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Creating Work-Life Balance, Part II: Eliminating Clutter

In last month’s newsletter, I addressed the challenge of work-life balance by outlining strategies for establishing boundaries.   This month, we’ll explore the second of five principles for integrating meaningful work with meaningful life. 

Five Principles for Achieving Work-Life Balance: 

  1. Establishing Boundaries 

  2. Eliminating Clutter and Tolerations 

  3. Having a Reserve in All Areas 

  4. Uncovering and Developing Your Unique Gift

  5. Trusting that God will Illuminate the Next Step  

Clutter Creates an Energy Log-Jam

I am about to share with you a success secret so amazing and yet so simple that you won’t believe me when I say it will have significant impact in your life and business.  Are you ready? 

Here it is:      GET     RID    OF   THE   CLUTTER! 

Now before you skim ahead or close this email, I want to share my own experience with de-cluttering. I am not a naturally neat and organized person.  Because I have so many ideas in the “in-progress” stage, I tend to keep multiple unfinished pet projects in various documents, post-in-notes and opened-books on my desk, on my book shelves, and in my computer files.  In order to keep the idea and project “active” I want it visible.  Hence, I have a lot of “stuff” all over the place.  Because I hate detailed work, I also procrastinate on my filing, and won’t let my assistant touch my files because it would create work for me to help her out.

About two years ago my state of constant creativity and clutter began to choke me.  Not only were the files and books an eye-sore, but the ideas and projects that I refused to let go of were creating a serious energy log-jam. In my reluctance to let go of “stuff”, I realized I was diluting my creative energy and therefore short-changing the key projects that I had a real passion for.

The Solution:  Organized De-cluttering

The solution was a serious de-junking of the paper and a re-prioritizing of my focus.  It amazed me to see that I chose to keep only those “things” and activities that truly reflected my passion and where I wanted to go with my professional and personal life.  And the result was not only a cleaner office . . . .  but an immediate and significant boost in my business!  

Fortunately I had help with my paper and organizational challenges from an expert:  Kathy Paauw, an organization and productivity consultant who I met through my professional coach training.  Kathy has kindly agreed to share some of her de-cluttering secrets with Daring Doctors in this month’s issue, and is also offering a FREE tele-class for Daring Doctors subscribers on January 21, 2003 (see Tele-classes next topic).

One of Kathy’s areas of expertise is in working with medical professionals. As the spouse of a physician and the daughter of a dentist and a nurse, Kathy has a personal understanding of some of the unique challenges facing medical professionals on a daily basis. She also works with professionals from a variety of non-medical fields, including educational, legal, high tech, research, manufacturing, advertising, marketing & public relations, pharmaceutical, financial planning, non-profit, and a variety of small businesses.

Here is an excerpt from one of Kathy Paauw’s most requested articles on de-cluttering offices, homes and minds:

Letting Go:  De-cluttering Your Life

By Coaching Associate, Kathy Paauw

The full article can be found at:  http://www.orgcoach.net/newsletter/feb2002.html

Here’s my definition of clutter: anything you own, possess, or do that does not enhance your life on a regular basis. If you agree with my definition, then you acknowledge that clutter goes far beyond things in our physical environment. Although the focus of this article is on physical clutter, remember that clutter can also include activities, thoughts, or even people in your present life…something to think about!

As an organizing and productivity consultant, I frequently get calls from individuals who are drowning in clutter.  They have no idea where to begin or how to “dig out.”  I begin by asking some questions to clarify what is most important to them. Although my clients recognize that clutter creates a huge drain on their time, energy, and budget, the de-cluttering process still looms as a formidable task. There are two parts to de-cluttering: letting go of the clutter, and containing what’s left so you can find what you need when you need it.

Complicating the de-cluttering process is all the emotional baggage attached to a person’s “stuff.”  I’ve found some common causes of emotional baggage in working with serious packrats:

  1. The individual is old enough to have lived through the Great Depression.  Having experienced a time when they had to make do with very little, many learned not to throw anything away.  Although keeping everything may have served them well many years ago, their circumstances have changed and the mindset of “let’s keep it all in case I need it” no longer serves them. 

  2. The individual has experienced a severe loss in his/her life, and their possessions are filing a hole in their heart.  Once they begin to see this correlation and work through the pain of that loss, they are better able to let go of some things in their environment.  This type of packrat is more able to let go of something if they can give it to someone who needs it more than they do.

  3. The individual is a highly creative and energetic person.  All of their stuff represents an opportunity.  What makes them very successful at what they do (creative, right-brained activities) also makes them very lousy at organizing their surroundings (analytical, left-brained activity).  Their internal dialogue often says, “I better not throw that away, because I might do something with it someday.”  Of course, if they cannot lay their hands on it, it will never be of use to them, anyway.  This type of individual needs to partner with someone who has the organizing skills that they lack, so they can let go of what they truly don’t need and have a system in place so they can find what they need when they need it. 

  4. The individual has struggled with depression or physical illness/injury.  Sometimes these struggles can derail people and they lose the desire to care for themselves and their environment.  Their internal dialogue says, “What does it matter?  So what, who cares!” 

If you identify with any of these types of emotional baggage, and if you are tired of the clutter, contact me at orgcoach@gte.net.  We can schedule a complimentary coaching session to discuss your path to a less cluttered life. Be sure to mention you are a Daring Doctors subscriber.

Do you question the value of investing the time and resources necessary to de-clutter your life? Consider the costs of not doing so:

  1. How much time and money are you spending NOW to maintain what you have?  Are you spending money to store things you never or rarely use?  Have you moved into a larger home or office, only to fill the extra space with more stuff, thus requiring a move to yet a larger space?  Imagine what it costs in time and money to do this!  Is it worth the investment?

  2. How much does your clutter cost in peace of mind or missed opportunities?  Imagine what it would be like to reduce your stress level.  Imagine what you could do with the time, energy, and space your clutter is currently taking up! 

  3. If your home or office burned to the ground, what contents would you want to replace?  If you would not miss it, perhaps it’s not worth keeping in the first place.

  4. Who says you have to keep all those things?  Is it something that enhances your life?  Do you like it?  Does it bring you joy?  Is it useful to you now?  Note that what is useful may change as your life circumstances change.  For example, if you’ve moved from a home to a condo, all of that lawn & garden equipment may no longer be useful to you.

  5. Do you want to be remembered for the possessions in your life, or for who you are?  You can’t take it with you!  Those who will someday inherit your possessions will thank you for de-cluttering your environment rather than passing it on for them to deal with after you die.

I look forward to meeting many of you in January at my FREE Tele-class!  Details of the class are outlined below.


Kathy Paauw

Kathy Paauw helps busy executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs de-clutter their schedules, spaces and minds so they can focus on what’s most important. She is an organizing & productivity consultant, certified business & personal coach, and speaker. Contact her at orgcoach@gte.net  and learn how you can find anything you file or store in 5 seconds…guaranteed!   Be sure to mention you are a Daring Doctors subscriber.


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   ©2006 Ki Health, Inc.