Keep It Or Toss It?

Less stuff equals less mess, who would have thought?

I have noticed one little problem though, the rooms are so small that when anyone makes a normal mess it seems so much worse! There is no room for a mess and still get around.

To fix this problem… I got out my trusty timer and put myself up to a challenge. I gave myself 15 minutes. I had to pick up put items back in their designated “home.” Fifteen minutes is just about long enough to get the whole room picked up if I do it without dragging my feet. That is where the treat comes in. Nothing wrong with a little bribery, I mean motivation!

This works for kids too. Using a timer will help you stay on task for a specified amount of time. Take 5, 10 or 15 minutes and do a sweep through the house putting away out of place items. Pick a time each day to do this and you will be one step closer to taming the clutter monster.

My current ptoject is to get the computer, craft, music room under control. Since we just moved in two months ago 90% of the entire house is in order… But because of the out of placve room, the order of things get out of hand if I slack even one day. Even an organizer & organized person has to work at keeping things in order.

One of the reasons mental health professionals and social psychologists believe people struggle with clutter is because humans are always trying to be immortal. This explanation is referred to as terror management theory (TMT), and is certainly one of the reasons I struggle with parting with some of my clutter.

From the book Stuff by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee:

“Many collectors think of their collections as a legacy to pass on to their heirs or even the world. Some, especially art collectors and collectors of historical artifacts, donate their collections to museums or create their own museums for posterity … Thus a collection offers the potential for immortality.”

Have you ever thought about keeping an item, like a wedding dress, to give to your daughter one day? (Even though you don’t have a daughter or your daughter isn’t the same size as you are or the current style is nothing like it was in 1975 when you were married or your daughter doesn’t have plans to ever be married?) Are you keeping other mementos, not because you’re enjoying them, but because you want there to be proof of your life? Do you equate your stuff as being an extension of you?

A good question to ask yourself is if the people in your life will actually value the items you’re collecting, or if your things will create a burden for them. Boxes and boxes of mementos in a basement covered with dust will most likely look like trash to others instead of a valued collection. If you truly value something, it should be honored in a way that conveys that respect to others.

Do you keep clutter or extraneous possessions because of a desire to live on through your things? Is simply being aware of TMT helpful for you to keep in mind when sorting through your objects to decide what to keep and what to purge? Or, do you think the whole theory is bogus?

Clutter-Busting Secrets of the Pros

"Edit" Your Rooms

Start in the upper left-hand corner of one wall and start "reading" from left to right and from top to bottom. "The room is a book, a dresser is a chapter, each drawer is a paragraph, the boxes or trays or Ziploc bags in the drawers are the sentences, and the things in the containers are the words," says Alice Winner, an organizing consultant in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. "Get rid of the extra words―things―that are making your life more complicated and unmanageable."

Toss-It Tips

Any time you feel your attention straying to another part of the room or house, take a break or simply repeat, "Left to right, left to right."

Resist the urge to skip "chapters." If you jump around the room, dealing with a pile here and a pile there, the room might still look cluttered after a three-hour session.

Find a motivator for your work. Tack up an image from a magazine or book of a room you'd like to emulate.

Why It Works

It's difficult to determine the best place to plunge into an organizing project. This eliminates that problem: Just go straight to the upper left-hand corner of one wall. It also curtails aimlessness, because you always know what to tackle next.

You provide yourself with a prototype as you go. Say you're editing your filing cabinets, and you feel your focus flagging as you encounter another overstuffed folder labeled "Miscellaneous." Look at the drawer you've just completed for a visual reminder of what all the drawers will look like when you're done.

Organize Your Desk in 8 Steps

1. Remove everything from your desk. Place your phone on your left if you're right handed and on the right if you're left handed. Display personal items elsewhere.

2. Keep a spiral notebook by the phone for messages and phone notes. Write your voice mail messages in it and delete them from the system. Jot down reference notes before you make a call to reduce phone time.

3. Open your planner or turn on your PDA and place it on your desk. Use it to keep track of to-dos, follow-ups and ideas.

4. Keep office supplies in one drawer only. Buy a dozen of your favorite, inexpensive pens and keep them in a cutlery tray in the drawer. Keep back-up supplies in a plastic storage container with drawers


5. Sort through your desk files. Keep in your desk drawers only files you use weekly or those that are personal or confidential.

6. Place your computer at a 90 degree angle to your desk. Keep your desk work surface clear of everything except essentials and your current project.

7. Set up a system for active files either in a step file sorter on your desk or in your file drawer. Sort your paperwork into it: Do, Consider, Awaiting Answer, File, Hold, Read and Refer.

8. Take ten minutes at the end of each day to keep your desk organized. Place tomorrow's top priority project in the center of your desk. You're ready for anything!

Featured in the March 2011 issue of O Magazine.

Toss it if....

...1. You have twice as many as you need.

2. It's a gift you don't love.

3. It's not worth repairing.

4. Your gut says lose it.

5. You don't know what it is.

Keep it if...

1. It's Sentimental Gold.

2. It fits your life today.

3. You think it's gorgeous.

4. You'd buy it again.

5. You'll find a place for it.

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