Clearing Clutter of House and Mind

Over the last few weeks, something has really started to annoy me. Clutter. Everywhere I look there is stuff. Some is post-holiday accumulation (i.e. cards, gift boxes, and toys), while other collections have appeared on their own in the form of papers, magazines, books and even clothes. The piles everywhere are causing me stress. I know I shouldn’t let the physical clutter impact my mind, but it has. It has seeped into my brain. Now I can’t stop thinking about eliminating the clutter so I can have a clear mind for more interesting and fun endeavors.

The first step in eliminating clutter is figuring out what you need, and what you don’t need. Seems simple, but it isn’t. I decided to start with my clothes closet. I counted 15 pairs of shoes, yet I couldn’t find a reason to toss any of them. I moved on to pants, shirts, and dresses. Again, I need them for something, even if it is for an upcoming painting project that hasn’t happened in the last 5 years. At what point does the urge to eliminate the stuff overpower the need for it?

Since my clothes closet was not fruitful in providing bountiful items to ditch, I readily moved on to the garage. Surely there are things that must go? I was amazed to find 2 boxes of books that haven’t been touched in at least 3 years. I am afraid to consider how many times one box was moved, as it contained my college textbooks. Since I graduated in the last century, I know it was moved 5 or 6 times. At least. Why I didn’t sell them back to the bookstore upon graduation is beyond me. Back then (showing my age here) we didn’t have e-mail, e-books, or even the internet, so I am sure I thought it was a good idea to save them, in case I needed them. As I pulled an engineering book from its box, I noticed the title “Technical Drawing”. The first few pages were frightening. There we explanations about pencils and how to draw proper lines on an engineering drawing on paper. Clearly these books were not suitable for a yard sale. I might need to donate them to a museum, along with my collection of .5mm mechanical pencils.

Why was it so hard to let stuff go? Waiting certainly didn’t improve the situation, as my college textbook example demonstrated. Suddenly it seemed best to swiftly redirect unwanted goods to someone who might actually want to use them. As I opened box after box and sorted through papers and tools in the garage, I felt a weight lift. The weight of years of accumulation of stuff that suddenly, I felt I was able to let go. My reading of “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama last year finally impacted me. I realized the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to lose. Items take up valuable space in your house, and in your mind. As long as you have what you need on a daily basis (food, clothes, and running water) then all the other stuff is really extra isn’t it?

After my garage sale next week, I look forward to continuing my quest to remove clutter and simplify my life, not just for my house’s sake, but for my mind’s sake. Once my physical space is clear, I may actually be able to focus on the space in my mind. Like the overgrown weeds in your lawn, sometimes you end up with clutter over growing your life. Managing the space so it isn’t cluttered, is a necessity. I look forward to 2011 focussed more on life and less on stuff, because you can always bring you wherever you go and your stuff doesn’t define you anyway.

The Power of Listening? What?

Over the last few weeks I have been networking up a storm as part of my job search. I realize there are tricks to ‘connecting’ and it isn’t just about collecting a stack of business cards at a networking event. I realize that for me personally, I like it when someone actually listens to what I am saying instead of telling me, “I need to go meet some other people.” What kind of connection is that when someone grabs your business card or takes down your contact information and then runs off in the other direction?

I may be new to networking (for this particular job hunt) however, one thing I do know about is developing relationships. You develop relationships by talking with people and having actual conversations about what their challenges and problems are. You need to be able to understand what the other person is looking for whether that includes personal or business needs. Do they just need a person to empathize with them because they had a difficult day, or do they need a contact at a company to help them get in the door because they have been looking for work for 8 months and can’t seem to get an interview?

Customers, suppliers, business associates, and friends appreciate it when you listen and you show that you understand what they are feeling. Who would you rather talk to – the person with empathy or the person who grabs your business card and then moves on for the next ‘card grab’. According to the Dalai Lama people are happier the more personal connections they can make. When he talks about connections, he is talking about the empathetic kind. How can two people relate in regards to their feelings? If you listen to someone, really listen, you just might make a ‘real’ connection instead of only an electronic one on LinkedIn.