January 7 2022

The Next Step to Clean Up & Clarify

Have you identified the first spot you want to tackle in your mission to declutter and make space for the good in 2022?

Don’t have a clue what I’m talking about?

Read my last post on how and why I’m encouraging you to start the new year in a different way.

Without the hustle and grind.

I don’t know about you, but in my area the government has just introduced new restrictions courtesy of the pandemic and, more specifically, the Omicron variant.

The last (nearly) two years have felt like one big grind. Who the hell wants more of that?

Plus, are you a bit tired from all. the. things. in 2021?

Me too. Enough already.

We’re going to do things differently in 2022 and I can tell you from experience that this way works wonders.

I’m going to assume that you’ve read A Different (Better) Way to Start the New Year and that you’ve identified that one pain-in-the-backside area that is holding you back in some way.

OK, let’s roll!

Starting the clean up

The first and probably the most satisfying step in the clean up process is to ELIMINATE.

It is time to thank and release all the extra, unhelpful stuff you have hanging around in your area – be it your desk, filing cabinet, closet, shelves, basement, or other cluttered space.

If you’re thinking that this is the moment where I’m going to quote Marie Kondo and her “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” approach, nope. Not gonna happen.

Couldn’t stand that book. (Apologies if you’re a Kondo fan.)

I couldn’t even finish it. That’s saying something, because I rarely give up on a book.

I’m a big fan of the concept of tidying up, but right about the moment where Kondo encouraged me to talk to my sweaters is when the book got the heave-ho out the door.

Her approach: Kondo wants you to consider whether each item brings you joy.

Interesting and potentially useful where your clothes or house decorations are concerned, but unhelpful when it comes to your office space or your basement.

For example, I get no joy out of my collection of tools. (For the record, I brought the tools into my marriage; my husband brought the collection of red wine. We make a good team.)

But they are useful and help me achieve my goal of keeping my house in good repair.

They bring satisfaction, not joy. If I were to ask them if they bring me joy, the answer would be “No!” and by Kondo’s standards, they’d be gone.

But they nonetheless serve me well.

Ditto for certain objects in my office.

It has nothing to do with joy and everything to do with how well they serve me.


Ask a better question

My approach: I’m going to suggest that you ask a different question instead –> Is keeping this item in my highest, best interests?

In my case, I have multiple business suits in my closet that are lovely and fit me well. I like them.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t see myself ever wearing them again. They no longer represent who I am.

Even when I do speaking engagements, I don’t wear business suits.

Fun jackets? Yes.

Business skirts? Not a chance. Ditto for high heels.

Holding on to them is not in my best interests.

If I’m going to have something in my possession, it has to serve me and my goals well.

As I tackle the process of eliminating, the suits and the high heels will be the first to go.

Here’s what’s cool about the process of eliminating: You can serve someone else by gifting items that would serve them well.

I intend to donate my clothing to Suits Me, a women’s initiative within the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre that provides professional attire to women who are recovering from mental health issues.


Take a look at the items in your space. Who else could benefit from items that are no longer serving you?

To sell or give away?

I’m a big fan of keeping things out of landfills, so if there’s a way to pass on your items to someone else who can make use of them, please do.

But don’t get hung up on whether to sell the stuff or give it away.

If it takes more than a minute of thought to decide whether your thing goes into the “sell” or the “give away” pile, give it away.

Your time is more valuable than the few dollars you’ll make on an item.

I have a rule: If I’m posting a bunch of stuff, I’ll include smaller-dollar items that might net me $30 or so. But if they don’t sell in the first posting, they get a one-way trip to Value Village, a thrift shop that takes donations, keeps stuff out of the landfill, and passes on cash to a variety of non-profits.

Or I post it in my local Buy Nothing Facebook Group.

The bottom line is that it’s more valuable for you to focus on making money – by freeing up space and focusing on actions that will move your financial needle – than it is to recoup money on fiddly bits through Kijiji or Facebook marketplace.

Sure, you can make $10 for that plant pot you’re no longer using, but if it takes you a week and three post refreshes, plus answering fourteen messages asking if the thing is still available, is that a win? (Not in my books.)

Big wins, ladies. Let’s focus on big wins.


Permission to make it worse

When you’re cleaning up a space and getting rid of stuff, you’re probably going to make a bigger mess at first before getting to organizational nirvana.

Give yourself permission to do that.

Otherwise, here’s what’s going to happen:

You’ll pull all the crap off that bookcase in your office, because it’s been an eyesore for years and you no longer know what, exactly, is poking out from all those stacks.

That stuff has to go somewhere as you sift through it and the floor is a nice, big landing place. So that’s where it goes.

Then you sit down in the middle of it and you start opening envelopes and dealing with it.

A couple hours later, you look up horrified. Your office looks ten times worse! GAH.

Except that that’s part of the process.

If you set your expectations at the outset, you’ll know that in order to clean up your space, you have to make a bigger mess. That’s OK, because you have a plan and a commitment (right?) to go through it systematically until the job is done.

Break it down

If you’re dealing with a multi-part challenge like one of my clients – she wants to clean up her desk, but needs to clear out a drawer in the filing cabinet first, which means dealing with the closet because that’s where stuff is going to go – then break it down.

Write out the steps on a sheet of paper and post that to the wall. Check off each item as you get it done.

It might look like this:

Day 1 – Pull everything out of the closet and triage the stuff to give away.

Day 2 – Give stuff away, then decide what needs to be thrown away or recycled. Toss and recycle.

Day 3 – Determine what gets to go back into the closet and why – how is it helpful to you? Where will it go? 

Day 4 – Tackle the filing cabinet drawer. Eliminate, recycle, shred, or throw out.

Day 5 – Finish the cabinet drawer.

Day 6 – Tackle the pile on your desk. Eliminate, delegate, recycle, shred, or throw out. Anything that needs to be addressed (i.e. must take action) gets a tidy spot.

Day 7 – Enter all action items in your calendar. Every paper gets an entry.

Day 8 – Celebrate!

It’s important to celebrate your wins, even the small ones. 

Find something you love and make that your reward for getting this job done.


Need more inspiration?

If you’re like another of my clients whose stack of to-do items involves “a ton of work for each damn piece of paper”, then take the advice I gave her: “We’re going to Gold Star the sh⭐t out of that pile!” 

Get one job done, then give yourself the equivalent of a gold star –> a reward that you love, which acknowledges that you’ve just completed something un-fun. Yay you.

Then move on to the next job and repeat the process until you’re through the stack.

Be your own cheerleader and pull out the pompoms after every job done.

Crazy? Maybe.

Effective? Yes.

Fun? Absolutely.

Have fun with this and do reach out to let me know what you’re working on. Can’t wait to hear about your progress. Bonus marks if you send me a pic of your task or area!  📷

We’ll chat again in a few days when I share the next steps in our take-it-slow Clean Up & Clarify process. In the meantime, I have a closet to attend to.  👗

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