Clutter Will Proliferate If You Don’t Act On It

For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept various items in small piles in certain places in my house, or even at my desk when I was in the corporate world. I guess it’s some OCD kicking in, but I also know that I’m not the only person out there that does this. We all have our own ways of remembering where things are, so whatever floats your boat is fine. But have you ever felt that your home or office resemble the cartoon above?

I like to operate from the adage, everything has a place, and everything in its place. When I think about what I have in my different “places,” they are there for different reasons. Some of the items are put where they are so I’ll always know where to find them; things like keys, my wallet, sunglasses, etc. Other things might be in a different pile that represents something I can act on in the next couple of days. At the moment, this pile consists of a couple of CVS coupons that expire within the next few days, along with some credit card receipts from recent purchases. In the case of the coupons, if I don’t use them before their expiration, they go straight into recycling. For the credit card receipts, I wait until they have posted to my account, and then I shred them. Again, these are items that I keep handy for a short period of time, and then they’re out of the way. Otherwise, I’d have drawers or folders full of expired coupons and old receipts.

But still other piles represent “to-dos.” And this is the category that can lead to trouble.

What clutter really represents

“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination.”

-Christina Scalise-

I read this quote not too long ago, and it made complete sense. Just last week, I had an experience that supported this belief. We received something in the mail that I wanted to follow up on, so I put the letter in the appropriate pile. Day after day, I looked at it in my “to-do” pile, knowing I just needed to make the call. And, day after day, I put it right back in the pile and went on to something else. Yesterday, however, I made the call, cleared that piece of mail from my pile, and came up with the idea for this post!

Speaking of mail, this seems to me to be a regular contributor to the bane of our cluttered existence. I open the mail as soon as I get in the house. Most of the time, it’s junk and goes right into recycling. But there are times when we receive mail that does require attention of some kind. Too often, I don’t want to deal with it at that moment, so I put it in that “to-do” pile to address later.

Magazines and catalogs are a killer in this way too. By default, catalogs go straight into recycling. I don’t like to spend money on things, remember?? Over time, we’ve cut our magazine subscriptions down to one publication that we really enjoy. But, if you subscribe to a bunch of magazines, they can easily appear to be multiplying before your very eyes. Remember, your home is not a doctor’s office waiting room! Read the magazines, make note of anything interesting in them, and then recycle them or share them with a neighbor. In the end, the likelihood of you going back and reading all the magazines piled around your house is probably remote anyway. Still don’t want to part with your subscriptions? Consider opting for the electronic format instead.

The last grouping I’ll mention today is another one I have too much of in various places: items we intend to donate (books, clothes, household items, etc.). At present, I can think of items for donation taking up space in two places in our house, and in the trunk of my car. Once you amass enough to justify a trip to your local drop-off, go ahead and do it!

A clean house is a happy (and healthy) house

Remember, clutter is proven to contribute to anxiety and stress. And it was clutter that was the tipping point for me in a bad way almost a decade ago. But there’s something you can do about it! Act on it while it’s in your hand. Don’t put it off until later. If it will require 5 minutes or less of your time, get it done right way. In terms of mail, if you find yourself unsure of how to handle it all, start by reducing the amount that makes it into your mailbox. This article and this article both share some great tips on how to get started.

Don’t let the clutter proliferate. Act on the mail. Act on your “piles.” Your mind, and your living space, will thank you!