Andy Rooney’s segment on organizing made me think of the many individuals who find themselves wallowing in years of “stuff,” with no apparent way to extricate themselves from their predicament.
Mr. Rooney has many accumulations in different categories, but has subsequently forgotten the purpose of why he began sorting these materials, or storing them in the first place. For those employees who are senior in experience, there are probably many lower ranking individuals who could benefit from your expertise. Before tossing what you may consider “useless” possessions, consider the following:
(1) Be a Mentor. Use past notes, manuscripts and associated documents as teaching tools for potential mentees. A mentor, particularly one with a wealth of wisdom to impart, can make the difference between the fast track and a stalled career at work. Relatedly, Ron Burt (1995) in his ground breaking research found that for a female job candidate, a high level mentor made a significant difference in terms of opportunity over the course of her career. The tips, unstated organizational assumptions, forgotten scribbles, and life lessons contained in a mentor’s experience (and in his or her file cabinets) can provide the launch pad for a distinguished organizational contribution, and an opportunity that otherwise would have been absent.
(2) Establish Your Own In-house Library: manuscripts on diskettes, papers with no seeming function, awards, and mementos can be categorized and showcased in a central location so that a number of people can benefit.
(3) Donate to a Library: a local library would most likely be delighted to showcase the life work of a prominent individual. At the very least, it would be grateful for a donation of books.
(4) Recycle: Items may be stored on a medium which is antiquated and which occupies needless space. Optical storage, or at the very least movement of files to electronic media which are more robust (e.g., some thumb drives that have the capacity to hold 128 GB) allows electronic files and scanned paper documents to be more easily shared. Use the remaining space to display pictures, gifts, and books that have personal meaning to you and which evoke pleasant memories.
(5) Display your Achievements: Your awards can serve to inspire other people in the office, particularly those who are just beginning their organizational ascent.
It’s been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you are in prominent organizational position, a bit of organizing, decluttering, and streamlining of your personal office space can prove highly beneficial to other people.
Burt, R. S. (1995). The contingent value of social capital. Paper presented at the Academy of Management, Vancouver, BC.