Search This Blog

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Morning Check In: Purge & Merge

Written by Paula E. Bird, ©2013

We are about halfway through the first month of the New Year. Take a few moments to consider the following questions:
  • What were your goals for this year?
  • Have you taken any steps toward achieving those goals?
  • Are you still pursuing those goals?
We often start a New Year (a new season, a new semester) with great guns blazing. We are all fired up about achieving something that seems very important at the time. A few weeks pass, and things appear differently to us.
When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd. – Malcolm Muggeridge (British journalist, 1903-1990)
Some things, however, have not become futile and absurd, and you know that you have no good reason to throw in the towel and give up. The cold, hard fact is that we have probably become lax in our pursuit. Our energy has flagged and waned, and our motivation has sagged. Things are getting tough now, right? What seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago or on New Year's Eve is now hard work and not as much fun in the process.

Take a few moments this week to consider whether your goals have changed or whether you need to renew your commitment, adjust your priorities, or give yourself a kick in the rear. Do not fall victim to the broken china syndrome, which is that natural inclination to break all the china in a set once you have broken one dish. Who would do that? Well, have you ever been on a diet and had a bad day? How easy was it to continue having a bad day after that first bad food choice? That is the china syndrome -- breaking all the dishes, er, diet rules for the rest of the day (and starting fresh the next day). But I wouldn’t break all of my china dishes just because I broke one, you insist. Good for you. Then you should have no problem getting back on track with your diet, your exercise plan, your new health habit, or whatever your goal plan entails.

This month I am focusing my thoughts and energy on the concepts of  “purge” and “merge.” I concluded that there are many areas of my life that drain time and energy from me, so I have dedicated this month to ferreting out those limpets and eradicating them. I have set my sights on a simpler existence in this early point of the New Year. I am erasing things now so that I have a clean slate to work with for the year. Perhaps you might benefit from some of my purge and merge ideas.

My first purge and merge idea was to unsubscribe from almost every email newsletter I receive. Some newsletters I have subscribed to for years, but this month these newsletters will now be a part of history. I kept a few favorites because I actually read them, but most of the other email newsletters and advertising emails went by the wayside. Have you noticed how many emails you get from a company merely because you bought something from them at one point?

I made it my January goal to unsubscribe from at least three of these types of newsletter emails per day. Sometimes I unsubscribed from more than three in a day. This task was not easy, because the “unsubscribe” information and link were sometimes buried in the boilerplate nonsense at the bottom of the emails. Here is my hint about handling unwanted newsletters and other announcements: when you get one of these emails, scroll immediately down to the bottom of the screen. The “unsubscribe” button lives somewhere in this area. After a few days of doing this, you will be able to unerringly find that treasured link that will free you from your email clutter.

It is now mid-month, and I have had two weeks to unsubscribe from much of my email clutter. Now I find it strange to receive a small number of emails every day rather than hundreds. I know that I will live through this weirdness. My next action is to get rid of the habit of checking my phone every few minutes for new email. Give me a few more days to develop this new habit of not looking.

Opt Out
My second purge and merge idea was to eliminate the junk mail that comes into my snail mail box. I went to several links and opted out of receiving future mailings.
  • (Direct Marketing Association): I opted out of credit offers, catalogues, and magazine solicitations.
  • I opted out of receiving pre-approved credit offers. I have gotten several of these offers daily for years now. Think of all the trees I could have saved if I had opted out earlier.
  • I opted out of receiving other junk mail items, such as catalogs, coupons, donations, etc.
Purge and Merge (Do the Boogie!)
I will probably be working on my third purge and merge idea for another month, which is to purge and merge the clutter to be found within my household. To do this, I use the 27-fling boogie idea from the FlyLady people (27-fling boogie), which contains two components: the throw-away and the give-away.

In the 27-fling boogie, I first walk through my house with a trash bag and put 27 different things that need to be thrown away into the trash bag. When I have reached 27 items, I close up the bag and put it out with the other trash to be picked up or taken to the transfer/recycling center. I do not look inside the bag or reconsider any decision that I have made about putting any item inside the bag. Then I walk through the house with another bag and pick out 27 things to give away.

I can do a 27-fling boogie in 1 minute just by peering into my clothes closet (or "junk drawer," or desk drawer). I anticipate a few boogies in the next few weeks. The FlyLady website (Flylady) is a terrific help for those folks who need a little something to urge them onto the calming path of a decluttered existence.

The merge part of my idea is to identify ways to combine several things or tasks into one thing or task. For example, my list of action steps might include varied activities, such as making phone calls, running errands, reading articles, writing or revising articles or books, or doing research. Rather than have a list of 100 things to do or 100 stickies representing things to do, I look for ways to merge activities or group things together in a fashion that will permit me to make even more progress while I am still in the the action mode of the particular activity. For example, rather than do one of everything on my list, I might group all my calls into one list of "calls to make," and then when I have the phone call momentum going, I will tackle my list of calls to be made. Similarly, when I am at my computer, I have grouped my "to do" items that apply to the computer into one list of "computer to do" items. By merging my activities into lists that are grouped by a particular activity, I can capitalize on the momentum of the activity. When I am in my "phone mode," I can crank out a lot of phone calls in a short amount of time. When I sit at my computer, I can tick off a lot of completed tasks in short order.

There You Have It
Those are my basic three steps and focus points this month. I recite the mantra “purge & merge” several times a day to remind me to keep on the lookout for items that fall into this category and can be thrown away, deleted, eliminated, or combined into one unit/file/task. The entire process provides a calming effect.

Take it on the Road
These steps also apply to your work spaces as well. I am currently clearing the decks in my office at the university, and my teaching studio is yielding up pathways we have not been able to walk in the past. Imagine being able to enter the office area without tripping over a box of something or other!

You may suffer a moment or two when you worry about letting go of the things you have decided to unsubscribe from, throw away, or give away, but you will quickly gain a sense of control and peace about the way things look around you and about the simplicity of the time you have available to you. In other words, you will quickly get over the silly idea that you need to hang onto something you have not worn or used in many years.

I keep reminding and reassuring myself that it was time to throw away that dress I had not worn once in the past two decades.


  1. Great reminder to keep up the focus. I did the same thing with email newsletters! I am much happier to get "real" email.

    1. It has certainly simplified things. Also, doing the 27-fling boogie is kind of fun. I was going to buy more clothes hangers this week, and then after I did one of the boogies with my closet, I released several hangers from their burden. I don't need to buy any, since there are plenty of them in my closet waiting to be discovered.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.