Getting all the cows and chickens out

A long time ago I heard a story about cows and chickens that goes like this: An old farm couple was arguing about needing more room in their house (some days most women can relate to this), so the husband started bringing some cows – and chickens and other farm animals – into the house. One day, the wife couldn’t stand it any longer and she threatened to leave.

That’s when the old farmer got all the cows and chickens and other farm animals out of the house, and the wife was so pleased with all the room she had in her home, she never complained again. The moral of this story is, it may be time for de-cluttering, maybe even a mass purging, and at the very least … getting organized.

December is a good time to get rid of clutter, get organized, and perhaps even to reinvent a company for the coming year. A huge benefit of de-cluttering is that when one is finished reallocating, or pitching the clutter, one’s desk, office, and sometimes even the whole facility seems huge, friendly, much more productive, and easier to work in.

Multi-tasking is out, and focus, or “spotlighting,” is in. When we work on more than one project at a time we can get distracted and overlook a key part or function that’s needed to make the thing you’re working on successful. Having a desk full of “to-dos” leads one to multi-tasking just to try to keep things moving along. What works better is to clear the clutter and organize the “stuff” into workable, and clearly defined, order so that one can then tackle each job … one at a time … and get things accomplished quicker and with better results.


Now on to the task at hand – clearing space – so that one can work energetically, efficiently, and with focus. I have a friend who earns a living by helping people get organized. Here are some tips she’s shared with me:

  • Don’t allow distractions. No visitors, phone calls, or stopping to read an article you discover in the pile. Stop only for lunch.
  • Divide the office into quadrants, and do only one area at a time. If you’re working on organizing the desk, stay with the desk until it’s completely free of clutter on top, in drawers, in files, and underneath. (I know someone who could almost open a shop with the “stuff” from under his desk.)
  • Allow enough time (perhaps half a day) to complete at least one quadrant so you will stay energized for the remainder of the project.
  • Don’t try to keep everything. A big obstacle to conquering the clutter is not being able to part with things.
  • Deciding what stays means using common sense and good judgment. If something is a duplicate, unless it’s really necessary, let it go. If something is broken, don’t keep it with the intent that “someday I’ll get around to fixing it.” Someday rarely comes. And that set of keys that might open something important? If you can’t find that something, dump them.
  • If you don’t use it … lose it. If it’s an unneeded piece of equipment, give it to a charitable organization. If it’s a duplicate tool, offer it to another team member.
  • Recycle what can be repurposed.
  • Find a good way to manage the business cards you collect.

I’ve been looking around my office at all the “cows and chickens” in the form of “things I might need someday.” Clearing the clutter is not only a stress reliever, it’s darn good for being able to find a home for important things. I think I can really “get into this.”

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