Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 8;   February 22, 2006: How Not to Accumulate Junk

How Not to Accumulate Junk

by

Look around your office. Look around your home. Very likely, some of your belongings are useless and provide neither enjoyment nor cause for contemplation. Where does this stuff come from? Why can't we get rid of it?

When I moved recently, I learned two things. I discovered that if you have a home office, then when you move, you have to move both your home and your office. Maybe I could have figured that out some other way, but the move did create a unique opportunity. As many do, I used the move as motivation to sort through my accumulated junk and keep most of it.

Computer monitors being recycled by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection

Monitors about to be recycled at an event sponsored by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. Photo courtesy NDEP.

That's how I discovered my personal rules for accumulating junk. To get rid of my junk, I've been violating a different rule every day, and I'm getting pretty good at it. You probably have your own rules, but if you don't know what they are, you can use this list as a starting point.

Here are my rules (plus some others) for accumulating junk:

  • I might need it someday
  • I can't remember why I'm saving this, but it might be important
  • I think I can get rid of this, but I'm not 100% sure
  • I know I'll use this eventually, when I get the time (or energy)
  • I don't need this now, but if I ever do need one, it will either be expensive or impossible to find
  • Violate a different rule
    every day, and soon
    you'll have less junk
    Remember when we used these? Wow — I bet you can't even get them anymore.
  • Maybe I can sell this on eBay — oops, the going price is still too low.
  • I borrowed this, and I should return it, but I'm so embarrassed that I've had it so long…
  • I can't throw this out — maybe it isn't mine
  • Hmm, I wonder where the missing parts of this are — maybe I'll find them
  • I don't actually know what this is, but I'll keep it until I can figure it out
  • Ah, this is that box of stuff I sealed up when I last moved, thinking I would toss it if I didn't open it in a year. Can't remember what's in it. Better not throw it out yet.
  • This was a real bargain. Be a shame to get rid of it.
  • If I lose X pounds, I know I look good in this
  • This is a great book. I should read it. [RecycleBooks.org]
  • This was a great book. Maybe I'll read it again.
  • This was a great movie (album). I know I'll want to watch it (listen to it) again if I ever get another VCR (turntable).
  • Who's that standing next to me in this picture? Better keep it until I can scan it.
  • Ah, my first planner — maybe. You never know when you'll need an alibi for 7:30 AM, Tuesday, March 23rd, 1993.
  • That computer has sensitive data on it. I better keep it until I can erase it. [GreenDisk, Tech Soup and the Computer Recycling Center]
  • Look at that, the postal rates for 1987. Neat-o.
  • I wonder how long I have to keep these financial records. Legally, I mean. Better keep 'em. [Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement]
  • Another ballpoint pen. Might come in handy sometime.
  • Wonder what's on this floppy (Zip disk, removable cartridge, mag tape)? Better keep it for now.

Throwing things away might take some practice. If violating even one of your rules is too hard, start with something easy. Pick up a dead leaf from the ground, and then throw it away immediately. Then work up from there.

After you've made some progress, you might find that offloading junk can create new problems. I now have a slightly used empty bookshelf. Should I fill it or get rid of it? Go to top Top  Next issue: Interviewing the Willing: Strategy  Next Issue

Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunLove the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrensQumVsmFeDqQxLJNner@ChacsfBoAlUvwvDOeoXToCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A rock climber in Joshua Tree National Park, United StatesLet Me Finish, Please
We use meetings to exchange information and to explore complex issues. In open discussion, we tend to interrupt each other. Interruptions can be disruptive, distracting, funny, essential, and frustratingly common. What can we do to limit interruptions without depriving ourselves of their benefits?
An early Swedish dial phone ca. 1876Email Antics: I
Nearly everyone I know complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own actions. If you're looking around for some New Year's resolutions to make, here are some ideas, in this Part I of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
The Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain ForestTeamwork Myths: I vs. We
In high performance teams, cooperative behavior is a given. But in the experience of many, truly cooperative behavior is so rare that they believe that something fundamental is at work — that cooperative behavior requires surrendering the self, which most people are unwilling to do. It's another teamwork myth.
Example of an unsecured driver-side floor mat trapping the accelerator pedal in a 2007 Toyota Lexus ES350Risk Management Risk: I
Risk Management Risk is the risk that a particular risk management plan is deficient. It's often overlooked, and therefore often unmitigated. We can reduce this risk by applying some simple procedures.
Astronauts Musgrave and Hoffman install corrective optics during the Hubble Telescope's Service Mission 1How We Waste Time: I
Time is the one workplace resource that's evenly distributed. Everyone gets exactly the same share, but some use it more wisely than others. Here's Part I of a little catalog of ways we waste time.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) speaks at a recent Senate hearingComing October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
A man, standing, explaining something to a woman, seatedAnd on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenDcafOsDDtTHjfQOUner@ChacJNaojPoaOatTPmbSoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.