Photo credit: oneonethreefour (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Is clutter taking over your life?

Maybe it is and you don’t even realize it. As a personal productivity coach I work with clients helping them organize their lives to work more efficiently and achieve more of what they want from life.

On one occasion I was working with a business owner who was experiencing a lot of stress and feeling very overwhelmed. We started by clearing her office of clutter. While we sifted through the mountains of paperwork and the many notebooks on her desk, she found a check for 1,800 euro that she had forgotten to cash. Her life was so disorganized and out of control that she did not miss that check.

If you can relate to my client and have had a similar experience, it may be time to take back the control. Clearing the clutter can be a clever place to start.

1. Start small

Just like creating new habits the trick is to start small. Don’t try to tackle too much all at once; it usually ends in frustration, dissatisfaction and ultimate abandon. Choose a small area or one drawer to get started and schedule time to complete the task. It usually works better to schedule time rather than have a physical plan because often the de-cluttering takes longer than expected. If you spend hours trying to de-clutter a space to not achieve it can turn the expedition into a negative experience.

2. Make sure everything has a place

One of the reasons we allow clutter to accumulate is because we don’t know where to put it. We move things around from surface to surface not quite knowing what to do with them. Create a place for everything and if necessary go out and buy more storage containers. But be careful, the more storage containers you have the more you will fill.

3. One in two out

You have probably heard of this tactic before. Every time you buy something new, throw out or give away two things, this will ensure the quantity of items you own decreases over time rather than the gradual creep of belongings. It also prevents you from buying unnecessary things as you know you will have to throw out some possessions when you get home.

4. Become a charity King or Queen

Know that every time you donate clothes, books or toys to a charity shop you are helping people. Rather than let things clutter up your drawers they could be doing good in the world. Separating yourself from your belongings becomes easier if you are doing it for a purpose.

5. Remember objects don’t define the person

For years I kept a snowboard in the corner of my sitting room as it represented the person I wanted to be — bold and carefree. I live in a country that doesn’t have mountains with snow. I wasn’t very good at the sport and at best I could go snowboarding once a year. Sounds ridiculous when you look at it objectively, but for me it represented a part of my life I didn’t want to let go of. Selling my snowboarding gear was a liberating experience. I felt the moment I let it go out the door I matured. I am who I am and don’t need an object to express my personality.

6. Create rituals to prevent clutter creep

If you manage to de-clutter and get things under control, how are you going to prevent the clutter from coming back into your life?

Create rituals. Do the washing up straight after dinner, get the children to tidy their toys before bed, tidy up time comes before lunch every day. By creating rituals for certain events they become so much a part of your everyday life they don’t feel like a hassle. These little rituals just like brushing your teeth before bed become semi-automated and help to keep your life under control.

7. Music and celebration

Turn on your favorite music and get started. Music can uplift and inspire, it can turn the most mundane task into something enjoyable. When you have finished acknowledge your achievements and reward yourself, something you should do with all areas of your life. Great things deserve recognition and celebration. Treat yourself and admire your hard work.

If you have any more de-clutter tips I would love to hear them

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