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Cut Your Clutter Calories!

Cut Your Clutter Calories!
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    As Professional Organizers, we talk often with our clients about how getting organized is a lot like losing weight, since they both require a program of prevention, reduction, and maintenance. Preventing clutter from being created is the first step toward reducing your organizational “weight gain.” Here are a few tips to help you cut those clutter calories:

    Control your “clutter cravings.”
    People often seem to have an appetite for purchasing certain things, but just like food cravings, you really can overcome your urge to collect. Get comfortable with the concept of “enough.” Avoid the places that encourage your particular collecting behavior, and if you must go, have a targeted approach to something you’ve planned ahead to buy. You may even need to bring a friend to “talk you down.” Here are some examples of places that are the clutter-calorie equivalent of going to Krispy Kreme:

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    • Garage sales
    • Flea markets
    • Souvenir shops
    • Discount stores
    • Used bookstores
    • Shoe stores

    Deal with things as they come.
    Mail, dishes, and laundry are continuous sources of clutter. You can probably think of a few more examples of “continuous clutter” yourself. These processes are not going to stop, and accepting that is the first step in dealing with the problem. To battle clutter, you must have systems and routines for dealing with it, usually on a daily basis.

    Stop extra postal mail, unsolicited phone calls, and junk e-mails.
    Junk communications are clutter too, and they cost you time and energy. Do not provide your personal contact information without asking yourself if it’s really necessary, and always be clear on the privacy policies of the company that is receiving this information. When telemarketers call, have a response ready to end the call quickly, and always make sure you ask to be removed from their list.

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    Plan before you buy.
    People create a lot of clutter by simply buying the wrong thing and not returning it. Take measurements, bring color swatches, and know sizes and quantities before you go out. Also, make a list of exactly what you need before you shop. Planning your purchases will help you save money, too!

    Think before you buy.
    When you are about to buy something impulsively, ask yourself these crucial purchasing questions:

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    • Who can I borrow this from or share this with?
    • What do I already have that is like this item?
    • Where will I store this item?
    • When will I have time to use it and maintain it?
    • Why do I need this item?

    Don’t always accept freebies.
    What a nifty glow-in-the-dark golf visor! But after the novelty wears off, what is going to happen to it? Don’t take home everything you are offered from a party, a trade show or a conference, and don’t bring home hotel soaps, samples, or other things you won’t use.

    Ask for the gifts you want.
    It doesn’t always come up, but if it does, be ready to tell people some great gift ideas for you. Otherwise you risk getting things you don’t want and won’t use, which means clutter! Try MyRegistry.com to make a universal wish list for yourself for every occasion.

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    Like dieters always say, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Preventing the clutter from entering your home in the first place means that you’ll have less of it to “work off” later!

    Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their home by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something useful, funny, interesting, and/or insanely practical every few days or so in the Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

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