Conquer the Clutter

This is my desk (okay, half my desk; the other half is just my laptop):

Conquering Clutter

As you can see, it is SUPER organized.  I’m naturally a very tidy person, and I know that it shows.  Everyone is always impressed when I show it to them.  They ask, “How do you keep it so CLEAN?”

Well, to start with, I do most of my work at this desk.  It has four drawers, and there is nothing in them.  Naturally, whenever I need to set something aside, it just goes into the milk crate on the desk.  It’s a very refined system, and it works like a charm.  Yes, that is a box of pasta shells on top of the milk crate, which I need to return to Walmart.  I discovered that most of the shells were broken about a week ago, and my wonderful filing system helped me forget to return them.  Hence part of why Lucas wants me to fix my filing system.

So, in order to go from Before to After. . .

Before After Desk Clutter

. . .there are a few things that need to happen.

Turning Clutter into Clean

Luckily (or unluckily) for me, most of my clutter is papers.  I have junk mail, shopping lists, meal plans, magazines, and more.  Some of this is trash that never made it to the recycling bin, and some of it is things that I just kept putting off.

Step 1: Divide and Conquer the Clutter

Whether you have a beautiful filing system like mine, or if your space collects more than just papers, you need to divide it up.  You might be surprised at just how much of the clutter can go straight in the trash/recycling.  It’s quite satisfying to get rid of a third of your clutter in one fell swoop.

You might also be surprised at what you find while you’re sorting.  I found three-week-old shopping lists, coupons, my EBA notebook.  I even found the clipboard that I usually use for shopping lists, which I have been too lazy to dig out for a few weeks.

Now, after Step 1, it looks like this:

Conquering Clutter: Step 1

Step 2: Redivide

Now that you have one big pile (and maybe a small pile of miscellaneous, like magnet strips that need to go in the crafting area), we move on to Step 2.  Everything in the pile that didn’t get tossed needs to be sorted again.  There are several different ways to sort, so it’s personal preference.  Personally, I sort by order of importance, and then sometimes by where it needs to go (taxes to be filed, important things to go in the safe box, things to be dealt with right away, etc.).  Some people might sort it based on type of paper or item.  Take your pick; whatever’s easiest and best for you!

This part isn’t quite as much fun, because you don’t get rid of as much stuff.  You might still find things to toss – something that, on closer inspection, is trash; something you can do quickly, like update voter registration and toss the notification card – but not nearly as much.  (Okay, I actually did end up with a smaller pile of papers to throw in the recycling the second time around.)

Now hopefully you have something more like this. . .

Conquering Clutter: Step 2. . .which looks a whole lot less terrifying!

Step 3: Keep Going

My biggest problem with keeping things tidy is feeling overwhelmed by the task.  Since I’ve come to realize this again, it’s a little bit easier to address the problem.  Plus, when you have a spouse or a roommate who DOES NOT like clutter, you have some added motivation.

I followed my own advice and made a plan of action.  Once I got started, it wasn’t all that painful! (Paper cuts not withstanding.)  I broke down piles, broke down the piles even more, and kept breaking down the new piles until I had it organized.  Then – and here’s the key – I TOOK AWAY ALL THE NON-ESSENTIALS.  The only things that should stay on my desk should be: my EBA notebook, my weekly planner (which doesn’t technically function as my planner, but whatever), my coupon folios, my recipe box, and my pens holder.  This part is also key for Step 4!

Step 4: Create a System to Corral Clutter

Above, I listed exactly what I plan to leave out on my desk.  From here on out, I have to stick to that.  When something comes onto my desk, it must go to its place.  I’ve designated one drawer for need-to-deal-with-soon items. Another to corral cords and other such sundries; another for extra pens and such.  When magazines arrive, I’ll rip out the articles that are of interest and toss the rest of the magazine.  Bills will go into the drawer.  Receipts will get captured on Evernote and then thrown out.  Recipes will get transferred onto cards for my box, etc.

Conquering Clutter: Desk Decluttered!It’ll probably take a couple weeks for this to become a habit.  I might also have to use a weekly purge as well, as needed.  Either way, it’s a system that will work for me.  And that’s all I need to conquer the clutter.

How do you conquer the clutter?  Share a picture on our Facebook page!

Jenn
Co-Founder and Strategic Manager at The Spare Room Project
Having grown up near Seattle, Jenn is Washingtonian to the core, and believes that trees that lose their leaves are unnatural and snow is evil. Right now, though, she calls the-middle-of-nowhere Ohio home, having stayed after college. With a vastly varied background in creativity – from hosting a radio show to jewelry design to filmmaking – becoming the Strategic Manager and Wearer-of-Many-Hats for TSRP was meant to be!

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