29

Casting off the “Good Junk”

| | General Leadership

For me 2009 was a year of tremendous learning and change, love and loss, as well as shedding stuff and organizing.  Now that the frenzy of activity has passed I have enjoyed some time to reflect on many things including lessons learned.

The lesson revealed to me was one my dad tried to teach me more than once.  You see we moved quite a few times.  Each time he had us take things that were perfectly useful, but that we had not been using (or even remembered we had!) and put them in a box labeled “good junk”.  He would date the box.  One year later, after we were long since settled into our new home, he would take the box and donate it.

Despite our pleas to take just one last look because we felt compelled to be absolutely sure there wasn’t something we really needed in that box, he would say NO emphatically.  He reminded us that we already knew what was in there.  Given we had not felt the need to open the box for any of it for a whole year, why would we think we needed any of it now?

Good question!

I think the reason is because it can be really hard to let go, even when we know it is the right thing, the best thing, or simply that we have no real choice in the matter.  While I started 2009 on a mission to get rid of things, in the process I let go of much more:  some out of choice and some due to circumstance, and sometimes more gracefully than others.  Yet I leave this year feeling somehow lighter and freer.

The most obvious thing I learned is that clearing physical space creates mental space.  Turns out it is also the key to staying organized.  This is common wisdom perhaps.  But as the saying goes “if you know but you don’t do then you don’t know”.  Thankfully, I now know this to be true!

Yet the practice of eliminating physical clutter in my home carried into letting go in other realms.  I have numerous boxes in my attic and drawers full of stuff from prior jobs and clients.  I have for years planned to go through and sift out the “good, still useful stuff”, but instead I simply keep collecting more to “go through some day”.

I now realize it is nothing more than “good junk”.  It was important to me once.  It all served a meaningful purpose.  There are things in there I am sure I was proud of creating or being a part of at the time.  It might even be a fun walk down memory lane to go through it.  I will keep a few artifacts of my past work, of course, but the ones that have mattered to me are not hiding in those boxes – I know exactly where to find them.  Besides, how much do I really need to keep and what is going to be relevant anyway?

Perhaps the most important question I asked myself is what could any of it have to do with my future?

My ultimate answer: nothing…if I am willing to put my faith in the future.

  • Whatever I truly learned will stay with me will be naturally reflected in whatever I do next.
  • Whatever articles and magazines I saved are old news.  If I need information on a topic there is a world wide web to scour now.
  • Whoever touched my life in a meaningful way is either still in it and/or remains vividly in my memory, my heart and even my pictures.  And thanks to tools like Linked In, Twitter and Facebook, I have reconnected with many of those people this year.
  • Whatever I did not complete or fully let go of, be it relationships, failures, mistakes, regrets, grief, etc. will reveal itself again only to the extent it is in the way of my future.  Then and only then will it support me to deal with it.

Making the choice to cast off those boxes un-opened was in and of itself a completion for me.  It represents my stand for the profoundly different future I am designing and living into now and my faith that I have all that I need to make it a reality.

So as I say goodbye to 2009 I am thinking about what to put in that “good junk box” next that I will cast off in 2010.  Thankfully this year there will be a lot fewer physical things to put in that box.  I now have a lot more mental space to focus instead on some of the other things that can become baggage in our lives like expectations, beliefs, regrets, etc. that have no place in our future despite how they may have served our past.

My favorite folk artist David Wilcox wrote a song called “Farthest Shore” (track 78) that captures the essence of the power of casting off the “good junk” in this one line:

“Let me dive into the water leave behind all that I worked for except what I remember and believe.  And when I stand on the farthest shore I will have all I need.”

What will go into your “good junk” box this year?

May 2010 bring you an abundance of success and satisfaction in your life and in your work.  I am grateful to all who have been reading, sharing about yourselves and your work, and sharing your wisdom and insight here at Random Acts of Leadership this past year.  As I write this I am approaching the one year anniversary of this blog.  Thank you for making my adventure into the world of social media tremendously rewarding and enriching.  Happy New Year!

Warm Regards,

Susan

Share

Enter A Comment

Mike Henry   |   30 December 2009   |   Reply

Great thoughts. I figured your year end post would be well thought out and you exceeded my expectations. I’m doing the same things regarding the transition that was 2009. Much has changed. I appreciate your blog and your contribution to my growth this past year. Thanks for the reminder that I don’t need whatever’s in the box because I haven’t used it. I appreciate you.

Mike…

Susan Mazza   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Mike. I truly appreciate your support and friendship this past year.

Earl   |   31 December 2009   |   Reply

Thanks for this focus/purpose/true meaning post. I have been in transition since 2005, and it feels like I’ve landed some place fresh now, where I’ll be staying and growing. Your thoughts are an excellent reminder to keep on moving ahead in all of the most important and freeing ways.

Time to leave the good junk behind – for good!

Earl

Susan Mazza   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Those moments when we feel like we have “landed someplace fresh” as you put it can give us a much needed sense of certainty amidst what often seems to me like a constant state of transition. I look forward to hear more about that “fresh place” you will be staying and growing for a while!

Walter   |   06 January 2010   |  

I have trouble letting go of many things that was once important to me. Probably because I have sentiments over them that I don’t want to forget. But you are right, I must learn to give it up, although it may take time for me to do it. 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   07 January 2010   |  

That first box for me felt a little like ripping off a bandaid! Go for it Walter. Thanks for your comment!

Jennifer V. Miller   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Wow, Susan, this post is so jam-packed with great food for thought, I need to read and re-read it.

You father was so wise to name the box “good junk”. We’ve tried this exercise in different form with our kids. They have such a hard time letting go, so maybe calling it “good junk” and preserving it for a year would be helpful.

Susan Mazza   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Jennifer. I wish my dad could actually see me write about the things I learned from him that others find helpful!

I have played with this idea with my daughter. “Good Stuff” (put away for safe keeping) seems to go over a little better – kids can be really attached to their things! Once they are out of sight for a year they tend to forget about them. But I learned to keep things at least that long because every once in a while she actually remembers something we have to go get! Kids also seem to have a better memory 🙂

Anne Perschel   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

AWESOME! You’ve done it again.

Wishing a-bun-dances into your life this year.

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Dear Susan,

I am grateful for having met you this year, to share insights, learnings and aspirations. I love the practice you have outlined in this post. I have much “good junk”that I have been keeping – just in case. I have even called myself “the just-in case girl”. It’s taking me a longer time to let go of my professional “good junk” than personal. Mmmmm. I am nervous at the thought of releasing all “my” intellectual capital. Wow!!! Deep! Wishing you a year of great abundance in the areas you wish for.

Susan Mazza   |   05 January 2010   |  

Likewise Robyn – so glad to have met you and Juergen in 2009. Until the end of last year I was hanging on tight myself. Your point about the scary idea of “releasing “my” intellectual capital” is an interesting one that has me thinking. One question it raises for me of whether something is truly “capital” if it is not in a form to be capitalized on?

Given your book is coming out in March I wonder how much of all that “professional good junk” of yours is encapsulated in some way in this piece of work. And I am very much looking forward to you book!

Susan Mazza   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Anne for your encouragement (and for making me laugh 🙂 )

Tanveer Naseer   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Susan,

This is a fantastic post and I found myself especially relating to your dealing with all that stuff kept from those previous jobs we did before. Like you, I’ve recently found myself looking over these binders full of documents, procedures, and so forth and though the information was still good, it was honestly no longer relevant to me now. But it still was nice to peruse and look at because it reminded me of what I had learned, of areas I had worked in and what I was able to carry forward to where I am today.

Thanks for the fantastic reminder that it’s good for us to take what we still need from our past and take the rest and pay it forward.

Tanveer.

ava diamond (@feistywoman)   |   05 January 2010   |   Reply

Wonderful post, Susan. And very timely for me. Last month I organized my office. This past weekend, all my bookshelves.

And next weekend, I’m headed to the basement. There are files down there of things I did in the late ’80’s when I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, files from 20 + years of consulting projects, all the way through inactive recent files. There are boogey boards and beach umbrellas (I live in CO–am I really going to take them on a plane?), travel guidebooks from past destinations, and did I mention a gazillion boxes of files? And what if I really need those Danskin exercise clothes from the ’80s with those thick legwarmers. They’ll be in style someday, right?

I, too, think I’ll go through those files someday and pick out what I might need someday in the future. And go through those magazines and clip (now outdated) articles that might be of use.

So this was the perfect thing for me to read before heading down to the basement next weekend.

I will follow your lead, summon the courage, have faith in the future, and LET GO!

It’s been a joy to begin to know you, Susan!

Susan Mazza   |   06 January 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Ava. You reminded me that I still have 3 pairs of skills to unload now that I have been in FL for 5 years. I’ll still go skiing, but I think it is time to start renting equipment!

I look forward to our continued connection and conversation this year!

Susan Mazza   |   06 January 2010   |   Reply

It can be both rewarding and cathartic to go through some stuff and reflect. For me the key when I do is to then let it go resisting the urge to put it back in that box or drawer though. Like you said, “take what we still need and take the rest and pay it forward”! Thanks Tanveer

ava diamond (@feistywoman)   |   06 January 2010   |   Reply

Perhaps we should trade my beach stuff for your skis

ava diamond (@feistywoman)   |   07 January 2010   |   Reply

Jane–great reminder as I head down into the basement and the huge number of file boxes down there this weekend!

Susan Mazza   |   07 January 2010   |  

Good luck Ava – be strong 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   07 January 2010   |   Reply

Funny! Although for the postage we could probably just buy new stuff.

Jane Perdue   |   07 January 2010   |   Reply

Susan — what an excellent post! It’s a great reminder to stop focusing on what we might miss in those old files, boxes, etc. and focus instead on the adventures, learnings, experiences that are yet to come. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing more with you!

Susan Mazza   |   07 January 2010   |   Reply

Thank you Jane. Looking forward to same with you starting with our blogging project this month!

Jeremy Nash   |   07 January 2010   |   Reply

Susan, I appreciate so much having the kick in the ass to rid myself, too, of those extra things that have felt so hard to let go of. Like, if I dumped many of those old files, I’d be losing some vital part of myself. Hmm … suppose that isn’t true? 🙂 Now is a time when I am creating new beginnings so it makes it very timely to let go of the old and, as you so wisely put it, trust.

Keep these coming!!

Jeremy

David Andrews   |   10 January 2010   |   Reply

Hi Susan

Thanks for a great article! I need to try this with myself, my kids, and actually probably my whole family. Who knows we may even find a spare room we lost a few years ago! Hoarding seems to be a great pastime in New Zealand (must be to do with our ill-defined national identity . . .)

Really like your website – keep up the excellent work.

Thanks David

Mudassar khattak   |   09 March 2016   |   Reply

HELLO EVERYONE!
I AM FROM PAKISTAN GRADUATE AND DIPLOMA HOLDER IN HR MANAGEMENT IF ANY AN GIVE ME SOME WORK IN AMERICA OR SOMEHERE ELSE AS I AM FED UP WITH PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT HELP ME THERE PLEASE

  • Momentor » Blog Archive » 1/7/10: Top Career Posts this Week 07 January 2010, 07 January 2010

    […] From Random Acts of Leadership: Casting off the “Good Junk” “For me 2009 was a year of tremendous learning and change, love and loss, as well as shedding stuff and organizing.  Now that the frenzy of activity has passed I have enjoyed some time to reflect on many things including lessons learned. The lesson revealed to me was one my dad tried to teach me more than once.  You see we moved quite a few times.  Each time he had us take things that were perfectly useful, but that we had not been using (or even remembered we had!) and put them in a box labeled “good junk”.  He would date the box.  One year later, after we were long since settled into our new home, he would take the box and donate it.” […]

  • Andy Parkinson’s World » Blog Archive » 1/7/10: Top Career Posts this Week 07 January 2010, 07 January 2010

    […] From Random Acts of Leadership: Casting off the “Good Junk” “For me 2009 was a year of tremendous learning and change, love and loss, as well as shedding stuff and organizing.  Now that the frenzy of activity has passed I have enjoyed some time to reflect on many things including lessons learned. The lesson revealed to me was one my dad tried to teach me more than once.  You see we moved quite a few times.  Each time he had us take things that were perfectly useful, but that we had not been using (or even remembered we had!) and put them in a box labeled “good junk”.  He would date the box.  One year later, after we were long since settled into our new home, he would take the box and donate it.” […]

  • Random Acts Of Leadership™ | Clear Space for Your Greatness 07 January 2016, 07 January 2016

    […] you have trouble getting rid of things you could try a staged approach. Read Casting Off the Good Junk to learn about that (this was one of my most popular posts my first year of this blog). The bottom […]