Clutter from All the Stuff
I think we can all agree we have too much stuff. For the few who may not be in agreement, here are some startling statistics from becomingminimalist.com:
- Storage units are part of a billion-dollar industry.
- The average American home holds 300,000 items.
- 25 percent of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them.
- Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours searching for misplaced items.
Yes, physical clutter is a thing. A really big thing for so many people.
In his classic book Getting Things Done, author David Allen shares a 4-D process. The 4-Ds are designed to help with time management, and with a few small adjustments, they also help with reducing the physical clutter we have in our lives.
The first D is for Delete. We delete emails when we know they don’t contain anything we need. We can also delete (or ditch) items that are broken, worn, or too old to be of use to us or anyone else.
The most difficult part of this step for many is actually ridding ourselves of the items. It’s often an emotional attachment that has us hanging onto stuff long after its prime. And when the emotional attachment is there, we come up with every excuse under the sun to postpone ditching what we should be.
Delegate Your Stuff
Next, we have the Delegate option. From a time-management perspective, delegating some of our tasks to others on the team makes perfect sense.
When we’re clearing our clutter, though, this is where we donate so others can make use of the items that have worn out their welcome with us. Some people, for example, follow the practice of beginning a new season with their hangers in the closet hung backward on the closet rod. If, at the end of the season, some hangers have yet to be moved, that’s the sign that those clothing items are ready to be donated.
And it’s not only clothes that go along with the donate option. Look around you. There are kitchen items, gifts from others you never got around to using, the old ornaments you haven’t used on the Christmas tree for at least five years, and on and on. Don’t allow those items to drag you down. Donate them. Now.
Defer to Your System
Our third D? It’s Defer. In David Allen’s system, Defer items are those that will take longer than two minutes to complete. So we prioritize and add those items to our list of things to do.
In clearing physical clutter, the Defer step is where we take the time to put our systems in place. Where will the mail be kept once it’s removed from the mailbox? Where does it go after it’s been opened and taken care of? Shoes? At the entrance to the house or in the closet right by the door? How about school papers and keys and toys and cleaning supplies and tools and…. well, you get it.
The key to reducing clutter is to find the perfect place for the various items that come into your home and always, ALWAYS, put them back in their rightful place after each use.
Do It Quickly
Finally, we have our fourth D which stands for Do. Do tasks can be completed in two minutes or less and so should never be added to a schedule, calendar, or to-do list. They’re so quick we should just take care of them right away.
Our Do items when clearing physical clutter amount to consistently following the systems put in place in the Defer step.
Interestingly, this is the step that proves to be most difficult for many of my clients. Once we’ve done the work of putting systems in place, it’s a matter of follow-through. Consistent follow-through. And that can be difficult. It’s also the only way to clear that physical clutter for good.
Physical clutter is just the beginning. Next month we’ll discuss digital clutter and how to manage the many electronic files and emails in a way that keeps your computer organized and keeps you clutter-free!
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