- When you walk into your office or studio in the morning, have you got the space to create or is there nowhere to get started?
- When you come back from a meeting, do you struggle to find somewhere to put your papers where they won’t get mixed up with papers relating to a different project?
- When a client phones you, can you instantly put your hand on the documents you need or do you find yourself scrabbling through piles of stuff, trying to find them?
If your office or studio is cluttered, have you tried to clear your clutter backlog in the past only to be defeated by overwhelm? Or have you succeeded in clearing it only to watch it creep back?
If much of this rings true, chances are you’re making some of the five most common clutter-clearing mistakes.
These are the mistakes I notice most often when working with female entrepreneurs.
When we tackle them, my clients shift from feeling miserable and anxious at the thought of their clutter, to being empowered, lit up, inspired, energised and confident that they can manage their stuff on an ongoing basis. They never need to face a clutter backlog again.
Read on to find out how you can avoid these simple errors too…
1. Blaming yourself
Do you feel like a failure when you look at your clutter? Do you say to yourself that you should be able to manage this stuff? Does the state of your office make you feel ashamed?
Honey, I want you to stop being so hard on yourself. You’re not alone in this. Stuff is coming at us all the time and managing it can be challenging. You can hardly walk down the street in our buy-one-get-one-free world without coming back with more than you went out with. Even if you don’t go out, paper arrives though your letterbox.
Let yourself off the hook and stop blaming yourself. You could even try on the idea that ‘clutter’ is just a label. What you call ‘cluttered’, might look like ‘tidy’ to someone else. You’ve simply got a certain amount of stuff arranged in a certain way. And you can change that if you want to.
- Forgive yourself for the way things are and focus instead on how things will be, and what you’re going to do to make that a reality.
2. The build-up/blitz cycle
You’re a busy entrepreneur with a million things to do every day. It’s all you can do to get the urgent and essential stuff done, without spending time sorting through clutter, right?
So you manage in your cluttered workspace for as long as you can, until it becomes near-impossible to work (or you’re soooo desperate to put off tackling a particular task, you’ll do anything to avoid it!) Then you spend hours blitzing your office, all the time feeling guilty because you should be doing other stuff.
I get it. I run two businesses myself and I know how all-consuming it can be. As an entrepreneur, you’re not just making your product or delivering your service, you’re probably doing most, if not all, of the other business functions too. You’re the office manager, the finance officer, the marketing director, the face of the business, and a hundred other roles.
Here’s the thing though. Keeping on top of your clutter makes you so much more efficient that you easily win the time back. In a clutter-free and organised workspace, your productivity soars. You can find what you need when you need it, you’ve got physical space to work in and mental space to think in, and you’re taking actions as soon as they need to be taken.
Be vigilant about stopping clutter from building up. Create systems that work for you so that you put things away as you go as much as possible. And don’t wait until your clutter backlog is driving you bonkers.
- The minute you struggle to find enough clear space to put something, or to do something, spend 15-30 minutes putting away anything that doesn’t need to be on hand, and getting rid of stuff you no longer need.
3. Focusing on the stuff that you can’t get rid of
When we look at a clutter backlog as a whole, we tend to focus on the things that we can’t decide about, or that we feel we should get rid of but can’t or don’t want to. When clients show me round their homes or workspaces for the first time, they always point out the items that they they’re unsure about.
What they don’t notice is that there are also lots of items that they’d be happy to let go.
Focusing on the challenging items makes us feel hopeless and overwhelmed. It seems pointless to take on clutter-clearing because we don’t think we’ll make any progress. All we can see is the tough decisions we’re going to have to take.
To clear an area, remove everything from it and then go through each item systematically. If you’re not sure whether you want to let something go, hang onto it for now. There’ll be plenty of other stuff you can move on.
- By tackling each item systematically, you ensure that you notice these items, as well as the more challenging ones.
4. Thinking that sorting alone will sort it
Most clutter is caused by postponing actions, often because we’re postponing a decision. We leave things lying around to remind us to do things. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Our ‘reminders’ end up buried under more ‘reminders’ so we can’t see them any more. Even if they stay in sight, we stop noticing them after a while.
As you sort through your clutter, make a list of actions you need to take with the things you come across.
- At the end of your sorting session, take as many of these actions as you can and schedule the rest. Then get rid of any ‘reminders’ you no longer need.
5. Aiming for perfection
Do you look at magazine pictures of pristine homes and offices, and wish yours was the same? Please don’t do that to yourself! Those homes and offices aren’t actually lived or worked in. Aspiring to them is no more realistic than wishing you could achieve the airbrushed beach body of a model in a magazine.
Be realistic about what works for you and create systems in line with this. Don’t aim for ‘perfection’ (whatever that is!) because if you fall short of it, you’ll feel so bad you won’t be able to motivate yourself to clear your clutter and get organised. Being organised is about setting up your home and office to support what you are out to achieve.
- It’s not about living up to anyone else’s idea of what your home or office should look like.
Post your best clutter clearing tips and worst cluttered-up nightmares in the comments section below!
Rachel Papworth runs Green and Tidy. She helps people all over the world declutter and create homes they love – homes that support them to live the lives of their dreams. A trained coach with a Psychology degree, and a self-confessed decluttering and organising geek, Rachel loves the way decluttering your stuff declutters your mind, and the contribution decluttering and organising makes to living a low impact life. For a free masterclass ‘How to declutter and stay decluttered FOREVER’, join the Green and Tidy community at http://www.mygreenandtidylife.co.uk, follow her on Twitter @greenandtidy and Like http://www.facebook.com/GreenAndTidy.