Is Anyone Using This?

Mark and I have bought a house on the other side of town. It’s a one-story house. Here, it’s called a “ranch” style house. I think in the UK, it’s called a bungalow. In any case, all the rooms we will live in are on one floor.

You know what this means, though. We have to move. That means we have to clean out.

I alluded to this already in My Stuff, Your Junk. But now, we are serious. We are at the point of devoting time several nights per week of cleaning out drawers, closets, and bookcases. I swear that my books have had children when I was not looking. I do not remember buying some of those books!

One day last week, Mark opened a drawer in the kitchen and asked me, “Do you remember the last time you used something from this drawer?”

I burst out laughing. Why? Because the drawer was full of bibs, kid plates and kid bowls. No, I do not remember the last time I used anything from that drawer. It’s possible that Daughter #2 used something from that drawer as late as when she was 8 or 9, because she still liked her food separate back then. Those plates allowed her to separate her food. Since she is 21 now, that is many years ago. We had a “Where did that come from” moment.

We know where those plates, bowls, and bibs came from. I bought them. I put them in that drawer so the kids could make themselves breakfast and lunch with no parental effort. The girls could get up on a weekend and make themselves cereal. Even when we were up and around on the weekend, they could make themselves an easy lunch. Later, they could warm up mac and cheese in the microwave. The plates and bowls were indestructible. The bibs were there because we have good friends who had babies longer than we did. We wanted easy access to those useful kid-accessories. They stayed in the kitchen longer than we needed them.

I bet you have “accessories” like that in your life or on your project.

An adaptable problem solver or a leader will say, “Hmm, where did this come from? Is anyone using this? Can we toss it?”

Mark wants to keep these things for our grandchildren. Now, you have to understand that our daughters are not headed towards matrimony any time soon. I realize that matrimony is not a prerequisite for children for some people, but I think it is for our daughters. (I hope it is. It’s much more difficult to have a child without a partner. Sure, you can do it, but the aggravation level is much higher.) I suspect we will have a box labeled “For grandchildren.” I am sure we will find many more treasures to put into that box.

On projects, you can label this a “Parking Lot.” I talk about this in Manage It!, Manage Your Project Portfolio, and in Manage Your Job Search. If you can’t bear to part with something for a while, you put it on the parking lot for now. Later, you can make a decision when you’re not “having a moment.” Some people are keepers, as I suspect Mark is. Some people are tossers, as I am. It’s not good or bad to be a keeper or a tosser. It makes moving easier to be a tosser. But, people accuse you of being a cold fish. You have to have enough room to be a keeper, but no one ever accuses you of being a cold fish!

If you’re ever tempted to ask, “How did things get this way?” don’t bother. They got this way a little bit, one day at at time. Instead, you might ask, “Is anyone using this? Can I toss this?”

If the answer is no, ask, “Can I put this on the parking lot, instead of tossing it? We can see if anyone misses it.”

I hope that we never open the Grandchildren box. Not because we won’t have grandchildren. I do hope we them, eventually. My mother tells me they are the reward for having children! But I suspect there will be very cool stuff for grandchildren, and my wonderful husband will want to buy new things for our grandchildren. Why? Because he is not a cold fish. Because his daughters mean more to him than anyone else in the world, except perhaps, me.

After you put this “thing” on the parking lot for a while, check back and see if anyone is using it, say, in a month, or a quarter, or a year. I have a rule about clothing. If I haven’t worn it in a year, I give it away. The only exception to that rule is special occasion dresses, because I might not go to a fancy occasion every year. Otherwise, I give the clothes away.

Try “Is anyone using this?” or some variation in your house if you want to de-clutter. You can do it for reports for your work, too. You may be surprised by the work you no longer need to generate.  Let me know what happens, especially if you are surprised by the results. Okay, I’m back to going through books.

4 thoughts on “Is Anyone Using This?

  1. Rich Stone

    In our home we have similar rules and roles. I am the “saver” and my wife is the “chucker”. Her parking lot is more like a kanban board. She will however keep things of sentimental value until she can find ” a good home” for them.

    She just promised our son’s crib to a family friend who unexpectedly found themselves needing a second one.

    Not a cold fish. At all.

  2. Dwayne Phillips

    Another help is to put a piece of paper in the top of the box with the date on it or write a date on the outside of the box. This goes for both the project parking lot and the “stuff for grandchildren” box.

    By the way, when my daughter-in-law asks aloud, “I wonder if we have such and such?” my five-year-old grandson always says, “Let’s look in grandmother’s garage.” He knows where to find those things that grandchildren want to find.

  3. Yves Hanoulle (@YvesHanoulle)

    I have a friend that once a year, puts post it’s on all her clothes.
    When she uses them, she removes the post it.
    At the end of the year, she gives/throws away all the clothes with a post it from last year.

    I’m a big fan of Limit the “stuff” in the house.

    when we left for Bordeaux, we could only take one (small) truck of things with us.
    We moved everything else to the attic.
    We never needed it. (and it’s still there)
    what is worse, we took a lot of stuff with us, we did not need either…

    yves

  4. Pingback: What Are You Going to Remove? | Create An Adaptable Life

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