Finding Her Space

It’s Julia, Brooks’ wife here. I asked Brooks if I could write a blog post for you about my exhilarating experience in a very short but impactful clutter bust he did with me on Sunday morning, and he agreed. So here we go.

After seven years in the same job at Northwestern, I officially ended my work there to begin my own science & tech services company. On Sunday morning, that company was still in its infancy, and I was having a hard time letting go of my academic position. Around the edges of my consciousness, I could tell that this was the reason that my desk and office space in the basement had been covered with books and papers for two weeks, and I hadn’t gone near it.

All I knew was that I felt overwhelmed with all the work I had to do to set up this new company, and yet I couldn’t do the work. I definitely didn’t want to go down into the basement and clean up that office space. So I asked Brooks for help.

We went downstairs and as he usually does, he immediately asked without judgment whether we could start with one of the piles. I don’t know how he picked it, but even as I said “yes,” I knew I dreaded that particular pile the most. I thought it was full of papers that I didn’t want to keep but I knew I should keep.

My suspicion was part right – there were some papers in there that I thought I might need if I taught another class on that topic. But the whole idea of teaching that particular class again felt heavy. Brooks asked if I could find the papers online again if I did decide to teach that class, and I said I could. So I let those papers go into the recycling bin.

The funny thing was, the bulk of the pile didn’t consist of these papers. About half of the pile was made of papers that weren’t even mine. They had gotten mixed in there when the cleaning crew at Northwestern had mistakenly (ahem) thrown out my papers and I had gone to the recycling bin to retrieve them. Now I knew that the cleaning crew was onto something.

There were definitely papers I kept – I’m working on a book, and Brooks helped me sort the papers into the chapters for which they were most appropriate. And some papers were really exciting ones I’d forgotten about. I wanted to keep those so I could write some new stuff.

But after we got through all the papers and everything was organized, I got sad. I looked at my new, clean office space, and I said to Brooks, “It feels like I’m being punished, having an office in the corner of the basement, with no windows. And the other day when those folks came to interview me for a documentary, I should have felt BIG and FAMOUS but instead when they saw my office they said, ‘It’s so tiny! We can’t film you there.’” I wanted to cry, because I knew there was nowhere else in the house we could fit my office.

Brooks asked, “Is there another place where we can put your office?” I looked around. The other part of the basement, the part with bright windows, was where my son’s drum stuff was. I thought, “I can’t put it there.” Brooks said, “What about there? We can move that drum stuff!”

It only took about 10 minutes to move the office to the bigger, brighter space near the windows. And moving the drum stuff took about two minutes.

I spent all day yesterday working in my new office! I love it. I feel like everything I need to do for my business is lining up, all in a row. I’m ready, I have the energy, and I can see what needs to be done. Instead of being overwhelming, it’s now exciting.

What happened? I feel like Brooks helped me get back all the energy I still had stored at Northwestern. And I invested it in myself, in my work – in my new work. I feel so alive. And guess what? The entire process took 45 minutes.

I just wanted you to hear a story from a client’s point of view. Brooks is powerful. He gently guides people, and changes lives. I know you know this. But it’s a delight to be reminded of it again.

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