Monday Mornings with Madison

Spring Cleaning As Springboard for Creativity and Ingenuity

While it’s hard to think about Spring Cleaning while Jack Frost is still nipping on most toes across the country, Spring is just a few weeks away.   To some, Spring Cleaning is nothing more than tedious drudgery to be avoided or delegated to cleaning staff.   However, a different way to look at Spring Cleaning is as a therapeutic, energizing exercise.  Indeed, a thorough scrubbing, scouring, polishing and organizing of home or office can be more beneficial than just making a space fresh and germ-free.  It also helps to make room for things that matter, serve as a catalyst for creativity, and stimulate the imagination.  A meticulous cleansing and tidying can not only serve to organize the physical world but the mental one as well.

Oprah Winfrey recently announced that she will be doing Spring Cleaning at her old Harpo Studios in Chicago.  On March 1st, she will be selling over 200 clothing items and 20 pairs of shoes on eBay!  This exercise is not designed to enrich Ms. Winfrey’s bank account as clearly she does not need the money and all proceeds will be donated to the school for girls she established in South Africa.  She said her reason for the spring cleaning auction was “to create a space that gives me access to the stuff that helps me.”  She wanted to de-clutter to make room for what matters and create space to be productive and creative.  For those ready to do some Spring Cleaning, here are some tips to make it a fruitful endeavor.

One Approach to Spring Cleaning

As most anyone who has ever done Spring Cleaning can attest, it is usually a two-part process.   There is the part of Spring Cleaning that involves de-cluttering.  This is the mental and then physical process of evaluating what things to keep and what things to discard.  It is about tidying up by eliminating the disorder that typically comes from having “too much stuff.”  Then, there is the process of Spring Cleaning that involves making things spic and span by using a host of cleansing products, a plethora of tools and good, old-fashioned elbow grease.

For many, the first part of the process is actually the hardest.  Discarding “stuff” is a painful process for many.  So much so that there are self-help books, programs and all manner of videos dedicated to the concept of “de-cluttering” and “tidying up.”  One book that is on the NY Times bestseller list is “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  The Japanese Art of De-cluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo.   This book has been all over the news and the author has made appearances on several shows to talk about her revolutionary method.  Basically, Ms. Kondo recommends a complete overhaul of one’s space (home or office) wherein:

  1. every item is evaluated, keeping only the things that are truly important and valuable (at home, it is things that make one feel happy or joyful), and
  2. a specific place is designated for every item.

The focus is on organizing, but not in the sense of labels, containers, and storage tricks.  It’s about minimizing so that, essentially, there is nothing that doesn’t specifically bring either happiness or value.

According to Ms. Kondo, the key is to simply have way less stuff, and make sure every item has a place.  As the saying goes, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  She believes so-called “storage experts” are really hoarders.  She also advises to focus just on discarding and tidying one’s own space.  She is sure it will be so magical and wonderful that others will want to do it too.

Spring Cleaning Can Spark Creativity

For those who are skeptical about Spring Cleaning and don’t see the value of doing it at work, consider that Spring ushers in a feeling of renewal that also demands to be expressed physically.  While clutter and grime can be immobilizing, Spring delivers the energy needed to contest a musty mindset and revamp spaces so stale that they no longer connect to the creative life.  Nowhere is that more important than at work.

Here is a simple, three-step process for mental and physical spring cleaning at work.

1) Reassess space, schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is clogging up efficiencies and short-circuiting creativity.  Ask:

  • What do I want from my office space?
  • Is my office space meeting my needs?
  • Are there things in my office I don’t need anymore?  What can be tossed?
  • Are there any things I need to make my office function more efficiently?

2) Reorganize space, schedule, and thinking to allow greater creativity.

  • Divide workspace into zones for daily functions:  a workspace for the computer; a library area for research; a storage area for supplies; a filing area for archives. This provides the foundation for a more efficient use of space.
  • Keep only what is needed immediately at arm’s length.  Pare down to the essentials.  Boxes of supplies should be put in drawers, closets, cabinets or boxes.
  • Create hanging files or baskets labeled:  To Read, To Do, To File. Establish set days for each in order to not fall behind.
  • Establish a filing system for ongoing projects, color-coding those folders.
  • Use drawer dividers to give everything a place, like compartments for paperclips, staples and rubber bands.
  • Create a logical digital filing system for computer files and reduce your desktop icons to a select few.
  • Get rid of sticky notes, tiny pieces of paper or reminders.  Use a single notebook to organize tasks, reminders, etc.  Check off completed items.
  • Limit how much “stuff” should be saved/kept.  If it hasn’t been used in years and probably won’t be used again in the coming year, box it and put it in long-term storage.  If next year, the box is still sealed, toss it (unless those are client records, tax records or legal documents which must be stored).

3) Remove dirt and germs.   Once clutter is gone, it is time to actually clean and disinfect.

  • Eliminate the build-up of dust, dirt, food stains or fingerprints using disinfecting wipes or cleaning liquids.
  • Move all items off the desk and wipe down every surface.
  • Wipe down the phone, keyboard and monitor.
  • Use compressed air to blow out crumbs, dust and even dead skin from inside the keyboard. (Prepare to be amazed – and disgusted – at what comes out of the bottom of a computer keyboard.)
  • Eliminate loose papers and lingering trash.

4) Rededicate yourself to being productive and inspired.  For most, the experience of tidying up results in becoming more  passionate about interests and work life. One’s awareness of what is important increases and, as a result, daily life becomes more exciting. Although one can get to know oneself better by sitting down and analyzing characteristics or by listening to others’ perspective, tidying up may be the best path to introspection, insight and enlightenment. After all, one’s possessions very accurately relate the history of the decisions made in life. Tidying is a way of taking stock that shows what has had most value.  Coming across past projects and papers also helps get the creative juices flowing and brings to mind ideas that might have been set aside.

If greater creativity, productivity and ingenuity are not reasons enough to do some Spring Cleaning at work, consider this.  A survey by staffing firm Adecco found that 57% of workers admit to judging a coworker based on the cleanliness of their workspace.  Also, nearly half said they’ve been “appalled” by a colleague’s dirty office or space.  A person’s workspace speaks volumes to others (including clients) about their abilities… and limitations.  Whether true or not, a messy office says “disorganized, incompetent and dull” to the world.

Quote of the Week

“I am never five minutes into stripping the clutter from my life before I start running into the clutter that is my life.” Robert Brault


© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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