Take a look around you. Are you surrounded by clean, uncluttered space or piles of paper, old magazines, dirty coffee cups and little items begging for a home? If clutter has taken over your space, think about how it makes you feel. Is your stress level high? How productive have you been lately? Is your creativity ebbing; fresh ideas distant? Are things piling up in your mind, just as they are in your office and home?
It begins with a few sheets of paper – meant to be filed at the end of the day. Soon, that pile becomes a stack, the books and magazines that we reference don’t get put away, and eventually nothing seems to find its way back to its proper place. The clutter virus that spreads from one room to the next can have a significant impact on our physical and mental state. Productivity levels drop and fatigue increases. Important tasks fall to the wayside and lost items are senselessly replaced with new; money spent for no practical purpose.
The good news is that you have a choice: check out or cash in.
Clutter represents our state of mind. Who knows which comes first, the state or the clutter? But I do know that changing the state of your surroundings can have a significant impact on your state of mind. And clearing the clutter can even have an impact on your bottom line. I’ve seen many coaching clients change their habits to include keeping a clear space - and cash in significantly on the change.
If you don’t rein in the clutter habit you are choosing to check out. Remember that being in business for yourself means that every moment has a cash value. How much time do you waste looking for things? Does frustration lead to endless surfing on the web in hopes of a distraction? How much time do you spend escaping because you can’t collect your thoughts or think of the next strategy? Does fatigue slow you down? If any of this sounds familiar ask yourself if it is time to cash in your clutter and grow your business.
Experiment a little bit with these small steps and see how they affect your state of mind and your bottom line.
First acknowledge that you DO have the time to clean up. If you are surrounded by clutter, odds are that you engage in tasks that are non-productive. Take this non-productive time to clear up the clutter! Exchanging your mess for empty, clean space will allow ideas and solutions to flow again. You will breathe better and feel renewed. It’s like a new beginning!
Sometimes paper-clutter comes from engaging in avoidance. Whether you are stock piling unpaid bills and collection notices or sales leads that become too old to bother with and pages of ideas that you “know” you’ll never follow up on, these papers must go. The physical reminder of your problem will continue to taunt you if you don’t face the challenge and organize (and act upon) each piece of paper. If you can’t face it alone, ask a friend or family member to join you for moral support. Make a commitment to free yourself of this burden! Remember that you can take one small step at a time, which is far more empowering than denial!
Have the shredder and a garbage bag handy. Get rid of things you no longer need to hold on to. Resist the temptation to stack them somewhere else or file them away. Let it go and claim your freedom!
Create systems that work for you. I have clients who file each monthly bill in the folders assigned to them – or at least that’s the intent. It’s such a tedious task that these paid bill stubs never get filed. Eliminate this problem by either banking on line (yes, you do have the time to set it up) or by creating folders for each month, rather than each company. It’s much easier to file this way and at the end of the month the folder can go neatly into a storage box where you will still be able to find things with ease.
Instead of telling yourself that you will clean up at the end of the day, when you’re exhausted or eager to get to dinner, take 2 or 3 minute breaks throughout the day to pick up after yourself. Every time you get up to get a glass of water or go to the restroom clean up a few things to maintain a clean space.
If you can’t face the clutter or simply don’t know where to begin – call in the clutter experts! You may know someone who is insanely organized or you may want to call for professional help. Either way, it’s worth the time, money and effort to clear your space, learn new ways and clear your head.
Finally, keep a written log for a few days when you are operating in a clean space. Note the improvements. Note your moods and energy levels. Keep your observations on hand as a reminder for times that clutter begins to, once again, take control.
Do you have clutter buster tips or stories? Share them here!
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.