I’d bet that the majority of people reading this can relate to that feeling of accomplishment after having a thorough clear out.

Anyone who has finally tackled the garage and got it all ship shape will remember standing back and proudly surveying their handy work. You will also remember vowing never to let it get into that state again. Am I right?

But of course it does get into that state again, your sock drawer does become a place of mystery (where DO all those odd socks go..!?) and your desk drawer is full of curly post it notes, pens without lids, receipts and half packets of chewing gum before too long has passed.

We know why it happens, we are always in a rush and we will ‘deal with it later’. But clutter can play a major role in how we feel about our homes, our work space and, as a consequence, ourselves.

Mess, clutter and disarray is often associated with stress. The more clutter surrounds you, the more stressed out you feel, the more stressed out you feel, the more mess you make! It’s a negative spiral.

We need to understand that:

  • Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.
  • Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
  • Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
  • Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
  • Clutter makes us anxious because we’re never sure what it’s going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
  • Clutter creates feelings of guilt (“I should be more organised”) and embarrassment, especially when people unexpectedly visit!
  • Clutter prevents you from being as creative as you might be capable of by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think clearly.
  • Clutter frustrates us by because we can’t find the things we need, and that also takes up our precious time, and that makes us even more stressy!

So what better time than now to Spring Clean ..! Break that negative spiral and take back control.

  • If you don’t use it, don’t want it, or don’t need it, get rid of it. You can toss it, recycle it, or donate it (one person’s trash is another person’s treasure), but don’t keep it. If you use it, but only rarely, store it in a box in the garage (or if it’s your office, in a high or low place) to leave easy-access space for things you use more often.
  • Create a pending and/or a WIP (work in progress) folder. A pending folder helps you clear your desk and provides you with a readily accessible folder to centralise and easily locate the stuff you need to tackle. A WIP folder keeps everything you are currently working on in one place. I put a date on mine ‘WIP April 17’ for example. This applies to your actual desktop or work space and your virtual one on your laptop or PC.
  • Don’t let papers pile up. Random papers strewn everywhere give me a big headache. We are inundated with mail, flyers, menus, memos, newspapers, and the like. Chuck anything you don’t want immediately especially envelopes, they and the little leaflets that seem to accompany everything often don’t make it as far as my desk. I open my mail in the kitchen or at the post-in tray and put them straight in the recycling bin. Only the things than require filing or action come into the inner sanctum of my office.
  • I also ask for the paperless option in as many cases as it is possible to do so. I prefer to have my bank statements, contracts, invoices etc. by email.
  • Tidy your desk or workspace at the end of each day. De-clutter your primary work space before you leave it. Of course you will make a mess of your desk when you are working, but leaving it all nice and tidy will give you a sense of closure at the end of the day which will help you to feel relaxed. And when you return to it you will feel good and raring to go!
  • Sort out your filing.. virtual and actual. There are loads of systems you can use and lots of methods for filing which work for your emails and your hard and soft copy files. I’m very happy to share some which work particularly well. If you would like more help with this, just drop me a line.
  • When was the last time you sorted out your desk drawers? What about your bookcase? Your pin-board?? Take a little time out and have a spruce-up. Stick some tunes on (headphones if you are in a shared office) and get to it. OR if you are in a shared office and can’t take the time out to do this, or are in a contact centre environment for example, do it between calls, come in a bit early or stay a bit later. After all, you made the mess, it’s up to you to tidy it up. You owe it… to yourself!
  • Your car… if it gets you from A to B or is an extension of your home or office because you are in it so much, it too deserves your attention. I spend a huge amount of time in my car and I love it to be all neat and tidy and dust free and fragrant. I feel better when I’m in it and I feel better when I get out of it, which means I perform better when I meet people after being in it! It’s a place of sanctuary for me. I listen to books and music and do some of my best thinking in the car and sometimes (if I’m really honest) it is also the tidiest space in my life! And don’t forget the outside..! Your car is an extension of you (or so some of my male friends tell me) so make sure it is representative of the image you are trying to present.

Sound familiar? If not – great! If so, time to spring clean my friend!

  • And finally – your home. Your desk and office are beautifully clean and organised. Your car is a beacon of professionalism and order. Then you walk into your kitchen/bedroom/sitting room and are assailed with mess.

All those fuzzy feel good feelings are obliterated. Time to take action!

  • Get into that wardrobe and get rid of, or store, all the things you are not wearing because they are not right for the season, or they don’t fit you at the moment. (If they still don’t fit you after a year the experts say you should get rid of them, but I still have a pair of 10 year old Armani jeans I just can’t part with – they WILL fit me again one day!)
  • In the spring I dig out my Spring/Summer clothes and put my winter stuff in the plastic boxes and under the bed storage. Then when Autumn/Winter comes it’s like Christmas… ‘Oooh I love these boots/gloves/trousers!’
  • Sort out your top drawer/dressing table drawers. Throw away your old stale make-up, perfume, aftershave etc.
  • Get into the bathroom and toss all your dusty old soaps and half empty bottles of stuff Aunty Jean bought you for Christmas in 2005. You don’t like it.. that’s why you haven’t used it!
  • Clear out your freezer. If you liked partridge you would have eaten it by now.
  • Let’s have a look in the fridge – how old IS that fig and apple chutney? Does the 3mm of mould on top indicate your fondness for it?
  • The top drawer syndrome also reaches our kitchens doesn’t it? Get a bin bag and get into it. Sort it out! You’ll realise you don’t need to buy any more superglue or ibuprofen for some time!

If it is a daunting task there are some ways to make it easier and more fun.

  • You favourite tunes, or listening to an audio book on as you work.
  • Get the family and/or your partner involved.
  • Incentive yourself and others (Maccy D’s/Cream Cake/Trip to Disneyland – whatever it takes!)
  • When I was little I invented ‘A Million Tidy-Ups’ as the eldest of 4 sisters I made our chores a source of entertainment and competition..! If you are interested in how that panned out I am in the process of writing a blog and a book so I’ll let you know when it is ready to read!

In closing, never underestimate the powerful feel good factor associated with a thorough ‘chuck out’ and ‘clean up’. It is cathartic, it makes you feel better and it helps you to manage your time more effectively and efficiently.

So, in the words of a famous brand – JUST DO IT!