I grew up not having a lot, but I didn’t really know it, since I had what I needed. It’s funny that you don’t realize this until you get into adolescence. Then you notice that the norm is to conform to the cool kid style and standards. Some teens rocked their unique originality; I did not. I just wanted to blend. And blending required stuff. My clothes were a combination of hand-me-downs from a cousin and whatever was on sale at Sears. I longed for a pair of GAP jeans, Reebok sneakers, and Columbia jacket. All items I bought when I had my first job.
And I kept buying stuff. I filled my closet, my home, and my garage with more and more stuff. Some of it is useful, while other items are there just because I liked it at the moment. Back in 2016, I went through a MASSIVE decluttering effort. I’m talking whole house top to bottom. I had a list of every drawer, closet, and corner that needed to be tackled, and used a Kanban board to track the sub-tasks that come with a decluttering of that size like posting items on Buy Nothing, delivering items to the local shelter, and Goodwill drop offs.
The psychological impact of letting go did not feel like cupcakes and unicorns. It felt like a battle. All those negative soundtracks running through my head with each item.
“remember how long you saved for this?”
“that was a gift, how could you get rid of it?”
“no one else can wear that, why don’t you just wear it around the house?”
“what if you gain weight and need your post-baby clothes again?”
“the kids might want to play with that thing later, why don’t you hold onto it?”
“you should keep that and sell it when you have time, it was expensive!”
And the worst of all…
“you might need this someday!”
Thankfully, I had other soundtracks that I could use to overpower them.
“I’m done having kids, so I don’t need this anymore”
“Gifting this item will help someone”
“If I need one someday, I have a good job and can buy one”
“Keeping things I don’t use or don’t need is selfish, and I am a generous person”
“Styles will change, so I buy clothes I love, and wear them until they no longer work for me”
And of course Marie Kondo’s famous question…
“does this spark joy?” Not really.
Only after going through this effort did I realize we do the exact same thing with our schedules. We offer up our schedules to our co-workers to book any time they want. We say yes to every meeting, every dinner, every conference. We answer e-mails at all hours, even on vacations. Why? Maybe we want to help others accomplish their goals.
OR perhaps, we’re afraid.
We fear not fitting in. We fear letting others down. We fear we’ll be perceived as lazy, uncommitted, or a poor performer. We fear our projects will fail. And then we’ll loose our jobs, and disappoint our families, and run out of money, and…
Fear is heavy. It weighs us down, just like excess stuff.
Fellow high-achiever, it’s time to go to battle for less. Less wasted time, less back to back meetings, less late nights, less missed meals, less fake urgency, less working vacations.
There’s a difference between working hard and working always. I hope in your journey towards a better work week, you can identify the tasks and practices that aren’t serving you and get rid of them, just like that sweater with the hole in the sleeve.