Not getting on top of your clutter is like tying all of it to yourself and jumping overboard. It will hold you down, waste your time and money and keep you from reaching your dreams. You can’t swim. Heck, you can’t even float. All you do is sink deeper and deeper into the clutter.
Not only does physical clutter weigh a lot, it has a mental weight too. I know you know what that feels like. You walk in a room decorated with stuff you’ve piled here and there with the best of intentions. Now you are simply overwhelmed. You pick things up, put them down and leave the room. You don’t even know where to start to undo the mess you slowly built. That, my friends, is an example of mental clutter.
Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor—it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” ~Peter Walsh
January is the perfect time for a fresh start. It’s no wonder that getting organized is one of the top ten New Year’s resolutions each year. Being organized, or disorganized, affects every aspect of our lives. It’s impossible to improve productivity without looking at organization.
If you looked in the mirror this year and said “I’ve got to get organized,” then now is the time. I’m going to help you do just that by reminding you of the “clutter hot spots” that you should focus on and more importantly, why you should focus on them.
Declutter Your Closet
The Why: The old story about “You only make one first impression,” is totally false. You make a new impression every day. If you want to be successful and stay successful you have to look put together. You don’t have to spend a fortune but you do have to spend some time. Think of your closet as a business tool to help you succeed. The more it is organized, the faster you can pull together a great look that sells you.
The How: Set a goal for your closet to only contain wearable clothing. This means the clothes in your closet fit you properly, are cleaned, pressed, in good repair and you have something to wear them with.
- Sort your clothing into exercise, casual, business and dressy.
- As you sort, remove items that no longer fit, are out of style or not in good repair.
- If you are promising to lose (or gain) weight, then bundle the too-small clothing into some bags and put it in the attic. When that happens, you can go get it but in the meantime, you won’t be tempted to wear things that don’t look right on you.
- Return clothes to the closet and keep them in the categories your sorted them into.
- From your business clothing, mix and match to create five outfits for the coming week. Line them up in the closet so you are ready to go. Repeat weekly.
- If accessories stump you, add a plastic bag to each hanger and drop in your jewelry or drape a scarf over the hanger.
- Decide on a regular laundry routine so that mountains of dirty clothes don’t grow.
Declutter Your Kitchen
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” ~Unknown
The Why: It really is true that you are what you eat. If you want to have energy to do your best work and be productive, then you need the fuel to do that. If you think that you don’t have time to buy, cook and eat right, imagine how much time will be lost when you are sick or develop a serious illness that could have been prevented by taking care of yourself in the first place. Not only do you suffer physically but your finances get a boost when you stop the drive-thru, take-out, eat-out and vending machine habits.
The How: No one wants to be in a cluttered kitchen much less cook in one. Make it a space you want to be in. Then make a food plan that works for you and your lifestyle.
- Begin with the pantry and fridge. Sort and organize foods by putting like items together. Remove anything past the expiration date. Wipe shelves as you go.
- Clear off the counters. Only leave out home décor items and a few small appliances that you hope to use daily, like a coffee maker. Give the counters a good polish.
- Open cabinets and tidy the contents. If you find things you never use, toss them in a donation box. If it’s too much to do all at once, then do 2-3 drawers or cabinets a night so you are done by the end of the week.
- Make a meal plan. What kind of options work for your lifestyle for breakfast and lunches? Do you need grab and go options like Greek yogurt, protein bars and fresh fruit? Hope online and do a little research on great packable breakfast and lunches.
- Plan your dinners. Don’t wait until after work and your starving to make a plan. Sit down and figure out a week’s worth of meals. Shop for a week’s worth and have everything handy.
- Check out online grocery shopping. Many grocery chains have a service where you click and pick then swing by and pick up the already bagged groceries.
Organize Your Calendar
The Why: Start out the year on the right foot by getting a good picture of what is happening in your life. No matter if you use an electronic calendar app, your phone or a paper calendar, you need to plan ahead so you don’t miss out.
The How: Make a list of all of the kinds of things that should be on your calendar. Work to input these dates for the coming year. Some of the categories may include: holidays, days off work, school holidays, birthdays, club meeting dates, sporting events, work deadlines or report deadlines, anniversaries, vacation trips, doctor appointments and so on.
Clear out the Car
The Why: Many of us practically live in our cars – or at least it feels that way. By the time you are in and out of the car, it certainly looks lived in. It gives off a less-than-professional appearance when you walk out to the parking lot after a meeting or must drive a group to lunch. It really is another way of putting your best foot forward. Organizing your car’s maintenance with regular appointments can also head off car trouble down the road.
The How: Give your car some TLC, tender loving care.
- Grab a box or laundry basket and head to your car. Load up all of the stuff that should not be in your car. Don’t forget to check in the glove box, other compartments and the trunk.
- Take those goodies in the house or office and put them away.
- Head to the car wash for a cleaning and vacuum.
- Use a nice box or basket to keep your car organized. If you have a lot of things that need to travel with you each day, the box can go in the house with you at night, to be emptied and repacked, and then back to the car the next morning. This way an accumulation of clutter is avoided.
- Stay organized and productive by stocking your car with things that will help our your day such as an umbrella, an ice scraper for cold climates, tissues, hand sanitizer and other items you need to have handy.
Clutter in the Office
“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” Louise Smith
The Why: It doesn’t matter if you have a home office that no one sees but you or a very public office that everyone walks past. Either way, a cluttered office creates the opposite of productivity. Visually, a cluttered office represents a lot of undone tasks. The more you see stacks and piles, the more you feel weighted down by how much you have to do. The more you work, the more the piles grow and the further behind you feel. It creates a very negative surface that is hard to build success upon.
Besides the mental aspect of clutter, it steals your time as you hunt for things and move things around. It robs you of money that you could be earning. It takes your focus off the future and puts your focus on the past.
The How: Decluttering your office can not happen when you get “around-to-it.” We often say that we will do something when I have free time. Who has free time? Getting organized in your office is going to do so many wonderful things for you that you simply must make time for it to happen. You might need to take a day off of your normal duties to focus on getting organized or work on a day off. Either way, your first job is to make a day to get organized.
- Set a day and time on your calendar devoted to decluttering and organizing.
- Decide on where things will go. Do you need to get a new filing cabinet? Storage boxes? Rent a storage unit? Clear out an old file cabinet? Before you start organizing, decide where things will go. Just piling them to one side and declaring they will be put away later will not work.
- Sort items in your office into like kinds. Some of the categories could be keep/store away, keep in the office, file away, file in the office, donate, trash and shred.
- Work to label and put each category away.
- Focus on your desktop organization. Only keep out on your desktop the items you use on a daily basis. Invest in an in/out basket to control stacks of papers. Use a vertical file holder to keep projects at hand but prevent stacking.
- Keep a running to-do list. As you sort through things, you are bound to find some to-do items. Don’t get distracted from decluttering. Add those items to a to-do list.
In each of these clutter assignments, you’ll find that you come up with new ideas and find a certain freedom in getting rid of the clutter – both mental and physical. It’s amazing how much the pitching out of physical things clears your mind for new thoughts. Clutter really is an anchor no one who wants to sail into the future needs.