Clutter. It’s everywhere.

That messy, disorganized desk with papers and stationery scattered all over it. The car full of forgotten stuff left there for weeks which we intended to remove, but kept forgetting to. The clothes cupboard so stuffed to the brim that we’re afraid to open it, in case we get buried by an avalanche of clothes falling out…

Help! We’re surrounded by it! It’s at home, it’s at work, it’s in our car. Everywhere we look, clutter prevails.

Is this a problem?

Yes, it certainly is. There are more negative implications of living amongst clutter than we may initially realize. Research has proven that clutter and disorganization tends to result in more than just feelings of irritation experienced by those surrounded by mess.

In fact, constantly dealing with clutter and disorganization has a draining, damaging effect on our positive outlook, motivation and discipline levels as well our ability to reach our goals. It can even negatively impact our performance at work.

Without us realizing it, living in a state of disorganization and mess impacts our self-esteem and self-confidence, often without us even realizing it. We find it harder to summon up the energy needed to push through our days and work efficiently and productively, when we are constantly besieged by a nagging, annoyed feeling every time we look at the mess around us.

But not to worry, help is at hand. Try out these quick tips to get the upper hand over the chaos and embrace a higher level of personal productivity, right now!

First, identify the highest-priority clutter-point. Which messy, overstuffed, disorganized area in your home or office, annoys you and stresses you out the most? Think about it.

That’s where you’re going to start, today, right now in fact.

Now that you’ve selected your challenge, start your preparations. Stock up on the following items:

  • Plastic bags – to bag up and throw away unwanted stuff;
  • Ziplock bags, empty jars/containers, plastic containers, tins etc – to pack and store stuff;
  • Rubber bands, bits of old ribbon and cello tape;
  • A basket or clean bucket;
  • Empty plastic folders and files; and
  • A marker pen (for labeling) and also, sticky labels if you have them.

Pick up the first thing that you see and ask yourself the Magic Question, which is “Do I need this?”

This question does indeed have magic powers…because the answer to it can help you miraculously get rid of your clutter once and for all!

If the answer to the Magic Question is no, then throw the item straight into the bin. No, do not hesitate.

Do not stop and reason with yourself, thinking “well, let’s keep it for now…maybe I could find a use for it” or “Aiya, so-sayang to throw this away-lah”. Be ruthless. Be firm. Don’t allow yourself to consider keeping anything that you do not really and truly need.

If the answer to the Magic Question is yes, ask yourself when the last time you used/read the item was.

If the answer is “more than a month ago”, then you know what happens next…that’s right..throw it in the bin! Yes, toss it out. Again, do not hesitate or give yourself time to justify holding onto it.

If the answer is “less than a month ago”, then move to step 2, which is to deal with the item and organize it. If it’s something you should read, create a folder marked “To Read” and file it in there. If it’s something you need to re-locate to a different part of the house, place it in the bucket or basket, ready to be moved once you have finished cleaning up. Or, if the item is supposed to remain where it is, find a space for it, or label it and file it.

Clean out desk surfaces, dressing table tops, dining tables and other surfaces this way.

Now, look at drawers, cupboards, and other storage areas. Apply the same methodologies to ruthlessly clear out the clutter and junk that has accumulated over the years.

The simple rule of thumb is “When in doubt, throw it out!”.

Once you have thrown all the unwanted items away or relocated them, you should find you have a lot more “empty” space. You’ll then be able to better organize what’s left, and store the items in a more strategic way that makes more efficient use of your available space.

And once you’ve systematically cleared out the clutter that was draining your energy and effectiveness, you’ll find yourself with renewed energy and enthusiasm to tackle all those other outstanding projects and tasks on your list!

So go on, take that first step to living a clutter-free, organized life and watch your productivity levels soar. Do it now, and get it done. Remember, you can do much more, with much less.

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Personal finance author and trainer

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