Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Clutter? What Clutter? Get Rid of It!

When was the last time you last saw the surface of your desk?

At any point in time in the past, I'd have had the following on it: laptop, keyboard, docking station, wires running crazily helter-skelter, printer, loose computer paper, loose handwritten paper, notes for all current writing projects, a journal where I note down tasks and daily progress, my schedule and also a list of goals, water bottles, a mug of cold stale coffee, a can of coconut water, a bottle of lotion, my glasses, a pedometer, bills I need to take care of, and pens and pencils galore. If I had to eat at my desk, I'd have had to precariously perch the plate of food on top of some of this mess.

It's well and good to admire minimalist principles and to enjoy the idea that the gleaming wood of your desk will be available daily for your appreciation. But how on earth would you go about getting to that clean surface and then keep it that way?

Well, here's how...

Choose one small, self-contained area that's going to be your first clutter-free zone.

Ask yourself these questions: What is essential to this space? Are all the essentials coralled into logical groups? What are the things that you love but do not belong there? Where can they be moved to? Should everything that doesn't fall in the "essential" or "love" category get thrown out, or should it be revisited in a different part of the house?

Now set up boxes for donations, garbage bins, recycling bins, and the shredder in a readily accessible spot.

Start going through everything, item by item, in your chosen clutter-free area. File paper away in organized file folders, shred it, or recycle it. Put clothes away in the closet, donation box, or garbage bin. And so on. Make sure every single item in that area is looked at, thought over, and dealt with in some fashion. That area should now be well-organized and have fewer things per square inch of real estate than before.

Now that you've created your first clutter-free area, expand your clutter-free zone by taking over and organizing the adjacent area. And so on. Area by area, day by day, organize your entire home and office.

Next, and this is key, every time a new thing arrives in your clutter-free zone, make sure it is put away into the existing structure of organization, or moved to an appropriate area. Things should not simply land in the clutter-free zone with no rhyme or reason or organization. New things should always be put away in organized spots, as well as things that have been taken out for use should always be put back in their original spots.

This needs to become a habit, which will take time to develop—work on this habit consciously. The only way to get a habit to stick is to do it every single day.

Some areas are prone to clutter: mud rooms, kitchen islands, etc. Know these habits of yours and your family's. And make it point to, say, once a day before going to bed, clear out these areas, so that in the morning, the day begins on a tidy note.