In my previous post, I suggested that we look for ways to remove clutter from our lives. That clutter could be physical, emotional, spiritual, or some combination of them all.

Knowing that this will be easier said than done for some of us, I’m allocating the next couple of posts to specific tips for reducing clutter.

Today, let’s take a look at physical clutter.

We may be able to hide emotional and spiritual clutter from people around us, but physical clutter tends to stand out. Unless we keep people away from our desk and surrounding office space, closets, garage and basement storage area, we WILL be found out.

A close family member and his spouse continue to rebuff my suggestions that they invite me to visit with them at their home. He is clear about the reason: they have too much “stuff” scattered throughout their home, and he doesn’t want to:

  • Clean and organize it
  • Deal with the reaction of visitors like me, if we would see the “mess.”

When I point my finger at my relative, I absolutely have three fingers pointed back at me. My wife and kids have commented several times regarding the number of boxes and bags that I have filled with notes and reference material for books and other projects that have not yet been completed (or started, in many cases).
Here are tips that I’ve found helpful, as I’ve begun to remove physical clutter from my home and workplace:

  1. Admit that you have a clutter problem. Because most people don’t spend time seeking out individuals who might require an intervention from a clutter issue, face reality if more than one person comments about the clutter in your workplace, car or home. Accept that your clutter is particularly noticeable—and that you probably could benefit from reducing it.Ask yourself: ”Would I feel less stressed and more efficient if I were to reduce the clutter in my life?”
  2. Get help—from an “accountability buddy.” At a minimum, you will achieve more if you ask someone to serve as an objective voice of reason and accountability. As you begin to decide what to keep and remove, this buddy will keep you focused and help with difficult decisions. The accountability buddy also will provide encouragement as you achieve small successes that you might not otherwise consider worth celebrating.
  3. Take it one step, one closet, one box at a time. I began my decluttering project recently by emptying one of the many bags that I have stored in my home office and basement storage area. I put aside a few items that were important and useful, threw away or shred many documents that were unnecessary, and made digital memories of items that I want to remember, but don’t need to keep.
  4. Digitize! I have accumulated a great number of trophies, certificates and knickknacks from my participation in professional organizations including Toastmasters and the International Association of Business Communicators—as well as from work-related conferences, workshops and promotional events. I’ve begun to scan the documents that I want to remember (drawings made by my kids when they were preteens are particularly valuable to me). I use my iPhone or a digital camera to photograph bulky items such as trophies. Then I either find a place that accepts those items (like the Nationwide Trophy Recycling Program), or I dispose of them.
  5. Donate. In addition to old trophies, look at other items to donate to worthy causes.
  6. Organize. Once you have cleared a shelf, a closet or a desktop, only put back items that are necessary, and be intentional about how you use that space, so that you aren’t tempted to put something there that doesn’t maintain the space’s primary purpose.
  7. Repeat. Understand that reducing physical clutter is not a one-time event. It is a daily necessity. Use discretion as you make choices regarding whether to bring new items into your work or living spaces.

Have you used any techniques for reducing physical clutter? I’d love to hear them. Either comment here or send me an email.

Next post: Reducing emotional and spiritual clutter