As I was thinking about how I could improve my organisational skills in this new year, especially how I could better organise my office, I was reminded of the simplicity of how it was all done back in primary school. Every Friday afternoon in Grade Six we had to clean out our school desk. It became somewhat of a ritual and it went on into Grade Seven because we had the same teacher. She had this mantra which still rings in my ears: “Clear the clutter, clear the mind”. Her belief was that the physical clutter around us reflected the clutter in our heads – inability to concentrate, jumbled and incoherent thinking – that prevented us from producing the kind of work she expected of us. It was seen as a priority in those days. One of the few text books we had was called Clear Thinking. We studied it chapter by chapter and its primary purpose was to teach us to keep our mind and our thinking clear and organised. I still hear her words whenever I let things get out of hand and find myself surrounded by clutter.
One very productive exercise I did came from a live stream I watched from Marci Shimoff and Debra Poneman. They were talking about the need to let go of “stuff” that is cluttering our lives. Their message was: If you clear the clutter, you clear the way, make space, for what’s important to enter your life. They gave us this exercise which I finished yesterday.
“Each day for 9 days in a row you give away,
throw away, or somehow eliminate
from your home or office 27 items. “
If you miss a day, or don’t get the 27, you have to begin again because there is a cumulative effect. At the end, you look at what is left in the various spaces you have cleared and see if it better represents the you that you want to be in this new year.
It was quite an experience for me. I had been keeping business and personal development CDs that were no longer relevant and whose content I no longer had any use for. There were old dried up highlighters and biros and 10 erasers and 5 pencil sharpeners and old notebooks. There were videos for which I didn’t even have a machine to watch them on anymore. There were piles of suspension files in the garage, unusable because the metal across the top had rusted. There were files of articles I’d copied to read, some years old, that I never got around to reading, but had filed instead. Out they all went. There was 345 pages of my PhD which I completed 15 years ago. I had 3 bound copies of it any way. There was a tray of interesting cuttings from newspapers and journals that I was going to follow up on and never did and I decided I never was going to any way. There were 2 boxes of cords and transformers from computers and electronic equipment from years passed. That was just my office.
Then there was food past its use by date, clothes that hadn’t been worn for years, chipped crockery, loads of old make up, creams and lotions, cleaning products, 5 hair brushes, boxes of stuff from my mother’s house (she died 16 years ago) that I had held on to thinking I might use it one day. For example, she was a great cook and I’d kept 4 cake tins of various sizes thinking I might make one of her fruit cakes myself one day. That was a real letting go of a fantasy that I would never have acted on! There were 3 doonas that didn’t fit any of the beds in our house. There was all the stuff my kids had left in the house when they moved out years ago. They all now have houses of their own – games, jigsaw puzzles, dolls clothes, cards, stuffed toys. I decided not to ask them if they wanted them kept.
It all sounds a bit chaotic, but everything had been packed away in an organised way. I didn’t even realise that there was so much unused and unwanted stuff around. I really didn’t need any of it, however, and it was cluttering my life. Now it’s gone and there are large unfilled spaces in cupboards and in the garage.
The biggest letting go items, however, the ones that have made the biggest impact on me, were the dumping of notes from big, high cost training courses I had done that didn’t bring me the insights and rewards I had hoped they would. As they sat on my shelves in front of me, they represented failure. Unconsciously there was some kind of belief that these gurus who had conducted these courses must be right and that I needed to re-read their material and try and find out the secret to the success they promised. It had to be there somewhere. I needed to work harder at finding it. Thinking about it, I realised that I needed to trust myself much more, trust my own experience. As long as I left that material there in front of me, material that did not serve me, it was cluttering my space, stiffling my creativity, blocking my innate imagination and stopping me from creating my own success.
So let me ask you: what are you going to let go of in
your life in the next few weeks
so you can create some space for what’s really
important to enter your life