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'You can't organize clutter!'

Posted by frankie_in_zone_7 (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 10, 12 at 12:26

I have lost the thread where another forum member said this, but it is (one of) my new mantras. Or, I hope that if I keep saying it, it will sink in.

It is just so true. One of the methods of tidying up and surface-clearing or even drawer-clearing that often works for me is to remove everything and put it in a shallow box, so the surface area is immediately "clear," which gives a good feeling, and then I think what goes back and I do the put-5-things-away-each day from the box.

Then I begin to notice that after a flurry of putting things where they belong, the box is left with a group of things, the "messy bits". I've sometimes looked at them for days. Of course sometimes there is an important item and it needs a home, and the task is then to decide or create the place it goes, so it can go there, and you have to be careful not to throw out a bit that you don't recognize but turns out to be a key part to your expensive whatever.

But many times these bits are simply the clutter, and they've been circulating around for weeks or days because that's just what they are, and they need to GO.

One of my 2012 goals is to be able to "see" these messy bits for what they are more readily and get rid of them.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

I found a wonderful article about clutter or stuff that explained that an excess of stuff represents indecision, or delayed decision-making (can't find the article at this second...typical, not organized enough :-)). That dovetailed nicely into what I've been doing, which is in fact organizing my clutter... because once I see what I have of a certain type of thing I am more likely able to make decisions about each of them. So my mantra is not "get rid of" although I know that is an eventual outcome, but "what I do I need to do/know before I can make a decision about this?"

So for me, and evidently for others, organizing is all about deciding, and one thing I am still always stuck on is how to decide what goes into a certain drawer or cupboard. I've emptied a few spaces out lately, and am very slow to decide what to keep there in the longer term. So there are times when I have empty cupboards and "stuff" on the floor around them.

Karin L

By the way I am not going to click on that link above! THAT is an easy decision :-)


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

If you google: "Clutter is postponed decisions" - Barbara Hemphill, The Productivity Institute, you'll find several articles referring to this phenomenon.

I have this quote sticky-noted to my ironically messy tack board in my work office!


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

I agree Co Co.

I too find myself with the "stragglers" and they never seen to find a home.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

We were having a site visit for one of our programs, so dept head said we all must clean our offices. Well, I took it to heart, and most of my old documents either wound up in the shredder or the 96-gallon recycling tote. I also found I was not using two filing cabinet drawers, so that freed up some space in the main cabinet.

We have to keep student work 3 years, but now my students turn in their final papers electronically on turnitin.com (an anti-plagiarism site), so I don't have to store these 15-20 page papers anymore.

It took about 6-7 hours for the total clean up. So far, so good in maintaining the cleanliness.

The main things were: getting rid of outdated things, and freeing up space to store the things I need.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

Hi, Frankie! I'm new here. :) Your strategy sounds great. I had not heard of it. I have heard the mantra (can't clean clutter) from FlyLady, but not the box idea.

I absolutely think clutter is delayed decision-making. Sometimes with paperwork it is related to a task I need to do . . .like figuring out why my ins. is denying a claim or something, but most of the time it's true.

One thing that stumps me . . .I tend to change things around in my house a lot, and do not know when something will come in handy deco-wise. For example, I had some lamps I bought 10 yrs ago and used them only 1 or 2 yrs. I stored them all this time, and was going to give them away several times. I didn't, and now I am using them again. Are they my FAVORITE lamps in the world? No, but I like them, and am glad not to have to spend money on new ones.

The other obstacle for me is my kids' artwork. I don't want to keep everything-- do not want to saddle them with it when I am gone-- but I have a hard time picking what to keep. I have 5 kids (4 of them who currently "create," since one is too young) so you can imagine we get a lot. I have started getting rid of their work right away to make it easier, but I'm always sort of sad about it.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

As far as kids' art work goes, I found a workable solution. i have 2 daughters. So I bought two big art portfolios at an art supply store, one for each. They hold plenty of papers and I've been able to store them neatly under my bedroom dresser. I pull them out every few years and look thru. It's nice having their school pspers "coralled". My girls are now 22 and 23, they have absolutely no interest in their old elementary school work. But I like having it stored without a lot of mess.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

Kids' artwork: I differentiate between what is authentically "them" and what was assigned in school. I throw most school stuff away; to me it expresses the teacher, not my child. There are exceptions, mind you.

My kids also both did zillions of a certain type of drawing or item (my daughter and origami...). I keep a couple of good exemplars, and discard the rest.

My key motto is that the artwork has performed its primary function as soon as the child is finished making it. It kept them productively occupied, it allowed them to develop the skill in question (fine motor with beads, or what have you), and it may have had a therapeutic or expressive effect. They are moving on, and parents should too.

All of this is usually after the fact, because you don't have an overview until they're older, and can't separate yourself from it until you have a "new" stage of theirs to embrace to replace what you are discarding.

Of course you need a box or drawer for each kid as the stuff flows in. And one of my pet peeves is that environment-friendly discarding requires me to take things apart as carefully as the kids made it!

Karin L


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

I can't take credit for this one, but here's a good idea: Some "organizers" recommend a box method for sorting clutter-trash, keep, donate, maybe boxes, etc. I heard recently you need only 2 boxes- label them "new me" and "old me". Anything in old me goes, and new me stays.If you are unsure about something, put it in a box and store it in a closet or the attic. label it with the month and year. Six or twelve months later, if you haven't opened it to get something, it can be chucked. Donate or trash.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

Thank you, Frankie! This saying has been rattling in my head since you posted, and it has helped push me to get rid of more "stuff." I am a crafter, so it will take a while to go through everything, but I am tackling stuff when I have time. Yesterday, we took to the thrift store some crafting supplies that I was given years ago and have never used. (I'm still working full time, and go through dry spells where I don't paint, sew, or craft.) Also tossed a bunch of frames from DH's family photos. Kept the photos but not the frames because they were cheap and dated.

I am doing better at filing papers when they arrive in the mail, and have tossed old statements. We found out that we only need to keep the last investment statement for each year, so will have to go through the files and shred all the other statements.

DH offered to take me shopping for clothes yesterday, but I declined because I really like not having to store "overflow" clothing that won't fit in my small closet.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

I agree with it being about delayed decision making. I consider myself mostly free of clutter but I do find anytime things start to build up, that when it really comes down to it-it is about the fact that I am not wanting to 'pay that bill' or 'tackle that problem' and that is why, for example, that pile of mail is building up on the kitchen table.

I struggle all the time as someone who has hoarders in their family (legit hoarders) and one thing I have found that has worked is when we are out, I'm careful, almost always, to not purchase something if I don't have a specific spot picked out for it or a good use for it. It has helped me to maintain a space that is relatively clutter free and I try to save my purchases for things I really love and want to have around~and that way I also have space to display it.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

For the kids stuff I use clear sleeves in 3" 3 ring binders and print off the computer with childs name and and decorative clipart like thier sports such as soccer ,stars,hearts ect. and slide it in the front plastic cover of the binder and for the sleeves I put art work,awards,ribbons,newspaper clippings ect. The 3" binders hold a ton of stuff too.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

It alway seems that when I get on a "cleaning binge" I end up throwing something I REALLY need just a day or two later.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

It alway seems that when I get on a "cleaning binge" I end up throwing something I REALLY need just a day or two later.


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RE: 'You can't organize clutter!'

I know what you mean. I was going thru old paperwork and threw out (shredded) some paper related to my home mortgage. (Which has been paid off for years). Lots of documents, legal papers, bank papers, attornery papers, duplicate surveys, etc. Also shredded the actual "deed" which was a mistake. I had to drive to my county center (50 miles each way) and pay (a small fee) for a new one. At least what I threw away was replacable. And I am enjoying an empty file drawer.


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