When you are working to get rid of clutter, i.e., the 'dandruff on the shoulders of your room' (Christopher Lowell), one of the key tools you need is a pad of paper and a pen. Whenever you are decluttering, keep an easily-viewable and findable pad of paper (or a clipboard with paper) to write down all the to-buys, to-dos, to-calls, and other random ideas that pop into your head as you're clearing the clutter. The tendency that most people have when they are de-cluttering (which is a task they may have postponed for awhile) is to go "do" whatever it is that they think of when the idea occurs. Sometimes this is because of the fear that they will forget and other times, it's a prime way to procrastinate the continuation of their 'clearing out the ___' project. By having a pad for your list nearby, you can capture the idea on paper - knowing you won't lose the idea - and then you can keep working on your project. This list helps you avoid jumping up to "self-interrupt" by making a call, running to the store, going to ask someone a question, etc. Be honest. You've done this before (I know I have, too!) Here's how to use your list: Capture any random, unconnected idea you have. It's amazing how the activity of tossing, sifting, sorting, and deciding frees up all kinds of interesting thoughts and ideas. Don't let them get away - but also, don't let yourself get distracted from your main goal, which is to rid your workspace of the clutter that is preventing your peaceful, predictable productivity. Here are examples of how your list will be used - and how it helps you stay focused:
  • You're cleaning off your bookshelves and realize you don't have enough bookends. Write 'buy bookends' or 'ask assistant to order bookends this week.'
  • You're going through a closet and find one really good box for keeping your gloves in, but know that you'd like one just like it for your scarves. Write "Go to store and get 2 more boxes with lids for scarves.'
  • As you're going through items on your desk deciding what to keep and what not to, you remember that you were supposed to follow up with someone you met last week at an event. Write "Call Francine - and her card is in my wallet."
  • When putting some clothes into the 'give away' bag, you decide you want to put some of your kids' toys out for the local non-profit to also pick up. Write "Talk to the twins about donating 8 toys each (since they are 8 years old)."
The possibilities are endless...but you can see how if you stopped to take care of whatever you've put on your list, you'd never finish the project you started, which was getting some order back into your life.