People who have a lot of stuff find it challenging to get rid of because they do not consider it clutter. They consider it ‘POP’. POP stands for Potential, Opportunity, and Potential. Think about it. What are people saying when they claim, “I can’t throw these empty plastic medicine bottles away. They may come in handy for storing something later.” The medicine bottles have ‘potential’. As plastic containers they have a latent quality that could be useful in the future. What are people saying when they state, “I’m going to hold onto the newsletters from my old job just in case I work there again.” Circumstances in the future might present an opportunity to return to an old job and the newsletters might become relevant. What are people saying when they explain, “Someone might be able to use the backs of those used index cards. I’d rather not toss them out.” The used index cards express a ‘possibility’, a thing that might happen. The thing about POP statements is that they are not untrue. It is true an item might be useful to someone or some event in the future. I never argue the truth of a POP statement (though, having a learned a thing or two about gambling from my parents, it is just as true the items will go unused.)
When my clients make a POP statement, I engage them, not on the logic of their decision, but on the impact of it. If you keep something, it takes up space. It may need to be dusted, stored, protected from heat or dampness or other maintenance. Here’s another problem with POP. The item that is being kept will need to be remembered in order to be utilized when the potential, opportunity, or possibility presents itself. It is a kind of memory called ‘prospective memory’. Prospective memory is a form of memory that involves remembering to perform a planned action or intention at the time it happens. People who are challenged by disorganization are notoriously weak on prospective memory. What are the chances that while your grandson is visiting you with his guinea pig, the food pellet bag will break, and you’ll be game for sweeping them all up, and remember exactly where an empty medicine bottle would be to contain them. Better to grab a baggy. Will you be able to remember where those index cards are when you’re taking a message at the phone and need to write it down? Better to use the pad. Will you remember what’s in the newsletters when you get a call to come back to work? Better to read the latest ones online to get up to date.
One person’s clutter is another person’s POP. People don’t love clutter. But they do love potential, opportunity and possibility. It reflects a joy for the future. If you’re a POP kind of person, weigh your POP decisions against the burden of the past and the practicality of the present.