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The Emptying and Refilling Cycle

At the beginning of the year, I made a decision to cleanup the accumulated stuff in our home office. I just felt tired of looking at the clutter in our room and of finding space for new piles of documents and other office stuff. It took me two tedious weeks to go through the numerous cabinets, drawers and storage areas all tightly organized within one square-shaped space.

At the end of the two weeks, I felt so grateful and happy to be emptied! Going through all the assortment of both meaningful and trivial things brought a lot of memories and emotions. The emptying process was almost cathartic. The tiredness disappeared and I began to find simple joys in the life around me. For example, beside the home office, I became mindful of the healthy growth of our balcony plants and a little nest built by birds on the plants.

The acts of emptying – and refilling – truly impact different aspects of life. I wish to highlight 3 impacts and 3 learnings in this article.

A Physical Therapy

Paulo Coelho has written, “I write to empty my mind and to fill my heart.” I believe physical emptying has almost the same impact. Cleaning up affects all aspects of our personal well being, including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. There’s something so therapeutic and motivating about seeing a clutter-free and organized environment.

To ensure I don’t accumulate things and reduce the amount of time I’ll spend on my next spring-cleaning, I have began to adopt an action I’ve learned ~ the “one-minute rule”. Basically, anything that would require only a minute or less to do, I would do it right away instead of putting aside and accumulating them. It seems like a basic organizational skill but I know many of us are late in making expense or financial reports because of receipts not sorted right away. Some get delayed in submitting relevant reports because of a document not filed or cannot be located within the inbox pile. The benefits of the one-minute rule are worth it: the less physical clutter, the less mental clutter; and the more bias for action, the quicker the results.

A Fresh Start

Emptying gives us a fresh start for new ideas, designs, plans or activities. After my two week clean up, I saw more space in our home office. This allowed me to have a new layout, which provided a new way to approach my work. I used to squeeze or fit in more stuff inside bursting drawers. The new space allowed me to improve, to innovate, and to be more creative.

One of the key realizations from the process is that I don’t have to look at and do things exactly the same way again. Letting go of the old documents, files and binders and other work-related items liberated my mind. Detaching from the past allowed me to think more creatively moving forward. Nowadays, I ask myself “How can I approach this project or task differently?” This is something we usually advise our clients in change management. Yet being a creature of habit, it is not always easy to apply. The emptying or detachment acts as a catalyst in the change process.

A Sense of Adventure

Any fresh start gives a sense of wonder and adventure. When we are traveling without any luggage, and we just carry our experience and wisdom to help us navigate and reach our destination, the journey feels more exciting. It is an opportunity to fill-up once more. The senses to discover, learn and experience are more alive.

At the same time that I was cleaning up, career and business opportunities came my way. I certainly felt ready to be filled! I demonstrated openness, energy and enthusiasm, and went on to tackle a couple of opportunities. As in any new adventure, there is a risk of taking more and doing more. What helps me stay grounded is to come back to my physical state. I consciously check myself with “how’s my health?” The answer usually covers all aspects of my personal well-being and my most-valued relationships.

As we journey through our personal or professional life, we all have to learn to empty ourselves, be it in the physical or figurative sense. Then, we get refilled to the point that we are ready to re-start again the process of emptying and refilling. It is a cycle indeed. Have you experienced the benefit of emptying and refilling? Do share your thoughts and learnings here.

Note: This article was also published in LinkedIn.

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