Who’s in Charge: You or Your “Stuff”?

Do you own your possessions, or do your possessions own you? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the stuff you’ve accumulated — everything from toys and clothing, to tools and all the stuff you regularly use that still counts as clutter. If you’re tired of all your stuff weighing you down, here are some ideas that may help you regain control.

1. Have a systematic plan to get and stay organized. The key to getting organized is FOCUS. Focus on getting one thing completed before moving to the next area. Act like a postage stamp: stick to one thing until you get there.

2. Eliminate clutter and resist adding more. Don’t let your belongings control you. For a start, get rid of unhappy reminders from the past, stop keeping old magazines and newspapers, and don’t buy things just because they’re on sale.

3. Keep your briefcase, tote, or purse organized and clutter-free. Don’t carry stuff around just because you might need it someday: all you’ll end up with is a cluttered mess and a backache. Carry only what you need on a daily basis, keep everything tucked into its own slot, and always put things back after using them.

4. Maintain clutter-free drawers and closets. Don’t just toss things in drawers and forget them. Make liberal use of file folders, trays, and dividers, and use baby food jars as handy paperclip holders and junk catchers. Closets should be subjected to a thorough cleaning at least twice a year.

5. Organize memorabilia such as photos and keepsakes. Before taking the time to organize an item, determine if it’s something you should be keeping in the first place. Don’t keep stuff that doesn’t have any specific meaning or use to you.

6. Keep kids’ toys, clothes, and books organized. Any family with children inevitably fights the battle of the messy monster. Having toys, clothes, and books around is inevitable, but clutter is not. Keep what’s used, and get rid of the rest.

7. Set up and maintain your kitchen in an organized fashion. We spend so much time in the kitchen putting groceries away, preparing meals, and doing dishes, it’s important to maintain an organized space. Be picky about what you keep, and always have frequently-used items close at hand.

8. Keep your car organized and clean. You don’t want to have a two-ton trashcan on wheels. Organize the clutter that stays in the car, and never let anyone get out empty-handed — make sure your trash leaves the car whenever you do. 

9. Set up an effective "office" space in your home. A home office isn’t a luxury these days; it’s just about a requirement. Offices can serve as the family computer center, a place to do paperwork, and the occasional work-at-home office.

10. Keep your house neat, and tidy up daily. Cleaning up doesn’t require anything fancy. Just make sure everything’s in or near when it should be, and regularly put things away so it’s easier to maintain a peaceful, productive frame of mind.

If owning too much is a problem for you, get serious about de-cluttering your life. Otherwise all the clutter will weigh you down, putting pressure on your other pillars of productivity. Start organizing and thinning out your possessions a little bit at a time, and eventually you’ll get there. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel, and how much easier life will be, when all the junk’s gone!

© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, professional speaker, and author who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time™. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training company in Denver, Colorado, that caters to high-stress industries. Laura’s newest productivity book, The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books), hits bookstores in May 2008.  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and MolsonCoors.  Contact her at www.TheProductivityPro.com