Weeding the Garden, Cleaning My Office, and Finding Inspiration from Marie Kondo
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a gardener. That job belongs to my husband who spends as much time as possible in the yard. But gardens and weeds are a great metaphor for the junk we all collect. I know, it’s never anyone’s intention to end up with a drawer or basket full of useless stuff. It just happens over time. For example, here’s what’s in the drawer that’s closest to my computer desk: Pens, pencils, crayons, paperclips, power cords, thumb drives, sticky notes, pennies, nickels, dimes, gum, gum wrappers, hard candy, hard candy wrappers, old check books and check registers, glitter, double-sided sticky tape, extra headsets, stamps, CDs, and product warranties. I even found a dried-up bottle of white out!
Why am I bringing this up?
This past summer, inspired by Marie Kondo, I decided to go through every cabinet and closet in my house and weed out the non-essentials—everything that doesn’t “spark joy” or have a use. Fortunately, my house isn’t that big and I’m not much of a collector, but the process has been enlightening because it’s brought up interesting and unexpected feelings.
My mother, who was a child during the depression, saved everything. We even reused paper napkins! After she died, I tossed out hundreds of plastic cottage cheese containers, forks, knives, and spoons and an equal number of those aluminum containers from TV dinners. For me, throwing those things away was liberating, but I also felt guilty. My logical mind and my subconscious programming were in conflict. Truth be told, if she weren’t already dead, seeing me toss all those useful items would have killed my mother!
Meanwhile, back at the current ranch…some drawers, cupboards and closets were easier to deal with than others. Getting rid of clothes from my bedroom closet was a piece of cake. I recruited my fashionista friend to help me. If it didn’t fit, was out of date, or just plain ugly, it went to the Goodwill pile. Cleaning out the fridge was a no-brainer—anything out of date went into the compost bin or the trash. Kitchen cabinets were also simple. I pulled everything out—dishes, pots and pans, and glasses—and separated items into keep and items to donate. The donate pile disappeared that day. The medicine chest, which only stocked cold meds and cough syrup, was also easy.
My office was the real challenge.
Do I really need my grandfather’s gold letter opener (yes), or the orange stapler my friend gave me when I started my own business in 1984 (absolutely), or 5 headsets (maybe)? What about the envelop full of old stamps (they’re worth something) or the miscellaneous power cords (I might need them)? What about all those books!
How long do I need to keep tax records? What about the floppy discs from the Mac computer I bought 34 years ago? No, I don’t still have the computer. And what about the file cabinets full of drafts, client projects, and medical and shot records for kids that are now adults?
Amidst confusion and despair, with the insight of a Buddhist Monk, the solution arrived. I packed everything I couldn’t part with and anything I thought I should keep into a three 4-drawer, ugly, beige, metal file cabinets and squeezed them into the corner of the garage. Out of sight for now but there just in case.
Marie Kondo would most definitely approve of my office. However, the weeds growing in the file cabinet and the rest of the garage…well, that’s another story.
So, what did I learn?
When it comes to clearing out personal and household items, I’m a pro. When it comes to business, I decided to error on the side of caution. Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to eventually (one rainy day far into the future when I’m the last woman on earth) go through those file cabinets.
Jan Fishler is an author, motivational speaker and writing coach. You can learn more about her at janfishler.net and dontstopnow.us.
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