One of the biggest attention suckers is clutter – Physical clutter. I’m sorry, all you pack rats out there; it’s time to purge. A post in the unclutterer states that “scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus & process information.” Basically, visual clutter grabs your attention so that you can’t focus on the process, decision or project at hand. Might be time to clean up all those nick-knacks or piles of newspapers, huh?
I’m a chronic pillow straightener. I can’t leave the house unless the pillows are in their place. In fact, this causes both my dog and husband to deliberately knock pillows off the couch. Because they know it will get under my skin. I can hear my husband chuckling in the other room as I walk in and sigh from exasperation when I see the chaos. Now I know why – they are messing with my visual cortex! Lay off my visual cortex, will ya? I want to get something done today.
I bet you know someone in your office that is a clutter monster. You know, someone whose desk looks similar to Andy Rooney when he was on 60 minutes. No wonder his pieces were only 5 minutes each week, his visual cortex was holding him hostage. I’ve walked into a colleague’s office and, often wondered, “How do they get anything done in here?” They don’t. They are being held hostage by their clutter monster.
So how do you slay the clutter monster? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Commit. I know we’ve all watched at least one episode of “Hoarders”. These poor people basically bury themselves in objects. Even with therapy, most of them can’t commit to keeping clutter at bay. You’re going to need to commit or there is no point in entering the ring to fight the monster. Your best work, project or masterpiece is under that load of visual clutter and you are going to need to make up your mind that it needs to surface and the clutter has got to go.
2. Plan. It can be overwhelming to decide to declutter your entire office or home in one day. Make a plan and break it up into parts that can be accomplished in 15 or 30 minute chunks. Such as: top two book shelves, bottom two book shelves, right bathroom cabinet, left bathroom cabinet, etc. Then schedule it on your calendar. Maybe every Saturday morning you work for 30 minutes or Mondays and Wednesdays at 5 PM for 15 minutes. Plan it out. It will help eliminate the overwhelming need to run out of the house screaming as well as procrastination.
3. Prepare. You might want to agree to some rules such as, if I haven’t worn it in the last year, two years, decade (scratch that…if you haven’t worn it in a decade, it’s out of style) then out it goes. If your last paramour gave it to you, probably bad mojo; let it go. That’s a whole other kind of mind clutter. Is it worth donating? Is it trash? Is it worth saving? I went through cookbooks not that long ago and those that were of sentimental value are in a box in the attic, otherwise, I’m either using them or they were donated.
4. Dig in. Grab two garbage bags and get started. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s either a donation or trash. If that blouse has a stain on it that you couldn’t get out – neither can Goodwill. It’s trash. If you wore those pants thirty pounds ago – someone at Goodwill can wear it now. It’s a donation. If you aren’t sure if you want to keep it, put it somewhere that would take some effort to get to. A box under the bed, the basement, the attic, or your Mom’s house and give it three months. If you haven’t thought about it, time to purge.
5. Containers. You’re going to feel tempted to run out and go crazy at the Container Store before Step #1. Don’t. You’ve got to start untangling first before you can start organizing. You won’t know what you need until you’ve started digging in. Purchasing 50 – 20 gallon fluorescent pink tubs might seem like the right fix but once you’ve unpacked all your kitchenware, you figure out that the cupboard will work just fine. Do you really need a coffee mug from your old bank in California? Sometimes an old basket will find a new purpose. And sometimes, one 20 gallon fluorescent pink tub will work just fine.
6. Rinse and Repeat. Clutter monsters seem to grow back like kudzu along southern freeways. Set up a reminder to go back through your office in six months. On the second pass, you might finally get rid of that conference binder from 6 years ago on employment law. Might be time to refresh the pictures on the credenza (your son gave up soccer 5 years ago). You still haven’t found a pair of shoes to wear with that dress – time for it to go. As Christine Kane says “If it’s not an Absolute Yes, it’s a No”. You’ll need to say No as you move forward to continue to keep the monster under control.
If you buy a new dress, pair of shoes, coffee mug or stapler, swap it in kind with an old dress, pair of shoes, coffee mug or stapler. Starve your monster, your visual cortex will appreciate it.
What would you do?