Clutter Avenue, straight ahead

As I write this, I have just returned from a weekend of volunteering with a rescue team up in the mountains near home. What a wonderful weekend it was, for several reasons.

First of all, the weather was beautiful, and that brought nearly a thousand people into the park (close to a record). Secondly, there were no incidents that required our assistance. And just as importantly, our rescue team found something that had been put aside and sort of forgotten.

We did not intentionally put aside something we need, it just sort of happened on its own as time passed. It happens to everyone.

From the beginning

Let’s rewind a couple months and recall being at the desk doing paperwork. You are looking for a particular invoice or statement that is most certainly right where you left it. Shockingly, the paper-strewn kaleidoscope that covers the desktop has soaked it up, and a search begins.

How about that corner of the desk drawer or the second drawer down in the file cabinet? What about the back corners of the tool truck or that certain bin that is so handy for dropping in items that will be taken care of later?

There are many places in our lives where we stash stuff this way, and after awhile, no matter how carefully we put it there, clutter is the end result.

Ironically, these places develop almost organically as items of greater importance present themselves. These places often go unnoticed and amazingly have the ability to gain gravity, pulling more stuff in. When noticed, we make a promise to clean them out and reform our habits when time allows, but due to the very reason these places where born in the first place, it is difficult to assign this task a higher priority.

I said ‘ironically’ because when we place an item there, its status level is nil, but at some point, as we have all witnessed, the status can go from stone cold to fire hot with a single phone call. Then, as if the Energizer Bunny was powering us, a hasty search for said item becomes all-consuming. Also ironically, its new status pushes other things into the same bin (too busy - deal with that later).

Testing skills

For a mountain rescue team, there are many things that can demand a quick response to achieve a positive outcome, and having all the skills available when needed is crucial. Over the weekend we tested our wits with scenarios that don’t often happen but very well could. Review of those skills make all the difference when the time comes.

It was refreshing to learn that after applying pressure to practice those scenarios, we were able to problem solve, find the skills that are not often called upon, and achieve rapid results.

After each scenario we would debrief to examine the pros and cons of our actions. One oft-repeated comment was a feeling of finding something that was forgotten or lost. As good as the training results were, we decided that certain things needed to change so that we don’t have comments like that again: every skill should be tested.

With every passing day, papers, tools or skills are placed mentally or psychically in areas that we have designated for items of lesser importance. These areas, through lack of use, can grow dark, further lowering their status.

As the New Year approaches, maybe it’s worthwhile to stop the “hurry” and check those areas that hold … well, to be honest, do we really remember what’s in there? If you just chuckled or nodded, that is a clear sign that you have areas waiting for attention. Who knows what this year-end check could turn up? After all, it is Christmas, and recovering items thought to be lost makes it that much merrier!

Along with my family, Donna, Jenica and Logan, I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful, safe holiday season. We ask that you keep the men and women who stand in harm’s way, and their families, in your thoughts and prayers.

Pssst……2012, here we come!

Joe Poulin is a district manager based in Gray, Maine, for Mac Tools. Send any comments or feedback you have for Joe by e-mail to