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Declutter Your Life

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

One day your desk is mildly disorganized, the next you find yourself frantically rooting through stacks of paperwork the size of Godzilla trying to find a closing form. Admit it… you have a clutter problem. In Let Go of Clutter (McGraw Hill Professional Publishing, 2001. $16.96), professional organization expert Harriet Schechter teaches you how to tame your pack rat tendencies and become more productive.

A poorly organized office can make accomplishing routine tasks time-consuming–and that’s a luxury you can’t afford when you’re in business, she says. Nicknamed “The Miracle Worker,” Schechter operates a San Diego-based organizing service and teaches workshops on clutter control. She offers readers a simple message: You don’t need to let clutter control your life.

Clutter can take many forms, Schechter says. It isn’t always a simple mess grown out of control; it can also consist of too much stuff arranged in an orderly, but excessive fashion. Thus, “decluttering” requires more than shifting bills from one manila folder to another. It requires a systematic process of identifying and purging anything that creates stress for you because of its appearance, condition, location, arrangement, or quantity.

Yes, this means that you might have to throw something out. The book includes easy-to-use forms and checklists to make this process less painful. For instance, it includes checklists to prioritize what you should keep and what you should throw away.

If you’re hesitating whether to toss a piece of paper or put it back into a file, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a reason you have kept it for this long? (If you can’t remember why you are keeping it, odds are that it’s not that important.)
  • If you got rid of it, could you get it again? Would it be worth the trouble?
  • If you keep it, will you know where to find it?
  • What’s the worst thing that can happen if you discard it?
  • What’s the likelihood of that ever happening?

Remember to treat your wastebaskets like babies, she advises. “Keep them within close reach at all times, feed them frequently, and change them often.”

But it’s not enough to barrel through your office with a leaf-blower and an oversized garbage bag until your desk is clear. You need to modify your attitudes and habits to head off clutter. This can involve setting up to-do lists break down projects into manageable chunks or making a conscious effort to selectively evaluate and discard materials before they begin to pile up. When setting up any new organization system, remember that most good systems have three things in common: they’re simple, flexible, and growth-oriented.

Don’t let yourself be a slave to stuff. If your office prompts you to cry out, “How did I get all this stuff?” at least once a day, don’t despair. Harriet Schechter can help you to clear the clutter and keep it away.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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