“Potential” is nothing but a fabrication

You know, I have the potential to be an athlete. I have no real medical issues; I have legs, and lungs and feet.

However, I can’t call myself an athlete. I can’t be regarded as one because I haven’t become one. I don’t deserve that title. Heck, I don’t even deserve the title “runner”.

We sometimes keep things based on their potential only. This can be a flawed logic, and not at all helpful in our goal to lead a simpler life; especially if we do it a lot or for everything we own.

“Potential” is a fantasy. It’s not real. It’s a complete fabrication on our part.

Something that you’re not using, but that might be something one day is not actually useful. It’s value is only based on what it is NOW.

It’s no athlete – don’t go giving it a value it doesn’t deserve.

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The only real athlete in this family. He actually DOES it!

Un-organising

I read a recent article about certain spaces you shouldn’t bother trying to keep organised in your home. They included the junk drawer, kids’ toyrooms, laundry cupboards, your utensil drawer and photos.

It had an impact in my industry, with lots of Professional Organisers saying “WHAT??? WHY?? NOO!!!!” to the ideas expressed in the article.

But I agreed with the article (most of it, anyway, I DO think the laundry should be fairly well organised because having an efficient clothes-washing system and routine has a flow-on effect to the rest of the house). I agree because I think we place too much pressure on ourselves to have our spaces organised to the “nth degree”. To have all our drawers neatly divided and our books colour-coordinated. To have all the kids’ Lego sorted by colour. To have a house that looks like the ones on Pinterest.

I think life’s too short for that.

To show you how it’s possible to let go on some of these high standards, I’m going to show you my stationery drawers. They are sorted into broad groups (writing, drawing {my art}, attaching, labeling, personal and technical) and labeled all neatly on the outside. Now, that’s pretty organised; I always know what’s in those drawers (or what should be in them if I’ve been good and put stuff away!).

When you open the drawers, however, it looks like a bit of a shemozzle; it’s all just chucked in. And I think that’s fine. It still takes me no time at all to put my hands on what I want, and isn’t that what organised really means? I can see there are a few things that shouldn’t live in a couple of those drawers, but they aren’t bothering me right now so I don’t really care. I can find what I want when I want it.

Organised chaos. That's my thang.

Organised chaos. That’s my thang.

The same goes for my son’s Lego, which is in one big long, shallow tub. Not sorted. Not at all. He doesn’t care one iota. And neither do I.

And my utensil drawer – everyone just throws the stuff in anyway, so why bother trying to keep it tidy? I keep it decluttered so that it only holds what’s necessary, but… tidy? Not worth the effort!

So chill out. You don’t have to have everything lined up with the labels all pointing outwards to have an organised home. You just need to be able to find things when you want them, and have only what you can fit easily in their space.

So, if you want to throw stuff willy-nilly in your top bathroom vanity drawer, go for it. If you want to just throw your undies in with your socks all messy and unfolded, feel free. If you want to have your hairbands in the same box as your clips and bobby-bins, go your hardest. If you can’t be bothered putting your books in order of genre or author, that’s completely okay. You are free to have a jumble if you so wish.

You’re welcome.

Letting go of useful stuff a necessity for some

When I’m coaching clients through the process of decluttering and letting go, I use these questions initially:

  • “Do you NEED it?”
  • “Do you USE it?”
  • “Do you LOVE it?”

These questions help people decide if they really are going to keep the item.

Sometimes, though, you can have such a high volume of “stuff” that an item can fit that category but still need to go. It might be used, it might be needed, it might even be loved, but it can still need to go in order for you to achieve your goals.

It’s a very hard concept for people to get their head around, but if you want your house to have less clutter, it’s just going to have to happen.

Saying “No” at work

Whenever you answer your phone, reply immediately to an email or answer a knock on your office door with a “sure, I can help you now”, you’re effectively saying to the person at the other end “Here is my time – you do with it as you wish”.

As soon as you say “Yes” to a request, you’re changing from proactive work to reactive work. It’s not on your terms. Only you know your priorities, and only you should be making decisions about your time.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to respond immediately, of course. But if you’re honest with yourself, a lot of the time you don’t have to.

How to say “No” so you’re working on your own priorities first:

  • Have times during your work day that are proactive, focussed times and your phone goes to voice mail or to a colleague (you can return the favour during their quiet time if you both work together)
  • Turn off your email notifications and choose a few blocks of time a day for email and only check and reply in those times
  • Have a carefully scripted response to people who interrupt you. Something like “I’d love to help you; I can see it’s important to you. Unfortunately my focus is on another task at the moment and I can’t give your issue the attention it deserves. How about I come and see you in an hour?”. And then honour that promise.

You don’t need to say yes all the time – you can still help people and be proactive in your own work at the same time.

 

Can you declutter your complexities?

A common theme amongst my clients is complexity.

They have a lot, they do a lot, they want to do a lot, they help others do a lot, they accumulate a lot in order to do what they want.

They have rules about how they do things (or not do them), which complicates life. They can’t say no to others, which complicates life.

Do you insist that certain conditions be met before you take any action? Why? What do you gain? What do you lose? Are your rules helpful to you or unhelpful?

For example, do you insist on reading all the junk mail before you throw it in the recycling? Do you buy the latest issue of your favourite magazine despite not having read the last two yet? Do you insist on using a new towel each shower? Do you buy a new outfit whenever you have a special occasion to attend? Do you buy designer clothes for your 2yo tomboy? Do you entertain several nights a week? Do you volunteer for several committees? Do you only buy bread from a bakery 30 minutes’ drive away?

These are all examples of complexities that you impose upon yourself. They may or may not be helpful: that’s up to you to decide.

The more simple your life, the happier you’ll be. Trust me.

What complexities can you step away from today?

How to organise your cords and cables

One of the things that I see most frequently cluttering up people’s lives are cords and cables. They are very easy to lose, very easy to duplicate and seem to breed when you’re not looking.

Here’s a simple way to organise the ones that aren’t being used much (some live permanently on desks – I know my iPhone one does!). You’ll need a box, some ziplock bags, a label maker (or white paper and some sticky tape will work too) and a permanent marker.

1. Collect them all together
2. One at a time, establish their purpose, what device they belong to and whether you even need it anymore
2. Label the cord with a meaningful description and put it in a ziplock bag, making sure you also label the bag (you can store duplicate cables in the same bag)
4. You may need to have a bag of “Unidentified” cables if you don’t have the courage to part with them.
5. Stand all the bags up in the box. They’ll be labelled for easy identification and won’t get tangled.

Store chargers separately, if they aren’t plugged in at a charging station, but you can still use the same storage method for them.

What do Activity Based Workstations and Clear Space have in common?

One of the major trends in corporate workplace design is the move to an Activity Based Workplace environment (ABW).

It is a different type of work environment where workers are not assigned a permanent office, desk or workspace, nor are they assigned a particular type of space based on status or job type. Rather, workers predominantly use mobile devices and choose the appropriate workspace for the activity undertaken on a day-to-day basis or project they are working on at the time.  This is in stark contrast to the tradition of employees arriving at work and heading to a specific ‘owned’ workspace.

ABW strives towards a utopia where humans aren’t territorial or insecure and where the physical environment facilitates maturity and personal responsibility in all workplace situations.  ABW is the hot trend in workplace design because it can save millions of dollars in real estate costs and when done properly, improve productivity.  lt requires a largely paperless office which offers additional benefits, such as a reduced environmental footprint, reduced storage requirements and increased security.

Late in 2013, the Bendigo Bank will consolidate a number of sites in to their new Grenfell Street Head Office, which has been designed as an ABW environment.

Supporting employees with behavioural changes to embrace the ABW revolution is imperative to the successful implementation of the model – and the productivity and efficiency improvements that go with it.  To help with the transition, beginning in September, Clear Space will start delivering a number of workshops for the Bendigo Bank.  A customised program has been developed that will address specific challenges for their staff whilst complementing the other change management strategies the bank is assisting staff with.

Titled “Space, Time and Paper Management”, participants will learn simple yet effective, ready-to-use tips and techniques for instant results and application.  It will appeal to and deliver benefits for individuals working in various departments, and having differing needs and day-to-day objectives.

The elements and learning outcomes from the workshops include:

1)    Space Management

  • effective portability and mobility
  • locker storage and control / avoiding the need to store at home
  • choosing the most suitable ABW area
  • reducing belongings by learning how to let go

2)    Time Management

  • managing interruptions and distractions
  • single versus multi-tasking
  • batching tasks & using digital task lists
  • creating routines

3)    Paper Management

  • knowing what to keep, archive and cull
  • reducing paper use and dependence
  • finding what you need, when it’s needed
  • setting up a suitable system for actionable paperwork

We look forward to helping Bendigo Bank with this exciting transformation.

We need to be more grateful!

Okay, soapbox warning.  I’m up there and I’m standing VERY TALL.

I read an article recently (you can read it here if you like) that basically listed the 50 most annoying things we (a British study, but I know it applies to all of Western society really) have to put up with. It made my blood boil and so I’ve written this in response -

50 things to be grateful for in this world.

1. Pressure selling – people continuously trying to sell you something you don’t want? Great – you have choice!

2. Spam emails – oh, you have email and are connected to the world! Great!

3. Pushy sales people – At least there are sales people that aren’t ripping you off blind and will tell you all you want to know about a product

4. Foreign call centres – you get to speak to someone from a different country, cool! You get to hear another accent, cool!

5. Being put on hold – you can clean your nails, reflect on life, slow down a bit

6. Dog mess on the pavement – you don’t have to drink water from the same area the dog has pooed

7. Pot holes in the road – you have suspension. And a car or a bike.

8. Spam text messages – you have a mobile phone

9. Drivers who take up two spaces – There is loads of space a few metres away and you’re not having to walk 5kms just to get there.

10. Getting stuck behind really slow drivers – they’re driving carefully, not like idiots. At least if they hit something they won’t do much damage

11. Queuing – waiting is good for the soul.

12. Really slow people in front of you at the till – again, waiting is good for the soul. You get to have a chat to the person behind you and meet someone new.

13. Rude customers or clients at work – you get a chance to lighten up someone’s bad day. See it as a challenge.

14. Getting stuck in traffic – thankfully you aren’t likely to get hijacked as you sit there.

15. Having to stand on the train when you’ve paid loads for a ticket. Really? You’re not walking home; isn’t that a great thing!

16. Having to pay to use public lavatories – that are clean and safe.

17. You unload the washing to find a tissue has covered everything. Oh, my god. You have a washing machine and don’t have to cart a bucket of dirty water from the river.

18. Credit card offers through the post – you get stuff  in the mail and it’s not intercepted by corrupt mail workers

19. Bird mess on the car – you have a car. There are birds close to you.

20. Middle lane drivers – you have lots of other lanes to use should you want to. Why stress about something you can’t control?

21. You put on a couple of kilos in weight when you think you’ve been good. It’s clear you have enough food. More than enough, really. Many wish they had this problem.

22. Cars not stopping for you at a zebra crossing – there are zebra crossings.

23. Your delivery gets lost in the post – you have enough money to replace whatever it was

24. You hang the washing out only for it to rain – you have enough clothes to survive in the meantime.

25. Spelling errors in books. You have books. You can spell. You’re educated.

26. Company ‘reply to all’ emails that aren’t relevant to you – at least you have a job!

27. Having to shave – you have a normally functioning hormonal system and arms to shave with.

28. Having to find spare change for the supermarket trolley  - you have access to a supermarket, and don’t have to carry your stuff on your head.

29. Banks phoning you to offer you a credit card / loan / overdraft – You have access to credit if you need it

30. Being sold something different from what you paid for – you have the ACCC to back you up.

31. You close the computer or the computer crashes and you’ve forgotten to save your work. You have a job. You have a computer.

32. Predictive text – you have a phone, iPad or computer. Most likely all three.

33. Being duped by a sales person – you have authorities that will try to help you out that you can trust. You have enough money to survive a loss.

34. Self-serve tills – you get to play with a toy all by yourself.

35. Your partner leaving crumbs / mess on the kitchen side. You have someone to share your life with that loves you.

36. Delayed trains – You have a train to catch that will take you home.

37. Getting a paper cut – it’s not going to get infected, and if it does, you are very unlikely to die from septicemia because we have a health care system.

38. Calling companies complaints lines – there are complaint lines with people there to listen to you.

39. You miss the train by a couple of minutes – there will be another train shortly and you won’t have to walk miles home in the dark on your own.

40. Realising you’ve left your phone at home – you have a phone, and a home, that you can go back to. In the meantime you get to enjoy the peace.

41. Banks phoning you to check your personal details. Your money is safe.

42. Losing the remote control.  Now you can get some exercise!

43. You forget to put the bins out on rubbish collection day. Your rubbish isn’t piled up at your door. It will be collected next time. You don’t have to sleep in it.

44. Your shopping bag breaks and you lose your goods all over the floor.  You have enough money to buy a bag of groceries.

45. The milk has gone off. You and your family have plenty of food and drink to be healthy.

46. Breaking a nail. This doesn’t even warrant a response.

47. Dishes being stacked on the draining board. You have fresh running water to wash your dishes with. And a draining board.

48. Automatic direct debits. You don’t have to line up to pay your bills.

49. Keypad tones. You have a mobile phone.

50. Someone rings you and they lose reception straight away. Again, you have a mobile phone.

And I’m adding another:

51. Articles that show how pathetically privileged we all are without knowing it. I can be grateful that I have a computer to read it on…as much as it angered me!

 

Celebrate your achievements

All ready for the RSPCA

When I went to see my client yesterday, we started off as we usually do, chatting about what he’d achieved in the fortnight since I’d last been.

He was disappointed in himself, and complained that he hadn’t achieved anything. He had been too busy working (he works shift work).

Then through more probing on my part I discovered that he had cleared out a great deal of his bedroom and there was a big expanse of carpet on display (yay! I did a little dance in it to show him how big it was). He had also delivered a load of old towels and sheets to the RSPCA, and decluttered and cleaned his bathroom.

Now, for someone who is a hoarder and is crippled by procrastination, that is a LOT achieved!

I told him so, and he agreed. So the lesson here is don’t be too hard on yourself. Any progress is a step forward.

Don’t forget to celebrate your achievements, or at least NOTICE them!

Will it stay or will it go?

When you’re trying to reduce your belongings, it can be hard making the decision to keep or discard an item.

Here’s what I ask my clients:

1. Do you NEED it? This one is relatively easy to answer once you get the hang of it. If it’s a bike bell and you don’t have a bike, you probably don’t NEED it. Notice I didn’t say “want”. Be careful you don’t confuse the two – western society has a pretty warped sense of need these days.

2. Do you USE it? If you don’t need it you still might use it. I don’t NEED a white coat and a brown one, but I do use both of them regularly throughout winter.

3. Do you LOVE it? Is it neither a necessity nor used? Is it a teacup that belonged to your grandma’s special set? Not needed, not used, but certainly treasured.


If it fails all these tests, then it has no place in your life. Period.

 

Be careful: it’s at this point that the “other” criteria pop up in your head because fear kicks in….

“I might need it one day”

“I really should finish that project; I’m a failure if I just discard it now”

“What if Cath notices the frame that she gave me isn’t on display anymore”, or

“But I spent good money on it and now I’m wasting that money by giving this item away”.

None of these are good enough reasons to keep something. Don’t let the fear take over.

If you don’t need, use or love it, it’s making life that little bit harder for you. That little bit more cramped, that little bit more complex. Let go of the fear and experience the freedom!

 

Embrace the idea of less stuff so you can have more of life.