Hilary Kaye

Executive PRspective

Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Lots of Homemade Stuffing

Stuff. You know, the things that accumulate exponentially. I readily, and perhaps apologetically, admit that I am a keeper of Stuff.  I keep Stuff at work. I keep Stuff at home.  I admire areas that are devoid of Stuff – such as clean desktops, neatly organized drawers, garages that actually store vehicles and kitchen islands covered only with cooking essentials (not mail, pens, dog food, cat treats and coupons).  But this doesn’t seem to be in my DNA.

I’m certainly not the only one who has this problem – and I suspect many will relate. But I sometimes feel quite disheartened over my inability to part with Stuff.  Why can’t I just toss it all out?

When I stop and think about it, emotional attachments are to blame. At home, my Stuff includes ticket stubs from favorite concerts or Dodger games. I keep old greeting cards with especially sweet sentiments from loved ones. I have stacks of folders and manila envelopes crammed with memorabilia from long-ago trips that were destined to go into a scrapbook, but never did. Speaking of stacks, I haven’t mentioned my eclectic record album collection, mostly from the 60s and 70s, that also includes even older ones I inherited from my mom (Frank Sinatra anyone?). And let’s not even talk about photos.  Slides and prints – too many to wrap my head, or my hands, around.  As a Boomer, I’ve got a lot of decades to cover.

At work, my Stuff runs the gamut, from decades-ago client files (you never know when a client may return) to strategic musings on ways to improve the agency (oddly, some ideas from the early 2000s are still relevant).  On shelves and in the attic, binders are full of media “hits” we generated for clients (digital files weren’t yet invented when we started that practice). Two spacious storage areas at the office are crammed with other Stuff – likely with minimal importance – but I still feel an emotional attachment to all of it!

I stop short of calling myself a hoarder. I’m not, am I? I do sort through my Stuff periodically.  I’ve spent weekends in the HKA attic, tossing old files, magazines and souvenirs from PR campaigns that were once pretty nifty. At home, I make valiant attempts to go through my Stuff every now and again. Yet I know my attempts need to be more frequent and more comprehensive. Stuff has got to go!

I don’t have an answer to how I can more easily disengage my emotional attachments, whether at work or at home, where Stuff creates some chaotic environments. Of course, things could be worse!  Thank goodness the digital photos of today only occupy space in my smartphone – and when I’m inclined, I can upload those to a safer spot.  Thank goodness the stacks of Stuff are not growing, as today’s world lets me store old files on my computer.  Thank goodness bar-coded sheets of paper that have replaced traditional tickets hardly tempt my emotions, not the way “real” Dodger tickets did. This emotional attachment was easy to break.

On the other hand, saving a digital file of a Wall Street Journal client story is nice, and certainly convenient for sharing. But I still love seeing the hit in the print edition and hate to toss it in the trash, but I’m learning to do this – or risk scorn from the HKA team. At home, I also am still struggling with tossing Stuff collected on trips. Sure, these items could be scanned and stored. But heck, I might never see them again!

I suspect many of you can’t relate at all, but I know some must suffer from similar emotional sadness upon throwing away tangible reminders of memories. I’m determined to get rid of more and more Stuff and I certainly welcome comments from anyone who might have struggled with Stuff and have found a way out.  I’m all ears!