UnStuff Your Life

Why do we hold on to things we don’t need? A guide to clearing clutter and forming new habitsAndrew Mellen

Now that you’re utilizing the Organizational Triangle to keep current with the objects that you use every day, you’re ready to tackle historic clutter and get organized for good. Here’s the process you’ll want to follow to deal with any clutter hotspot, from your entryway to your closets and from your desk to your kitchen cupboards. For this example, we’ll deal with your desk.

Step 1
Take some “before” pictures. Photographs are a great source of motivation if you ever falter or doubt that progress is being made. Your gut may tell you one thing (“This isn’t happening fast enough,” or “Nothing’s changed; this is a waste of time”), but the photos don’t lie. These images provide proof that the process does work and is moving forward.

Step 2
Clear everything off the surface of your desk. Then turn your attention to the drawers and do the same thing until there’s nothing left in or on your desk. Wipe down your desktop and the empty drawers.

Step 3

Turn your attention to the pile of stuff you’ve just cleared from your desk. Utilizing “Like with Like,” begin to group like items together. For example, I divide my desk supplies into the following categories: office supplies, electronics, file folders, banking, and shipping/postage.

Step 4
Once everything has been sorted into groups of similar items, eliminate any redundancies. Be mindful of how much room you have in your desk to store surplus supplies. Is there a nearby closet where you can store those extra Post-it notes? You shouldn’t need more than one stapler or pair of scissors. Let the rest go. Use containers to group the small necessary items, like pens, pencils, paper clips, binder clips, and so on.

Step 5
Once you’ve finished organizing your items into groups and have eliminated the redundancies, you can begin to set up your drawers and the desktop. Think location, location, location. What do you absolutely need at your fingertips on the desk? That and only that should live on the surface. Anything that can be stored in a drawer, should be. When loading drawers, use “Like with Like” to inform what shares drawer space and utilize drawer dividers in order to corral similar items together. When you’ve found a home for everything you need, you’re finished. As you begin to use your newly designed space, keep the three legs of the Organizational Triangle in mind, and you’ll find yourself on the path to a life of less clutter.

Andrew Mellen
is an author, a professional organizer, and a public speaker. He has shared his message of “More Love, Less Stuff!” at TED x, on HGT V and NPR , and in O, The Oprah Magazine. For more information about his work, visit andrewmellen.com.

Artwork by Helga Steppan

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