Newswise — It was only when Dr. Jackie Gilbert decided to get rid of all the clutter in her office that she realized just how much she was drowning in professional paraphernalia that had nothing to do with advancing either her profession or her life.
One might have thought that a professor of management and marketing would be a master manager of her time and space. However, only in hindsight did she realize that “scheduled maintenance” would have saved her time, grief, stress and countless wasted hours.
“The ‘purge and organize’ mentality morphed into a lifestyle which has spilled over into how I maintain my home, possessions and my personal life,” Gilbert said. “Getting rid of everything unwanted has now become a daily task on my mental to-do list.”
After obtaining the rank of full professor in the summer of 2008 at MTSU, Gilbert felt the need to purge her office of papers, folders, books, computer files and artifacts that she had been collecting since she started working on her doctorate several years ago. It was a liberating experience, she discovered.
“When you start as a new faculty on a tenure track, you hit the ground running,” she noted. “And you really don’t have time to put a system in place. But taking the time to put a system in place would have saved me so much in headaches and stress and lost items. That’s what you don’t realize.
“It took me about a month, working a few hours every day. When the job was complete, what struck me was how much more I enjoyed being in my office. I knew instantly where I could locate my belongings because I was no longer bogged down by unnecessary items.”
Her newly cleared-out office motivated her to look for “hidden treasures” at home with which to decorate her office in her “newly simplified space,” as she called it.“I went through everything. I donated items to other people or to colleagues or to the library. I threw away things. After the initial purging, I knew what I had, and I could very easily get my hands on it.”
People should keep only what’s essential to them, Gilbert said.
“The problem is that we accumulate so much stuff, we don’t even know how to begin the initial sorting and purging process. It can be a painful process.
“I think we hoard because we feel overwhelmed by the process of getting started with the purging,” Gilbert suggested. “I knew I had so much junk tucked in my drawers that it would take me a long time to go through it. But once you do it, there’s no going back. I can’t imagine having that clutter around again.
“With junk mail, instead of tossing it, I call the vendor and ask that they not send me anything again. I block [unwanted] email. I do this at work and at home. In my office I have places to display my things that were hidden away in boxes in my house. I get all my journals online now. I organize all my course notes into two binders.
Clearing the clutter makes you more efficient,” she said.“How much time do we waste because we can’t find something? How much stress does that cause? It’s a process of creating mental clarity. You have space to concentrate on what’s important instead of worrying about where something is. How can you possibly know everything you have in a messy office environment? When you have the bare minimum, you can see it and say, ‘I don’t want it.’
“Having fewer things and fewer places to look for them speeds ‘find time’ and facilitates the maximum usage of your possessions,” she explained. “It goes without saying that information is of no value if it’s unreachable. Havoc induces a lackadaisical attitude. Slovenliness on the job can slowly result in missed meetings, late arrivals, projects left unfinished and lost opportunities. The end result can be a tarnished image.
“My advice is to exercise diligence daily in terms of streamlining your office space and setting aside time for housecleaning chores,” she advised. “The subsequent clarity of ‘less is more’ and ‘everything in its place’ will infiltrate through your very thought process.”
Last year, Gilbert launched a blog titled “Organized for Efficiency: Finding the Transformative Power of Decorum,” representing two years of research. It can found at http://www.organizedforefficiency.com.
Gilbert acknowledged that she is a happier person.“I love being in my space here,” she noted as she looked around her sparsely furnished office.