Spring Cleaning for the
Removing the Deadwood
by Sunny Schlenger
A few years ago, my group of trees were suddenly
gone, everyone. The tall, beautiful hemlocks that edged
my patio had been dying for several years – victims of
an incurable disease that transformed their hardy green
branches into empty brown twigs.
I resisted, but we finally had to have them cut down,
and all of a sudden I could see into my neighbors’
yards and into their houses, and this was very
interesting. No, not because I am a nosey busybody but
because, although I’ve always been one to treasure my
privacy, at the same time I’m incredibly curious about
the rest of the world. So while we waited for the new
bushes to be planted and grow, instead of staring out at
a wall of green, I found myself enjoying the antics of
children on their sliding board and watching retirees
relax in the springtime sun, reading the newspaper.
Sitting at my desk and taking in this scene one day,
I began to think about why I’m so fascinated with what
people do and how they do it. It truly is the foundation
of my organizing and coaching business, and it’s why I
see everything as connected: how people spend their
time, what sorts of dishes and pens they like to use,
what papers they save, what magazines they look at, the
things they collect, the music they listen to, the stuff
on their closet floor – all are evidence of unique
Although it’s fine to improve your organizational
skills purely for productivity’s sake – to be more
efficient, effective, streamlined, and functional –
the bottom line is how everything fits together in the
jigsaw puzzle that’s your life. The goal should not be
just to have the pieces fit well but to produce a
picture that pleasing and that’s truly you – today.
And that’s why we need to clean out the deadwood
once in a while – so we can get a clear view of what’s
actually there now. Removing the deadwood is not always
the easiest thing to do, especially for pack rats. We
get very used to having our belongings around, even if
they’re serving no useful purpose. That was the case
with my hemlocks. When I thought of the years I’d
spent staring out at them while I worked and all of the
experiences I’ve had that they’d borne silent
witness to, the idea of chopping them down seemed
impossible. But that was then, and this is now.
And that is one of the keys to being able to part
with things. Often it’s not the things themselves but
the memories they represent that we’re holding onto.
But memories can be preserved in other ways, such as in
pictures. So many times when I’ve run out of space to
store items and have to make choices about what to save
and what to get rid of, I’ve taken a picture – of my
favorite raggedy Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, a shelf of old
college texts, a broken baby toy. And my row of
Through the years, I’d taken many pictures of them
through the patio doors – pictures of them loaded with
snow and sheltering a cardinal or two, and several
showing the soft shadows they cast in the summer sun.
And those are what I remembered as their remains were
taken down. And, there were bright open spaces, waiting
for new bushes to grow and a whole new view of the
landscape. That’s the upside of getting rid of your
deadwood – cleared spaces to keep clear or fill with
whatever gives you pleasure today.
Organizing is definitely a means toward and end, and
not just an end in itself. As teachers of Feng Shui
know, everything has its own energy, and working with
that energy in a positive way can make a significant
difference in your life. Keeping things around you that
are broken and unfixable, dirty or disorganized is not a
good way to keep your energy flowing and healthy.
Think of spring cleaning for the soul as a way of
removing the deadwood that blocks your perception of
your best self, and enjoy the present-day vistas that
© Copyright 2005 Sunny Schlenger.
All Rights Reserved.
Sunny Schlenger has been a
professional organizer for over 25 years, working with
large and small corporations, non-profit agencies, and
individuals to help them manage their time and space
more creatively and effectively. She does personal
coaching as well as group training and special project
facilitation. Sunny is the author of the best-selling How
To Be Organized in Spite of Yourself, a
Book-of-the-Month-Club featured selection. Her next
release will be Organizing for the Spirit, to be
published by Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons in April,
2004. Sunny has degrees from Johns Hopkins University
and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her
clients have ranged from the producers of Live with
Regis and Kelly, to her husband, an air traffic
controller who tells us that the skies are now safer,
thanks to her assistance.
Her website is www.suncoach.com.
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