A Late Cleanup

Personal Organization

Three years ago, I came home from my last day of work at Healthy Kids and placed a box of assorted “office stuff” in our dining room (which we don’t use for dining). There it sat. For three yearsEvery time I walked by it, I used a few brain (and heart) cells thinking “I really should deal with that box.”

As this picture shows, the box fell apart. It accumulated items that had never graced my office (like the “triathlon” license plate holder). I don’t know what was keeping me from dealing with it. Maybe some deep-seated processing I still needed to do about leaving Healthy Kids after almost 20 years. Maybe something less complicated, like laziness.

Time for a Small Win

I am currently reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg. This book is full of many incredible takeaways but I’ll save most of those for a different time. For now, I will point out the author’s emphasis on the power of a “small win” to make a “big difference.”

The power of “small wins” lies in the fact that they create momentum for behavioral changes that evolve into bigger wins over time.

Walking past that falling-apart box was a downer every time. A non-productive downer that did nothing to contribute to the fact that I need to physically clean my environment in order to have more emotional breathing space.

Walking past my sock drawer is the opposite feeling from the “old office memorabilia box.” Ever since my friend Fred Davenport challenged me to blog about my sock drawer (really, he did!) and I cleaned it out as a result, it has been pristine. I take care of it because I feel accountable to my friend (not that I expect him to drop by and inspect my sock drawer).

I guess the difference with the “office box” is the fact that now my accountability is just to myself.

What Was Getting In The Way?

The box and its sad neglected state signify at least three things to me.

No Place to Work

I think one factor keeping me from dealing with the “office box” is that I don’t have anywhere to go (as far as a workspace) despite the fact that I am working around 30 hours a week on my two awesome freelance jobs. The family pictures, the treasured glass “bluebird of happiness” Tenley gave me in kindergarten, the crystal clock that had been a wedding gift and became my office time piece — there is no place for them right now.

When I first started working from home while caregiving, I would move my laptop and other work-related materials into Tenley’s room in order to have a facsimile of a “workspace.” Over time, though, it just became easier to work from the dining room table.

I know our virtual world is making it possible to work from almost anywhere, but I miss the structure of sentimental “things” around me. 

Unresolved Relationships

What do unresolved relationships have to do with cleaning out a box? You would think absolutely nothing, but certain items in the “office box” remind me that loops did not get closed. The framed print of our corporate values like “family focus” and “transparency” reminds me that I never got feedback from the people I had supervised once I received a lateral transfer and was no longer their supervisor.

On the flip side, time has done its work in some ways. One bridge I really felt I had burned turned out to be not so much burned as in need of reinforcement.

I am first and foremost a people person and somehow leaving the items in that box undisturbed kept me from having to accept, again, that there are parts of my Healthy Kids experience that simply have to go in the “it is what it is” category. 

Clutter is Overwhelming and Paralyzing

You know, I don’t know the solution to the fact that I allow clutter to accumulate yet would feel so much freer if I would just deal with it. I recently went to a new place for personal services (think: nails, hair, massages – don’t really want to single anyone out). While I wasn’t unhappy with the individual’s work, I was turned off by the general disorganization at their workspace.

My entire house (except for my sock drawer and the space where the office box used to sit) is a generally disorganized workspace. If I don’t like it when I’m a customer, how does the disorder around me impact my spirit and ability to achieve my goals?

Back to Those Small Wins

I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to clean up the “office box.” Okay, I’ll admit I was running low on blog topics and needed something to talk about.

But I thought about how I feel every time I use that utterly orderly sock drawer.

And how outer order will (may?) bring inner calm.

And I found myself one small win.

Three years late, and admittedly small, but still a win.

Personal Organization

Personal Organization

This post was inspired by the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: Write a blog post inspired by the word: late.

Personal Organization

18 thoughts on “A Late Cleanup

  1. Letting go is difficult. When we reorganize our space or clear out, its because we are ready to move forward or provide a new canvas for our life journey.

    • EXACTLY! Rightly or wrongly, I get attached to objects. There is a little blue glass bird that my daughter bought me at her school’s “Christmas Village” in KINDERGARTEN (she’s now 20) that I always had on my desk. I don’t regret being a virtual worker, but I do miss having that “space” with those sentimental “things.” The poor bird has been cooped up in the dreaded “office box” for THREE YEARS.

  2. Good for you, a small win but really a big win! A box you walk by for 3 years holding 20 years of memories to finally get to it is moving on in every sense!

    • YES! This Charles Duhigg book really came along at a good time. I am stuck in many ways, some sort of defined by the caregiving life and my FIL’s terminal illness, but I can’t keep saying “I’ll start making changes once he is no longer with us.” It took me *MAYBE* an hour to go through the box and I feel so much lighter for having done it!

  3. Incredibly timely, this is. My stuff is personal, more than work related but still, I had to solve the “I’m still here” boxes problem by putting a tri-fold poster board between my stuff and where I sit. I just become overwhelmed to think of throwing away one-of-a-kind things.

    Your post reminds me that there is some loose end represented by such reluctance because otherwise, I’m ruthless and can thin out a junk drawer like nobody’s business. I need to read more about the whole subject of throwing things away. This was a good start.

    • You are so right, Susan. Those loose ends can really stick with us. Maybe this box emptying was progress toward tying just one of them up.

  4. This was so good. My job went down flames after more than 18 years recently. I sent my husband to my officer to clear out my stuff. It’s been six weeks, and the boxes and boxes that were once my career are sitting on my living room floor.

    • I am sorry, Valerie. I can totally relate. Things went down in a sort of odd way at my former workplace, and some people did not have the opportunity I did (to voluntarily resign, to have a party, to give a closing speech (which I LOVED/HATED but needed to do). Our work lives (at least for me) are a core of who we are — we can’t just cut them off like dead branches.

  5. Thanks for this Paula! I needed this…I am clearing out from my last job as well…it is sad to let it go, but so freeing in other ways…and don’t get me started on the clutter…I have been working on this for a while…you done good, kiddo!

  6. A thought-provoking post, Paula! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less attached to “stuff.” I remember reading not too long ago that letting go of sentimental things doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of the memories they’re attached to. That thought has given me “permission” to part with a lot of things without feeling guilty or sad.

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