It started with a ruler.

Then it was a calculator.

And then it was those notes I wrote a couple of years ago.

And I couldn’t find any of them.

It was driving me crazy and I realised I had wasted literally hours of my life looking for them.

So yesterday I began to clean out my office drawers. It started with a general tidy up and after tipping the contents onto my desk, I realised I had all this ‘stuff’ and that ‘stuff’ had not just hidden other ‘stuff’, but it was hiding even more ‘stuff’.

Why did I need all of those pens? And where the hell did they even come from? It was almost like the lost single sock saga was being mysteriously replaced with hundreds of non-working Bic pens in colours I never even used?

So I stood back and made a conscious decision.

I created the ‘touch something once, do something with it (keep/discard) and do not create another pile’ rule.

And I’ve gotta tell you, it wasn’t easy.  It was doing my head in and physically causing me angst, so I figured I’d find out why and that caused me to reflect on other areas of my life.

My wardrobe came next, and the first thing that came to mind was my favourite, gorgeous grey wool, double breasted Country Road pant suit purchased for a job interview in 1989 – only for me to be told after I got the job that Kodak would not allow women to wear trousers!

Then there was that cabinet with the ‘good stuff’ that’s only there for visitors that don’t drink from tiny Japanese tea cups anymore, or those folders in the storage cupboard with pieces of paper and scribbled in doctor-like handwriting that I might need for a presentation one day, that would take me a day to even decipher what I had written!

And I’m not alone. Go out into my husband’s garage and you will see so much more ‘stuff’. I mean why do men keep trays of screws that all look the same – some even a little rusty, that they will NEVER use?

And yet we all do it, don’t we? Hang on to ‘stuff’ that isn’t really needed and yet, we believe it’s important?

There is a plethora of reasons why. But for me, three jumped out  immediately that caused me to rethink things:

Memories – That suit made me feel so important and it cost me soooo much money back in 1989, plus it was really good quality fabric, a good brand and it stood for something. Will I ever wear it again? No. Is it still worth as much? No.

Respect – How can I get rid of my mother’s chipped Japanese tea set? After all it was a wedding present for her 60 years ago. Will I ever grace my dining table with it? No. Do my kids want it left to them? No.

Just in Case – What if I need that really great idea, case study, quote, or whatever, for a presentation? Will I ever think of going to that piece of paper to source my inspiration? No. Will I even remember it is here when I do need to source information? No.

I am by no means a hoarder and I have passed the materialistic stage of life where buying things (and brands) for the sake of buying them mattered. Yet, I  am certainly not a minimalist in the perceived sense of the word i.e. owning only 100 ‘things’, fitting your belongings into a car or travelling the world with a laptop, but it was a conscious step in that direction I took yesterday, and with that choice comes a certain amount of lightness and freedom.

According to Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, “The Minimalists”, minimalism is more than a fad. It is a conscious decision to choose a different way to live by prioritizing what is important in your life. They suggest, ‘minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.’

And we all want freedom – just ask William Wallace as he rallied his troops for battle with the famous words,  “They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!”

So my wardrobe is creating a new set of memories for me, albeit bigger and bolder ones, and about to create memories for someone else! My mother’s Japanese tea set, well that will remain with us and as a conscious decision, that’s OK.

I am proud to say, the recycle bin is now nearly full of paper and folders and pens! I have delegated storing my documents to ‘the cloud’ and whilst I have found my ruler, I am yet to find my calculator but  then again I am yet to venture into my husband’s workshop!

What about you?

At a time where we are pushed and stressed and expectations of us are at an all-time high, what can you do to minimise the load and create a little more freedom in your life to help you achieve those results that matter the most?

Will you buy more or bin more? Be more materialistic or more minimalistic?

Above all,

Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant

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Bernadette McClelland is CEO of 3 Red Folders – a modern day saleswoman and keynote speaker on business growth, personal leadership and sales performance.

BIO: Business environments wanting to increase their revenue and profits, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market, ask for Bernadette McClelland because of her thought leadership on sales performance, her ideas on thinking beyond resilience and her fresh perspectives surrounding personal leadership skills — all designed to master the outcomes that matter.

Bernadette has proudly coached Harvard MBA students on their sales enablement curriculum, been the Master Asia Pacific coach for Anthony Robbins across twelve countries, authored five books on leadership and sales transformation, won a coveted Telstra award for Business Excellence, and continually shares her ideas around behaviour, the brain and business growth on stages in the UK, Europe, Thailand, India, NZ, Australia and North America.

Believing that sales performance is a leadership issue, you will also find her heading Melbourne’s human potential based sales performance consultancy, 3 Red Folders, as she navigates lead generation, message to market and digs deep into sales process activities with her clients in the mid-tier sector as well as founding ‘Women Who Sell’, an initiative designed to bring more women up to speed in their sales success.

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