Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.
When it comes to simplicity, my weak spot is paper and digital clutter. My solution: a box. I call my method: “the one-step approach to decluttering fast.”
Demolishing Paper Clutter
One day, I was so fed up with all the paper cluttering my office that I grabbed an empty box. In a swoosh, I swept all the notes, mail, scraps, newspaper articles, magazines, widgets, and other miscellaneous off the shelves and small desktop into the open container.
Yes! I did keep an eye out for the important items, separating out bills and other essentials. I pulled a circular file close and trashed the obviously superfluous pieces right away. I didn’t dilly-dally. It all happened fast.
Larger items – like notebooks and books – were tucked into alignment on the backend of the shelves. I cleaned off the surfaces with a damp cloth.
Voila! In about 15-minutes I had a completely uncluttered, clean space. What a noticeable sense of relief! Why had I waited so long?
Design consultant and author Cathleen McCandlees says:
“From years of experience, I’ve learned that any time a client mentions words like ‘stagnant,’ ‘lethargic’ or ‘stuck,’ there’s almost always a clutter issue.”
Does that ring true for you? I “know” there’s a subtle but pervasive sense of heaviness hanging about a cluttered atmosphere and that it adversely affects my energy. But, I usually don’t “get it” until the disarray has dissolved. Thus, the tendency to let it be.
When the clutter is cleared, the resulting sensation is no less than sublime. A sense of openness appears in which productivity flourishes and new opportunities suddenly emerge. I need to actively remember this uplifting feeling to fuel a regular decluttering regime.
Later, I took time to sort through the box, file essential items in folders, and trash even more. What was left has proven to be the perfect place for a kitty to rest.
Cutting through Desktop Disarray
The same phenomena occurs on my desktop landscape. One after the other, files and photos mindlessly pile up. Again, the “empty box” method comes to the rescue, but this time it takes four boxes. Traditionally called “folders”, these four sit on my desktop: Personal, Blogging, Online Courses, Writing and Editing.
Whenever I can’t see the forest for the trees, I spend 5 minutes moving files into these folders. Now, I’m not claiming the interior of these folders would ever receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. But, it doesn’t matter because I can find almost any file I need through the beauty of “search”.
The Email Bugaboo
Yes, the beautiful box is the answer to email too. 945 emails in my inbox? No problem. Just “select all” and move them over to a box labeled “Archive” and they’ve vanished into thin air! I can easily access them as needed, but have a clear inbox to try again to get my clutter habit under control
Does it seem I lack the discipline required to forgo clutter in the first place? I suspect this chaotic tendency stems from an age-old deceptive message telling my brain I need to stay “busy” with “important stuff” and don’t have time to create a conducive workspace. Unhelpful habits are often more deeply rooted than we might think. But, just understanding this brings more self-compassion into the scene and gives me courage to experiment with clear and clean.
The clutter habit may be strong, but I’m not giving up yet! I’ve decided to set a timer and playfully declutter 15 minutes each day. And, when worse comes to worse, there’s always the marvelous empty box. A sure-fire way to restore my inner and outer peace.