6 Steps for Decluttering at Work and Home

It arose one morning from the bowels of my desk, a formless mass that spread and covered itself over anything I was looking for. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I am Clutter”, the mass answered, “and I am here to confound your life. I am the things you refuse to throw out though you haven’t used them in six years, the miscellaneous papers, phone numbers, business cards, and stuff you accumulate and don’t put away. I am the inevitable manifestation of your sloppiness. I am Clutter.”

I grabbed Clutter and moved it from one end of the desk to the other. Clutter chortled. “That’s my favorite pastime. Moving from one end of the desk to the other”. “What do you want?” I asked.

“To frustrate you. I will resist all attempts to remove me, reduce me, or otherwise eliminate me. It’s my purpose to hide whatever important piece of paper you need, whichever phone number you must call.”

“I’m throwing you out”, I stormed. Clutter shook his untidy mass sadly, as in pity.

“Not without looking through me to see if there’s anything you really need”, Clutter answered. “The odds are slim, but you won’t take that chance. And while you’re sorting through me, I’ll reform in another pile”.

“But you’ll be smaller, more manageable”.

“Not really. You’ll decide to keep 90% of me, as you always do. And soon, new papers, numbers, documents will gather, making me more obstructive than ever”.

“You won’t ruin my life, Clutter! I’ll start a filing system! Put bits of you where you belong.” Clutter gazed at me contemptuously.

“The last time you tried that, you created my cousins, Chaos, and Disorder. It’ll never work.”

Clutter had me and I knew it. Attempts in the past to file things alphabetically had only created 26 piles of the mess instead of one. I was desperate, so I decided to bluff. “I’ll take a time management course”, I threatened.

Clutter quite rightly ignored my remark. I wasn’t dealing with an idiot, after all. “Then I’ll buy a computer and store you there!”

“And within a month your computer filing system will be in total disarray, plus you’ll have another pile of papers waiting to be entered into the computer. Face it, you can’t win.”

Exasperated, I ran to the closet. “I’m getting some air.”

Clutter had been to the closet before me. Shoes were scattered, shirts were unhung, clumps of pants and underwear lay strewn next to towels and a lawn chair. Socks congealed in small piles, looking like the waste product of some nylon-eating monster.

“Clutter”, I yelled. “You have crippled my productivity for the last time. No longer will I be late, no more will I miss appointments, never again shall I be overwhelmed by your size and withdraw into reading old magazines. I am going out to the store to buy a paper shredder!”

I looked around for a long moment. “Now where did I leave my keys?”  Clutter burped.

The story above is amusing, yet conjures images of disarray, mess, confusion and overall frustration. Clutter at work can inhibit productivity, reduce positive vibes and decrease the motivation to make the best of the day ahead.

  1. Excessive clutter at work or home can lead to increased anxiety, stress, and even depression. Clutter can weigh us down physically and emotionally. Taking a few minutes each day or week to sort through papers, files or other odds and ends, can lead to better productivity at work and less stress during the day.
  2. Clutter creates an inability to focus or to process information. Too much noise, too much stuff, too much clutter can lead to an increased lack of attention and distraction of thoughts or ideas. Maintain a clutter-free workplace so ideas can flow freely. Keep procrastination at arm’s length by putting clutter in its respective place: trashcan, file cabinet, the recycling bin.
  3. It is difficult to find energy for new tasks at hand when clutter persists. It is hard to notice a breath of fresh air or the emergence of a new idea when clutter weighs down the mind. Work against letting things pile up. Make it a habit of attacking some part of clutter each day. In a very short time, your desk and workspace will be ready for fresh starting places for new and bright ideas.
  4. Let’s not forget digital clutter. Social media, computer screens, too many emails and cell phones attached to our every waking moment. Learn to unplug the digital clutter. Turn it off. Put it down. Sort through it. Make space for breathable moments.
  5. Spending money, buying more than what we need in order to “fill the spaces at home or in the office” can lead to excess. A minimalist approach will many times offer more options than an overloaded, cluttered approach. Look around. Where can you reduce the clutter? Where can you minimize?
  6. Take time for that break. That moment of fresh air. Unclutter your mind each day at work. Avoid gossip. Avoid the drama. On a lunch break take a few minutes to listen to some music, gaze out the window, close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Then, make the best of the rest of your work day.

Don’t forget that KeySolutions EAP is here to help with personal stress or workplace issues. We are also able to help with a variety of mental health concerns. Now More Than Ever! Give us a call at 605-334-5850 or 1-888-450-7844.       

Article by Beth Hall, MSW, ACT, EAP Counselor–KeySolutions

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