Conquer the Clutter

Stacks of paper on desktop http://themavinsgroup.comOkay, so the piles of stuff on my desk—there are seven of them—are taunting me. They’re lovely, neat stacks, evenly spaced. Not technically clutter, I say. More like research materials and memorabilia. But they’re still piles of stuff, most of which I almost certainly don’t need. I’m thinking that if I can’t even remember what’s in the piles, I probably don’t need them. And, I say to myself, my home office would look so much better with fewer piles. (Let’s be realistic here. How many people actually have no piles on their desks?)

Then I’m thinking it’s cold out. Who wants to traipse around outside trying to ignore the piles on her desk when it’s cold out? This would be the perfect time to sort through the piles. So that’s what I do. I make a keep pile, a toss pile, and a file pile. And a Flat Stanley pile (more on that later). The toss pile, obviously, goes either to be recycled, to the garbage, or (if it’s sensitive material) to the shredder. Easy. The file pile gets put in the filing cabinet. Also easy.

The keep pile is more of a challenge. Of course I want the videocassette of a program I directed when I worked at a not-for-profit organization 15 years ago, even though videocassettes have one-and-a-half metaphorical feet in the technology garbage dump. And of course I want my high school yearbook, even though I need a ladder to replace it properly on the shelf where it should be. And maybe I should hang onto the printout of 40 fantastic uses for baking soda. Hey, you never know.

Divide and Dispose

And so it goes. Or went. But it wasn’t bad. The task that had been taunting me for months actually took less than an hour to accomplish. The doing is far easier than the agonizing over the doing. And I’m down to one pile. The desktop is much neater looking. I feel like I’ve actually achieved something. I vow vigilance to keep the clutter from creeping back in.

Flat StanleyThe only remaining question is what to do about Flat Stanley. He’s part of a project my grandson’s first-grade class is doing. Flat Stanley is a character in a children’s book. Despite being flat, he goes on adventures. So every child in the class made a Flat Stanley and asked a loved one to take him on adventures and collect souvenirs from those adventures: ticket stubs, Playbills, photos, etc. At the end of the term, we’re to organize and mail everything back to the teacher. In the course of writing this, I realize I should put all of Flat Stanley’s souvenirs in a box rather than just randomly accumulating them on my desk. Or better still, get a photo album and glue and label everything as I go.

Wow. I’ve just had a clutter epiphany. It’s so obvious but so few of us act on it. Instead of accumulating piles which grow to seem insurmountable—in the kitchen, in the office, in the laundry room or wherever—address each item in a timely and systematic way. You’ll be able to find everything you need, with much less agita. And you won’t have to wait until it’s too cold to do anything else to do a purge.

How about you? How do you tackle your desktop clutter? And how about Flat Stanley’s memorabilia? Let us know in Comments!