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Senior Correspondent

Spring’s Here – Clutter Be Gone

Spring’s Here – Clutter Be Gone


"When we throw out the physical clutter, we clear our minds. When we throw out the mental clutter, we clear our souls." Gail Blanke, Author of "Throw Out Fifty Things"

Even though it snowed a little yesterday, it's still that wonderful time of the year when we start planning and possibly even planting — they are calling for 70 degrees on Wednesday — our gardens. We wash the windows on both sides, and low and behold, the sun shines in. That gives us the courage to tackle the junk drawer; you know the one, in the kitchen. And after that success, we tackle the storage closet in the garage. And then, we really get on a roll, and then there is just no stopping us.

I am my mother's daughter. I hate clutter and I love order. Doesn't mean that piles don't grow around me, but it does mean that I notice and I usually deal with them sooner than later. What always amazes me is the power surge I get when I deal with "stuff."

Books are one of my big indulgences. More than once I have donated books to a book fair only to find myself buying my old books back. And, somehow books just find their way into our home without anyone ordering them or buying them at the bookstore. So, the books require their own room and cataloging system, or they multiply and make baby books.

It turns out that physical clutter equals mental clutter for most of us. Eliminating physical clutter is challenging, but it is the first step in effectively dealing with mental clutter. Clutter blurs clarity, or put another way, it confuses us.

So, how do you know what to throw out? Gail Blanke offers a few rules of disengagement:

1. If it weighs you down or makes you feel bad about yourself, throw it out, give it away, sell it, let it go, move on.

2. If it just sits there taking up room and contributing nothing positive to your life, let it go.

3. Don't make the decision about whether to toss it or keep it difficult. If you have to weigh the pros and cons for too long, let it go.

Lean manufacturing environments offer us the now famous, 5S process for achieving and maintaining clutter-free workplaces: Sorting, Set in Order, Sweeping, Standardizing, Sustaining.

Sorting is a process to get rid of any unnecessary items.

Set in order focuses on organizing tools and equipment to promote optimum work flow.

Sweeping refers to maintaining a clean and tidy workplace, returning tools to their designated locations.

Standardizing refers to documenting the system.

Sustaining is the most challenging aspect, and that refers to assuring that the clean, safe and organized workplace be maintained.

The 5S system is considered the foundation of a lean workplace. A lean workplace is capable of producing higher quality output, more productively in a safe and pristine environment. These practices translate well to personal environments as well as workplaces other than manufacturing.

Your coaching challenge, should you choose to accept it:

Identify 50 things you can let go of this spring, and do it. Notice how much positive energy you feel from letting go of items that no longer serve you.

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