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Myth: Decluttering or getting organized takes a brief time.
Reality: A major decluttering effort takes a lot of hours – most likely days.

We don’t collect piles of mail, stacks of magazines, wads of receipts, a variety of files folder, heaps of papers, towers of reports, and other clutter in just a few days. In most spaces it is years of accumulation that pile up resulting in clutter that is unsightly, distracting, a hazard, an obstacle or guilt-generating. Thus, undoing the jumble will probably be more than a few hours.

Let’s dwell on the decluttering and organizing rather than rehash the downside of clutter. If your space is cluttered or if you are around others who are cluttered, you know the downside vividly.

Decluttering then organizing takes time because many decisions have to be made about what’s worth keeping and how to dispose of the things ‘going away’. The good news is that you will create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for maintaining a clutter-free and organized environment as you declutter in a mass effort. This SOP will help you maintain a streamlined handling habit for the long term.

Some of the time devoted to decluttering then organizing is rooted in handling most of the things in the room. Simply picking every item up and moving it to its appropriate place takes a lot of time when there are masses of stuff.

Prepare for your decluttering project by having:

  • A large trash can lined with a carpenter clean-up (ultra heavy) plastic bag
  • A box for all important papers to be kept then organized
  • Some paper grocery bags if there are lots of newspapers and magazines to recycle
  • A container near the door for items to keep and relocate somewhere else

Here are some guidelines to help you develop your own SOP toward decluttering.

  • Ask yourself “Is there is a tax or legal consequence tied to this paper?” If there is, deliver it to the person who handles that priority or store it somewhere out of your prime area.
  • Evaluate whether this helps you do your job now. [If it might or did in the past but not now, get rid of it.]
  • If you get rid of something, could you get it somewhere else if you needed to? For example, will the originator have a copy if you’re desperate to have it in the future?
  • Do you love this thing? If you do love it – not like it or have an appreciation for or know that it cost a lot, put it in the keep pile.
  • Ask yourself: “What is the worst that would happen if I get rid of this?

The process is:

  • Pick up a paper or item and ask yourself the questions above.
  • Things you decide to keep put in the bin for later organization into files, groups, and useful arrangements.
  • Put things that belong somewhere else in the container by the door for later distribution.
  • Keep moving, do not linger in the folders, examining the report, or reminiscing with notes received.
  • Decide quickly, move quickly, and move on quickly.
  • Keep only the most recent copy of journals, magazines, reports (remember, most of this stuff can be easily found online now).

Note: I have worked on some of the t.v. organizing shows (HGTV Mission: Organization), talked to others who have done episodes, participated in t.v. specials locally and can accurately report there is a large team of people or long time dedicated to making the transformations that take 30-60 minutes on the shows. Furthermore, often the homeowners are cleaning up, not creating SOPs that will allow them to handle stuff in a streamlined way resulting in a clutter-free space for the future.

Finally, organizing and decluttering is a continual action. Like eating healthfully to maintain your weight and exercising regularly to keep fitness, organizing is a part of every day. Every time you check your email, buy things, and receive paper mail you will benefit by keeping only what is vital.

Previous Myths:

Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at www.productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity and organizing programs such as ‘Preparing for the busy season’ at corporate events. .

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