Home > Uncategorized > Getting de-cluttered

Getting de-cluttered

I have a bad habit, something of a family trait, of letting my apartment get more and more cluttered with papers, documents, bills, etc. of all sorts.  Periodically I’ll get things relatively organized and then just let the clutter build up again for, literally, years before I get around to straightening up.  It increases so gradually that I don’t even notice how bad it’s getting, or just get used to it.  Part of it is that I just don’t have a very good filing system, don’t have good places to put certain things, so they just end up going in “temporary” piles that end up not so temporary.  And things often ended up getting scattered across multiple piles because I forgot where I’d piled that type of thing in the past.

But recently I had a bit of serendipity that’s worked in my favor.  I was going by my apartment building’s dumpsters and I saw that someone had tossed out one of those inexpensive stacks of translucent plastic drawer/bins because one of the three drawers had broken.  I figured two drawers were better than none, so I took it home and washed it in the tub.  I discovered it was modular, each level detachable, so I wondered why the folks who threw it out didn’t just remove one tier and keep the other two intact drawers.  But they threw it out, so it was fair game.  And it fit just perfectly in the corner formed by the arm of my couch and the side table next to it — just about the only place left in the main room of my small apartment that could’ve accommodated it.

Anyway, at first I used both drawers to hold business-related stuff that I was running out of room for, one for contracts, one for royalty statements.  But both drawers were still pretty empty, and I had a lot of other things I didn’t have good places for.  So I had a very good, very simple idea.  I got a set of manila file folders.  That way I could put several separate types of thing in each drawer without them getting mixed up.  And there were enough folders that I didn’t have to limit myself to the drawers; I had a few other places where I could store sets of folders, including a set of foot-square freestanding shelves in my bedroom corner that I hadn’t found much use for yet.

So now I’ve got one drawer for writing-related documents and one for medical and health-insurance records, and folders for various categories of other stuff being stored in various other places.  Still a bit haphazard,  but I finally have designated places to keep these various things, which hopefully will let me be more organized in the future.  And I can finally see the surface of my dining-room table again.  I still have eight unused folders and some other categories of papers I have yet to reorganize, but I’ve definitely made major progress.

Indeed, being on a straightening-up kick has helped me clear up some other stuff as well.  For instance, I had a big box for holding empty cardboard for recycling that was taking up a fair amount of space in the corner next to the dining table, something of an eyesore but I couldn’t think of a better place to keep it.  Now that my place was starting to look orderly, I got a yen to do something about it, and I thought, “Gee, if only I had room for it in the kitchen somewhere.”  And then I remembered that some of the family members I’ve visited over the past year, not to mention my father at his retirement home, kept their garbage cans or recycling bins under their sinks.  I knew there was a big empty space under my sink, but it never occurred to me to use it to store anything other than trash bags, cleaning stuff, and the like.  But the recycling box fit in there very nicely and is both more convenient and invisible.

Of course, I’ll probably fall back into old habits and let stuff pile up again.  Clutter has a way of expanding to fill the available space.  But at least some of it will be more organized, particularly the really important job and medical stuff.  And at least for now my apartment is starting to look more agreeable again. 

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Larry Brennan
    May 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I wonder if the spring cleaning thing is going around. Over the past week, I cleaned out half of my stuff in the garage. I’d say that 30% got recycled, 30% went to Goodwill, 30% got taken to the dump and I kept 10% max.

    I also attacked my home office with a vengeance. Alas, I too tend to make piles of stuff until they take over. I sorted out my tax papers into one accordion folder, various health records and important receipts into another and either shredded or recycled the rest. What a relief!

    Since Kathleen and I moved in together, we created a forcing function for de-cluttering the rest of the apartment. Every two weeks, we have to get all the loose stuff out of the main rooms of the house so that the housecleaner can clean. (She leaves our offices alone.)

    While you’re probably not going to get a cleaner, you could try setting a time every week to sort, file, shred and toss the stuff that comes into the house.

    Regardless, congrats on the big spring clean-up!

  2. June 1, 2011 at 11:38 am

    We just went through a big clean up too. Among the things to go was the the humongous old style tube TV I had before moving in here. Man, the office seems so much bigger now. Also got rid of an old monitor so no more tubes in the house. Feels good. I also used to hang on to every book I read, even ones I knew I would never read again, but now I look for any excuse to give old books away. That’s helping to clean the place up.

  3. Tim Webb
    June 9, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Christopher, check out David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” from the library. It’s an easy, straightforward and logical approach to organizing that has helped me. His method of organizing is very flexible, so that you can use paper notes & folders, or digital organizing, or any combination you like. The book was a bestseller so it’s surely at your local library, and it’s not long read.

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