You know that counter top that accumulates junk no matter how many times you clear it off?
What about that table that can't seem to keep the clutter from piling up on top of it?
I'm going to tell you the secret to keeping the clutter away. It's simple, but it's difficult to do.
Step 1: Purge.
First, pick a category of items that you'd like to see stay uncluttered. Don't pick a room. It has to be a category.
For example, let's say you keep getting piles of paper all over your desk or kitchen tables. So your category is paper. Step 1 is to go through all your papers-- yes, even the ones deep in the file drawer that haven't been touched in years. Throw out all the tax returns that are from more than 7 years ago. Throw away the instruction booklets for items you don't own anymore or that you could easily find instructions for online. Get rid of those receipts for items you thought you might return but never did. You know what I mean.
It is important that in this stage you only purge. Don't worry about sorting or filing yet. We will do that in Step 2.
Step 2: Sort.
A lot of people start with this step, but that is counterproductive. It is essential that you purge first, sort second. If not, you will waste a lot of time sorting things that you don't need or use anymore.
Remember that you are focusing on one category of items, like in our example of paper. Step 2 would be the point in which you would create a list of categories of documents and put each piece of paper in a pile. For the filing example, I would recommend only choosing 4-5 major categories. You will divide these categories into smaller sections later. Your list of categories might look like this:
Step 3: Contain.
Now is the time to put everything you've sorted into its place. Yes, everything must have a place. This is the key to lasting organizing success. There must not be one item that does not have a home. There is no "miscellaneous" category.
This is the toughest step because usually when we get to the end and we're almost done picking up all the clutter, the last few things just get tossed somewhere because we don't know where else to put them. It is vital to your organized life that you find them a home.
For your papers you probably need an outgoing bin/file and an incoming bin. You need a place to put mail that you haven't brought to the mailbox (outgoing). And you need a place for those current papers that you haven't yet sorted through to file or discard. Yes, they can have a home other than the kitchen table.
Ready. Set. Get organized!