Okay, I admit it, I drank the Marie Kondo Kool-Aid and, like Colbert said on her Late Show appearance, given the chance, I would probably follow Marie Kondo to her cult compound and stay with her forever. Recently, I moved into a very small home. I was already on board with a more minimalist lifestyle, but now I was forced to live it. I purged a lot of things. Let go of a lot of guilt about letting go, and I am so much happier with less. The thing is, once you start to Marie Kondo one aspect of your life, you want to Marie Kondo all aspects of your life. Everywhere I look, I see clutter and I want it to go away. I think the clutter in veterinary hospitals could use some attention.
Think about your workplace. Now, if you can, think of what it was like the day the hospital opened, or try to imagine it. Imagine it without all of the notices taped (Taped! Who does this?) to the once pristine hospital walls, the posters from drug companies and prescription dog food companies, the pictures, the memes, the thank you cards, books, the random shit that people didn’t want anymore so they bring it to work, or stuff that just got forgotten there and left to die. The KonMari method goes in order: clothes, books, paper, kimono and sentimental items. Let’s do this. I promise it will only hurt a bit.
Okay, so let’s start with clothing.
How many stained or light greyish lab coats with missing buttons or tears do you have? How many pairs of scrubs that don’t match and are faded and ill-fitting do you have there? Do they spark joy for you? Do they? Do you keep them around “just in case” you might need them one day? I promise, by the time you do, your nice scrubs will be old and you can use those ones. How many pairs of shoes are hanging out that don’t have owners?
Next up is books.
How many textbooks do you have lying around that are over 5 years old? They need to go and you need to get new ones. Consider getting e-books if you can. Everything else that is not a current textbook needs to go. Proceedings from NAVC 2006? Bin them. Proceedings are available on VIN and, here’s an insider academic secret, proceedings are usually pretty crappy. They are written months before the speaker actually has time to work on their talk, usually under duress and after many grumpy reminder emails from the conference organizers, threatening to withhold $50 of the $250 stipend for the lecture if they don’t comply. I don’t recommend using proceedings as references. They just aren’t that good, and I’m saying this as someone who has written a lot of them. And I’m sorry.
Papers are next.
Papers are a bit like books. All the crap and papers from industry? Let them go. Industry peeps, I’m begging you, please stop with all the binders, put that shit on-line. Look at your bulletin boards. If there is a notice for a “Lunch and Learn” from 6 months ago, you can probably take that down now. The binders of manuals for equipment? Most of that is on-line too and I am guessing some of those manuals are for items that you no longer use that are in boxes being stored just in case you need them one day. So maybe have a bulletin board for current fun things and switch it up every month? If you keep the same stuff on display, no one will look at it because they get fatigued from looking at it and then you aren’t really displaying it anymore, you are just creating clutter.
Then there is Komono.
I think that is Japanese for sh#t that you don’t know what to do with. A lot of this is the swag, but it is also equipment that has ceased to be useful and had been replaced, but you didn’t get rid of the old one “just in case.” Even if it doesn’t really work. This stuff is cluttering up your hospital and it needs to go. If it is useful equipment, it may help a colleague, maybe sell it on Craig’s list or send it to a developing country. If it is not useful enough to do this, then it is not useful sitting in a box or on a shelf and cluttering up your workspace. How many times have you gone back and busted out that old equipment? I am going to guess never. Even if it is only once, it is not worth the real estate it is taking up.
To our pharmaceutical and veterinary diet industry friends, please stop with the useless swag. Just stop. You are wasting paper, filling the world with plastic, and making our hospitals look tacky. There, I said it. If you must give us swag and gifts, please make it something useful. Here are things we need: pens and highlighters. We also like food. That’s about it. You can put your website address on the pen so we can find all of the information that you want us to have. I bet that would save your company a lot of money, too. You’re welcome. Please just stop with the stress balls (they are stressing me out), crappy T-Shirts, cell phone cases, the sticky suction things to put on our cell phone cases, the calendars, the charts that you want us to put on the wall, the binders (see above). If you must bring us things, maybe make them consumable things that will go away once your memory fades. I bet you could get nice chocolates with your logo on them. Or a cake. A cake would be great.
Now let’s venture, if you dare, into the break room.
It is a bit like the kitchen section at a thrift store, but not nearly as nice as that. This is where all of the plastic cutlery goes to die. Mostly knives. There are a lot of plastic knives here, not so many forks. There is also the Keurig that was so popular just a few years ago that no one buys K-cups for anymore, the holder for the K-cups that sits empty on the counter collecting dust, a sandwich press, loose leaf tea (but no strainer to make it with), lots of coffee cups, lots of paper cups, paper plates and napkins from pizza lunches past, Tupperware containers that are missing their lids (so they are no longer containers, really) or lids that don’t have bottoms (also not really lids any more), maybe a crockpot, and some sort of plug-in grill. The microwave will work (sort-of), but it may be missing the spinny glass plate thing because someone broke it. The inside of the microwave will certainly be caked with splattered with food on the inside because no one heeds the angry sign that has been taped to the wall beside it saying “cover your food!.” There will be some inexplicable dirty dishes in the sink (How? Why?) There will be straws, sugar packets and a random assortment of sauces and condiments in every drawer, in no particular order.
Then there are the seasonal decorations.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise now that you are this far through this article, but I am a bit of a grinch in this area too. I like hospitals to look like hospitals, not like a craft store. That is just me. If you must put up seasonal decorations, keep it classy and minimal. Also, when the holiday is over TAKE THEM DOWN AND PUT THEM AWAY. Yes, I am yelling this part.
Then, there are the sentimental items.
These are always hard to decide what to do with. The gifts, shared memories and pictures. Hopefully, you are now adept at deciding what you need to keep and what gifts and memories you can just keep in your heart, without the physical reminders of the time and place. One good rule of thumb is that if you would not proudly display this item in your living room, or pass it around to the different people that work at your hospital to display at home like the Stanley Cup, don’t put it up at work. What about all of the cards from clients? Well, that depends on how you feel about them. Pure KonMari would say that you take in the gratitude and the sentiment from this client taking the time to send you a card and then you let it go. However, some veterinarians really cherish these cards and like to go back to them on bad days because they spark joy. That is great. You have a few options: you can make a scrapbook of them for people to look over when they are on break, you can take pictures of them and make an electronic library of pictures and cards, or you can share them on your clinic Facebook group so that everyone gets to see them. But if you have faded cards taped (Again, taped!) to your wall that are from years ago, for pets that you don’t remember and addressed to veterinarians and staff who don’t even work there anymore, then displaying them is likely having the opposite effect than what was intended. It is just sad.
Maybe you are so busy that you don’t even notice all of the clutter, or that you don’t have time to deal with it. Maybe you think that you don’t care about the clutter. Subconsciously, I promise that you are noticing it and it is affecting you. It is making your hectic days feel more hectic because to some, clutter is like visual noise. It is affecting your mood. It is making you feel busier and less calm. Now take a deep breath and imagine what your hospital could look like without all of the clutter. Clean countertops, organized shelves, drawers with the items you need at your fingertips, and the ability to sit down and just work.
I challenge you to declutter your hospital.
Make it cleaner and more organized and easier for you and your coworkers to navigate. I challenge the industry to stop giving us swag and crap that we don’t want or need. You can do better. We can do better. Let’s do this.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Sarah Boston is a veterinary surgical oncologist practicing in the Toronto area. She is also an author and her memoir, Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life was published by the House of Anansi Press in 2014. She has published numerous scientific articles and book chapters, some of them good. She is the co-creator of the satirical online veterinary newspaper The Cageliner and an amateur stand up comedian. You can follow her on Twitter @drsarahboston