Getting rid of clutter is not about cleaning. It is about increasing
focus and decreasing interference. Far from a low-level task best relegated
to the night time janitorial crew, it is a process whose return on investment
grows exponentially the more potential value you have to contribute.
The benefits of getting rid of it are physical, financial and emotional:
Physical because you have more free space, and it's easier to find what
you're looking for.
Financial because you zero in on targets, accomplishing what's important
in less time. You don't purchase items you already own but forgot you had
or couldn't find and you allocate fewer dollars to unnecessary storage.
Emotional because you have more energy and less stress and a reduction
in the overwhelming feeling there's not time to do it all.
When you are drowning in clutter, the cost to you and/or your company
is great on many levels. Once clear, however, you can more easily access
the resources, physical and mental, that you want or need at any given
So What Is and Isn't Clutter?
The bottom line is that clutter is "things that are not where they
are supposed to be." Making this classification is an individual judgement.
After all, sometimes the optimal location for an item is the garbage can
(or recycling bin.) But who's to say what belongs in the garbage? As the
saying goes ... one man's trash is another man's treasure.
The key is to remember that it's only clutter if it interferes, and
it only interferes if it's not where it's supposed to be. Think of it in
Clutter Is Unrelated Things Mixed Together
It's certainly not realistic to expect that you will never have papers
out on your desk. After all, you have work to do. But clutter is not one
project all spread out; it's when you get unrelated projects mixed together
- or various thoughts muddled together. Think how hard it is to move forward
when you feel your brain is jumbled.
Clutter Is Things You Neither Need Nor Want
Remember the 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of the value comes from 20
percent of any group. Think about your closet: You wear 20 percent of your
clothes 80 percent of the time. Eighty percent of your income comes from
20 percent of your clients. It is even estimated that 80 percent of the
papers you file, you never need look at again. There is more information
and opportunity available to you or thrust upon you than ever before. That
doesn't mean that you have to keep a copy of all of it.
Clutter Is Things Left Out Because They're Unfinished
How many times have you said to yourself, "I'll put it here for now
because I'm not finished with it?" As soon as these words leave your lips,
you're challenging your brain to remember this temporary location. Even
if you can remember it, why use your creative energy in this way? You have
more important things to do. Another oft-recited phrase is "I'm leaving
it out to remind me to do something." Leaving things out doesn't alert
you to what needs to be done. Instead, it distracts you from what you're
doing at the moment.
Clutter Is Things You Haven't Made a Decision About Yet
Often, clutter results because you've postponed making decisions. Like
cars being driven down the road, if they all get to the intersection and
no one decides which direction to turn, they're going to pile up. Does
that mean that when you first set out on a journey, you know all of the
turns you're going to make? No. It's just saying that each time you have
the opportunity to make a decision, make it.
Where is your clutter? It may be anything from notes stuck to your computer
monitor to the extra, ummm, you know, words you inject into conversations
to the thoughts and worries buzzing about in your head. It may be in your
memos, on your desk, in your computer or in the manner in which you structure
your day. Whatever the area, uncluttering it positions you to soar.
NOW YOU'VE FOUND IT ... HOW DO YOU GET RID OF IT?
Since clutter can be physical and/or mental, these strategies are most
effective when put to use in both venues.
Know What's Important
It's hard to decide what to get rid of if you don't know what is important
to you in the first place. Imagine sorting through boxes in your basement.
How can you possibly decide what to keep if you haven't set any parameters?
And consider the fact that, at last count, research showed the average
corporate worker sends and receives over 175 messages and documents per
day. At that rate, the amount of potentially important information can
quickly become overwhelming if you don't have a triage method.
A mission statement, a strategic plan or simply knowing that you are
going to keep only good photographs and pitch the blurry ones - any of
these is a statement of what's important. Without such a statement, anything
is potentially important.
Group Related Items Together
Doing so gives you an overview. It alerts you to purchases required,
and saves you from wasting time and money acquiring goods you already have.Group
your thoughts together too. Merge those "things I gotta do" that keep coming
to mind with the million dollar ideas you've scribbled on napkins into
one master list. It's only by seeing it all together that you can begin
to appropriately prioritize.
Get Rid of What You Don't Need or Want
If it's hard to part with things, do it in stages. Divide piles into
three categories: Keep/Maybe/Pitch. Immediately get rid of "Pitch" items.
At your next uncluttering session, again divide what you have into three
categories and get rid of the "Pitch" pile. Gradually, you'll pare down.
If a bulky item holds a special memory for you, perhaps because your
child created it, consider photographing it. You can preserve the memory
without hanging onto it. Keeping something because you "paid good money
for it"? Realize that it has served its purpose. After all, when you pay
good money for an elegant meal, you don't expect to hold onto that forever.
Don't forget that sometimes the garbage can you need is a mental one. So
while you're uncluttering, get rid of "what ifs" and "shoulds."
When you catch yourself thinking, "But I might need that someday," refer
back to your statement of what's important. Remember, everything is potentially
important, and if you keep everything you're going to need a warehouse.
Rely on the instincts that led you to create your statement of importance.
Designate One Logical Place for Everything
When everything has one "home," it's faster to both put things away
and find them later because there is only one place to go. The designated
location should be logical. Avoid "Where can I put this," "Here's an empty
spot" and "I'll stash it here for now." These rationalizations encourage
you to select a location you won't necessarily remember later. Instead,
think "Where would I look to find this?"
Keep items in their designated home, no matter their stage of completion.
Don't leave a project out just because you don't want to forget about it.
Remind yourself of what needs to be done with a list system.
Retrieve resources only when you are going to work with them.
Compartmentalizing is an extension of the principle "designate one
logical place." Imagine shopping for groceries if all of the items are
somewhere in the store, but not separated into aisles. Even though you
know the logical place to go for food - the supermarket - it is hard to
find what you want if the space inside isn't appropriately allocated. It's
only by compartmentalizing a larger area that you can locate specific items.
Apply this concept to everything from your closet to your desk drawer
to your computer files. Even use it for your to do list. Separate tasks
from phone calls from outside errands to be run. These are distinctly different
activities, most efficiently accomplished if batched together. When they
are listed this way, you can quickly see all the tasks in each category.
It's always easier to find what you want if you only have to look in
one compartment, as opposed to the entire space.
Uncluttering your life is a powerful experience. It creates space for
you to transform data, information and opportunity into knowledge, wisdom
and action. It creates clarity.
This article came from PRIORITIES Magazine and is reproduced here with
their permission.. To read other articles like this go to http://www.franklincovey.com/priorities
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Don't mix the paperwork of unrelated projects together. Keep your activities
Keep only the paperwork in permanent files that will be of value to you
after you have finished the project.
If you haven't finished a project, put the materials away in the proper
place until you can complete the work. Don't stash them in a place where
you will be reminded of them - put them away.
Every time you have an opportunity to make a decision about a stack of
papers, a letter, a correspondence, etc, do it. Get it off your work area.
When getting organized: Group related items together. Get rid of what you
don't need or want and allocate a logical space for needed items. Follow
and other clients.