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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2199192
Rated: E · Article · How-To/Advice · #2199192
Keeping our lives free of clutter in every form...it's a challenge!
Closet organizers…stacker trays for our desks…extra sturdy storage boxes…special labels, stickers and tabs…post-it notes to remind us to pay the storage bill…reminders to buy more post-it notes…what do all of these have in common? They are the period at the end of our sentence describing the daily chore of keeping our stuff in order. Boxes for paperwork, prize ribbons, and particular paraphernalia. Trays for tracing the trail of endless tedious tasks. Organizers ominously loaded with obviously outdated objects. How much energy does all of this material require of us, and do we really want to allot that time to the handling of…well, “stuff”?

“40% of cleaning isn’t actually cleaning – it’s time spent digging past, carrying, relocating, and protecting stuff…”

Shocking? That statement comes from Don Aslett, foremost cleaning expert in America. Maybe this statistic is not as earth-shattering as the procreation rate of the average cockroach, but definitely something we should take a serious look at if we are at all concerned about our own productivity. Much has been written about how to keep our lives, closets, desks, paperwork, even our car’s glove compartment in order, but let’s get to the point: Here in America we are inundated with possessions almost to the point of smothering. Adjusting our view on possessions, prioritizing between things we actually need versus things we just want to have, will help us to be more productive by reducing the distraction and stress in our everyday environment.

How do we decide which items are truly important and which just contribute to the chaos that weighs us down? A few simple steps will bring clarity to our clutter:

Prioritize safekeeping for precious items that are irreplaceable.
I have always kept a “house-fire duffel bag” in a closet near the front door of my home. Inside that bag are the most precious things in the world to me, things that I will want to grab and carry as I run away from my burning house if that should ever occur. Keeping the items in a fire-proof container inside the bag is a good idea to ensure that they survive an actual fire. In any emergency, that bag is my priority of objects to grab once I know that my family is safe.

Keep daily-use items handy.
Whether you are a chef, an accountant, or a construction worker, there are tools you will use for your trade every single day. Keep those tools within a short reach, maintaining a “home” for them to always return to. For example: the items on my desk are always in the same place, giving me extra space for books and research materials related to my current writing project and providing a non-chaotic environment in which for me to write. A chef would want certain items within easy reach at all times without having to dig through drawers or cupboards for them. A carpenter will want particular tools on their tool belt, ready for quick use and easy to stow away without being misplaced. Whatever your work is, be realistic about what you need at your immediate disposal and what could be stowed away for only occasional use.

Purge regularly!
Be honest now: Do you really need two copies of the same book, or fourteen paperweights? Unless you truly employ the use of multiples in your work, downsize where you can get rid of excess. Donate the unneeded items to a charity, or perhaps to a fledgling business just getting started. This is an especially helpful tool when applied to clothing. If I haven’t worn something for a full year, I’m probably not going to and I can pass it on without regret. Same goes for extra electronic charging cables, camera parts, old cell phones, computer accessories, printers, and other items I tend to end up with extras of.

Use your filing cabinet creatively. Seriously, filing cabinets…they’re not just for papers anymore! Designate one drawer to be a “once-a-month clean-up” drawer, then once every month empty it out by donating, selling, or trashing everything in it. This keeps miscellaneous clutter from occupying useable space on your desk or countertop, and allows you to realize at the end of the month just how much you did NOT miss those items in the drawer. This concept can easily be applied to the home, office, and vehicle.

Avoid the temptation to “buy ahead” or to “stock up just in case”.
Some things are worth purchasing in bulk, and it makes good business sense to buy in quantity those items that you use regularly. However…do you really have room to store one hundred post-it-note tablets? Better yet, do you need to have that many? Many times the cost savings is not worth the stress of having to make room for more…yup, you guessed it…”stuff”.

When in doubt, ask someone for help!
Sometimes it is far easier for someone else to decide which of our belongings are necessary and which are not. A friend will not be so closely “attached” or “sentimental” about our possessions, so asking for constructive input can be very helpful in resolving clutter chaos.

All of these principles can be applied not only to objects occupying our physical space, but also to those intangible elements that take up space in our thoughts and our schedules. Just as we should be aware of clutter in our environment, we need to be mindful of piles accumulating in our minds and in the hours allotted to us in our day. Free space for creative imagination and forward dreaming is critical to our success as human beings, business people, parents, friends, siblings, and neighbors…we simply must have available areas for thoughts and plans to develop.

Jumbled schedules, commonly known as “flying by the seat of our pants”, can lead us to scattered thought processes and unproductive wheel-spinning. On the other hand, trying to adhere to a rigid schedule that allows no flexibility increases stress and also reduces productivity.

What’s the answer?

Be realistic about what you can truly expect to accomplish in a given period of time, and allow yourself a buffer zone for the unexpected. Delegate or re-schedule activities that can wait, and focus on the more pressing items first. This keeps your mind relaxed and able to focus on the task at hand, while also making room for those “Eureka moments”, those flares of creative inspiration that tend to occur most often when our thoughts have a little energy left to run on their own. (For more details on priorities and effective time management, read “Bicycle races and time management”.)

To wrap up this discussion in a neat and tidy box, remember that “a wise man will avoid all extremes”. Clutter and chaos in our lives can hinder us from living a life of success and inward peace, while excessive persnickitiness about perfect alignment of our silverware in its drawer could drive us insane in the end. Finding the balance can be a challenge, but the results are amazing, invigorating, and liberating.

Best wishes, and please share how you keep yourself free of clutter!
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