Clutter Proof your business

Turn Your Mess Into Success


A New Year gives us a chance to reset and take on new challenges, re-evaluate and look at ways of improving our lives.  It’s a chance to create new habits and clear out the old so you can bring in the new. You can make a start by decluttering in the home and in the work place.

“Learning to be organized is like painting your house. You could just slap some paint on it. In a few months it looks as bad as before and you have to redo the process. Doing it right takes digging under the surface. So it is with dealing with your cluttering. You may have to strip off the protective coating of excuses and rationalizations that have kept you from getting to the interior.”

– Mike Nelson

To change your life, change your vocabulary. The words we use can make us feel one way or another. Thus, to overcome a cluttering tendency, replace your old vocabulary with different words that send the right emotional signals.

  • Replace a “To Do” list with a “Doing” list – since items on a “To Do” list generate feelings of rebellion and frustration whereas items on a “Doing” list show you’re building on what is already happening. It’s a more positive approach to planning. And keep your “Doing” list simple with at most six or seven items.You’ll never remember more than that.
  • Replace “Deadlines” with “Finish Lines” – as everyone loves to cross the finish line in anything, they do whereas nobody really gets excited about meeting deadlines. Attach a positive connotation to generate greater enthusiasm.
  • Replace “Have to” with “Ought To” or even “Want To” – since very few things in life are ever as serious as we make out.
  • Allow for “unexpected events” to soak up some time in each working day – because they will crop up every single day of your life. Therefore, build in some flexibility when planning your schedule.

To make a start, visualize the end of the process. Quite simply, overcoming the cluttering habit frees up more time for you to do what’s most productive. The end result is you can become more effective because less time will be spent hunting for the things you need. Keep that vision clearly in mind as you set out to conquer your old ways.

As you make progress in overcoming a cluttering habit, don’t get discouraged by occasional backward steps. What matters most is the general direction you’re heading in. If you have sporadic relapses into old habits, refocus on your long-term goal and start moving forward again.

If you’re making a genuine effort to move forward, be happy with that rather than lingering over your occasional missteps. Acknowledge it’s going to take time to form a new habit.

Some practical tips in this area:

  • Always double-check long-term due dates – so you won’t get caught out by dates that are earlier than you realized.
  • Concentrate more on the quality of your life than the quantity of your accomplishments.
  • Never set deadlines – but set finish lines or project completion dates instead.
  • Always allow plenty of travel time – twice what you reasonably expect to need.
  • Surround yourself with whatever you’ll need to be productive and efficient. The interesting thing is nobody else can set this balance for you. Each person has to decide for themselves how they like to work.
  • Realize there is no universal solution to cluttering. Always remember cluttering is not about having too much stuff, but about how you relate to your stuff. Therefore, the way you can deal with a cluttering tendency will make sense to just one person – you.

In just the same way as technology is not a “magic bullet” which can cure your cluttering habit, there is no universal approach to cluttering that will work for everyone. What is appropriate and worthwhile for one person may be counterproductive when tried by someone else. What’s needed most is a solution that aligns with your own way of looking at the world.

Some more practical suggestions on how to break a clutter habit:

  • Before starting, visualize the results you want.
  • Make small, concrete goals at first – like eliminating an inch of paperwork or clearing half your desk.
  • Buddy up – and report your progress to someone else.
  • Make more decisions as you go.
  • Create a backup filing place – where you can put things for a while in case their needed before disposing of them.
  • Before you file anything, pause and ask: “How important is this?”
  • Believe in yourself and your ability to get better and better over the years ahead.
  • Use technology intelligently – to eliminate paper files as much as possible and where it makes good sense.

Tidy your desk. A cluttered desk encourages the cluttering habit. The first place to start when de-cluttering your workspace is your desk. If your desk is tidy, then it’s more likely everything else will be tidy as well. Start there and work outwards.

What’s on your desk sets the tone for how you approach organizing your entire workspace. If your desk is untidy, most likely everything else will be the same. And conversely, if your desk is always kept tidy and well organized, you’ll be reminded to do the same in other areas as well.

The number one reason why most people like a cluttered desk is it gives the impression of being busy. In fact, hopefully, it gives the impression you’re so busy with what you’re already doing that you can’t possibly take on any additional projects. But is this really a good signal to send if you aspire to grow in your current job?

The reality is there is no correlation between a tidy desk and greater productivity. It’s all a matter of personal preferences – some people work best when surrounded by bits of paper and others don’t. However, how you keep your desk sends a signal of what you value. Therefore, if you’re genuine about overcoming a tendency to clutter, start by keeping your desk organized.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take a short break. Breaking the cluttering habit is a marathon, not a sprint. If your progress (or possible lack of progress) to date is stressing you, breathe deeply and take a quick break. Then get back into it with renewed vigour and enthusiasm in the future.

“Remember that while you are climbing your mountain, there are other mountains. Keep an eye on the next peak. Use the valley between to renew yourself.”

– John Gardner
Turn Your Mess Into Success