Cleaning House

It’s a little late, perhaps, for spring cleaning, but it never is too late to learn something new.

Both of my editors are in the process of buying or moving into new homes. Ah, or should I say – ARGHHHH! – I remember that feeling well. What to move? What to keep? Cleaning. Painting. Rearranging.

I’m experiencing it again on a smaller scale this month. I’m relocating my office. I’m just moving down the hall, and I haven’t been in my current office long enough to put pictures on the walls, but I still can’t believe the amount of unnecessary clutter I’ve managed to accumulate in the few short months I’ve been in this space. I’ve got enough crap that our facilities manager suggested that a dumpster might be helpful ... and he wasn’t joking.

As I contemplated all these moves – all this cleaning and rearranging and decluttering – I realized that I need some mental decluttering as well. Always around this time of year, coinciding with the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo and the annual conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers, I realize I need a mental boost. I need some fresh air to clean out the winter cobwebs in my brain.

I show up at these conferences like a kid on the first day of school: Clothes neatly pressed, new haircut, pencils sharpened, notebooks at the ready. I can’t wait to see old friends and meet new ones. I can’t wait to hear about occupational safety and health from a new perspective, from speakers and educators I’ve never heard before, who can feed me new ideas that I gobble up with the enthusiasm of the starved.

I hang on every word of the opening plenary sessions, and I’m only partly embarrased to admit I experience a guilty-pleasure little thrill at the pomp and circumstance that always seems to accompany that opening session on the first day.

Best of all, I learn new things. I learn best practices from professionals in the field who are walking the walk and talking the talk. I learn not only how to comply with regulations but also to exceed them – and why that’s a sound business practice. I learn tips for creative problem solving from people who think outside the box. I learn about specific safety, occupational health and industrial hygiene challenges and how to meet them head-on. I learn how to prevent and predict, rather than react.

I leave these conferences – all conferences, whether national, state or local – charged up and ready for positive change. The cobwebs have been swept away, clutter has been dumped to make way for new ideas and the mental furniture has been rearranged to accommodate a wealth of new information.

But I still hate to move.

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