/*from pinterest*/
Defeating Clutter – Part 2

Defeating Clutter – Part 2

Two weeks ago, I decided to clear my office by devoting 15 minutes at the end of a writing session to declutter.

I’ve learned something since then: It’s easy to put away Things, but not so easy to put away Paper. It’s the Paper that is the Problem. The piles and piles and files and files of paper.

It makes me never want to write on a piece of paper again. But I know I will so I need to learn to deal with the Paper Dragon.

When I pick up a piece of paper, hold it in my hands, and try to decide where to put it, one of these things happens:

  • I start reading it and thinking about it, or
  • I start to make a file for it, or
  • I start to DO what is on the paper (email, phone, buy), or
  • I hesitate, decide to think about it later, and basically decide not to decide.

My sister, one of the Ever Organized People, told me about her method.

Step 1: Pre-sort

The idea is to pick up a piece of paper and place it into one of four categories. Do not ACT on the paper, simply place it in a category. The categories are:

  • File – if it goes to an existing file, or needs a file made.
  • Act – if it requires phoning, emailing, buying, some kind of acting upon.
  • Put away – if it’s a large item like a book that needs to return to a bookshelf, or pad of paper that needs to go where loose paper is kept. (You may need to create that space, but not yet. For now, it simply goes in this pile.)
  • Toss – what a lovely pile this is!

Step 2: Get rid of the obvious stuff

The Toss category goes in the trash. Put the books back, put the clothes and dishes back. Throw out the old magazines. Group like items – the emailing, the phoning, the buy list.

Step 3: Decide

Now we need to deal with all those loose papers that need filing. Or do they really belong in the Toss category? This is the bottleneck, the time where we procrastinate. It helps to have a friend at this point.

Pick up the top piece of paper, and make a decision.

Can’t decide? Have your friend ask these questions. Ask them rapidly. Get some momentum going.

  • Will I ever actually need this?
  • Did I even remember that I had it?
  • If I did need it, where would I look for it?
  • If I did need it, could I find it faster on the internet, and thereby let someone else worry about storing it?

Decide, then write what the action will be on the paper (or a stick-it note). Possible actions could be file in an existing file, create a new file, read, give to someone else, put in a scrapbook, donate, whatever. Don’t do it, simply write it down and put it in the pile of like actions. And go on to the next piece of paper.

Your friend rapidly picks up the next piece of paper. You decide. If you’re slow to decide your friend starts asking The Questions. Sometimes you can’t come up with a good reason to do anything with that piece of paper and you decide to put it in the Toss category. The faster your friend puts each new piece of paper in your hands, the quicker becomes your decision making. You may find that you are often deciding on the Toss category. And that is probably going to be a refreshing feeling.

unruly paper stack from bigstockphotos.com #3476524

Defeating Clutter – Part 1

Defeating Clutter – Part 1

I know I would work much better without the Clutter in my office, but I keep putting one more thing in here “just for now” and I feel like the fish in The Cat in the Hat.

And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all!

(thank you Dr. Seuss)

And now . . . my latest attempt to attack the clutter.

This week’s trick is The Timer.

As a concrete step for this new habit, I have placed my timer under my monitor where I can see it.
On the timer, there is a yellow stick-it note that says “15 min” in orange fluorescent ink.

After I have finished writing for the day, I will close down my files, reach for the timer, set it for 15 minutes and use that time to put things away.

Yesterday was my first day with establishing this habit and here is what happened:

  • I set the timer for 15 minutes.
  • I picked up the American Express bill off the floor.
  • I decided to file it, so then I needed to make a label for the file.
  • I found the Label Maker, which was flashing the Low Battery Signal.
  • I opened the back of the Label Maker and discovered that the batteries were last changed in April 2010. I know this because that’s what the stick-it note on the batteries said. (My hubby, the Ever Organized, wrote it.)
  • So, I found new batteries, and then I had to find a stick-it note to say when they were last changed. Because, you never know, the Low Battery signal might flash and it might be for some other reason.
  • But I was out of stick-it notes. (They’re all over the edges of my monitor.)
  • I found the box of stick-it notes. It was under my Kindle, which I noticed needed charging, so I plugged it in.

OK. New batteries. Labeled with a stick-it note. I made the label. Stuck it on the file and filed the American Express bill. Now when the next one comes, I will quickly stick it in the file until it’s time to worry about itemizing these things.

I still had time left, so I cleared off one shelf of the bookshelf and wiped down the dust. Then the timer went. I left the books on the floor and had lunch.

I think it’s important to not overdo a new habit. Do the 15 minutes and then quit for the day.

Have you ever tried the Timer Approach? Does 15 minutes seem like a reasonable amount of time? How would you like to commit to 15 minutes/day for at least 4 days this week, and then report back next Tuesday?

The Cat in the Hat from Dr. Seuss
Timer from istockphoto.com #000009443672