I am a person who operates best when there is no clutter in my life – physical or mental. A clear mind and a clear physical space bring me contentment. People have commented on how tidy my spaces are, including my house, my vehicle, and my office at work. If they were a mess, it would bother me. It would also decrease my productivity, because I know I work best when things are organized. I have friends and colleagues though, who don’t mind clutter and while their desks look like chaos to me, they feel they have everything they need to be productive at their fingertips.
For those who are looking to decrease the physical clutter in their lives, I have a few recommendations for where to begin. You don’t need an entire weekend or even a few hours to start eliminating clutter. Just start with one area at a time. Here are a few easy ones to tackle:
Organize your desk.We have an office at home and I have one at work. Both can become a resting place for paperwork if I don’t stay on top of it. Go through papers and decide what to do with them. What requires action? What needs to be filed? What can be recycled or shredded? I have letter trays on each of my desks that hold paperwork I am currently working on. I also have filing cabinets for anything I need to keep over the long-term. What I really love is the amount of paper I have eliminated by doing thing electronically – like bills, my calendar, and correspondence.
Look under your bathroom sink. Pull everything out from your cabinets. That includes the cold medicine that expired six months ago, the knee brace you wore 12 years ago and thought you should keep just in case, and the million half bottles of hotel shampoos and conditioners. If it’s expired, dried up, or you haven’t used it in years, it needs to go.
Pull out your winter gear.Surely we can’t be the only family that accumulates an unnecessary amount of hats and gloves. My husband and I recently pulled everything out of the closet and divided it into four piles: his, mine, our son’s, and our daughter’s. Anything that no longer fit hit the donation pile. Ditto for things we had too many of. Anything worn out was tossed.
Go through the clothes in your closet…and your kids’ closets. If it doesn’t fit, donate it. Or if you use buy and sell websites, take pictures and get your items posted. If there are things that need repairs, like new zippers, figure out if you’re going to actually do it. If not, get rid of it. Are you storing clothes that you never wear but feel compelled to keep just in case? It’s time to make a decision. If you’re really not sure, at the end of the current season, take another look and pull out all the clothes you didn’t wear a single time. It’s time for them to go.
“De-junk” the junk drawer. We have one in our kitchen. It’s a catch-all for many things – elastics, coupons, pens, a lint brush, a measuring tape, and much, much more. Every now and then we need to go through it and pare down the items that have landed there. We also need to organize it because over time, things seem to get thrown on top instead of where they belong.
Check out your gift wrapping supplies.If you have saved every gift bag someone in your family has ever received, it may be time to get rid of a few. If you’re someone who keeps that last little scrap of wrapping paper because one day, you might have a teensy weensy gift to wrap, you may need to rethink that. Saving things just for the sake of saving them creates clutter.
There are many other areas you can focus on when you’re decluttering, like the basement, the garage, and the kids’ toys. For me, those are more labor intensive jobs that require a bigger time commitment. The ideas above work well if you’re just looking to spend 15-30 minutes organizing a space.
Written by: Erin Agnello, BA/BEd/OCT
Edited & Designed by: Christina Denham
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.