemy of Feng Shui as the Chi can’t flow easily around your stuff and so it becomes stagnant – and hence why you too will feel this way, like you are stuck and can’t move on.

Kathryn Weber from Red Lotus Feng Shui has a great blog post on this topic that I think you will enjoy:

Having an uncluttered, organized home will repay you in time and money — and will return your peace of mind — and in just a few short weeks. Besides being a serious re-charge to your life and vitality, decluttering is good feng shui.

Everything you are surrounded by exerts an influence on your life.

If you’re surrounded by clutter and disorganization, it’s a serious energetic drain on your mind, your emotions and your physical body.  Too much stuff quickly turns a home “yin” and that makes energy turn negative. Once that happens, the circumstances of life start changing, too. You could say that clutter becomes the sticks and mortar that dam your life and stop the opportunities that flow to you.

Let’s get started with the basics.

What is clutter?

Clutter is anything that you don’t regularly use, things that you don’t like or enjoy or that are broken, or items kept out of guilt and obligation. Clutter includes items like old clothing, unused toys, mismatched dishes, or stacks of magazines. One of the worst sources of clutter is paper. Newspapers, mail, magazines, old greeting cards, and various paper items all clutter up our coffee tables, desks, and refrigerator.

What clutter isn’t

Clutter isn’t anything you truly love or use regularly. Clutter also isn’t a valuable collectible. Some things shouldn’t go in a landfill or in a garage sale. Your grandmother’s Fostoria crystal isn’t junk and shouldn’t be treated that way.

Ebay, local antiques or consignment stores are resources to help sell your collectible items. One woman made $15,000 off her clutter. Every week, she sat at her computer with five to 10 items she wanted to sell and in six months, she had made an extra $15,000 by selling her clutter on Ebay. Too much trouble to sell? Give special items away as gifts to someone who’ll appreciate them.

Clutter sources

There are a number of reasons for our over-accumulation. One is that we’ve moved from a disposable society to everything’s-a-collectible society and if everything is valuable, then you can’t throw anything away then, can you? We’ve also moved from a buy-it-as-you-need-it outlook to a buy-it-in-bulk mindset – and if we buy in bulk, we have to live in bulk.

Lastly, recreational shopping creates an overload of unused, unwanted household items. Hitting the mall every weekend just packs your house and empties your wallet.

Staying present. The difficulty with clutter is both past and future.

Too often people are tied to items because of the past (it was a wedding gift, it was Uncle Frank’s) and the future (what if I need a shoe buttoner again?). Yet clutter causes you problems in the present because you can’t find what you’re looking for or you have things you don’t really need or want. Other problems from the past include items we’ve inherited.

Many people feel like they have to keep everything passed down from their loved ones. It’s a tremendous burden of guilt. Remember that things are not people and it’s okay to let things go. To feel like you have to hold on to the possessions of your loved ones who are no longer around is to have to build your own life and hang on to their lives, too. It makes for a crowded house. Keep just a few items that you especially love or that you’ll use on a regular basis. My favorite item from my grandmother? Her cast iron skillet that stays on my stove to this day and gets almost daily use.

Go ahead, be wasteful

Have you ever heard the Depression era stories about being so poor that coffee grounds were dried in the sun and re-used? Well, it’s not the Depression anymore. It’s okay to throw things away. You have my permission and encouragement to get rid of stuff. There will be enough and you can always get more if you need it.

People hang on to so many things because they don’t want to be wasteful; like holding on to a shirt with a stain that won’t come out. The stain won’t come out the longer it hangs there, so why reach for it and then put it back on the rack? Throw it away once and for all.

Your role: The first step to getting control over clutter is recognizing your role in creating it.

Do you overshop? Do you keep things out of guilt (it’s Aunt Mary’s!)? Do you have to buy in bulk? Are you afraid to throw things away? Taking a hard look at how and why your house has gotten cluttered helps you get it under control and from becoming cluttered in the future. So recycle when you can, and throw away, donate, or sell the rest — and at every opportunity.

The physical symptoms of clutter

Clutter stops the flow of energy. When energy stops flowing, there is a negative impact to our bodies, spirits, and energetic life flow in the form of money, opportunities, love, and enjoyment. Clutter manifests as excess weight, constipation, inability to think, feeling stuck in life, low vitality, and poor personal growth and movement.

Once you begin decluttering, you may find yourself unburdened by heavy emotions and will begin to feel lighter, more at ease and have a greater sense of happiness and personal well-being. Clutter holds us back, like a giant weight, and creates blockages in our lives and spirits. Feel yourself feel unencumbered by lifting  the burden of clutter and watch the increased flow of your life to start again.

Read the entire article here.

© K Weber Communications LLC 2002-2010

Kathryn Weber is the publisher of the Red Lotus Letter Feng Shui E-zine and certified feng shui consultant in classical Chinese feng shui. Kathryn helps her readers improve their lives and generate more wealth with feng shui. For more information and to receive her FREE Ebook “Easy Money – 3 Steps to Building Massive Wealth with Feng Shui” visit http://www.redlotusletter.com and learn the fast and fun way how feng shui can make your life more prosperous and abundant!

Copyright Kathryn Weber. All rights reserved

Is my desire to recycle an excuse to keep stuff?

How and what should I donate?

This is such a common problem – you want to declutter but you don’t want to just put items in the bin, especially if they are still good or if they have cost you lots of money. Unclutterer.com hit the nail on the head so read on for some interesting ideas:

Deciding exactly how to purge your clutter can be a difficult process. Do you trash it, recycle it at a recycling center, recycle it by repurposing it into something more useful, sell it, or donate the item to charity or to someone you know who wants it? And, like you suggested in your question, recycling, repurposing, donating, and selling items can be an excuse to hold onto clutter if you’re never actually following through and recycling, repurposing, donating, or selling the items.

I try to use the following guidelines when purging items:

  • Trash the trash. If something is trash, it should be trashed. You can compost the environmentally friendly items, but if a product needs to go to the dump, by all means take it to the dump. And, if something is a hazardous material, be sure to take it to your county’s hazardous waste facility. Trash is clutter and you shouldn’t hold onto it a minute longer than necessary.
  • Recycle what can be recycled, but do it now. People who live in city’s with curbside recycling pick up have it the easiest — put your recycling on the curb and be done with your aluminum, glass, paper, and plastic products. If you don’t have curbside pickup in your area (or have larger items, like steel beams) you’ll need to drive to the closest recycling center to make deposits. I recommend incorporating this errand into your weekly schedule so the recycling never builds up beyond seven days. For other recyclable items that aren’t accepted at most recycling centers — eye glasses, electronics, clothing for rags — only recycle these items IF you’ll recycle them in the next seven days. If a week passes and the items are still lingering, trash them. Schedule the recycling action items on your calendar (research to find where you can recycle the item, boxing and shipping of the item or dropping it off), as well as the deadline for trashing the item if you fail to recycle it.
  • Only sell, repurpose, or give an item to a friend if you do it now.You can sell, repurpose, or give an item to a friend, but only do this if you’re actually going to follow through on the action. Similar to recycling, schedule the action items on your calendar and a deadline (I give myself two weeks) for when it will be out of your house. If it has been two weeks and you still haven’t rid your home of the objects, trash them.
  • Only give good items to charity. As Peter Walsh so aptly stated in his book It’s All Too Much:

    Goodwill receives a billion pounds of clothing every year. Ultimately, they use less than half of the clothes they get. Clothing is cheap, and the cost of sorting, cleaning, storing, and transporting the clothes is higher than their value. If you wouldn’t give an article to a family member, it’s probably not good enough for charity. Sure, it’s great to get the tax deduction and it makes you feel like you didn’t waste money buying the clothes, but if you’re truly charitable, be sensitive to the needs of the organization. Charities aren’t dumping grounds for your trash.

    Read the entire article and all the other reader’s interesting comments here: http://unclutterer.com/2012/09/07/ask-unclutterer-is-my-desire-to-recycle-an-excuse-to-keep-stuff/

10 Top Tips to Spring Clean Your Home

Spring is the time to let go…

Once we have finished hibernating inside our homes over the winter months, the motivation seems to kick in to start decluttering – and not just our homes but our lives as well. But when it all seems so overwhelming, how do we get started? The key is to start small, do a little bit at a time and reward yourself as you go. Try these top 10 tips to simplify your life and revitalise your home this spring.

  1. Go on a tour around the house and take notice of all your belongings. Ask yourself – do I love it, do I need it, is it useful? If you can’t answer YES to just one of these questions it’s time to go. If undecided, pop it in a “maybe” box to decide again in six months time.
  2. “It may come in handy one day” or “It was a gift from my mother/best friend/dead grandmother” are common excuses you need to overcome. If you really need something “one day” then I am sure you will be able to buy it again if and when that time comes. If the item was a gift and you are feeling guilty, change that feeling to one of gratitude and generosity and then pass the item on to someone who really does need it or will love it and use it. Feel free to take a photo of it so you will still have the memory, without the stuff.
  3. Sort the items into piles, putting “like” with “like”. Make a Keep pile, a Donate/Sell pile and a Garbage/Recycle pile. Once the items are sorted into these three groups, go through the Keep pile and start sorting again into categories of items that are similar ie stationery, books, shoes etc. This makes it easier to see how many of the same items you have (and no one needs three potato peelers).
  4. Get the kids involved with their toys – what have they outgrown or don’t play with anymore? Teach them the value in passing on to others who may not be as fortunate as them, or sell to make extra pocket money to save up for something they really love.
  5. Kitchen items – empty utensil drawers and put in a box. Only remove items as you need them to cook. Anything you haven’t used in a month you can let go. And that goes for bigger items too – when was the last time you used that bread-maker? Don’t forget to check the pantry for any out of date ingredients too. If by chance you “may need it one day” then that is the day you can buy another one – but chances are you won’t. This usually applies to melon ballers and egg slicers.
  6. Go through your wardrobe in preparation for the warmer weather. Pack away the winter woollies in airtight containers (don’t forget the moth and humidity protection). Anything you didn’t wear last spring/summer – out it goes! Donate to favourite charity or have a swap party with girlfriends.
  7. Options to get rid of clutter for good: call Vinnies or Lifeline, hold a garage sale with neighbours or friends, sell things of value on eBay or put an ad in the local paper, and check out consignment stores for good label clothing. “Dress for Success” www.dressforsuccess.org is a great charity to donate your business clothing, shoes & accessories as they help underprivileged women find work. Even leaving items out the front of your home with a “Free” sign works wonders. One man’s trash…
  8. Do a little at a time – Rome wasn’t built in a day and if you try to do too much at once you will soon tire and get disillusioned. And little rewards along the way help to keep you motivated (think cuppa & chocolate cake!)
  9. Don’t tackle it all on your own – ask for help! Decluttering your home can be quite overwhelming and an extra pair of hands can make all the difference. Make sure the kids pitch in and do their share too! Better still, enlist the services of a professional organiser who can help to ensure you won’t be cluttered again!
  10. Celebrate your new home – buy fresh flowers and candles, invite friends and family over for a spring bbq or dinner party and enjoy showing off all your hard work!

7 Steps to Declutter for the New Year

1. When organising, it’s best to unclutter first. Pull everything out of a space and sort it into piles: keep, purge and other.

o “Keep” obviously means that you plan to continue to store and/or use the item.
o “Purge” can mean that you intend to throw, shred, recycle, or donate the item to charity.
o “Other” is for objects that need to be repaired, relocated, returned to a friend or family member, or some other special action needs to be taken.

2. Once all of the objects from the space have been sorted, the garbage and recycling items need to go, donate the objects that can be donated, return items to friends, and drop off objects that need to be repaired at the repair shop.

So – what is left in your keep pile?

3. Do you need to do another round of uncluttering? If you’re feeling more courageous about purging items, now is the time to do it. When you are satisfied with your keep pile, sort the objects into new piles of like items — pencils with pencils, envelopes with envelopes, jeans with jeans etc.

4. When everything is in piles by type, examine what you have and compare it to your storage systems. It is only at that this point that you should consider buying storage. But before you do, look through your house or office to see if you already own something that could hold and organise your objects. Take into consideration your style of organisation:
  • Do you like to see things on display, or would your rather items are out of sight behind closed doors?
  • Do you like the eclectic look or the minimalist?
  • Do you like labels, or need opaque containers so you can see what’s inside?