Thursday, November 6, 2014

How Your Personality Helps Create Clutter, and What You Can Do About It

Clutter grows in several types of soil. Identifying  the characteristics within you that allow clutter to take root will help you weed them out.

You can begin to enjoy the relief that immediate improvements can bring. I am sharing to you these quick fixes for common causes of cluttering in your office or desk. There will be long-term solutions though, but it's always good to start some baby steps with these quick fixes. Just try quick fixes for these common clutter-causing characteristics:

  • Oblivious to the need for storage areas. Obliviously, if there's no place to put stuff, it will pile up and look messy. Interestingly, the chronic clutterer is often oblivious to the fact that lack of storage can be a major source of messiness problems. Consider Claire, who's notoriously neat, and always stops to think about whether she has room for something before she buys it. In contrast, her cousin Mike brings things to his office with reckless abandon because he doesn't give a moment's thought to where these new additions will be stored. When clutter accumulates, he blames himself for not being a neat person. But even Claire could not function in an office with inadequate storage space. Nor would she try. She would do whatever necessary to obtain the storage tools she needed.
  • Quick Fix: Create a place for three to five items that are chronically out on your desk. Keep them in their newly created home for right now. 
  • Fear of forgetfulness. Ever leave things in view so you won't forget them? You're not alone. Leaving items out because we're afraid we'll forget about them is a common way forgetful people "visually cue" themselves to stay on task.
  • Quick Fix: Sidestep the memory issue by composing a  project list to jog your memory about what you need to label containers, drawers, shelves, files, and boxes to remind you where things go.
  • Assembly-line thinking. Rather than putting away papers, projects, file folders, and other supplies as they're used, some people prefer to designate a time to put everything away at once. It seems more efficient to them, even though they see their neighbors in neater offices quickly return items to storage. While they wait for that designated "put away" time to come, if it ever does, their office mess mushrooms. "Stow as you go" is not a motto for them, and it shows.
  • Quick Fix: Resist the urge to keep things out until a big cleanup time. Instead, commit to putting things back in place in a timely manner for one day. Evaluate how that works for you, and commit to making it a permanent habit. On occasion it's appropriate to stack materials so they can be handled all at once, such as collecting patients' files to be returned as a group to the storage room for filing. But other than  in these special cases, avoid assembly-line thinking.
  • Enjoyment of happy happenstances. Sometimes good things are unearthed in clutter. Finding an uncashed check just when you need it or stumbling across a warm note from a colleague who has moved on can make a dealing with clutter a little like opening a present. These phenomena temporarily defang the pain clutter causes, and for a time may even make it seem desirable. But over the long-term, clutter is debilitating and will negatively affect your work, your mental energy, and your personal satisfaction.
  • Quick Fix: Don't let an occasional happy happenstance convince you to keep clutter around. Put things in their correct places to know where your things are. When you do that, entering your office will become a happy happenstance you can count on. 
  • Distractibility. Distractions can be like punches, and being able to roll with them is an enviable strength. Phone calls, emails, people stopping in to talk, spontaneous meetings - all can pull us from the task at hand. Sometimes we lure ourselves away from important activities by taking a bathroom break, having a snack, or moving on to a more pleasant task. We like distractions because our attention span is short and we like variety. But distractions can take over. It's always more difficult to take up where we left off than to keep going while we're in the groove. A lot of half-done jobs lie around the office and nag at us - often in the form of (you guessed it!) clutter.
  • Quick Fix: Commit to staying on task for a period of time - then set a time to hold you accountable. Close your office door and post a sign letting would-be interrupters know you're not available. If you can't shut out distractions at your regular workplace, escape to a library or conference room until the task is done. If that's not an option, try turning your chair so your back is facing the entrance to your space.
  • Indecision. Many perfectionists masquerade as disorganized people. Because our high standards, we fear making wrong decisions. So, rather than do the hard thing of, say, deciding how to handle a paper that's neither obviously necessary nor obviously trash, we place it in a pile "just for now" and move on to something easier. The "just for now" pile grows, creating a clutter mountain. Judith Kolberg, a veteran professional organizer, suggests the following game to break decision roadblocks like this: look at items in a personal way. Some papers are "friends" that we keep for sure. Some are "strangers" that are useless and easier to ditch. "Acquaintances" are the hard ones about which we vacillate.
  • Quick Fix: Set up an in-box "Undecided" to hold the "acquaintances," and keep them from creeping into existing piles. Then take ten minutes at the end of the day to decide about each one. Still can't decide on some? Return them to the box for the next decision session.Eventually many will disqualify themselves with age or will resolve themselves without needing our decision.
  • Playing the part. Sometimes the clutterer may pla the part of "the messy guy" at the office. The butt of friendly jokes, he goes along with the gentle ribbing, even posting signs with little jabs of his own over his debris-laden desk, such as "A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind." Secretly, he tells himself, I'd like to get organized. But what if I try, and I can't make it stick? I'll just expose myself to more ridicule!Fear keeps him from trying to change.
  • Quick Fix: Resolve to be brave! Feel the fear and follow the steps anyway. A determined effort to improve, coupled with a few new habits, will bring success. You're going to love the new organized you!
  • Poor time management. We all know it happens. Time slips up on us. Studies show that disorganized people have a poorer sense of the movement of time than organized people. That often means we don't manage our work schedule well. All of a sudden, we notice we have to go to a meeting, and up we jump - leaving unfinished work behind. The mess mounts.
  • Quick Fix: Commit to using a planner and make sure every event is recorded. Note the time of each meeting, and above it, the time you need to leave for that meeting. Soon you'll begin to respond subconsciously to the earlier time. Just feeling less rushed will help your organizational efforts immensely.
(From Sandra Felton and MArsha Sims' "Smart Office Organizing")

If you did learn something from this, or know someone who might need this, please feel free to share, leave your comments below, and hit like on the facebook page button at the side. Thanks! 

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