With 2015 firmly upon us, now is a great time to tackle clutter. Who doesn’t want a fresh, clean start to the new year? For many, getting rid of clutter is a kind of physical act that can help figuratively clear their mind. In fact, Princeton University published the results of a study they conducted called Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex. The website Unclutterer.com summed up the study’s conclusion this way: “When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.”
When you’re organized and can navigate throughout your house and workspace easily, you’re more likely to be more productive and less stressed. Here are some of the best tips we rounded up about how to sort through a mess and come out organized on the other side!
Go room by room. First thing: start by picking up everything that’s on the floor. Keep two bags handy – one for trash, and the other for donation. Once your floors are clear, move onto the surfaces: desks, side tables and dressers.
Designate a space. Everything should have a place. This may mean you need clear storage boxes or a piece of multi-functional furniture. But in the end you’ll be better organized, and instantly know where to go when you’re looking for something specific.
Empty every drawer. You won’t know what you’ve got until you pull everything out for inspection. For the items you decide to keep, make sure they’re clean and folded. If you love an item and wear it often, keep it. If you can’t remember the last time you wore or used something, donate it.
Brave your closet. Again, review each item – if you haven’t worn it in six months, consider donating it. Many cities have non-profit programs that provide professional attire to those who are looking for gainful employment. Crisis centers are another place to consider donating both adult and child’s clothing.
Grab that label maker. You know you want to use it! Label makers are great if you’re using (upcycling!) old shoe or cardboard boxes for storage. Being able to glance at the outside of a box and know its contents can save you a lot of time in the future.
Allow yourself 15 or so minutes a day for maintenance. Set aside a manageable chunk of time that you can spend every day maintaining your newfound sense of order. Just a few minutes set aside every day can keep you from spending a whole day at the end of every month.
Tackle your desk. With a few empty boxes sitting by, clear out each drawer and the surface of your desk. Wipe out the inside of each drawer with a damp cloth. Recycle (or shred) old files and notes, and consider setting up a simple file folder for each project. Make an inbox for all incoming work, and commit to sort through it daily. That way you can prioritize easier and deal with paper clutter before it starts!
Clean off your computer. Outdated files on your desktop, clogged junk email folders, your web browser’s bookmarks…all of these can probably use a thorough examination and purge. Also consider combining (or refining) the items on your desktop so they’re more streamlined and easily accessible.
Reduce it down to 1. Got three pairs of scissors in your drawer? 67 ink pens? At least 13 half-full legal pads? Not that having only a single pen is the best idea (in fact, that could be a bad idea!) but having an amount that is practical and requires less space is probably a smart way to go.
Get off mailing lists. If there’s a magazine you’re getting that you routinely don’t read, or you are bombarded with junk mail offers every day, search the internet for ways to unsubscribe from these lists. You’ll save a few trees and your sanity in the process!
Reexamine your habits and routines. Is there a way you’re doing something that is costing you time? If you’re the type to tackle a challenge or problem as it arises, you might often find yourself overwhelmed at the prospect. Planning for contingencies and thinking ahead can save you time and worry. For example, do you find yourself spending 30 minutes ironing an outfit the night before work? Instead, designate one set time a week to get all of your ironing done. This might mean having to organize your laundry schedule, as well. But grouping several small, spread-out tasks into one big one can save you time and a headache in the end!
Just say no. Take a close look at your commitments. (It helps to grab a pen & paper and jot them down so you can physically see a list.) What are your biggest time sucks, and are they costing you somewhere else? If you’re over-committed and stretched too thin, you won’t have time for the daily maintenance required to keep your life simplified and clutter-free. It’s okay not to agree to every activity or project someone wants you to do. If you don’t truly love a group or activity you’re involved in, it might be time to disengage.
Get rid of the “mights”: If you had every intention of using an item, but a year has gone by and you’ve never touched it, it might be a good idea to get rid of it. It’s tempting to take things that are offered for free, or that are deeply discounted, but most people don’t have enough storage for all the “I might use this one day” items.