I’ve always liked the idea of creating a “one word theme” for a new year. I haven’t always done it, and probably more times than not, even when I did, I forgot what it was! Such was the case in 2014. We were having a “Productive Environment Party” in our office last week, and I came across a note I had written on Jan 1, 2014 calendar: “Discipline: clutter book.” What an illustration of the power of intention, because if you’re reading this blog, you know about my new book Less Clutter More Life. Wow, does that make my heart sing, since the purpose of my company Productive Environment Institute is to help people create an intentional setting in which they can accomplish their work and enjoy your lives.
Needless to say, that experience inspired me to give serious thought to my word for 2015, so I asked myself the question I always ask my clients: “What ONE thing has to happen in the next year for you to be happy with your progress?” The answer came quickly because it’s a question with which I have grappled for as long as I can remember, and at one point nearly took my own life because I didn’t have the answer. “I want to KNOW that I hear from God.” So I began thinking about words that would move me in that direction. My first thought was “faith,” but it didn’t really resonate. Then yesterday morning, I woke up with an old hymn I learned as a child, “Trust and Obey.” So my word for 2015 is “Trust.” How does that apply to the question. My goal for 2015 is to trust that God is speaking to me, and to trust myself that I am hearing — and then to act on what I hear. What’s your “one word?” How are you going to live it out in 2015?
I just read that “How do I declutter?” is ranked #7 in all of Google’s “How do I..” searches for 2014. I have no idea if that statistic is accurate (I’m always skeptical of statistics!), but I do know that all of us — including me — would have more productive lives if we eliminated physical, digital, emotional or spiritual clutter. I also know that my business for over three decades has been built on teaching what I want — or need — to learn. I’ve become quite skilled at eliminating physical, digital, and spiritual clutter, but the clutter that most often holds me back is emotional. Andrea Anderson, my business partner often calls me on it — and she’s right. Emotional clutter are those negative messages in my brain that say, “I should have done this a long time ago,” “I’m too old to do this,” “I’m not smart enough to do this,” “I don’t deserve this,” etc., etc. etc. What about you? What clutter is holding you back?
As Charles Dickens expressed it so well, Christmas is “the best of times and the worst of times.” It is certainly a time to apply the clutter-eliminating principle of asking “Does this (item or thought) help me accomplish my work or enjoy my life?” Yesterday, my assistant Amanda and I spent the afternoon clearing out the clutter out of my office — it felt SO good. Earlier this week, I was sitting in my counsellor’s office talking about some family issues with which I have been struggling. I made the comment that I felt like a “fraud” having written a book about eliminating emotional clutter, when I was struggling with my own. She asked me a question: “When you clear up the physical clutter, does it stay gone?” And so it is with “emotional clutter.” She reminded me that there are three ways to distance yourself from people with whom you don’t get along: 1) in anger, 2) in indifference, or 3) in love. May we all find the love we need to make this Christmas Season a time of blessing for everyone — just as Jesus loves us!
While we often think of “clutter” as a term that applies only to personal homes and offices, it also applies to entire organizations, resulting in decreased teamwork, unnecessary liability, poor customer service, increased risk, and lost profit. One of the biggest reasons is that employees feel guilty spending time clearing out clutter instead of working. A non-profit organization with 24 employees hosted a “Productive Environment Party” for their employees. The result: 3 1/2 tons of paper shredded in 6 hours! During the process someone wrote on the conference room white board: “Its great to be given permission to throw this out! Time to declutter — I didn’t even know I had this!”
When I picked up my car at the rental company I was given a key — I should say “keys” because there were two keys locked together on a cable. This totally baffles me for several reasons:
- If I lose one key, I lose them both.
- I can’t share a key with a second driver.
- I have a huge bulge in my pocket or handbag.
- If I lose this, the car rental has to replace two keys!
Since I define “clutter” as something that prevents you from accomplishing your work or enjoying your life, this system definitely qualifies!
There are many things about growing older that are not so pleasant, but one of the pure joys of aging is seeing how something that happened decades ago fits into your life puzzle in an amazing way.
I’m looking out the airplane window between St. Louis and Kansas City enjoying the beautiful sunny morning. My heart is full of joy and thankfulness for the opportunity to “accomplish my work and enjoy my life” (the tagline of my company Productive Environment Institute) by visiting family, spending time with one of my CPES (Certified Productive Environment Specialist) colleagues Marya Welch, and serving a new client, the Kansas City Regional Library.
At the same time, I’m reminded of a similar experience over three decades ago when I flew this route in the opposite direction — from our family farm back to what was then our home in the Virginia suburbs. I remember thinking that the next year was going to be my best ever. A few short months later, much to my shock, my 14-year marriage came to an end, and what I thought would be the best year ever, turned out to be one of the worst.
Ironically, this experience was a trigger for launching the book Less Clutter More Life. The basic premise of the book is that our lives are a puzzle, but unlike a puzzle you and I might put together, in which we put the frame together first, only God has the frame for our life puzzle. That puzzle is much bigger than we could ever imagine, and everything that happens in our lives is a piece in the puzzle.
I can’t wait to see what happens next!