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What’s under your Garbage Blanket?

Wed, 05/19/2010 - 6:42am
ANNA WELLS, Editor, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation (IMPO)

Anna Wells LongBy ANNA WELLS, Editor, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation (IMPO)

As I drove down Madison’s Beltline highway last month in search of lunch, I saw some of the first signs of spring. The city-wide blanket of snow was beginning to look like a blanket soaked in beer and run across a dirty wood floor.

We’re used to having an ugly springtime here … Road dirt, salt and sand do exactly what you might expect when mixed with melting snow, which is to create a muddy, mushy stream that takes time and a good city drainage system to resolve. After the great melt, however, Madison can be seen at its most beautiful.

I was disappointed to see more than just dirty patches of snow along the highway: The emerging dead grass was peppered with garbage, from small items likely tossed from windows to actual bags of trash. The presence of this refuse didn’t become evident until its foot-deep cocoon of precipitation was no longer hiding its dirty face from the world. I must say it can put a bit of a damper on my premature reveling over a beautiful afternoon.

But it also got me thinking about how clean and organized a place can look when we have something to hide the garbage behind.
I wouldn’t air my dirty laundry here if I didn’t think we were all guilty of this, but … I have a drawer in my desk that I have internally marked “miscellaneous.” This drawer houses random business cards of contacts I may or may not call in the future, documents I have not had (or taken) the time to read, notes on article topics never pursued … You get the picture.

Whether it’s a drawer, a closet or an entire room doesn’t matter (OK … it does a little — anyone else seen that show Hoarders?). What matters is that we allow ourselves to ignore these tiny bits of trash simply by shoving them in a desk drawer or behind a closed door. If your facility’s “snow” melted, would there be a big pile of garbage underneath?  

And the even scarier part of this scenario is that your “miscellaneous drawer” might house just as much treasure as trash. Do you have a file of unpursued leads taunting you at your desk or an e-mail folder for follow-up that you avoid because of the time vacuum you already know it would create? How about the tool crib that nobody has time to organize? I can commiserate, but I also think it’s time to do some spring cleaning.

My parents recently announced that they are moving this summer and are now faced with packing up the house they’ve lived in for the past 15 years. I have been commissioned to help, and I’m embarrassed to admit, I still have a lot of stuff there. I’m actually kind of grateful for the opportunity to go through it all.

It stands to reason that if there are items of importance to me, they maybe shouldn’t have spent the last decade packed in a box in my parents’ attic. But I won’t know until I check ... And it’s finding the motivation to do it that’s so hard. It’s all too easy to live those words “out of sight, out of mind.”

To boot, and in the spirit of spring and melted snow (and a self-mandated hour block I’ve deliberately set aside to do this), I’m cleaning out my “miscellaneous drawer.” My bet is it’s not all just garbage in there … But it might be. Either way, it’s time to find out.

Do you have a "miscellaneous drawer” of your own? Maybe it's time to clean it out yourself. Let me know what you find at anna.wells@advantagemedia.com.

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