After 15 years in the same apartment, I’m finally moving and determined to set new and better habits to clamp down on clutter. One of those ways will be to live by the rule that if I bring one thing in, I have to take at least one thing out. Easier said than done for me as I have a bit of my dad’s hoarder gene. But fortunately now that my papers, books, and scripts are increasingly digital, I’ve been able to get out from under the clutter a bit more. Do you live by any rules that help you live in clutterfree peace? How long are you able to maintain it before chaos takes over?
JEROME: Most of my clutter happens to be paper, as opposed to toys or trinkets, so digitizing’s the way I go. If it’s a little note to myself, an interesting magazine cutout, I take a photo. I don’t need the physical copy; I’ve found that being sentimental is the quickest way for me to go from zero to an episode of a hoarding reality show.
I will offer this caveat: my hard drive often ends up being the cluttered space (or lack thereof).
PHILIP: As I said in the last ATH post, I’m anti-nostalgia so tend to throw things away to minimize the clutter though even then, I’m sure if I were to move, I’d realize I have a lot of “useless” stuff. But thank god for digital. Definitely helps to have scripts, documents, pics, etc… in the computer than cluttering your room.
ALFREDO: When we were much younger, my wife and I travelled abroad four months and the rules was, “wear one, wash one:” undies, t-shirts, socks, shoes, sandals, sweater, pup tent, and a backpack to carry them in. When we got back home to Berkeley, I never felt so disgusted by all the stuff we had accumulated, and this was only in a 400 square foot studio apartment. Still, though, we tossed a bunch of junk out and stripped down, if not quite to just two pair underwear each, then damn near close. That was the last time I felt like I could truly walk out of the house, shut the door behind me, and never look back.
QUENTIN: I do exactly what you do. I used to have so many clothes in college… so when I left for grad school I decided to donate 80% of them and adopted the rule that my aunt taught me. Buy one thing and donate one thing. Also, only buy and keep nice things you will use and wear over and over again. It’s a discipline you have to learn over the years to not get useless or cheap things for the sake of getting them. I bought a Georgio Armani sweater when I was 21 that cost $300. It was the most expensive piece of clothing I bought then. I still have it and I still wear it after 20 years.
IRIS: My clutter is also paper. Other stuff is not so much of a problem, but paper is my bane. I hate sorting, so I tend to procrastinate on doing that to once a year, or once every other year, which makes my office a total mess. Now that everything is going digital, like Phil said, it helps a little–I don’t have tons of scripts and printed out notes anymore. But I’m still wading in a sea of paper. If I were to clean everything out today, the piles would start stacking again in a week and chaos would probably occur within a month.
ROGER: For me, clutter on my work desk is a physical representation of my current emotional state of mind. When my desk has absolutely nothing on it but a computer and a book, I’m usually most present, clear, happy, and in the moment. When my desk looks like a garbage dump, I’m distracted, stuck, unmotivated, and perhaps a tad depressed. So what do I do to maintain balance and clean work space? Hmm…that’s a good question. Before I was juggling life, career, AND family, I had more flexible time. And with more time, my desk was usually more clean and clear than not. But not today. Now juggling not only my life but the multiple lives of others, my desk is in a continual and perpetual state of array. So if anything, I’m in the process of trying to figure it all out. How am I going to be able to squeeze a bit more peace and balance into the same 24 hour day when I am so much more obligated to things that require significant, daily maintenance and attention? I don’t know. Perhaps I should undertake the 100 Thing Challenge (http://zenhabits.net/minimalist-fun-the-100-things-challenge/). Seems like a cool idea. If I physically possess less, there’s very little chance that clutter could even occur. Hmm…tempting. Less can be more, right? Also, I am a regular visitor to http://zenhabits.net/. Love that site. How to live more simply, and as a result, more happily. As I am writing this I am looking at my incredibly cluttered desk. On my desk alone I must have at least 300 things! Must…simplify…now. :)
I don’t go by any rules, but I have noticed that I feel splendid if my place is clean and organized. That inspires me to sort, file, toss, recycle and eat (when I find edible things, like 30 yr-old licorice)(just kidding) whenever I can. I love organizing. Maybe I should work at Goodwill sorting through the donations. Although . . . my chief method of de-cluttering is taking 98% of stuff to Goodwill, so I might run into some snags there.
It’s key to have bins, folders, and appropriate places to put everything before you start sorting or spring cleaning. If these filing/organizing tools and destinations aren’t available while you sort, there’s nowhere for your stuff to be filed, and you just wind up creating a mini-tornado path. For Iris (and Elaine, if this applies to you) – you might like using lots of 1/2 inch, 1 inch, and 2 inch binders, blank sticker labels, and a ton of pocket dividers (link below). I have mucho paper as well, so I file everything in labeled binders, and all sit on a giant bookshelf.
Avery Big Tab Two-Pocket Insertable Plastic Dividers, 8-Tab Set, 1 Set (11907)
I know, I’m so nerdy.