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New Year, No Clutter

Setting a goal to eliminate clutter in your home or office this year is an ambitious aspiration. Even if you don’t succeed in eliminating it completely, it’s certainly a worthwhile endeavor. Today we’ll share a few thoughts with you that we believe will have a significant impact on the clutter you keep.


Barbara Hemphill of The Productive Environment Institute, and author of Taming The Paper Tiger, coined the phrase, “Clutter is postponed decisions.” When you think about that, she’s right. If something is sitting out of place and cluttering the counter top, it’s because someone hasn’t yet decided what to do with it. It doesn’t have a place. Clutter is an intruder looking for a home. The question is: Do you need to harbor it?


According to Barbara Hemphill, there are only three decisions you can make when it comes to any piece of paper or electronic document: File, Act, or Toss. “People say, ‘Too much stuff comes in!’ But I say, ‘No. The problem is too little stuff goes out.’”


When you file paper or electronic documents away, be sure that your filing system is also a finding system. You’ll want to label files in a manner that is consistent and logical, so you or anyone else can find them easily.


Don’t become overwhelmed by the clutter in your life. Instead, plan to organize small sections of your home at a time. During your weekly and daily planning sessions, determine which area you will focus on and when you’ll be able to do it.


When mail comes in, process it immediately: File, Act, or Toss. One way to file paperwork is to scan it and store a digital file. When your children bring their artwork and other papers home from school, establish a place where they can display it for a while, and then teach them the importance of filing their own paperwork. Help them understand the value of the wastepaper basket. When your financial statements arrive in the mail, take time to balance them against your online records and determine what you need to keep and what you can shred.


The first step in the Productivity Pyramid is to establish your values. Your values determine who you are and who you’d like to be. As you are creating your own productive environment, make sure that the things you keep and store are items that support your governing values. Plan to clean and sort your clutter regularly. Schedule it in your planner at least monthly, so that it never becomes overwhelming.


Studies show that people only use about 20% of the things they store, which means we can all find more ways to clear the clutter in our lives—from paperwork to toys. As you go through the clutter in your home or office, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you really going to use that rose-shaped candle your great-aunt gave you as a wedding gift? Keep only what you need and donate the rest. The relief that will come into your life when you’ve eliminated the clutter will change you. You’ll feel lighter and more capable of working toward that next big goal.

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