clear out the clutter

{The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak}

– Hans Hofmann

Clear Out the Clutter
Are you organized and efficient? Do you find yourself shuffling paperwork, rifling through files or watching your inbox pile up? Seeing the mounds of undone work that lays scattered about your workplace is more time consuming and energy-stealing than to just simply clear out the clutter. The exhaustion and frustration from the clutter can be paralyzing. Whether it is at your desk or in others areas of your life, be determined to regain a sense of beauty by creating a place of organization and of order.

1. Only the essentials.

The first step to clear out the clutter is to get rid of anything not needed. Surround yourself with only the essentials. They should help you do your work effectively and accomplish your goals proactively. You need to be able to access your tools easily to get the work done most efficiently. Put the rest away or throw it out. By keeping “just enough” of the right things around, you not only create order, but you also remove unnecessary distractions that cloud your vision and obstruct your path. Clutter can keep you from being fully focused on the projects and tasks at hand. When you clear the clutter, you will immediately be more productive and have a greater sense of well-being.

2. Streamline the clutter clean-up.

Some of the bigger tasks may require a more systematic approach. Don’t overwhelm yourself with long lists and unrealistic expectations. Resolve to approach your clean-up a bite at a time. Set aside 10 minutes every day to do something to improve your work environment. Just 10 minutes. Not a lot of time out of your day, considering most of us spend 8-10 hours a day at work. Think of it as a mini break from your normal workday routine. Look at it as something good you are doing for yourself. At first, you will be clearing the clutter. Once you have created a sense of order and love how it positively affects your work, you will be committed to keeping it that way. Then, it will become a permanent habit that enhances your work, not detracts from it.

3. Start with the basics.

How do we get started? Start with the basics. First, clear your desktop. Get rid of anything that is not essential to your well-being or success. Either file it away, give it to someone else or throw it out. Rearrange your desk to support the way you work. Place the items you have decided to keep on your desk or in your drawers in a way that has form and function. If you use a computer, arrange your computer outlook folders to electronically save attachments or emails in a specific inbox or file. For paperwork you must print and keep, create a filing system that provides a place for everything and everything in its place. You might want to use inboxes or file folders.

4. Make it easy to manage.

Whatever method you choose, make sure it is uncomplicated and something you can manage day in and day out. It should be easy, accessible and uncomplicated. It should only take you minutes to manage. At the end of each day, clear away any clutter you have managed to accumulate throughout the day. File away paperwork and organize yourself for a fresh start tomorrow. You will minimize the time spent sorting through the work that needs to be done the next day when you take care of it as it comes to you.

When you walk into work and sit at an uncluttered desk, you will feel refreshed and ready to get going. You can start the day with focus and purpose. When we take care of our surroundings, it sends a signal to ourselves and others that we care about our work. We take pride in what we do. We create efficiencies that allow us be to be more productive . We spend our time on the things that really matter and provide value for the company. We no longer waste our time and energy on administrative tasks. They don’t add anything to the bottom line and only create stress and frustration for most of us. Before you know it, you will have created an environment that promotes clarity and concentration.

5. If you can’t do it, delegate it.

If you absolutely cannot bear to think of organizing yourself, I suggest you delegate it to someone on staff or hire it out. I use a local university job placement resource or local community blog to find well-educated students or responsible individuals who are looking for project-based work. Whether permanent or on a project basis, it is an inexpensive way to delegate tasks that you don’t have the time or desire to do yourself. It helps me get what I need to get done, without any commitment to future expense or management responsibility. There are plenty of people who would find joy in doing the things you dislike. Despite what you have come to believe, you do not have to do this on your own. Ask for help, make it happen and get it done.

One of the best things I ever did for myself was hire a personal organizer. I like my space neat and clean, but I didn’t have the time to do it myself. I needed someone who could arrange my files so that I could find whatever at needed with ease. I thought about how I would like it organized and what it should look like. Together, we came up with a plan that put the best of both of our ideas into action.

I bought cloth-lined stacking storage boxes, colored file folders and printed labels with my favorite fonts. Within a few days, my office was neatly organized, beautifully arranged and purged of any paperwork that was no longer needed. My books were lined up neatly by category, alphabetized in order, and the frequently used resource books were put within easy reach. One of the storage bins was used to organize office supplies. Never again have I searched for pen or paper. When I run low on supplies, I simply replenish them and put them in their proper slots. It makes finding what you need efficiently easy and makes a beautiful presentation.

6. Hire help.

Another way I organize my day is to have the receptionist check my phone messages. She checks them several times a day and only emails me the messages that need my immediate attention. She takes care of the rest or passes them on to the proper department for follow-up. It saves me time and ensures that even when I am busy, I can attend to others in a timely manner. If you don’t want to hire someone to work at the office, you may want to consider hiring a virtual assistant for a few hours a week. Your time is valuable and your wellbeing is priceless.

Once you have cleared the clutter in your environment outside, you can begin to clear the clutter on the inside. The clutter in your head can be just as paralyzing as the clutter on your desk. It starts with removing those repetitive thoughts that no longer serve you well. How often do you have too much to remember? Too many exciting ideas or tasks to attend to. Or, perhaps you have too much you need to forget. Useless ruminations can clutter up precious space like garbage milling through a processing plant. What to do?

7. Write it down.

How do we get rid of all of this excess trash and confusion and get focused? One of the ways is to write it all down. By purging yourself of the swirling tornado of thoughts in your mind, you can begin to clear your head and clarify your thoughts. By writing it all down, you regurgitate the garbage and sift through the rubble from another perspective, finding the jewels buried in the clutter of that which you could not see before, thoughts that only looked like useless trash. What may look like nonsensical mumblings today might be our “ah hah” answer tomorrow. If we allow a few minutes or an extra half hour, we can find time to write down our thoughts throughout the day. Whether using a paper notebook or writing on our desktop computer, we allow a blank slate for purging and receiving our thoughts in that moment. Don’t edit, don’t judge. This is about the process, not the perfection. I find it best to take the time first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Our morning mind is awake and either empty, ready to be open to the day, or full from the nights’ processing, ready to be expunged on the paper that lies before us. Our evening dreams sift and sort through the rubble, doing all the work for us behind the scenes. Purge the chatter that wakes you up at night and put it somewhere to incubate, so you can go about your day with a sense of clarity and openness. By getting rid of the clutter in your mind, it naturally will bring organization to your daily list of tasks that need your focus and attention. By writing it down, it can sort it out on the page and provide precious information and feedback. At some point, the fragmented thoughts will flow like a smooth river of ideas. Wherever you are, you can be encouraged and keep inspiration close at hand with the written word.

Once you have cleared the clutter inside and out, you are now be free to create more abundance in your life and work. You have created space for new things and opportunities to float into your view and into the workplace. You feel on top of our game and ready to take on the challenges that come your way with a positive, effective attitude. Be determined to keep a sense of order and create structures that provide you with easy ways to make this a habit in your day. The dividends will pay you back tenfold.