The sun is shining, the daffodils are in full bloom and spring has arrived! With the lighter, longer days and the warmer weather comes a natural urge to purge the old and make way for new and better things. As a natural keeper of things, I always try to take advantage of any inclination to clear clutter before the moment passes, so this week I tackled some persistent problem areas, in this case, my office, which looked like a bomb had gone off!
Paper is always one of the hardest areas to clear because each piece of paper requires a decision and yet the visual results of sorting papers are very unsatisfying. You could spend hours tackling a stack of papers and yet the office looks just about the same afterwards which can be demoralizing to say the least. Instead of tackling the papers in the office, I thought I’d start with things that would have a bigger visual impact. What would make the space look clearer, brighter, fresher? Are there any big things that could be eliminated?
I sought inspiration from Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Inner Order, Outer Calm and she suggested looking for “deep clutter.” In her office she found a plastic folio full of nicely organized business cards that she never referred back to. I had to laugh because if this constitutes “deep clutter” I can see Gretchen doesn’t really have a clutter problem at all. In my world ‘deep clutter’ would be the boxes of seven years of tax and financial files I’ve been storing in my grandmother’s attic across the Atlantic. Or the boxes of my late father-in-law’s family photographs stashed away in the attic that we aren’t emotionally ready to handle. Or any valuable family heirlooms, jewellery or antiques that you’ve been entrusted to keep whether you actually wanted them or not. This stuff can be really tough to part with as you might feel like you are discarding your beloved family memories. Ancestral clutter is deep clutter.
Getting back to my office…the relentless advance of technology leaves a pile of clutter in its wake: a whole bunch of cassette tapes I’d been storing; a brand new, never-been-opened stack of glossy fliers that have a fax and 800 number I no longer use. I’d kept them for years because they were new, still wrapped in cellophane and it felt wasteful not to use them, but how could I? I got rid of an old headset, a stack of new blank DVDs I don’t know why I have, and an old computer. These big wins spurred me on to sort through the stack of papers, bearing in mind Marie Kondo’s very high standard: keep only papers that legally must be kept. I brought in a fresh plant, put out some photos and framed artwork of the kids, dusted and hoovered the nooks and crannies. Now my office feels much fresher and is a more appealing place to coach and write. Definitely worth doing a spring clear out!
What about your company office? Could you ask the boss at work to sanction a clutter-clearing day? Years ago, when I was a Sales Manager at Chase bank in NYC, I started a Friday afternoon desk clear out. The small task of clearing out our desks then morphed into a huge project to clear out the entire storeroom in the basement full of old bank documents going back over 100 years! We had to hire a dumpster to get rid of all the papers and sent documents that still needed to be kept to the bank’s central archives. I think it was the first time in the branch’s history anyone had ever bothered to question why we were keeping all these documents. Shortly after this, I was promoted to Manager of a new branch downtown. You never know what new opportunities will come your way once you’ve cleared the space. If you want something new in your life, get rid of something old that no longer applies. Empty space creates a vacuum and will draw all manner of new things to you effortlessly.