I read today that the third week of March is officially deemed "Clutter
Awareness Week." I have no idea who names these observances, nor how
the public is informed of these illustrious events. Most of my clients
suffer from clutter, and no matter how aware they become of it, they
still don't know what to do about it.
In homes and offices, you know how to recognize clutter. It comes in
the form of nomadic hair clips on the kitchen counter, mysterious socks
on the desk, accumulating outdated coupons, or multiplying ghastly gifts
you've been given but feel guilty tossing. Clutter, as I define it, is
an assortment of "unknowns." These "unknowns" are undefined because
they either a) have no "home", b) are incomplete tasks, or c) require a
The reasons why people have difficulty clearing clutter are the very
reasons the items have become clutter in the first place! Clutter
collectors may have never defined "homes" for the items to live, or are
dodging the discipline of returning items to their appropriate homes.
Sometimes, paper or items must be assembled from different locations to
complete a project (like tax documents or scattered craft supplies). Other
times, physical clutter and paper clutter develops because of
procrastination. We tend to put off unsavory tasks, or those that force us to
render a decision. Quite simply, if we don't know what to do with
something, we often just set it aside.
From time to time, the clutter bug must pay the piper for the nasty
little clutter habit. Usually, this comes in the form of missed deadlines
from that mounting paper pile or fruitless searching for an item of
value amidst the sea of creeping clutter. At this time, the clutter bug
has reached what I call "the point of pain." A decision to face the
"unknowns" is made. It would be more painful, the collector determines, to
stay buried in clutter, than to dig out from the chaos. After reaching
the "point of pain," I've seen many clients tackle their clutter
The first step is to define a "home" for every type of item within the
household. Once we know that all hair products live in bathrooms, we
must devise a system for returning nomadic hair clips and sprays and
combs to those locations. Once we've determined that all sports equipment
will live in the garage, we must commit to steering all such equipment
in that direction. Paper tends to morph throughout the house, so we
settle on one or two processing areas for different kinds of paper, usually
a receiving area, and a final destination. To assign a home to every
item in the home is not as overwhelming as it seems. Determining what
kinds of activities should happen in each room can aid in this process,
because the items that serve those activities will automatically be
assigned a nearby location. Then, the process of deduction and common sense
can be used to resolve the remaining "unknown" items without homes.
This is where many clients find the expert help of Restoring Order® !
to be an invaluable service.
The second step is to list the projects or tasks that are represented
by the creeping clutter and schedule them. If craft and hobby supplies
keep popping up in a clutter pile, it is reasonable to conclude that
either they don't have a home, they are not being returned to their proper
home, or they are not being used. Perhaps it is time to retire that
craft, or schedule a time to work on it. If advertisements are
consistently laying around the house, they may be representing our good intentions
to redeem a coupon, attend a sale, or purchase an item. Whatever the
case, we should schedule that task, or let ourselves off the hook in the
The last, and most challenging step, is to make a decision about the
individual items we find forming our clutter. This is a psychological
obstacle for some. Letting go may mean staring down our guilt about not
having used a gift we were given, or a size that no longer fits. Giving
ourselves permission to clear out that which is no longer important
makes room in our life for what IS important to us --- family time! And
that is what organizing is all about.
Vicki Norris is a dynamic entrepreneur, speaker, television
personality, and author who helps people live out their priorities. The founder
and president of Restoring Order®, an organizing services and products
company, Norris teaches others how to identify priorities and create
sustainable change in personal organizational habits. Visit her web site at
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