Staying focused in the age of distraction isn’t easy but it can be done with a little mental training and structuring your environment in a particular way.
If you want to develop razor sharp focus, greater peace of mind and the ability to get things done, consider making the time to declutter your work space.
Research has found that clutter in our environment is mentally overwhelming and distracting. Clutter makes it hard for you to focus on what you need to do.
Couldn’t find your keys or an important document? Clutter and bad systems were probably to blame.
Having excess stuff in your life means you spend more time cleaning, sorting and searching for stuff and less time on the things that are most important to you.
The thing about clutter is that it’s incompatible with having an active and fulfilling life. Why? Because clutter creates a barrier between you and the items you need to get into the day and do the things you want to do.
In short, clutter doesn’t really enrich our lives. Having a giant selection of things often just exhausts us and depletes our energy.
So it’s important to ask the question-
Why do we have so much stuff?
By understanding the root causes of clutter, it can help us to tackle our mountain of stuff and keep junk at bay.
Our piles of stuff are mostly due to the unexamined habit of accumulating things without discarding.
Let’s take a quick look at technology. It keeps changing and we’re told that we need the newest model (even though the one we currently have may still work perfectly fine). For example, if you bought every new iPhone version since the first was released in 2007, you would have purchased 8 phones. That’s a new phone every year.
So what happens is that you accumulate the newest model and the old one just sits there. Some of the reasons for why you hold onto such items may include the following:
1. Too Lazy/busy: You’re either too lazy or busy to get rid of it. You say to yourself “I don’t have the time to deal with this and sort through this stuff!”.
2. Perceived Value: You think “This is valuable!” and perhaps you could make some money from it in the future.
3. Emotional ties: You’ve got an emotional attachment to item (fond memories are associated with it).
4. Impulse purchase you regret: You made a mistake buying it but you don’t want to admit that to yourself so you hang onto it.
But here’s the thing: decluttering allows you to start fresh, organize your space and make room for new ideas and creative projects.
So how can you declutter your life without feeling completely overwhelmed by the job?
First of all, it’s important to understand that it took years for you to accumulate all your stuff so it’s going to take some time to deal with it all. As decluttering expert Don Aslett says“Rome wasn’t dejunked in a day”. This process takes time so go easy. Baby steps.
One mistake a lot of people make before they start decluttering is they run out and buy books on how to declutter and lots of storage and organization boxes. Please resist the urge to do this.
Storage boxes have been described as “junk bunkers” and being like a shot of morphine. Don Aslett says –
“They ease the pain, take care of the problem for a short time – and then it comes back”.
When you run off and buy storage boxes and decluttering books all you’re usually doing is creating more clutter in your life that you’re going to have to deal with at some point.
Decluttering isn’t rocket science and the equipment you need is fairly basic. You’ve usually already got it or can get it for free.
All you need is 5 boxes:
1. Recycling box: This is for papers, cardboard and plastic (anything that can be recycled in your area).
2. Rubbish box or a rubbish bag: This is for anything that can’t be recycled and is broken beyond repair.
3. Put away: For useful things you want to keep but these items aren’t in the right place. You need to find a home for these items.
4. Give away box: This is for stuff you no longer use but it’s still good enough for others to use.
5. Note sure box: This box is for items you’re undecided about (You’ll come back to this box at the end of your decluttering session).
Some people say “What about a box for selling?”
If you want to make sure the item is going to someone who will really appreciate it, then advertising it online can be a really good idea.
But sometimes, you just want a quick clean release from some objects. So if the item isn’t worth much and you don’t have a strong emotional connection to it, it’s not a bad idea to give it away. Put it on Freecylce or in the back of the car and take it to your local op shop.
Once you’ve got your basic equipment, you’re ready to start the decluttering process. All you have to do is focus on one small area. It could be a section of a book cupboard, a surface, a pile of papers or a drawer.
The key is to stay focused on this area (don’t get distracted by other cluttered areas). You want to get the job done properly. Seeing improvements in one little area will help to build your clutter clearing confidence.
I like to start the decluttering process with my office desk as this is where I spend most of my work day.
Take everything off the desk and put it in a box. Everything. What you’re doing is you’re clearing the backlog and starting fresh.
Then you’re going to sort through that box. As you pick up an item, ask yourself:
When did I last look at this item? Has it been used in the last 12 months? Is it really useful? What is the cost of holding onto it?
Repeat this process. Remember, don’t overdo it. Pace yourself by setting a timer and working in 15 minute bursts. Tackling one little area each day is enough.
It’s important to keep in mind that decluttering is a journey not a destination. It’s an ongoing process, not an end product.
You have to keep at it and make time to do it because new papers and items will keep coming in to fill those empty spots. You have to be like a ninja and fight off stuff coming into your space all the time.
But if you can stay on top of it, you’ll have more energy to focus on the things that matter most to you.