Refusing to clean up his own backyard has landed George Hartsuff in jail for 60 days. He can’t say he wasn’t warned. City officials have been asking him to do a little cleaning since 2000. Court action to ensure compliance was taken in 2002. On July 5, 2007, authorities gave Hartsuff 30 days to clean out the boats, crab pots, vending machines, and other assorted debris that littered his Maryland yard. When he failed to do so entirely, he was sentenced to 60 days in prison.
Hartsuff and his lawyer insist they’re doing their best to tidy things up. They’ve already hauled away four 30-yard dumpsters, filled to capacity. Still, city officials and authorities are fed-up.
“This cycle will keep going until the property is cleaned up,” said county spokesperson Tracie Reynolds. “The site would get cleaned a bit, and it got messy again . . . it was never brought into compliance.”
Cleaning up after ourselves is as old as the very first mother on earth. I can imagine mothers and fathers everywhere and in every generation have told their children about the importance of putting things away. Yet, human behavior is funny, people do strange things, and sometimes the clutter within our lives gets in the way of truly being productive and feeling a sense of personal peace. How do you know that the clutter in your life is hindering personal happiness?
Okay, you got me Tony; what am I supposed to do? One word, “simplicity.” Simplicity is just not a faddish attempt to respond to the economic trials that threaten to engulf us, nor it born out of a frustration with technocratic obesity (iPods, iPhones, Blackberries, et al.); simplicity is a natural and necessary rhythm of discipline that keeps us sane and helps create personal peace and space. Simplicity is needed for the rich and the poor alike. I have seen those without much material wealth live very complicated lives – almost always unhappy. Simplicity will make you happier and more effective. Your neighbors at work and at home will love the new you.
So here is a simple project to help you get started. Think through the major areas of responsibilities and commitments in your life. Probe for insight into how the practice of simplicity could help you clarify what is really important and weed out what is not. A good friend, a kind boss, or a spouse can really help you in your thinking process. Identify those inward attitudes and outward experiences you want to change or deepen. Be willing to eliminate. The older I get, the more I am realizing that “stuff” is not as important as people. Although I can afford it, I am finding myself accumulating less and giving away more. It’s a strange feeling being this happy, but I like it. I am still working on simplicity in my own life. But I have found that simplicity is the more human way to live.
What does “simplicity” have to do with Servant Leadership? Simplicity helps the Servant Leader live in the now, think better, spend time to equip and inspire people, and focus on the most important tasks at work and home. George Hartsuff really does need to simplify!
President, Servant Leadership Institute