Here I share my personal experiences with clearing all sorts of clutter, along with some nifty tips that have made the process easier and more joyful. I hope you find some of this information useful and that it helps you create the life you most desire to live. How does it get any better than this?
The Scene: Last week, I reached the tipping point. The clutter on my desk had to go. There simply wasn’t enough room on the desk for my stuff and me. Since I had been avoiding this for months, well, years actually – I wasn’t sure how to start. However, I can be pretty tenacious, and impulsive and this worked to my advantage this day, along with some excellent coaching. Tip: Bounce ideas off a friend, or partner or elicit help from a professional coach to inspire you and hold you accountable to accomplishing your goal.
Step 1: Honest Overview. Hmmm, where to start… I looked at the stuff on my desk, especially the piles of papers and how they were held there by expectations, rules, shoulds, have-tos, musts, what ifs, etc. Aside from the file-able items, I knew there was a lot of stuff that was begging to be read, shared or recycled. These things ended up in the piles when I didn’t have the energy to deal with it or more often, when I didn’t know what to do with it. And guess what, it didn’t go away with neglect; it sat there patiently waiting for a decision from me! Tip: Take some time to look at your clutter without judgment and appreciate why you created it. Be curious and let ideas flow about what will work for you from this point forward. What’s a positive way you can view this?
Step 2: Let the Games Begin! To avoid instant overwhelm, I picked one small area and started to go through it one item at a time, choosing to put each item in only one of six piles: recycle, file, shred, donate, trash or decide later. I know, I know, a “decide later” pile is a potential future desk pile, but I had a plan (more on this later). I then moved across my desk with the same plan, one stack at a time, taking breaks for water, fresh air and a stretch. Tips: Start small. Be clear about what you need to keep. Acknowledge that a lot of the material you have collected can be found elsewhere when you really need it – libraries, Internet, used bookstores, etc. Take small breaks when you feel tired, overwhelmed or confused.
Step 3 – Startus Interruptus! Enter the creative mind, a bit of organizational boredom and the desire to make this more fun. I decided that 2/3 of the way through my desk piles was the perfect time to clear out my packed file cabinet drawer to make room for the growing “file” pile and to inspire me to keep moving. This was a very worthwhile diversion, resulting in a 6” stack of recyclables and a 4” stack of shred-ables. Man, was I excited! Tip: Listen to and follow your intuition, your gut, your sixth sense.
Step 4 – Vanquish the Sirens! I looked at the 4 file trays, stacked proudly on one another, forming a sturdy edifice, seemingly capable of accepting Atlas’ worldly paper loads. You see, these trays call to me. I see them on other people’s desks and think, “Someday, I’ll be efficient and organized like them.” They soothe me with images of papers neatly assembled into the perfect categories. However, I’ve run with this fantasy for 20+ years and I wasn’t successful by their standards or mine! I knew it was time to confront and vanquish my File Tray Siren Song oppressor and find my harmonious system. So, I boldly emptied my stacking file trays (placing items in the appropriate pile) and put the trays in the donate box. Success! I then finished the remaining desk piles off. Tip: Be resolute and fearless with your decisions, following what you know is right. If you aren’t sure, trust in yourself and pick what feels right. You can always change your mind later.
Step 5 – Assess Thy Progress! After about 2 hours of this workout, I had the desktop cleared. What a relief! Tip: Take time to acknowledge and celebrate how far you have come.
Step 6 – Regroup! I looked at the piles on the floor and got weak in the knees! After a couple of deep breaths and a firm resolve, I tossed the trash, tidied the shred pile to bring to an offsite shredder, dumped the recycling in our city recycle bin and moved the donate pile to my car. I then combined the file and decide later piles into a storage box (oh my, is this another way to pile?!?) and add the other odds and ends I was not able to deal with at that time. Ah!!!! Instant relief… though I feel a pang of regret that I didn’t have time to finish with the stuff in the box, and a tinge of fear that I may not resolve these items for many moons. But alas, I have myself and great coaching to hold me accountable. Tips: Periodically get rid of trash, recycling, donations, etc to clear the space so you can see your progress. Also, be honest with yourself about your goal and how much time you have available. Take it in steps and be firm in your resolve to continue. Hold yourself accountable and stay motivated by seeing yourself at your goal and feeling how wonderful it is to be there. Celebrate your progress by sharing with friends, family, coach, etc.
Step 7 – Clean and Assemble! I wiped down the desk and shelves, the computer, keyboard, mouse, tape dispenser, phone, business cards, a couple of photos, and the few random temporarily homeless items and set them all up on my new workspace. I now have the space to breathe, think, and be! Tips: When your space is clear, clean it well, recognizing how close you are to your goal. Take it one step at a time and celebrate each step. If you can’t finish a particular step, make a note of your plan to continue and when you plan to follow through.
I would love to hear what has worked for you and what hasn’t, as well as any unique tools or approaches you have used to remove clutter from your life. Please share your comments in the section below.