To combat the clutter, you must first identify the source of your clutter. Categories of outside clutter include homeless items, limitations of space or skill set, and societal, social, cultural, or situational influences. So you ask, “What are the items creating the clutter? What is their source?”
Then, you can take steps to eliminate or reduce clutter. These steps may include employing components of the Flexible Structure Method™, such as setting real boundaries, developing meaningful habits or making smart choices.
But it might be as simple as tweaking the system.
In Your Office – You were shoved into a cubicle and have piles of papers, books, office supplies and files along with non-tangible clutter such as an overstuffed calendar, a full voicemail box and a lengthy to-do list. You could Manage Outside Clutter by:
1) Finding homes for the items. This may require some extra time. Make an appointment with yourself once a week to come in 15 minutes early or stay 15 minutes late. During one session, decide where office supplies should live permanently and put them away.
2) Centralizing supplies. Are some of those papers and books items other people in the office use? Is there a central location where shared files are kept? If so, ease your burden by putting those items in that location. If not, use your self-meeting time to organize these articles.
3) Creating homes for tasks and to-dos. Action files, calendars, a specific to-do list and a contact list/address book can all work as homes for non-tangible items without a home.
4) Setting aside time to clean out your voicemail box. Delete messages as you go. You can do this because 1) You’ve schedule time on your calendar to return those phone calls and 2) You will also record names and numbers in your contact list or address book as you go for future reference.
In Your Home – You have tons of mail coming in each day. When you walk in, you toss the pile on the table and assume you’ll get to it later. But “later” only happens when you’re paying bills, and by then there are several piles around the house, often covered by other things. When you dig through the piles, you often you find bills past their due date. You could Manage Outside Clutter by:
1) Reducing the amount of mail coming in by putting a stop to junk mail and credit card offers
2) Decreasing the amount of mail by switching to online bill pay
3) Developing a meaningful habit by putting the mail pile in the same place each day, so at least you know where to find it
4) Developing a meaningful habit by sorting through the mail each day/week at a particular time
5) Setting a boundary for the mail, such as a basket or tray. When that is full, you must sort through the items.
6) Making smart choices by doing a fast sort on the mail as you bring it in, tossing out the junk immediately.
In Your Calendar – Between work projects, keeping up the house, volunteering at your place of worship, trying to maintain relationships with your friends and/or spouse and tracking your children’s activities, you’ve got plenty to do!
You could Manage Outside Clutter by:
1) Delegating. Some of those home tasks are regular chores that can be assigned to other family members. Consider hiring someone to help with the lawn or cleaning each week.
2) Considering. Which projects are you undertaking that you enjoy doing? Which ones do you dread? Consider removing the dreaded projects. Un-volunteer after your term is up, delegate some of the work to someone else and find other ways to cut back. Life is short. Be sure you’re spending your time how you want and need to, not where you feel you should.
3) Thinking. It’s tempting to fill up all that white space on your calendar, but stop each time you’re about to schedule a commitment on Thursday night. If you have items on every other weeknight, think about whether you can push that back. Don’t you want just a relaxing evening at home at least once a week?
4) Making appointments for you. Whether it’s scheduling a date with your significant other or making sure you’re home Sunday evenings to watch your favorite show, it’s always good to make room for “you” time.
5) Teaching your children to write activities down ahead of time on a family master calendar so you know what they’re doing and when they need a ride.
Learn more about conquering outside clutter here, or by watching Janice below.