The Principle of Stuff-Flow

The Principle of Stuff-flow

If you are disorganized, I am sure that you realize that you have clutter. It may be in one or more areas of your home or office. To get organized and stay organized, you need to become fully aware of your stuff-flow™. Now is the perfect time to develop your clutter radar.

The principle of stuff-flow™ is critical to managing the items that accumulate in any space. Despite the fact that we would like to believe that things enter a space by themselves-you bring it in or someone else brings it in. This stuff originates from a variety of sources, including:

  • Intentional purchase from a store
  • Gift-holiday or otherwise

    Photo by Minding Your Matters.

  • Freebie picked up somewhere
  • Unplanned purchase from a store
  • Papers, projects, etc.-started in another location and sometimes unfinished

Some of this stuff has a particular purpose for a specific time. This stuff may get turned into another article or it may eventually depart from the space. Other items are consumable so in theory they should only be in the space for a limited amount of time and then they will permanently leave the space. A few items are permanent residents of a space until the owner dies. While these three categories of objects cause clutter, it is the remaining category that is the most problematic. This is the stuff that gets “caught” in limbo and seems to accumulate to enormous proportions.

Let’s take a trip to a department store (or home improvement, office supply, or any other store that is arranged in departments) to gain a practical understanding of how our thinking about our stuff needs to change. A department store gets a shipment of stuff — clothing, jewelry, housewares, make-up, etc. These articles are placed in the correct departments (men’s, women’s, housewares) and then into sub-departments (formal clothing, casual clothing, lingerie) throughout the store. It is often organized by type of clothing and then size.

Shipments come in on a regular basis — every few days, once a week, every other week, etc. Sometimes the employees may know exactly what is included in the shipment and sometimes the contents are a surprise. The employees are responsible for finding “homes” for the new articles. This might include rearranging a space, maximizing a space, putting current items on sale to make them sell faster, or some other method for making room for the new stuff. At some point, there isn’t enough room for the new things and so some of the old items have to leave. This might occur when there is a new season, a new model, or a brand-new product. Regardless, there comes a time when there is no more space and some of the stuff has to leave. This is stuff-flow™: stuff comes, stuff resides for awhile, and stuff departs.

But that is what happens in a store with its rules, processes, and expectations. In “real life” our stuff often gets stuck “in the store.” Why does this happen? One reason is because we don’t have a good process for ensuring that stuff leaves our space on a regular basis. Another reason is that we have difficulty giving ourselves permission to part with our stuff. It may be an item that was a gift, but even if we don’t really like it or use it; we feel that we must keep it. It may be that we don’t think that anyone else will “love” the object the way we have. It may be that we are afraid that “life as we know it” won’t continue unless we have access to this item “just in case” we might need it. Or there may be any number of other reasons why stuff doesn’t leave a space.

Now that you have developed some clutter awareness, let’s create an action plan to help increase stuff-flow™:

  • Do not bring any item into a space unless it has a department where it can be located. The minute you bring in stuff that doesn’t have a department, it becomes clutter!
  • Implement the one in-one out principle. Every time you bring in a new item, remove an item of similar type and value. You can donate, dispose, or sell the item as long as it leaves the space.

Time to implement the stuff-flow™ principle in your home and office space!