Effective Living

Summary. Perhaps it is an oversimplification to say that clutter is the fruit of disorganization. Yet it’s true. Where a system of order is missing, then disorder will prevail. The saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” suggests that we must first have a system of storage, placement, and order before things will fall in place. We now live in a physical (our stuff) and digital world (emails and things on our computer). So we have two areas to keep organized. There are methods for reducing information clutter.

Action Steps. Here are some immediate action steps that you can begin taking right now.

  • Schedule. The very first step is to grab a piece of paper, or a calendar, or your hand-held organizer, and schedule in regular blocks of time every week for managing and reducing clutter.
  • Achieve Separation. It’s important to separate your disorganized clutter from your daily life.
    • Storage. If you can afford a storage facility, rent one or if you are a home owner with a large enough yard, buy one. If you are renting a storage facility, consider one that is climate controlled to protect any heat/cold sensitive items. A climate controlled facility could also be used as your declutter zone. It is important to know that moving all your clutter to storage is like an overweight person going on a crash diet and losing 100 pounds. Unless there’s a change in lifestyle, all the fat will return. The same is true with quick and drastic solutions to clutter. Be sure to include lifestyle changes as explained below.
    • Clutter Management Zone. Create a room in your home or a corner of one large room, that is designated a clutter management zone. You should have a large table surface area for sorting through things to be given away or sold on eBay to be shipped off. It’s important to separate the clutter in your life from the things you need and use on a daily basis.
  • Invest in Organization Tools. Invest in some organization tools.
    • Uniform Boxes. Whether or not you can afford storage, you’ll need boxes that are all the same size for easy stacking. This makes it possible to go vertical in storing your clutter as you go through it. Bankers Boxes are usually inexpensive and have handles to make them easy to move.
    • Digital Camera. Take photos of all possessions that have a sentimental value, but aren’t really being used for anything. Make a scrapbook and or video. Then get rid of those things.
    • Scanner. Scan all papers into the computer. They are more easily organized there and also can be backed up and placed somewhere else for safe keeping. For manuals or newspaper articles, look for them in digital form on the Internet and get rid of the printed versions.
  • Commit to Negative Growth. For everything you bring into your home, twice that amount must leave your home. A pair of new shoes means that four must go, or something of equal size. Negative growth means reducing the amount of stuff you have.
    • Selling. One way to achieve negative growth is to regularly sell items on ebay or through Craig’s list.
    • Giving Away. It takes a lot of time to sell things and in some cases it’s simply more cost effective to give possessions away. Most communities have a second-hand store that takes donations. Consider donating there. Something it’s difficult for us to embrace in our materialistic and individualistic society, is the idea of having shared possessions. If you have books, DVDs, or music, consider donating goes to a local library. If you belong to a church or civic organization perhaps they have a library you could donate some things to.
  • Declutter Partner. Chances are, you know of someone else who is battling with clutter and mess. Join up with them to work together, perhaps alternating from your home/office to theirs. Working together can make a big difference.
  • Improving Relationships. Clutter can create stress in relationships because clutter is stressful. Usually two people living together will each have different tolerances for clutter. The messy person will end up frustrating the not so messy person. Clutter also erodes our effectiveness so it feels like there is less time in the day. Less time means less time to enrich relationships.
  • Training Your Children. Young people learn by example.  An effective life requires self control, discipline, and organizational skills. The example you live will most likely be embraced and internalized by your children, for good or for bad. You may want to, as a family, learn and implement some organizational skills.  Consider combining housecleaning with fun activities. For example, the housecleaning night could also be a night to go to the movies.  In this way you can reward yourselves by accomplishing things.
  • Learn. Below are some resources to learn more about reducing clutter.
    • Oprah – “If you had to step over piles of clothes, papers and unidentifiable ‘stuff’ just to get to your computer, you’re not alone. Organizational guru Peter Walsh, host of TLC’s hit show Clean Sweep, says millions of Americans are drowning in clutter.
      Studies show that although families are smaller, homes are larger than ever.”
    • OrganizedHome.com – “Ready to cut clutter on the homefront? These beginning declutter points will help free a strangled household from the clutter monster…”
    • ZenHabits.net – “One of the things that gives me most peace is have a clean, simple home. When I wake up in the morning and walk out into a living room that has been decluttered, that has a minimalist look, and there isn’t junk lying around, there is a calm and joy that enters my heart. When, on the other hand, I walk out into a living room cluttered with toys and books and extra things all over the place, it is chaos and my mind is frenetic.”
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