Everything and Nothing

2009 August 5
by Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher

Creative Commons License photo credit: sylvar

I once heard organizational guru Peter Walsh http://www.peterwalshdesign.com/ say, “When everything is important, nothing is important.”

He was counseling a woman who had lost control of her possessions. All of her things were out on her front yard, and she somehow laid hands on her deceased father’s wallet which had been crammed in the back of a drawer. It was full of pictures of her and her siblings, as well as handwritten notes and other mementos. Bursting into tears, she begged to be allowed to keep it, even though she was in a boot camp of sorts to save her home from clutter.

Walsh reminded her that she had not even known the wallet was there for over 20 years. It made no sense to hold onto it. “But,” she cried, “this is so important! Please!” Gently he pointed out to her that she had not treated this item any differently than she had treated anything else in her house, from random domino pieces chewed up by dogs to moth-worn scarves from her kids’ childhoods 40 years ago. That’s when he laid it on the line. “When everything is important, nothing is important.”

Unlike any other related advice, this stuck with me from the beginning. We so rationalize our attachments that often we lose our ideals to the idea that everything is important. I’ve had multiple experiences over the years where I felt pressure to push someone else’s goals, priorities, or even values up the totem pole in the interest of my own pereceived success.

There is no end to the parade of people who need you to believe that what THEY want from you is important. The question becomes, what is important to YOU? Which of the things you have filed away and stuffed into drawers – literal or metaphorical – are truly important to YOU?

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