Leaders Know When (& What) to Declutter

Gerwig 2015-07-13

Another move! This week the packers/movers came to our home in Lexington, Kentucky to pack up our household goods and move them to Connecticut. Moving is fun AND a pain in the neck. It requires leaving the known for the unknown. It requires leaving good friends for strangers (or “new” friends). It requires boxing up and moving belongings. And there is never a perfect move. Furniture and personal belongings, inevitably, get lost, damaged or broken.

As a kid, I moved a lot as my dad was a career Marine officer. I always envied those kids that lived their entire lives in the same town. And I always said that I’d settle down as an adult. Be careful what you promise. I also said I’d never move to the Northeast United States and yet here I go, moving to Connecticut. Again, be care what you say you’ll “never do.”

For the first 15 years of my adult life, I lived in the same town (though we moved 4 times!) and worked for the same company. In the last 15 years, I’ve worked for several companies and lived in numerous locations, both in the U.S. and abroad. It’s been fun and it’s been a challenge.

One thing I’ve learned over time is that when you move frequently, you tend to declutter. You get rid of old furniture, either to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or to family. Over the years, we’ve given away sofas, chairs, tables, computers, clothing, kitchenware, riding lawn mowers, and grills. Did I ever say that moving was “inexpensive?” It’s not.

Well, nonetheless, here we go again, to the Northeast, to Connecticut. And one of the things I was reminded of, yet again, was the importance of decluttering. Some people (e.g. professional home organizers) are good at this. They do it for a living. For the rest of us, we do it, generally, out of necessity. If you move yourself, you know that the cost of moving is directly proportionally to the weight of your household goods. You might declutter out of necessity. Even if you don’t have to pay for your move, you know it’s easier to move if you get rid of junk, things that you collect but don’t really use.

True leaders, whether in the office, factory or at home, understand the value of decluttering. World-class leaders know when (and what) to declutter. They get rid of old files. They give away or sell old furniture. They give away old clothing. They get rid of the junk and get organized.

Decluttering allows world-class leaders to be more efficient. It allows you to find things more quickly. Junk requires time. You have to move it, polish it, wash it, or manage it in some way. A messy office or basement may hold a lot of “personal treasures” but it doesn’t allow you to work efficiently. It requires time. Time to find things. Time to manage things. You get the idea.

By my nature, I’m a hoarder. In fact, I used to collect sticks. Yes, sticks. I’d find sticks in the woods that I grew attached to because I used them as toy guns, or walking sticks, or baseball bats, or “whatever.” My mother had several interesting conversations over the years with movers (when we’d relocate) explaining the value of the sticks to me and why they had to pack them up and move them. Yes, we moved “sticks” from North Carolina to Guam. Go figure!

But over the years, I’ve learned the benefit of decluttering. Save your family heirlooms. Keep those items that have special meaning. But get rid of the junk, whether in your office or in your basement. The first time I moved corporate offices, I packed up 27 boxes of “stuff.” When I moved out of my last office, I packed up 2 small boxes.

How about you? Do you need to declutter your office? Your basement? Your garage? Your car?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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