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The art (and satisfaction) of “Buh Bye”

I worked with one of my favorite clients the other day. Regal and smart, at 79 she’s still working and has the energy of anyone half her age. We met 13 years ago when I moved her out of a spacious three-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side into a smaller – though still large 6-room, 3bath – apartment a few blocks away. After the move – in which she gave away over 300 hard cover books, dozens of purses, shoes, bags full of linens and clothes, furniture, kitchen items and more – I’ve continued to organize her life on a weekly basis. They’ve been various jobs such as closet clean-outs, designing holiday cards, writing her family’s genealogy story, paying bills, and helping with her consulting firm. But of all the projects, the one we enjoy doing together the most is her annual Office Purge. I feel so proud when I hear her say my mantra, “Buh-bye” as she tosses paper with the greatest of ease. She has truly mastered my number one rule of organizing which is to say out loud, “Buh bye” when purging.  Sure you can get rid of stuff without saying this, but when you say it (and I encourage you to), it adds the attitude, as though you’re saying to this stuff that’s cluttering your life, “You’ve got to go. Now!”

On that sunny morning, pigeons sitting on the sill, we filled three enormous garbage bags with old taxes, completed consulting projects and notes from speeches. In some instances she was tossing entire files onto the carpeted floor faster than I could retrieve the paper clips (waste not want not!). And with each “Buh bye” uttered from her genuine smile, all I could think was “She’s just one person. How much garbage do large companies generate in one day?” And we all do this. Frightening.

After two hours, she looked around at her empty inboxes and her cleaned off desk and said, “This feels so great. Like I’ve made room in my life for something new.”

And she has.

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