Clutter creates stress and anxiety, and we don’t need any more of that during these already nerve-wracking times. In addition, too much clutter means it's easier to misplace bills, which means missing due dates and racking up late fees. Here are seven ways to clear out the clutter so you can focus more clearly in these days of uncertainty:
1. Designate one work area. Whether it’s a full-on professional desk or a side table in your bedroom, keep your work-related items — files, laptop, notepads, etc. — in this space only. At your physical work space on the job, you don’t have to worry about that important memo or a Zoom conference password winding up in the cushions of your couch. By keeping your work confined to one area, you won’t have to worry about it at home, either.
2. Set goals to declutter, one room at a time. Take the time saved by not having to commute and clear out a room in your house. Set the timer for 30 minutes, for example, and see how much stuff you can tackle. You may surprise yourself with how much you get done. Put on some upbeat music to motivate yourself and keep your blood pumping. (See, you even worked in some exercise.)
3. Be tough with your stuff. It’s only stuff, remember. Set three buckets — recycle, remove, retain — then cut through the clutter you’ve accumulated. Be brutally honest with yourself: When was the last time you used the item? If you don’t know, toss it, or sell it or donate it if it might have value to others. Are you really going to catch up on a week’s worth of newspapers? Recycle them. And if you find something of priceless value — your parents’ wedding photos, for example, or your kids’ kindergarten drawings — figure out a way to use them instead of letting them gather dust in a corner.
4. Put stuff away and in the right place. “Everything in its place, and a place for everything’’ is an old adage for a reason. If you know where this month’s bills are stored, you avoid the stress of misplacing them and potentially forgetting them. This sounds simple, but is something we often overlook in our busy lives or when we're distracted. Science shows that it takes an average of 66 days to transform behavior into habit. With so much uncertainty about when life will return to normal, this could be a good time to develop a habit that can make your life run more smoothly.
5. Focus on one task at a time. We all pride ourselves (and rightly so) on our ability to multitask. But it's more effective, especially in stressful times, to tackle one thing at a time. Write a report without thinking about the conference call later in the day. When that call does happen, engage in that conversation without fretting about tomorrow’s deadlines. And although checking in with family and friends is crucial during this crisis, save those calls and texts until after the day’s work is done or during a time designated for personal communication.
6. Keep clutter out by not bringing it in. Today's mail brings a rash of items to the clutter collection. Sift through the day’s mail, ideally while still outside, and toss the stuff you don’t need in your recycling bin without ever taking it inside where it will only add to the problem you're trying to solve.
7. Set reasonable goals. Your house won’t be perfectly decluttered in a week ... or, perhaps, ever. But a little bit every day will lead to big improvements. That should being you some comfort, something we all could use these days.
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