Microsoft Office now has a function that tracks what you do with your emails and starts moving things normally deleted to clutter without me looking at them.  I go looking through it occasionally office365to see if it’s really something I need to keep or can I just delete (aka as throw away).  I haven’t decided if I like it or not, but it does keep some junk away from my eyes in my inbox.

I do wish something or someone would file for me so I don’t have a basket full of paper that needs going through when I can’t stand the “clutter” anymore.  I know the rule.  Handle it once.  Put it away where it goes as soon as you are done with it.  I know those things, and they are so effective though there are a number of challenges with this.  

1 – I despise filing.  It seems so mundane and boring.  It doesn’t seem that important until I need to go through “the basket” to find it.   

2 – When I am out of the office with clients and marketing, things pile up. It’s even worse when it’s a constant situation (but it’s better because I’m with you!)   It is all I can do to maintain the priorities – much less the dreaded clutter.  I doubt it if I am alone on this.

My office is so full of stuff!  I have binders, books, papers, pictures, technology, lava lamp, pens (lots of pens!) used ink cartridges that need to go to Staples for recycling and credits, to do lists, stepmessydesk ladder, staplers (two one manual and one automatic), tape dispensers, stacks on floors for the next job, did I mention speakers, television, and even a plant.  That doesn’t include the file cabinets and book shelves on the wall.  It also doesn’t include the clutter I have in all the drawers.

I didn’t realize how cluttered I was until I had a video taken by the International Women’s Leadership Association.  Behind me was a slew of clutter!  I removed everything loose to look organized and in control which only took me about 5 minutes.  I looked around and felt smothered by all the stuff.  It took me thirty minutes to put it back.  It hit me once again.  It is time to declutter the office but not today.

In the scheme of things my life is absolutely wonderful – just not clutter free!  This year has been cluttered with visions of what the business needs, family illnesses, deaths, busyness, and uncertainty.   This means less time with those close friends and family members who help keep me even and calmer.  It’s been a challenging year to successfully move through concerns, mourning, physical tiredness, meeting family needs (like laundry) and build synergy with those around me.   I had let my cup become empty of joy and confidence and full of coffee grounds and tea leaves known as clutter.

A few weeks ago, I was in Hannibal Missouri with a new client and decided to drive on to my son’s home near Columbia, Missouri for the weekend.  The workshops were a success; people learned, shared, and talked about what they would do next now that they know more.  The drive to Columbia was only 1.5 hours so I arrived in a short time.  In other words – no clutter.  This is the first place he has lived in 10 years that I could find the house without getting lost.  May he not clutter me up by moving!

Driving home after the weekend, with my son Ben, I felt uplifted, blissfully proud of who he is as a man and friend; overcome with love for him as I enjoy his company so much.  We mowed the benyard, hiked a bit, and painted.  We talked about nothing serious, and we talked about how he felt about his growing up.  We talked about us growing up together.  We laughed at one another and with one another.  We talked about when he stepped in a bucket of enzyme mixture when he was a teenager and he was helping to strip the old wallpaper off of his bedroom wall.  (NOTE:  Of course, this was immediately when I told him about the enzyme water and be careful.)  

This helped me fill my cup with all of this clutter instead of used coffee grounds and tea leaves.  This time with Ben has not diminished my mourning or sadness, but it has made it more bearable.  It’s reminded me again how much I “clutter my life” with stuff that doesn’t matter.  Who’s mad at me?  What clothes will I wear?  How am I going to change my hair?  When will I get in some exercise?  When can I get the flower gardens weeded?  Will I get poison ivy again?  How can I fix the past?  How can I get all of this done in the time it needs?

As I think deeper, “clutter” becomes deeply important about our thoughts.  Clutter in my mind occurs when I drift to negativity and what’s wrong with the world.  Worrying about what I can’t change and even worse; worrying about what I can change.  All around me I see people getting stuck in places of discontentment; a place I call “not enough”.  It goes to a place of blame and limited to no accountability.  Clutter can take us to a place where we don’t have enough of something.  Things like time, money, vision, sleep, exercise, meeting deadlines, and help from others…you get the picture.

Here are some things I continue to learn about clutter.  

1 – Clutter is good when it causes us to laugh and smile; like the thank you card signed by fourteen family members when I fixed them a meal after they had been traveling.  What makes me smile? thanksdinner I’m NOT a great cook.  I’m not even considered a good cook.  My family says when the smoke alarm goes off then it’s time to eat!  What makes me smile?  The family didn’t die!  And their thank you card, signed by babies to Nana, is still on my board in the kitchen.  My motto about cooking is this clutter comment, “Wait until they are starving and they’ll eat anything!”  THAT makes me smile.

2 – Clutter can be controlled in a number of ways.  We can wait until it causes a hunger to get organized or the frustration of not being able to find something drives us to stop and clean it up.  So we have choices.  These tactics that I’m learning include:

  • First, have a place that it goes.  (Like your keys, your purse or wallet, your underwear, and your glasses.  Or even things inside your bags have a place!)  This builds efficiency and reduces stress.
  • When you are done using it, put it back in the place it belongs.  Right then.   Or you can choose to put it in a “stack” for later.  Later can be at the end of the day, end of every hour, immediately or when you can’t stand it anymore.  It’s your choice! Choice makes me smile regardless of the clutter.
  • Some clutter needs to be tossed.  No more stacks of paper I haven’t looked at for months.  If you haven’t used it in a year – it’s clutter that needs to be rid of; or at least scanned into files that have a shred date if not used within a certain time period.     For others, like my husband, he has a different approach.  He has a “gray cabinet” that houses those things I call clutter (junk) and he calls it “this could be useful.”   Actually, I do call him Bob MacGyver.  He makes me smile and so does his “gray cabinet.”
  • Some clutter needs to be whittled down.  Look around your office and work area.  Do you just have too much?  Determine what’s necessary and get rid of the rest.  For me, I have found I docleandesk this about one time per year; and it really needs to be done monthly.  I fill in every nook and cranny with stuff!  Then I can’t find it because it is “stuffed” somewhere I can’t see.  When I do clean out the office, I find duplicates of items like paper clips, rolls of tape, adding machine tape, and more.  This is so fixable.  Please note, I do need to keep both staplers.  The automatic one is heavy, durable, and very fast to help me put packets together (usually because I am behind the timeline).  The manual stapler allows me to sit on the floor, sip a glass of wine and staple things together in the evening.  Perfecto!  THAT makes me smile.
  • Most important.  Keep your mind and heart filled with doing the right things, in the right way at the right time.  No more holding grudges.  No more holding anger.  No more staying stuck in a situation that hurts you deeply.  Bob Pike said, “Only take that from the past that serves you well into the future.”  Think about that.  With every thought that causes you pause, ask yourself, “does this serve me well or is it getting in the way of “doing the right things, in the right way and at the right time?”  If not, fill your mind with clutter that brings you satisfaction, curiosity, laughter, and confidence.  

    A gentleman I worked with was struggling with the way things were at the company he was employed.  We met monthly and each time there was a strong dissatisfaction coming through his tone of voice, his words, and his body language.  A number of us asked him what he was going to do about it.  The ending is irrelevant.  However, he told me later that two co-workers visited him and one person called to tell him his approach wasn’t working for him or for others.  They told him direct things he needed to hear.  He came to the next meeting with caution tape (the kind construction workers and policemen use for – “stay out”) so if he got out of line, any of us could use the caution tape.  Each month, we continually offered the tape to anyone who was taking us down a rabbit hole that was not helpful for the day.  THIS still makes me smile.  
  • I know this next statement doesn’t sound “business like.”  However, it made such an impact on me that I need to say it here because it keeps me more focused on more rights.  

An acquaintance from the Chicago area once told me that she had a terrible disease and nearly died.  She did survive and yet while she laid in the hospital bed and the invalid care bed she could still think.  Her constant question to herself and to her God was, “Did I love enough?”  

As she told me that story it resonated with me.  I was holding too much clutter and not accomplishing the right things, in the right way nor in the right time.  I think of this at least daily.  This makes me smile with thankfulness.  At night, when I go to bed, I ask myself, “did I love enough today?”  Did I meet people where they are so we can move forward together?  And when I haven’t, I consider ways of how to make it right again.  If I have waited too long, I watch and listen for the right time knowing if it is meant to be the opportunity will come.    This makes me smile with confidence.

The moral of “clutter” is to handle it the way it best serves you so you can do the right things, in the right way, at the right time.  This will allow you to diminish and rid yourself of clutter of things that don’t serve you well and refill you with stacks of clutter that include happy memories, contentment, job satisfaction, choice, curiosity, confidence, and thankfulness.  Let’s clutter our minds with thankfulness and willingness to move forward especially when we make mistakes.  Let’s clutter our mouths with forgiveness and remembering always – you choose what clutter you keep and what clutter you throw away.  Keep the clutter that grows you in your right way, right things, and the right time.  THAT will make us all smile.

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