Too Much Stuff?

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The late, great comic George Carlin wrote a very funny bit called ‘a place for my stuff’. He spoke about people needing ‘a place for my stuff’- because they had too much stuff – which then drove the need to have larger and larger places to keep all your stuff – which, naturally led to the need to fill those places with more and more stuff. And so on.

These days it seems like I’m feeling ‘stuffed’ not just from food but from everything around me. It seems like a spend a lot of mental energy trying to keep all my stuff organized, sorted, cleaned, or stored. As I write this article and gaze around my office, I’m aware of all the stuff  I’ve accumulated over the years;  files, books, papers, notebooks, supplies, photos, medicines, pens, markers, and wall hangings. For the most part I don’t really pay much attention to my ‘collection’.  However I do have thoughts from time to time…“I really should get to that pile in the corner” (the one that’s been sitting there for six months!)

That is the point; I may not feel overwhelmed by all of these things I have collected but I do get anxious, lose focus or stressed with all the cloudy thinking that occurs as a result. Too much stuff and clutter impedes our ability to think and focus. It’s that simple. We live in a time of great abundance and we have access to so many cool toys, gadgets, supplies, and electronic devices, it’s easy to lose control.  If we don’t take the time to manage our physical environment, the space in which we are working, we’re not ‘firing on all cylinders’, sputtering and running out of gas!

Schedule the Time to Declutter

I bet you already know how good it feels to unclutter and get super organized. I found that the more I got into it, the better I felt. I literally was creating space for myself to think, plan and envision a positive future for my work and life. In some cases it took a little courage to throw away some the stuff I ‘planned to get to someday’. At other times I felt exhilarated and liberated as I neatly labeled the files and put them in their proper order.

I challenge you to do the same. You may feel overwhelmed at first but once you get going-cleaning, consolidating, and organizing- you’ll have peace of mind and the focus necessary to get the job done.

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

When going through all your stuff, ask yourself “is this something I need to do or handle?

  • If the answer is ‘yes’, then schedule the time to do it.
  • If the answer is ‘No’ and you don’t need it – THROW IT AWAY.
  • If the answer is ‘No’, but you don’t want to destroy the note because it contains information that you want to save, then put it with (or create) the file it goes with or add it to the document (or create one ) it belongs to. Either way, take action!
  1. Cleaning and dusting-clean everything, bookshelves, desks, windowsills, lamps, etc.
  2. Eliminate the piles; magazines, files to file, books, articles, documents etc
  3. Donate computers, old office machines, ., music/video players that don’t work or you no longer use.
  4. Get rid of the post it notes and other ‘wallpaper’; put all the notes (post it or otherwise) in a pile and deal with it.
  5. Files and filing – trash old folders, go through existing folders and shred what you no longer need, use color folders, use printed labels.
  6. Clean up the ‘desktop’ on your computer. Create shortcuts to the files and programs you use frequently. Deal with this as you would your ‘physical space.’ I keep my shortcuts and programs to the left of my screen; no more than two columns. On the right side I have the folders and documents I am currently working with, also no more than two columns.
  7. Create your workspace so that you feel compelled to be productive. You want to have pictures, artwork, plants and displays that inspire you. Get rid of tired posters, update pictures with proper frames, and, if possible, add color or paint so that the overall energy and ‘feel’ of the space works with your personality.
  8. Make it a game; get a co-worker to support you. What about team members? Perhaps it’s time for them to do the same.
  9. Learn to effectively use your Outlook and other electronic calendars for staying organized, reducing paper clutter, project and time management. (more on this coming soon!)

In addition, schedule the time to clean and organize your, closets, car, garage, and home office. I promise that you will experience a sense of freedom and power from ‘completing’ and updating your workspace and other environments.


New Workshop in San Diego! The Thee Keys of Productivity: Knowing what to do, when to do, and doing it.

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