• Evan Z.

Why Which Stuff Matters

*Note: This is a proposal for my first TED talk. I’ve heard my chances are slim this year, but I thought I’d share to get a little feedback. As you read this, please imagine me standing on the TED stage. (…and cross your fingers!)

[Awkward Pause…3-4 seconds]

Did you feel that? That awkward silence… That was a unique measure of time, just a beat or two… commonly referred to as “a moment.”

Moments are kind of special because they provide a little glimpse into possibility; a fleeting chance to take it all in, to study the details and consider what might happen next. Nobody schedules moments…they’re just too small.

But I think it’s these bite-size breaks throughout the day that make the biggest difference. In the brief space of a moment, outcomes are temporarily suspended …the proverbial stars prepare to align themselves based on what is about to happen next – and we have the opportunity to influence and walk into a future of our own creation.

In just a few seconds, a moment represents a chance to stop and pause…perhaps reflect; perhaps evaluate the relationship between cause and effect; the difference between what we do and what we intend.

And you know, I think it’s in the collective moments of many individuals that have the greatest impact on the world.

I’m in the business of helping people manage the cumulative moments that matter most. You see, I’m a professional organizer. People hire me because they feel overwhelmed by the chaos their clutter has on their lives. To be honest, I have a home and a family – and we have clutter, too. I’m not perfect. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I could use my own services!

Over the years, I’ve discovered that our stuff is not the cause of our clutter. All that chaos is born in the missed opportunity to linger in the moments leading up to how we acquire all that stuff. Just before we take out our money, swipe our credit cards, or click “buy now” – those are the moments when we have an opportunity to pause… and reflect.

We’ve recently heard quite a lot about tidying up, downsizing, becoming minimalists, and moving into tiny homes. Those are all admirable strategies, but you know – if you’re anything like me, I think most of us are just doing the best we can with what we’ve got. At the end of the day, I think most of are just looking for some measure of abundance.

Abundance; that feeling of gratitude for that which is needed, when it is needed – and not a single thing more.

As a professional organizer, I’ve learned that abundance doesn’t come from our things…

In fact, I think the intentional absence of excess creates the tangible space for abundance.

It’s so elusive, but when we get rid of all that extra stuff, we literally create the space for the gratitude and the joy we crave. And I wonder what the world would be like – if in the moments before we spent our hard-earned money – if we simply took a moment and reflected on what matters most: who we love, what we do, how, and why we live.

If we understood (as consumers) the extraordinary impact our things have on the world, I wonder if a single moment would be enough to change our minds about what we really need, and perhaps even – help make the world a better place.

If you’re willing, let’s test this…Consider for a moment, what you’re wearing right now. How many of the garments in this room today were sewn in sweatshops around the world – stitched by abused women and children with sore fingers and empty bellies; silent, un-named victims of some of the most brutal conditions of any industry on Earth? If you saw their faces, if you knew their stories, would you buy those things again? Would you support the billionaire CEOs of those companies, making trillions every year?

Jane Goodall famously said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

I wasn’t looking for this. But as a professional organizer sifting through all that clutter, I’ve discovered the collective impact of our things. I wonder, if just the people in this room – if we were all committed to buying second-hand and supporting industries that promote human rights, fair trade, and environmental sustainability, if it would matter. It only takes a moment to connect the dots…

These are strange times. As I look around, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the clutter, chaos and corruption of the world. But I take comfort in knowing that I can still make a difference. In spite of everything else, in the little moments of my life, I can still choose to give someone a warm smile, pay someone a sincere compliment, and offer a helping hand. I can stop and consider the impact my things have on a global scale – and through my choices, boycott industries that knowingly do harm – and support goods and services that reflect what I value most. And given the opportunity, if only a moment, I think most of you would, too. Thank you.



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