Anatomy of Clutter

It’s always curious to me how and why clutter accumulates. I’m envious of those people who seem to keep their surfaces clean and free of clutter effortlessly. I can attain this standard for short bursts of time, but it requires huge efforts and constant vigilance on my part. Otherwise the piles grow until I reach a tipping point.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been attacking the accumulations of clutter and stagnant build up. The neglected piles of paper that need to be dealt with, tossed, filed, or scanned and then tossed. Random collections of stuff that I seem to gather in bags and pockets as part of my day-to-day living. Things stashed in a corner somewhere to be tackled when I have more time or more energy. Or that have to wait for something else to happen before I can take action.

When I go on one of these binges, I have a few strategies that help keep me motivated and get me over the hump.

Firstly, I’m always curious to learn more about my habits and assess why build up seems to be happening in a certain place (see Clearing Out Clutter) or with a particular type of stuff. I like to observe, without judgement or criticizing myself, as a way to understand more about the root causes of the problems so I can figure out better systems. (Read Diagnosing Bad Habits to learn more.)

Secondly, I’m always striving to increase my efficiency, especially with tasks that I don’t enjoy doing like going through piles of papers. If I can figure out how to deal with something fully the first time I touch it, that’s a big accomplishment and ultimately helps in reducing the clutter build up.

For example, paper receipts are always part of the landscape. This indicates to me that I need a better system for processing receipts quickly. I need to have set criteria about which ones to save and for how long. I also need a place to save them that is easily accessible. Once I have the guidelines established and a system for managing the receipts, I can process them faster. Now, when I go through my daily collection of receipts, I have a quick method for processing them.

For more strategies and tips, check out posts on Spring Cleaning, Productivity, or Deletion (electronic build up).

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