Most people identify clutter as a tangible entity. It’s that pile of papers, books, and stuff sitting on your desk waiting to be put away. Although the physical elements are obvious, most of our clutter is invisible, says Barbara Hemphill, author of Less clutter More life and founder of the Institute of the Productive Environment.
“There are four types of clutter: paper, digital, emotional and spiritual,” she says. “Physical and digital clutter is a symptom of emotional and spiritual clutter.”
Years ago, Hemphill started out as a professional organizer. “I realized that whenever there was someone who was a real packrat or an accumulator, they had a hard time letting go,” she says. “If I asked enough questions, I would inevitably discover that they had suffered a severe emotional loss that would leave them physically paralyzed when it came to cleaning up the mess. It wasn’t a paper problem; it was a emotional problem.
Spiritual clutter also gets in the way by representing our hopes, dreams, and fears. “I believe God created each person for a specific purpose, for a specific job,” Hemphill says. “We not only have to do our job, but we have to enjoy our life. When you know your purpose, it’s easy to tell what’s cumbersome. »
Hemphill suggests asking yourself the question, “Does this [physical or digital thing] help me do my job or have the life I want? “If it’s not, by definition it’s a mess,” she said. “Clutter keeps you from reaching your goal, but getting rid of clutter helps reveal your purpose.”
If you’re not sure what your goal is yet, Hemphill says focus on what you know it isn’t instead. “Start with what you know you don’t want,” she says. “It’s like peeling the layers of an onion.”
Three steps to get rid of clutter
Hemphill says three things contribute to clutter: lack of focus, lack of systems and lack of support. To find your purpose, Hemphill, you need to identify what you want to accomplish before you start working.
“A lot of people just aren’t focused,” she says. “They’re not… starting the most important thing to accomplish that day and getting it done before they do anything else. Instead they clean up their emails or do something [else]rather than focusing on what’s important.
To focus, you need to identify the most important tasks and understand why they are important. Then make a plan to accomplish them before moving on to work that isn’t as critical.
Focus requires systems, and the second step is to create them. Hemphill says it’s not enough to make a decision; you must have a way to implement it. When setting up your office and desktop, identify what you need in your system. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. For example, Hemphill uses a system called the “Magic Six”, which identifies the six things you need close to where you work to manage paperwork and projects.
Finally, people must work together to live out a shared vision and values. At work, this requires adequate support. “The way a business succeeds is to make sure employees work the way they’re supposed to work,” says Hemphill. “Organization and productivity is an art, and it has to start at the top.”
Hemphill’s productivity consulting firm helps organizations provide support through a five-step process: state your vision, identify your roadblocks, commit your resources, design and execute your plan, and sustain your success.
“Notice that the common word is all in all of this is ‘your,'” she says. “These five steps can be used to solve any problem, both for the individual and for the company.”
At its core, Hemphill says the clutter is delayed decisions. “Left unresolved, clutter poses risks, including wasted storage, wasted time looking for something, and most importantly, keeping you from living your purpose.”