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5 tips for tackling clutter in "cold storage"

Blog post   •   Oct 29, 2014 12:55 +08

*This post is written by San, Edits Inc's principal consultant*

There's this paper monster lurking on the top-most section of one of my cupboards which I've been itching to get my hands on it for a while - say about 2 years.  Having completed 3 Masters degrees, I'm fairly well-endowed with papers of all kinds.  The last time I did a purge 2 years back, a fair amount of it went to the dumpster, but after a while, needs do change and I no longer feel compelled to keep that much after all. 

In less than 6 hours, I managed to clear, sort through and re-file close to 3 cubic meters of stuff, almost 70% of which was relegated to the recycling bin.  There's about 1 cubic meter left to complete, but it'll have to do for another day.  

So for those who are thinking of parring down your collection (whatever it may be), here are 5 tips to help you manage the project and your emotions well. 

1.  Start early in the morning

Research tells us that the quality of our decisions decline over the course of the day, so we should always work on the most important things first.  So if you're planning to clear some cupboards, either take a day off or get started in the morning, preferably before the kids (or the rest of the household) wake up. 

2.  Do not attempt to take everything out at once

Tackle a small area at a time, about 1 cubic meter would do just fine.  So when you feel like taking a break and continuing on another day, there's not a whole lot to put back into the cupboards. 

3.  Find yourself a sorting area with plenty of elbow room

Preferably somewhere that's not in the same room as the area you're clearing up.  Why?  The things visual clutter makes it hard to focus and make quality decisions.  Once an item is removed from the shelf, bring it to the sorting area for processing.  Yes, it does take that extra bit of walking, but your brain and eyes will thank you for giving them sensory overload. . 

4.  Prepare 3 types of boxes in the sorting area

For rubbish, donations and for keeps.  If your neighborhood is into recycling, have several rubbish bins handy.  As for donations, keep the categories as generic as possible, to avoid having too many half-filled boxes around.  For the items you wish to keep, you may place them directly into their eventual containers, or sort into different boxes by category.  The first approach is good for large items, while the second is better for small ones. 

When each box is full, take it away from the sorting area.  An orderly sorting area will go a long way to maintaining your energy levels. 

4.  It doesn't have to be finished in a day

Do until you feel you've had enough, then stop.  Either take a break and continue, or relegate it to another day.  If you're planning on the latter, schedule the next session the moment you finish the current one, so your brain knows you'll get to it eventually, and won't keep nagging at you to finish it. 

Don't try to schedule several future dates all at once - just the NEXT one will do.  Again it's about tricking your brain to think that there is only 1 session left, which keeps you energized and motivated. 


Give it a go.  And if you have friends who've been talking about clearing their clutter for the longest time, share this post with them!

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