Works For Me Wednesday: Clutter

I thought this anecdote was hilarious. The author is unknown: I don’t even remember where I got this from:

It arose one morning from the bowels of my desk, a formless mass that spread and covered itself over anything I was looking for. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I am Clutter,” the mass answered, “and I am here to confound your life. I am the things you refuse to throw out though you haven’t used them in six years, the miscellaneous papers, phone numbers, business cards, and checks you accumulate and don’t put away. I am the inevitable manifestation of your sloppiness. I am Clutter.”

I grabbed Clutter and moved it from one end of the desk to the other. Clutter chortled, “That’s my favorite pastime. Moving from one end of the desk to the other.” “What do you want?” I asked.

“To frustrate you. I will resist all attempts to remove me, reduce me, or otherwise eliminate me. It’s my purpose to hide whatever important piece of paper you need, whichever phone number you must call.”

“I’m throwing you out,” I stormed. Clutter shook his untidy mass sadly, as in pity.

“Not without looking through me to see if there’s anything you really need,” Clutter answered. “the odds are slim, but you won’t take that chance. And while your sorting through me, I’ll re-form in another pile.”

“But you’ll be smaller, more manageable.”

“Not really. You’ll decide to keep 90% of me, as you always do. And soon, new papers, numbers, documents will gather, making me more obstructive than ever.”

“You won’t ruin my life, Clutter! I’ll start a filing system! I’ll put a bit of you where you belong.”

Clutter gazed at me contemptuously. “The last time you tried that, you created my cousins, Chaos and Disorder. It’ll never work.”

Clutter had me and I knew it. Attempts in the past to file things alphabetically had only created 26 piles of mess instead of one. I was desperate, so I decided to bluff. “I’ll take a time management course,” I threatened.

Clutter quite rightly ignored my remark. I wasn’t dealing with an idiot, after all. “Then I’ll buy a computer and store you on my floppy disks!”

“And within a month your disk-filing system will be in total disarray, plus you’ll have another pile of papers waiting to be entered onto disks. Face it, you can’t win.”

Exasperated, I ran to the closet. “I’m getting some air.” Clutter had been to the closet before me. Shoes were scattered, shirts were unhung, clumps of pants and underwear lay strewn next to towels and a lawn chair. Socks congealed in small piles, looking like the waste product of some nylon-eating monster. Cliff notes from A Tale of Two Cities lay atop the heater.

“Clutter,” I yelled. “You have crippled my productivity for the last time. No longer will I be late, no more will I miss appointments, never again shall I be overwhelmed by your size and withdraw into reading old magazines. I am going out to the store to buy a paper shredder.”

I looked around for a long moment. “Now where did I leave my keys?”

Clutter burped.

—Author Unknown

Clutter isn’t quite that formidable to deal with — it just seems like it! 🙂 Whole books have been written about how to deal with clutter, and I haven’t conquered it totally yet, but here are a few things I’ve found to help:

* If I don’t have time to clean out the whole attic or closet or refrigerator or whatever, it helps to break it down into smaller portions. Clean out a box at a time, a shelf at a time, a drawer at a time.

*If you have the space somewhere, it is helpful to have a box or shelf set aside to place things to get rid of as I come to them rather than having to sift through a drawer to get them. Then when the box or shelf is filled, take it to the mission or Salvation Army.

* I do keep sentimental things, but ask myself realistically if I will ever use or look through the items. For instance, I used to keep all my son’s Sunday School papers until I realized that after eighteen years that stack would be daunting. So as we get such papers I try to pick out representative or especially meaningful ones and (wince!) throw away the rest.

* I try not to set something out of place “for just a minute” but rather go ahead and put things back where they belong as I get done with them as much as possible.

* I try to encourage the kids to brings their “stuff” in from the car whenever we get home.

For more tips and helpful hints, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

“Works For Me Wednesday”

16 thoughts on “Works For Me Wednesday: Clutter

  1. That story was a riot, but so true! One thing I find helps me is to remember “OHIO”–Only Handle It Once. When you are sorting, don’t move things from one place to another (yep, clutter’s favorite pastime)–DO something with it. Throw it out, put it where it belongs, put it in a bag or box to give away to charity. And you are right…all those Sunday school papers could make your house sink into the ground after many years. Sort of the way National Geographic Magazines do…

  2. Great tips and cute story. I’ve found that if I don’t have the time or energy for “real cleaning,” then just taking care of the visible clutter in our living space makes a huge difference.

  3. I really enjoyed the story. I know that it resonates with me very much. Periodically I do have spurts of de-cluttering, but before too long I’m back where I started and feeling annoyed with myself for letting it get that way.

  4. Thanks for the humorous look at a serious subject!

    I thinkg the son of Clutter lives at my house. I’ve got three desks and several piles on each and I’m always throwing things away!

    My tip is up!

  5. Great tips! You might want to look into FlyLady – it’s a great system for managing clutter. I just started out a few weeks ago (I actually heard about it through someone’s WFMW), and it’s going well so far. The system is very easy to follow, and it’s based on a 15 minutes per day principle. Happy Wednesday!

  6. Funny story! Thanks for the good tips. It also helps if you go straight to recycling bin and/or shredder when your mail arrives to prevent it from piling up.

  7. Clutter, clutter, clutter. I’m pretty good at handling clutter, but my children and husband don’t seem to mind clutter. It does help to put things away right when you get them or after you use them to avoid big piles of stuff.
    Thanks for visiting my blog!

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