The Anticrastination Tip Sheet
From Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook,
The Clutter-Busting Handbook
Quotes for JULY
Simplify, simplify, simplify. --Henry David Thoreau
Our memories are not in that stuff; our memories are in our minds and in our hearts.
--- Rita Emmett, The Clutter-Busting Handbook
Out of clutter, find simplicity. --- Albert Einstein
Message from Rita
A LEGACY OF STUFF (Part 2)**
This month we continue with the difficult subject of being overwhelmed with the "stuff" left behind by a loved one who has passed away.
It's an extra-long Tip Sheet because it's an extra-tough topic. The struggle is that we are trying to find practical ways to survive having someone's lifetime-of-stuff joining our own lifetime-of-stuff, while also trying to survive all the emotions that come with this deep painful loss.
Based on the huge number of emails we received, last month's Tip Sheet resonated with many of you. One woman told the story of how for seven years, all of her parents' belongings were stacked to the ceiling in her basement - furniture, clothes, stuff. So much so that they could not even make a path through it all.
Then her basement flooded and she lost everything. Afterwards, she was amazed at how relieved she felt and how good life was --- living without all that stuff. She had zero regrets about what was lost.
And she asked, "Why do people have to wait for a disaster to wreck everything in order to get rid of it? Wouldn't it have been great to pass on those things to people who needed and would be happy to receive all of it?"
In fact, when we hang on to stuff we-don't-need-or-use and wasn't even ours to begin with, it usually as NOTHING to do with the thing itself, but with the tumult of feelings associated with it.
Today, we are NOT covering legal papers or records that you need to keep. We are addressing all the OTHER stuff that has come your way. We’re not trying to get rid of memories. We’re trying to downsize the overwhelming mementos to the point that you can enjoy them. Clutter really gets in the way of your happy memories.
The key point is that you do not have to be keeper of everything, and life will go on if you do not keep every single thing that was left behind.
To get rid of belongings of people who have passed away does not symbolize that you no longer love them or vice versa, or that you will forget them. Our memories are not in those photos of people we don't know or a box stuffed with 30 years of canceled checks; our memories are in our mind and in our hearts.
If you are saving something because it has value or is a collectible, that’s different. But first find out more about its value or potential value. You might discover that you are putting hundreds of dollars worth of time and effort into taking care of items that fifty years from now will bring you $17.43 … if you are lucky.
Regarding the rest of the legacy of stuff that you have inherited, here are a few questions to start asking yourself:
How much do I need to keep in order to honor this person's memory?
Would one or two items out on display work just as well as a basement full of their things?
Maybe this item or collection brought joy to the person who has passed away, but does it bring joy to me as I
dust it or
look for places to put it or
feel overwhelmed by having this taking up space in my home or
pay for a place to store it?
Do I really want to be a caretaker of this?
Does it bring me joy and delight to keep it or am I keeping it for some other reason?
Am I keeping this as a sign of how much we loved each other? (But you know how much you loved each other -- you don't really need a sign. Your spouse’s model railroad or your mom’s collection of every card you ever sent her DID mean a lot to them, but not that much to you. If you get rid of these mementos, that won't mean that you don’t love them.)
Am I keeping this out of guilt? (Keeping all this doesn't ease the guilt and being overwhelmed with too much stuff just adds more guilt)
Am I keeping this to honor them? (Instead of packing everything away, wouldn't it honor their memories better if you gave their stuff away to a family or organization that will cherish and use it?)
Am I keeping this because I WANT to get rid of it but I just can't? (Ask a relative or friend to help you. Ask them to take it away for you and donate it to someone who needs it and will love it and use it and cherish it.)
Know this: You can honor the memory of parents, grandparents, a child, relative or friend by donating their fishing gear, cookware, encyclopedias, toys, books, sports equipment or whatever to a worthy cause, where it will be valued, appreciated and used.
If you still cannot get yourself to dispose of anything and still want more help with clutter, we have books, CDs and DVDs available at our web www.RitaEmmett.com
Also, the email below has some great tips from a fellow trying to work through all that is left after his mother passed away. My guess is that you might have SOMETHING in your life that is similar to "the shiny bread box that was always in the same corner for 50+ years."
** If you want to read or re-read Part 1 of this, go to www.RitaEmmett.com and scroll down to "Click here to see past issues…." Then go to June 2011.
GREAT TIPS FROM A PERCEPTIVE TIP SHEET READER
I am back in the States the second time after my Mother died to continue to get rid of her stuff. It's monumental. For diaries, videos, photos and little things, I am scanning a lot and my cousin will turn some things into a DVD.
For the things that I grew up with - which seem like part of my life - I find it easier to throw them away if I simply pull out my iPhone and snap a photo. Even something simple like the shiny bread box that was always in the same corner for 50+ years, the cute little container my mom used for her keys. The picture makes it easier for me to release those things.
Tonight, I literally froze going through box no. 20. I mean, terrifiiiiied. So many things, and photos of my dad, etc.. When I heard that procrastination could be a result of fear, it didn't mean much to me at the time ("Me?, I'm not afraid of anything."). But now I know - it's fear. And it is almost like a THING. Emptiness is lurking on the other side of this project; but to get there, so many cans of worms will be opened (that's what it feels like, anyway).
I came up with a couple of strategies today (after not sleeping well because of all the anxiety) I figured out that I have a problem with prerequisites. I didn't want to do the taxes until I went through the boxes, I didn't want to go thru the boxes until I got this or that done (on and on). So, after this email, I am going to start with the boxes and try to recycle as much as possible - leaving one stack for to-be-scanned, one for main files and one to go through later.
The other thing I am going to do is accept defeat. I am not going to do this perfectly. All this might all sound strange, but I need to get back to work (usually I work in Asia), and I have literally put my life on hold because of all the prerequisites, fears, etc.
My goal is to get a free mind so I can go across town to see my mom at the cemetery before I leave the country again. (She would not have been very happy seeing how I have squandered that last few months away.)
I am sure your efforts and advice are much appreciated by many.
All the best,
WANT TO HEAR RITA TALK ABOUT STRESS & BURN-OUR FOR FREE?
On Thursday, July 14 at 9:00 PM Eastern (8:00 PM Chicago time) Rita
will give a free TeleClass on Stress Management for the Overworked,
Overscheduled and Overwhelmed. (Usually we give a description of the
class but Rita says with that title you would know right away
whether you want to take it or not). To register, go to
WANT TO HEAR RITA TALK ABOUT PROCRASTINATION FOR FREE?
On Thursday, Aug. 4, at noon Chicago time (1:00 PM Eastern) Tony
Arredia will interview Rita for a whole hour on the subject of
procrastination (and he wants to include some info on clutter) It's
a radio show WJJG-AM
But you can hear it on your computer by going to
http://www.wjjgam1530.com and hit either "ON AIR" or "Click here to
Sorry, but they don't archive these shows, so if you cannot make it
at that time, it won't be repeated.
WANT TO MEET RITA IN PERSON?
On Sunday, July 10 all day long, she will be at Irish Fest at the
Irish American Heritage Center at 4626 North Knox Avenue in Chicago.
Knowing her, she will probably stop by on Saturday too. She can
usually be found listening to the Irish music. For directions, call
And a week later, Sunday, July 17, she will be selling raffle
tickets at a Fundraiser Gala for the Loretto Sisters at Drury Lane
in Oak Brook Terrace. Don't worry about finding her, she will find
you and try to get you to buy a ticket. Or you can find her at the
Donation Drawing table.
You can buy a ticket for the dinner, or just come for the day to
find a bargain at the Silent Auction tables. For directions, call
OR if you are a sports nut, on Wednesday, July 13, she has
coordinated a group to support the Chicago Sky Women's Professional
Basketball team at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. She will be easy
to find because she talked people into going by arranging for
Please share this Tip Sheet with 2 or 3 friends who would be interested. And feel free to use this message in your blog or newsletter, as long as you include my bio and contact info:
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook,
The Clutter-Busting Handbook and
Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress: A Handbook for the Overworked, Overscheduled, and Overwhelmed
Des Plaines, IL 60018
No trees were destroyed in the sending of this message,
but a significant number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.