I recall a question from my former colleague who wanted me to stay at Microsoft as a part-time employee until my backfill could be hired. As I wrote yesterday, the group I was leaving was understaffed, and my departure was going to make the matter worse.
“So, what are you going to do with all your free time at home, Jung? You could surely work part-time, couldn’t you?”
This response that I gave her at the time sounds lame now, but I meant it honestly and earnestly when I said, “I have a lot of decluttering to do at home. Some of the boxes we moved from Massachusetts more than seven years ago are still sitting in our garage. I have been too busy working, and I’d rather spend any leisure time on weekends with my daughters, so decluttering and organizing never came up high enough on my priority list to tackle.”
It wasn’t just the unopened boxes in the garage. As I wrote previously about decluttering our daughters’ playroom in preparation for their birthday party sleepover, Charles and I have not been organized enough to routinely declutter stuff that had been piling up in nooks and corners as well as in rooms and closets over the past eight years of living in our house. Neither of us would claim organization as our strong suit, and we could easily find five other things we would rather do at any given time.
Needless to say, notwithstanding my sincere desire and honorable intention to get on with this long overdue sweep to declutter, organize, and beautify our home, since leaving my employment in late October, 2011, I have not accomplished much beyond cleaning out the playroom which had to get done when my daughters’ birthday in early December loomed as an inflexible and immovable deadline. Oh sure, both Charles and I said to each other things like, “We need to get on with decluttering!” from time to time, but we both allowed ourselves generous slack because we didn’t have any hard-set deadline to kick us in the butt.
However, our priorities have shifted since we returned from Massachusetts. Now we have a clear purpose to do the work that we have been avoiding — not necessarily due to a lack of interest or intention, but rather due to other more interesting, appealing, or urgent activities and projects in our lives. We now have a strong pull toward Massachusetts, so we don’t need much of a push to overcome the inertia problem. My body no longer says, “I don’t exactly feel like working today on decluttering the home office (which has become a de facto storage room) or the guest room (which has become my home office).” Its new attitude says, “I look forward to getting this room decluttered and organized, so that we can get it prepared for sale. Although we don’t have a hard deadline set for the move, the sooner the better!”
This seemingly effortless and organic shift in my approach underscores the importance of having a clear vision or endgame in mind. When I resist or procrastinate something that needs to get done, instead of nagging myself or feeling inadequate for failing to follow through, I can ask myself: “What is the point of doing ‘X’? Why should I do it?” If I cannot answer the question with a purpose compelling enough to convince me to get off my duff, then I can let go without reservation and free my energy to do something else that makes me come alive and helps me stay connected with my core interests, values, and desires.
I love the way Mahatma Gandhi put all of this in three words: “Actions express priorities.”
I yearn for a decluttered and minimalist physical environment so that I can use more of my time and life energy for experiences and people that matter to me the most. I will focus on this vision when I feel out of steam while culling through roomful of items that have become dust-collection receptacles of what I no longer use, want or need in my life.