Emptying the cupboard: the story and the questions

There is a story behind ‘everything’ and we need to ‘look for the lesson’.  Then we need to plan.  But a plan without action remains a plan.  Implementation is necessary.  And then we need to have a process where we regularly ‘pause’ and consider the reality of the current status of the situation. 

Let me tell you a story about my favourite cupboard.  Today I used the ‘barnacle’ principle to de-clutter.  (You may wish to refer back to my article, ‘Excess Baggage’ on November 8 2012).  My approach was that anything that did not fit neatly into the storage cupboard in an organised, tidy manner needed to go to the garbage bin. 

Let’s go through the process:

1.  First we ‘unpacked’ the contents so that we would have an empty container. Nothing remained.

2.  Then we took the contents to a different room and spread out everything which meant that we were looking at it from a new angle.  I couldn’t believe how much had accumulated through being randomly added in the year since we last had a ‘spring-clean’.  There certainly was a great amount of ‘excess baggage’. 

3.  Then we could start reorganising, putting similar items together.  We looked for patterns.  Which were the items that served a similar purpose?  How could we maximise the use of each resource?  In which areas did we have ‘enough’?  What would it be like if we didn’t have each item?  Where were there excesses?   What was missing?  Which were the items of least value or usefulness to us?

4.  We decided what we were keeping and which we no longer needed.

5.  The next step was to pack those items that had value to us into the cupboard in an organised manner.

6.  We disposed of the rest, either by giving away or placing in the ‘recycle’ bin.

So, what are the direct benefits of this annual exercise?  Firstly, the cupboard is more ‘user-friendly’ again. The doors shut properly.  There is no longer an ‘avalanche’ of items pouring out as I open the door!  Items stay in their correct places.  It is a pleasure to go to the cupboard and find exactly what I want in the minimum amount of time.  In addition, the usefulness of each item is multiplied. Thus, the cupboard itself becomes more functional. 

Going back to the story of ‘scraping away the barnacles’, two of the major effects of that ‘pause’ once a year when the fishermen scraped their boats was that the boats used far less fuel to reach the fishing areas and secondly, the boats were much more manoeuvrable. 

The story of my cupboard and that of ‘scraping away the barnacles’ have a similar theme and both are metaphors for what may be happening in our lives.  Unless we pause to reassess and look for patterns, we may not understand the current status.   This precedes ‘getting rid of excess baggage’.  

Some of the questions you may wish to ask yourself are:

  • Which areas of your professional or private lives need to be de-cluttered?  Where do you have ‘excess baggage’ and this could be either physical or emotional ‘baggage’.
  • When are you going to ‘unpack’ that area?
  • How can you ‘empty the contents’ so that you create a ‘space’?
  • What can you do to enable you to ‘spread out the contents’?
  • What criteria can you use to ‘resort’?
  • How are you going to go about recognising patterns?
  • How do you view through a different filter?
  • How are you going to dispose of all those items that no longer ‘fit into the cupboard’?
  • How can you become more agile and more flexible?
  • How can you use fewer resources to achieve your goals?

In the story of our lives there needs to be punctuation.  We need to ‘stop’, before we decide to ‘start’ or ‘continue’.  Planning regular ‘pauses’ enables us to ‘correct’ and then‘re-generate’.  

For more information on our facilitation of ‘leadership development’ or ‘executive coaching’ please contact me - brenda@strategy-leadership.com, Phone: +27 33 3425432, Mobile: + 27 82 4993311.

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