Everyone seems to have some degree of clutter in their lives. The paperless office is still a dream, so we still have to deal with many pieces of “stuff” all around us. This stuff can be paper, equipment, books, printouts, electronics, or any number of things.
A certian amount of clutter may be productive. Some people just function better when things are in site. However when clutter gets to the point that it slows you down, you need to do something about it. If you find yourself spending time looking for things, that is a good indication that clutter is controlling you.
Here are several tips for reducing clutter in your life:
- Open your mail over the trash can. This will help make it easy to throw out things that aren’t necessary. Any item that you can keep off your desk will save you time later.
- Create a filing system for things you need to keep. If you know you’ll need to keep your bank statements, create a file folder to keep them in. Same thing with reciepts, insurance information and all the other paper that you’ll get in the mail.
- Organize electronics and gadgets by type or purpose. Most people accumulate a collection of tools, memory cards, special purpose cables, and electronics. Try to keep these organized by their purpose. For example, you might keep everything related to your cell phone (special cables, extra batteries, etc) in one area, while keeping all your computer related items in another. Clear storage containers are great for this. If you can see through the clear sides, it makes it easy to find what you are looking for. If the items are organized by type, you can find the right container easily even if the item you are looking for isn’t in clear view, you just have to look for other items associated with it.
- Don’t use hanging files. You need to be able to create files quickly as they are needed. Usually hanging files take much longer to setup than simple manila file folders. Hanging files are great if the “cost” of creating them doesn’t keep you from putting off making one. Regardless of what type of files you use, make sure they are easily accessible. One compromise would be to use hanging files for all the letters of the alphabet, but put regular files in them with actual names on them. This may give you the best of both worlds. The hanging files help keep things organized and neat, but you can quickly create a new file in a matter of seconds.
- Get a CD case. CD’s can start to clutter things very quickly. Loose CD’s can easily be damaged. A little money invested in a CD case can reduce your clutter very quickly. Be sure to keep any software keys needed to install software with the CD’s as well. You don’t want to discover a year later that you have the CD, but not the code to install it.
- Zippered file folders. Zippered file folders are a great way to organize information that you need to carry with you. These organizational tools have 13 to 26 individual plastic compartments, but take up no more space than a spiral notebook. This is a great way to file things that you want to deal with away from your desk. Just make sure you have a way to get the files into your main filing system when they no longer need to be mobile.
- Cut out the junk mail. Anything that you have to deal with takes up time–even if you simply throw it into the trash. By contacting the people sending you junk mail, you may be able to get them to stop sending it. If a 2-minute call can keep you from needing to deal with 12 items of mail over the next year, it is probably worth the investment in time.
Originally published on January 22, 2006.