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Live Life Fully: Committing 'purgery' is an effective organizational tool

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You know when you're in the zone. And I was definitely there this past weekend. I'm still basking in the glory.

Things have been so busy on the career front I've neglected longstanding projects on the home front. OK, I've procrastinated. Busted!

While I do pretty well keeping things in basic order, I've had this one room -- a spare bedroom -- that has been haunting me for quite awhile. And the more I focus on it, the more resistance I seem to face.

So, this past weekend I set out to purge those demons, and the accumulated clutter, from my life (or, at least, from that room). Then I coined the term "committing purgery."

Somehow the assignment catapulted onto a higher plane. Maybe it garnered more urgency because of its resemblance to the legal term "perjury" and the dire consequences that can follow. Only, in this context, everything is aboveboard, and the results are not only legal but welcome!

Armed with this new consciousness, I headed into battle. First up was the file box of warranties and manuals for all those household items. (Why do they put all that stuff in individual plastic bags? They can take up so much space in a file folder! But I digress.)

I set a timer and enlisted my husband, John, to help frame the categories. After all, there's a fine line between electronics and small appliances, right? And what's up with all those remotes and battery chargers?

Having separated everything into multiple piles and purged out-of-date items, it was time to assign individual file folders and labels. That's my favorite part -- I've never outgrown the excitement of new school supplies, so it's no surprise I had a stash of hanging file folders in multiple colors on hand. And it was fun to match the colors with the topics. "Aquarium" definitely had to go into a blue folder, while "heating and cooling" went into yellow (for sunshine, of course!).

I was beaming with pride as I transported the former contents of the overflowing box into a neatly organized file drawer. Truth be told, it was so inviting I found myself making several trips to the file cabinet over the weekend just to open and close the drawer.

Buoyed by the success and feeling of accomplishment on this front, I set about tackling the next assignment. This is a giant category John calls "pile creep." You know the feeling. You set aside an article to read, and then there's some correspondence that needs tending to -- not now, but later.

Handy tips to file away and more reading material get added to the pile. After all, you never know what might spur a future column idea. At least that's a noble excuse. As the pile takes on a life of its own, emergency purgery is required!

And then the verdict is in -- clean counter surfaces and shelves with additional space! You're probably aware there's a direct correlation between our environments and our sense of peace and wellbeing. And, while this differs for each of us, it's worth noting. Sometimes it's a subtle thing. The longer an item that needs repair goes unattended, the more of a toll it can take on us, particularly if it's out in the open, reminding us it needs attention. Over time, these things can contribute to an energy drain -- or a downright personal energy crisis.

By the time I finished addressing pile creep, I was into full-blown whirling dervish mode. Closets and dresser drawers didn't stand a chance. Sorting clothes and accessories was a snap, inspiring me to move on to the more challenging items of photos and CDs. I have to admit I've relegated photos to a micro project to be tackled later. That's OK, though, because this was Macro Day!

You may have gathered I extended my sphere from that spare bedroom to multiple areas of the house. Still, I was able to keep myself from getting too diverted. I set up more systems than I have in ages, and gathered quite a few bags for donation drop-offs as well as our Wednesday-morning friends, the city garbage crew.

Now the challenge of maintaining these systems is on the horizon. And I'm realistic enough to know it's a fluid thing. I'm armed with former victories, though, like the upstairs storage closet John and I tackled a couple of months ago. Simplicity is a wonderful thing.

And I know I'm not alone in this quest. Our society has not quite been permeated with a "Walden Pond" consciousness. However, my informal research of magazine covers on newsstands shows that "de-cluttering" and "organizing" have now overtaken the perennial topics of "Get Flat Abs" and "Lose Ten Pounds."

So, feel free to live on the edge. I officially deputize you to go commit some purgery of your own.

Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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