Need New Energy? Clear Some Clutter!

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Are you feeling stuck, bored or besieged?

A good strategy for getting out of the doldrums can be to attack the clutter that is clogging up your desk, your office, your home or your life.

A little bit of tidying can bring you a big boost

You have a clutter problem if you don’t have enough room to get your work done; if your things always look muddled; if you can’t quickly find what you need; or if you have too much paper or other stuff to neatly stow away.  Clutter can waste your time, drain your energy, repulse your friends and colleagues, and block your efforts to move forward. Even if most of your belongings appear to be in good order, you can generate fresh energy by getting control of the excess that may be piling up in drawers, closets and secret corners.  Here are reasons that it might be time to do some tidying:

  • To increase productivity. A chaotic workspace is not an efficient workspace.  One reason is simply that you waste time whenever you have to search for the papers or tools you need. More profoundly, clutter can distract you, repeatedly pulling your attention away from wherever your focus should be.
  • To reduce stress. Clutter can make it difficult for you to relax. It can bombard you with too many distracting stimuli, and send the message that your work is endless and out of control. And if you’re surrounded by things you’re not using anymore, you many find it harder to let go of past struggles and shift attention to your bright future.
  • To clarify priorities. Sometimes people like to have key projects within sight, to remind them about their most important goals. But if files and reports are stacked across your office, nothing stands out. When you limit visible projects to the ones that are most urgent today, you’re forced to think about your goals and make decisions about how to spend your time.
  • To project a positive image. Although you may feel comfortable in your disorderly office, your boss, colleagues or clients may be disgusted by your mess. If you want to come across as an organized professional your workspace should look shipshape.
  • To generate fresh energy. It can feel liberating to purge stuff you don’t love, aren’t using or are unlikely to finish. Tackling clutter is a keystone of feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of balancing natural energies in our surroundings to create harmony and well-being. Practitioners associate clutter with stagnant energy, saying that it leads to many forms of disharmony, like lethargy, depression and repressed creativity.

Once you decide it’s time to tidy up, give some thought to the best way to go about it. Three key steps to banishing clutter are to:

  1. Purge. Gather up stuff that you aren’t using, that you don’t truly value, or that’s taking up more space than it’s worth. Then decide which items to toss and which to immediately give away.
  2. Sort. Organize remaining items by placing them in categories.
  3. Store. Assign storage places for each category and put documents and objects away, keeping similar ones together and placing frequently used things close to where you’ll need them.

Many writers recommend some variation of the purge/sort/store approach to banishing clutter. Where there’s considerable disagreement among the experts, however, is on the question of whether to clean up everything at once or do it gradually. For myself, I prefer to break a de-cluttering effort into small chunks, and to create change a little at a time.

Author Marie Kondo has a different view, however.  Her wildly popular book, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” urges that you “tidy up in one shot.” She urges that you “concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time.” She advises you to make tidying a special event, not a daily chore.

Whether you’re ready to try Kondo’s sweeping approach, or just start getting rid of one item a day, a de-cluttering effort may bring you surprising benefits, including new oomph in your career. Are you ready to give it a try?

Beverly Jones is an alum of Ohio University. Her column appears at Clearways Consulting LLC. Republshed with permission. For archives and additional content, visit the Clearways Consulting website.