Getting organized is on the top of the wish list for many people this year. This is one indication that, as a society, many of us are unconsciously and slowly realizing that having space and free time is often far more important than acquiring more possessions. Every object in our life requires energy to maintain, requires space from our environment. If you feel like one of my clients who stated, "my possessions are possessing me", it might be prudent for you to take the time to learn new habits and clear the muck your life.
The facts are clear and the pay-off is immense. In one study alone by the National Soap and Detergent Association, getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of housework in the average home. About 80% of the clutter in your home is a result of disorganization, not lack of space. When you consistently remove clutter and control your papers, you receive huge rewards. You end up with more time, confidence, and the freedom to do what you love and unless you are among the few, housework is not high on our list of favorite pastimes!
1. Set up permanent donation boxes in your home for unwanted items. This is the one of the easiest ways to begin clearing your life of unnecessary objects. Find a few medium sized boxes and place one in each of these areas, your bedroom, kitchen, home office and main living area.
Break yourself into your new habit of letting go right away by touring each room with box in hand and placing everything you find that you no longer use, don't like or that reminds you of 'not so good' memories. Once you have toured each room, leave the box by the doorway of each room. As you use the space during the next week, keep your eye open for any objects that no longer fit in your life.
At the end of your first day of general clearing, take everything that you have collected to your local charitable organization. This will provide the energy that you need to sustain the habit. Adding space to your home will give you a big surge of unexpected energy! Find out where the closest donation station is to your home and make it a habit to drive past when you are out running other errands.
Realize that you can become adept at letting go. It is truly an addictive habit once you feel the pleasure of more space and less obligations to possessions. Begin to practice this new skill. As you go about your life and come upon something that you no longer need, take it immediately to your donation box. Once you feel how good open space feels, it becomes much easier to let your excess go. Consider it a 'pay it forward' exercise. Realize that each item you donate helps others exponentially in many different ways.
Consider this, you decide to let go of an unwanted vase. You never liked it when it came into your life but you kept it for years because Aunt Agnes gave it to you as a wedding present. So you finally decide to let it go and place it into the donation box and donate it to your local charity.
Energy Shift One: The vase arrives and it goes onto a shelf at that charity's thrift store. Before it hits the resale market, a few employees who might not otherwise have a job, have been paid to receive it, label it and place it on the shelf. This is instant monetary energy that you gave back to the world. They would not have a job if folks like you did not provide donations for them to process.
Energy Shift Two: someone visits the store and repurchases your vase. Because of their limited budget, they might not have been able to afford your vase at regular department stores. You have brought new energy into this person's life by providing something affordable to brighten up their living conditions.
Energy Shift Three: Depending on your chosen charity, the money received from the sale of your vase is again turned back around and used to feed the hungry or rehabilitate workers.
Energy Shift Four: You now have more time to spend with your kids because you have fewer items to dust and clean. You might also end up with more fun money because you no longer buy extra tchotchkes to fill your space. Less is indeed worth more.
All of these benefits resulted from your decision to let go of the vase that cluttered up your countertop and collected dust. I am fairly certain that if Aunt Agnes fully understood this process, she would appreciate her gift benefiting such a large community.
As the "donate box" becomes a permanent part of your life, you will happily and easily clear at least one box of old possessions every month! After all, it is a fairly painless way to give back your good to the world.
2. Organize Your Home Office Space Just like a well-organized kitchen; your home office should have all tools within easy reach of the desk. Set up a zone for office supplies and make sure they are not spread throughout the house. Keep your technology close at hand so you do not have to get and down or leave the room to complete a task.
Make sure that your desk is large enough to accommodate all of the new technology that you own. The day of the 6-foot desk is gone because we now need space for our computer, printer/ fax machine (hopefully both in one unit), telephone, cell phone, iPod and more. If you have a separate hard-drive unit, keep it below the desk. A hard drive on top of the desk generally takes up too much space.
The ideal desk setup is an L shape, or, if you have serious business at hand, a U shape is even better. This will allow you to contain all of your equipment and still have open space for the old-fashion pen and paper. The organizing rule of thumb is to have at least 60% of your desk free, clear and open for business. If this is not the case in your home office, you have some work to do.
3. Optimize your storage space by creating separate zones to contain each specific type of item.
Many of my clients call upon me because they feel that they do not have enough space in their home and they feel crowded by their possessions. From my viewpoint as a Professional Organizer the reality is that they are simply not using the space on hand to its best advantage.
When items are spread throughout the house, it becomes difficult to see that there are actually duplicates of everything. There are very few items, scissors excluded, where keeping more than one on hand is advantageous.
Contain collections of 'like' items in plastic bins. Take for instance; store 'Things That Bind' like staples and paper clips together in one bin, batteries in another. All tape, glue and sticky substances could be stored in a 'Things That Stick' bin. Use baskets to serve as quick and easy drawers in deep spaces. Use pre-made plastic drawer bins for instant cabinets within cabinets.
4. Keep your mail and papers in action stored vertically and off of the kitchen counter. Harris Interactive reports that 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them. This is just the tip of the iceberg when your papers overtake your everyday life.
The largest source of conflict that I witness in homes is between spouses and revolves around papers on the kitchen counter. The spouse that is not in charge of retrieving or organizing the mail does not understand the phenomena of the daily deluge. Mail arrives without fail, come rain, sleet, hail or snow and, if left to it's own devices, will often turn into piles on the counter. 62 billion pieces of junk mail are produced each year (an average of 41 pounds per household)? And 44% of this junk mail goes directly into our landfills unopened! You can stop your junk mail deluge and help the environment by employing companies like http://www.41pounds.org.
Another way to curb your pile situation is to create a vertical place to keep your papers until needed. I personally recommend the metal vertical stepper files available at office supply stores or small vertical file boxes without lids. I recommend containers without lids in this instance because closed lids block the swift flow of papers into the system. They also run the hazard of turning this box top into a piling zone.
To keep total control of your papers in action, use these categories: calls to make, bills to pay, current projects, upcoming events, waiting for response or whatever other types of action you need to do with your papers.
5. Take Control and Tame Your Paper File Drawers
When you learn how to master your papers, you gain more control and the pieces of your life come together much more effortlessly.
Set aside a day to sort through your old files and eliminate papers that are no longer relevant to your life or work. An entire day might seem like a big sacrifice but it will pay off in spades.
If you want to go easy on yourself during this process, consider using the Freedom Filer paper file system to get started. The inventor of this system spent 6 years creating this paper management process. It helps you eliminate your old papers when they are no longer needed. The time it takes you to do your taxes will be dramatically reduced because it also keeps your important tax-related papers itemized for easy and accurate tax accounting.
As you gain control and implement only one of these steps, it will become much easier to manifest your life around your joys and passions. Completing only one of the above tips and you will be motivated to do much more. Clearing can become habit forming once you feel the relief and energy shift in your home and your life. When you are not constantly distracted by muck, chaos and clutter, you will more easily be able to add more space to your life and reach for your dreams!