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Spring-time: The sun is shining, the daffodils are in full bloom and spring has arrived! With the lighter, longer days and 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, it is my office, which looks like a bomb has exploded!

Paper is always one of the hardest areas to clear. This is because each piece of paper requires a decision. And the visual results of sorting papers are very unsatisfying. You could spend hours tackling a stack of papers. Yet the office looks just about the same afterwards. This 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 . She suggests 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 don’t think Gretchen really has a clutter problem at all.

In my world ‘deep clutter’ is 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 in the attic. We aren’t emotionally ready to handle those. Or any valuable family heirlooms, jewelry 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. 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; a brand new, never-opened stack of glossy fliers that have a fax and 800 number I no longer use. I kept them for years because they were new. They were 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, and an old computer. These wins spurred me on to sort through the stack of papers. All done bearing in mind Marie Kondo’s very high standard: keep only papers that legally must be kept.

I brought in a fresh plant. And I put out some photos and framed artwork of the kids. I dusted and hoovered the nooks and crannies. Now my office feels much fresher. And it 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 a bank in NYC, I started a Friday afternoon desk clear out. The small task of clearing out our desks morphed into a huge project to clear out the entire storeroom in the basement. The basement was 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.


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