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? rbrenrbDyLDgkCQHdNeAcner@ChacywlXfVShqDAuAlfxoCanyon.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 bear trapThe Mind Reading Trap
When we think, "Paul doesn't trust me," we could be fooling ourselves into believing that we can read his mind. Unless he has directly expressed his distrust, we're just guessing, and we can reach whatever conclusion we wish, unconstrained by reality. In project management, as anywhere else, that's a recipe for trouble.
Tenacious under full sailThe Solving Lamp Is Lit
We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
A senator rests on a cot in the Old Senate Chamber during a filibusterUntangling Tangled Threads
In energetic discussions, topics and subtopics get intertwined. The tangles can be frustrating. Here's a collection of techniques for minimizing tangles in complex discussions.
Space Shuttle Columbia during the launch of its final missionHow to Reject Expert Opinion: II
When groups of decision-makers confront complex problems, and they receive opinions from recognized experts, those opinions sometimes conflict with the group's own preferences. What tactics do groups use to reject the opinions of people with relevant expertise?
A view from the false summit of the Manitou incline in ColoradoFalse Summits: I
Mountaineers often experience "false summits," when just as they thought they were nearing the summit, it turns out that there is much more climbing to do. So it is in project work.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A voltmeter with a needleComing January 17: High Falutin' Goofy Talk: II
Speech and writing at work are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled with puff phrases of unknown meaning and pretentious, tired images. Here's Part II of a collection of phrases and images to avoid. Available here and by RSS on January 17.
Passing the baton in a relay raceAnd on January 24: Understanding Delegation
It's widely believed that managers delegate some of their own authority and responsibility to their subordinates, who then use that authority and responsibility to get their work done. That view is unfortunate. It breeds micromanagers. Available here and by RSS on January 24.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenMDTHfFqMqeSpanxzner@ChacUeDEXhRGxocMGvYjoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, 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

Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applications
When Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applicationswe talk, listen, send or read emails, read or write memos, or when we leave or listen to voice mail messages, we're communicating person-to-person. And whenever we communicate person-to-person, we risk being misunderstood, offending others, feeling hurt, and being confused. There are so many ways for things to go wrong that we could never learn how to fix all the problems. A more effective approach avoids problems altogether, or at least minimizes their occurrence. In this very interactive program we'll explain — and show you how to use — a model of inter-personal communications that can help you stay out of the ditch. We'll place particular emphasis on a very tricky situation — expressing your personal power. In those moments of intense involvement, when we're most likely to slip, you'll have a new tool to use to keep things constructive. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

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. Here's a date for 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.