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How to Leave a Lasting Legacy with Barbara Hemphill

Vision Accelerator: Leave a Lasting Legacy that Matters!

FWM: It’s great to have you with us! Please tell our audience about yourself.

BH: My name is Barbara Hemphill, and my best-selling book “Taming the Paper Tiger” has given me the nickname “Paper Tiger Lady.” I was recently given the title “Vision Accelerator” because I am very interested in helping leaders reach their goals and leave a lasting legacy. I started the Productive Environment Institute and have been running my own business for more than 40 years. I don’t know much about retirement because I think it’s important to always move forward and take on new challenges. I recently saw a sign that said, “I’m not retired, I’m just getting started.” This fits perfectly with how I feel about life.

I have written several books, including “Less Clutter More Life,” which explains how physical and digital disorganization are linked to emotional and spiritual disarray, “Walking with Barbara: 30 Emails from God” and “Love it Or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever” which will be coming out with its 20th anniversary edition in 2023.

Barbara in the news

I have had the opportunity to be featured on several national media platforms, including Good Morning America, the Today Show and CNN Nightly News. My work has been featured in publications such as USA Today, the New York Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, and Real Simple, and was even featured on the cover of Guideposts. I am proud to have received the Founder’s Award and the President’s Award twice from the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Consultants. I have also been recognized as one of the “Women to Know in North Carolina” and “100 Women to Know in America.”

Currently, I reside in Raleigh, North Carolina with my husband Alfred Taylor, whom I have been married to for 36 years. I am also a mother of three adopted children and two stepchildren, and a grandmother to four grandchildren.

FWM: How did you first become involved in your industry?

BH: My journey in this industry began when I lived in India for five years and adopted three orphan children whom I brought to New York City. I wanted to contribute financially to our family, but I also wanted to make my children’s needs my top priority. I realized that this would be difficult as an employee, so I decided to find a problem I could solve and charge people for it. I started listening to conversations on the playground, and that’s when my entrepreneurial search began. As I listened, I soon realized that not everyone had a family like mine.

Growing up, I lived in a small farmhouse with three rooms on the top floor, where the living room couch would transform into beds for my brother and me at night. This experience taught me to be resourceful and to find ways to overcome obstacles, including my own learning disabilities. I always took the opportunity to learn from others and watched as my parents effectively created a productive home and work environment, which continues to serve as a role model for me to this day.

How it all began

I started my career in the organizing industry with a small ad in a New York newspaper. I promoted my business by speaking at various organizations such as PTAs, church groups, and garden clubs. I quickly realized that paper organization was a common problem for clients and that they had many questions about how to organize and keep important documents, recipes, memorabilia, and photographs. As I didn’t always have the answers to their questions, I went to the library to find a book that could help but I couldn’t find any, so I decided to write one myself. That’s how “Taming the Paper Tiger” was born and how I became known as The Paper Tiger Lady. Over the years, I’ve learned how to change workspaces and now offer virtual services through a team of Certified Productive Environment Specialists. They help individuals and organizations get rid of the chaos and clutter that keeps them from being productive, calm, and ultimately free.

FWM:  How did you come to make it your own?

BH: At the beginning of my career, I focused on physical clutter, which led to me being known as The Paper Tiger Lady. However, as technology advanced and the digital world became more prevalent, I moved away from that moniker because I didn’t want to appear outdated. Additionally, my company began to help clients with both their physical and digital clutter.

Through my work, I came to realize that the root cause of clutter, whether physical or digital, is often emotional and spiritual clutter. Clients struggled to let go of their possessions because they held emotional attachments to them.

Organizing in and of itself has no value. It is a skill to help you accomplish your work and enjoy your life.

Clutter and the generations

The issue of clutter is not a recent one. The Bible, specifically the Old Testament, tells the story of Samuel searching for Saul to crown him king of Israel, and in the King James version, it says “The Lord said, ‘He is hidden among his belongings’.” As society becomes increasingly complex, the demand for decluttering on both a personal and professional level continues to rise. Furthermore, the current generation is less inclined to inherit the possessions saved by previous generations as a “legacy.”

FWM: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your industry? Why?

BH: Like many entrepreneurs, I have struggled with both mindset and cash flow. I’ve found that the two are closely related, as not having the right mindset can lead to financial struggles. Additionally, I often have more business ideas than I can execute, so I have to continually use my own principles to eliminate the clutter of ideas.

Who influenced Barbara

FWM: Who has been instrumental in shaping you into the person you are today?

BH: The most significant influence in my life is Jesus. When I first started organizing homes, I would pray that my clients would feel his love, even if I didn’t mention his name. Now, I believe that the most important decision anyone can make is to decide “Who is Jesus?” and I enjoy sharing about him whenever I can. Additionally, I have been blessed by the wisdom and guidance of multiple professional and personal coaches throughout the years.

FWM: Can you share a time that forces were working against you? How did you overcome the challenge? 

BH:   One major challenge I faced was when my first book “Taming the Paper Tiger” was published in 1988, it was excerpted in Reader’s Digest worldwide. However, the publisher went bankrupt, making the book unavailable, and I had to borrow money to buy back my manuscript from the publisher.

About her expertise

 FWM: What makes you and your approach unique?

 BH:   Many people view clutter as “postponed decisions,” and this can make people who struggle with clutter feel worse. However, at Productive Environment Institute, we believe that clutter is a “paper tiger,” meaning that it appears powerful and threatening, but is actually ineffectual and unable to withstand challenge. Our approach is to help individuals identify their “why” for getting organized and to use that as motivation to eliminate clutter, whether it be physical, digital, emotional, or spiritual. We believe that when an individual or organization is clear about their purpose, clearing clutter becomes less painful and that our proprietary Productive Environment Process and systems can make clutter a “paper tiger.”

Asking the right questions

Organizing is not a one-size-fits-all approach, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. People often ask us what they should do, but the better question is, “What will I do?” If your vision for a clutter-free life is strong enough, there is always a way to achieve it. The longer you wait, the more it will cost in terms of missed opportunities. So, why wait?

In 2020, I started a compassion project in India called Shepherds House Ministry, which will be a home for a family of six, a center for Bible teaching, and a forum to teach and encourage entrepreneurship.

My ultimate goal is to live every day joyfully and give hope to others. My license plate reads HOPEFOOL, which stands for Helping Others Pursue Entrepreneurship, which is my ongoing passion.

FWM: How can others work with you?


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