Out of Clutter, Find Simplicity
Out of Clutter, Find Simplicity
© 2000 by Kathy Paauw, OrgCoach.net
Albert Einstein once said, "Out of clutter, find
simplicity." This article will help you simplify your own life
by helping you to eliminate some unwanted clutter.
Clutter: Anything you own, possess, or do that does not
enhance your life on a regular basis.
If you accept my definition of clutter, then you acknowledge
that clutter goes far beyond your physical environment.
Clutter can be activities, or even people, in your present
life -- something to think about! The statistics below refer
to physical clutter, although you could probably come up
with some pretty startling statistics if you were to broaden
this definition beyond your environment.
1. Clutter costs us time, which is priceless, because it can
never be replaced.
* 80 percent of papers that are filed are never referenced
* According to the American Demographic Society, Americans
waste more than nine million hours each day looking for lost
and misplaced articles.
* Office World News reported that the average executive
wastes 150 hours per year looking for lost and misplaced
2. Clutter costs us energy. It makes our jobs harder.
* Getting rid of excess clutter eliminates 40 percent of the
housework in an average home.
* 80 percent of the clutter in most homes is a result of
disorganization, not lack of space.
3. Clutter costs us financially. Not only do we pay for the
initial purchase, but also for the upkeep and maintenance.
* Before looking for more storage space, clear out the items
you no longer need or use. Recycle them or donate them to a
* Make the most of the space you have available. Evaluate
your need for better storage containers and organizing
* An Ernst & Young study revealed that it costs $2,100
year to maintain a filing cabinet. An average of three
percent of documents are lost or misfiled, and have to be
recovered at an alarming cost of $120 per document.
4. Clutter costs us peace of mind. It's hard to relax when
we are on sensory overload with piles of magazines we've
been meaning to read, etc.
* Evaluate the number of subscriptions (magazines, journals,
newspapers) you have mailed to your home or office. Can you
realistically read them all? If not, reduce your guilt and
cancel them! You can purchase specific issues of interest
from the newsstand or go to the public library.
* We gain peace of mind knowing that we will be able to find
what we need when we need it.
The following clutter categories made me chuckle -- and nod
my head a few times. They are taken from "The Organization
Map" by Pam McClellan. Although this book is no longer in
print, you may be able to find it in your local library. It
has some excellent tips for home organization and clutter
==> Categorize Your Clutter
Born Clutter: Anything that was born to take up space and
collect dust (souvenirs).
"I'm taking it with me" Clutter: Anything that has
purpose and no longer works for you (unidentified keys,
clothes that don't fit).
Impostor Clutter: Clutter posing as a bargain (garage sale
Heirloom Clutter: Some clutter is inherited (Grandpa's old
Bestowed Clutter: Some clutter is given to us as a gift.
Rabbit Clutter: Collections and collectibles that multiply
Masquerade Clutter: Clutter masquerading as good stuff --
unused kitchen appliances, musical instruments you never
play (things in good condition but never used).
Atmosphere Clutter: Pretending to be a decoration --
anything used to decorate that is overdone or requires too
much work to maintain.
Someday Clutter: Anything you aren't currently using, but
you intend to fix, finish, or get to someday.
Bob Hope Clutter: "Thanks for the Memories" clutter
emotionally tied to (love letters, high school memorabilia).
Snob Clutter: Crystal candy dishes, silver platters (things
that collect dust or get in your way -- usually expensive
things meant to impress someone).
Now that you've identified your clutter, GET RID OF IT!
Learning to eliminate clutter at its source deals with the
problem at the root level, before it gets out of hand. Here
are some suggestions to help you de-clutter your life:
* Go through your mail when you receive it and throw away
whatever you can -- before it becomes a pile on your desk or
part of a junk drawer.
* Rather than creating a "to do" pile of papers that
unrelated to each other, create an action or tickler file
for anything you cannot act on immediately. For more
information about how to set this up, see my article on how
to Trim the FAT at http://www.orgcoach.net According to
veteran organizer Barbara Hemphill, there are three things
you can do with paper: File, Act, Toss.
NOTE: The number one reason I have found that people "pile"
is because they are afraid they will never find it again if
they file it away, or they are afraid they will forget to
act on it. For a solution to this problem, see my Web page
on "Find Anything in 5 Seconds or Less."
* Ask yourself what activities and people are most important
to you. Look at incoming mail with this in mind. Remember
that when you say "yes" to someone or something, you are
saying "no" to someone or something else. As you decide
whether or not to act on something or file it away for
future reference, be mindful of the "Someday Clutter" --
something you might get to someday. Does this fit within
what is most important to you?
Teaching yourself to eliminate clutter is an important life
skill to develop, especially in the information age we live
in today. Many of us are in the habit of saving magazines,
books, catalogs, old records and documents, even though they
are outdated. We keep many things around because we're
afraid we just might need them someday. Papers become
obsolete so quickly, and we have the benefit of the World
Wide Web to search for the most up-to-date information on
any subject we can imagine (and some we haven't even
imagined yet!). So use the Web to your advantage and free
yourself from clutter and piles. A set of questions I ask
myself before throwing something away:
* What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I
threw this away today and discovered I needed it in the
* Could I replace it?
* Would it be obsolete by the time I might need it?
Creating space makes you feel better physically and
emotionally. If you don't believe me, stop right now and
look around you. Is there an area that needs to be de-
cluttered? How long have you been meaning to clean it up?
Notice what happens to you physically and mentally when you
focus on that space. If you're like most people, you've
probably been meaning to get to that clutter for awhile and
the combination of negative self-talk and visual mess zaps
your energy. When you finally get around to cleaning it up,
you'll feel much more energized and motivated.
Kathy Paauw, President of Paauwerfully Organized,
specializes in helping busy executives, professionals, and
entrepreneurs declutter their schedules, spaces and minds.
She is a certified business/personal coach and professional
organizer. Contact her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
her website at http://www.orgcoach.net and learn how you can
Find ANYTHING in 5 Seconds -- Guaranteed!