May 2014
The Anticrastination Tip Sheet
From Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook and
The Clutter-Busting Handbook

EMMETT'S LAW: The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.
~~ Rita Emmett

Message from Rita

Our last two Tip Sheets focused on "Procrastinating about your dreams". Since then, I've heard from many of you who have started on something you've dreamed about for years. Then there are others of you…who emailed that your clutter is holding you back.

Pity my poor husband who listened to me rave and rant each time I read an email that said "All this clutter prevents me from pursuing my dream. And I can't get rid of it because…" Did I want to get into a debate over was your "because" a valid reason or a miserable mealy-mouthed excuse? I did not. More fun to continue ranting at my ever-patient husband.

Then it hit me…NOT reasons, NOT excuses...MYTHS!! The dictionary defines myth as a fictitious story or belief serving to explain some phenomenon, often spoken of as though true. Based on emails I received, here is my response:


  1. It's too overwhelming. I can never get rid of all this clutter. Poor Baby. So true. It IS overwhelming. So smack yourself in the face with a trout and let's get real. Start by picking just one spot to clutter-bust. Not the whole house, not even a whole room. Just one part of the room. So to begin, PICK ONE SPOT. Not the whole closet, just that shelf. Not the whole office, just the stack in the corner Not the whole car, just the trunk.
  2.  It will take me forever. Yes…um…and how long did it take to accumulate? Yes, Sparky, It WILL take a while to gain control. No sense procrastinating. Might as well start now.
  3. I don't have time to devote to clutter-busting. Yes, you don't have a whole afternoon to devote to it, but you can find an hour. Maybe not an hour a day, but at least an hour a week. If you can't do that, then every day, take 3 things from that spot you selected (See Myth #1) and process it. That means either toss, recycle, donate or put it where it belongs.
  4. First I need to be organized. Nope. You don't. In fact, it's almost impossible to be organized when surrounded by clutter. As you get rid of clutter, you will become more organized. In fact, you'll actually be able to find things. (What a concept!!)
  5. Clutter-busting doesn’t work for me; when I'm done, the stuff is still there. Ummmm, yes, we know how that goes. You take everything out of the closet or garage, sweep it out, and put everything back in. And you are puzzled why nothing disappeared, correct? So before you start, write these lines down and post where you are clutter-busting:

    Conquering clutter means MAKING DECISIONS.
    If you don't need or use it, get rid of it.
    If you don't have enough room for all your stuff, you don't need more
    room, you need less stuff.
    If something doesn't have a place to belong, it automatically
    becomes clutter.
  6. After I get rid of clutter, it just seems to re-appear in no time.
    Let's consider: Do you ever find yourself saying: "Poor, poor pitiful me. I'm swamped with the clutter of stuff and the clutter of debt. Wait!! I know what will fix it…I'LL GO SHOPPING!!"?
    Or…when someone finishes cleaning out their basement and offers you 16 boxes of stuff, do you say "YIPPEE. I'd love it. Thank you"?
    Or…does your car screech to a halt on trash day when you see something at the curb that is "just too good to throw out"?
    Or…do you consider garage sales and flea markets to be blissful, spiritual experiences??
    Tell me, Punkin, are you starting to figure out how that clutter magically re-appears?
  7. I need to find the perfect recipient for everything I'm getting rid of.
    Let me guess. The last time you went through your closet, you ended up with 15 stacks of stuff that you planned to pack up and mail or deliver to many people. Then you were too tired to pack it all up, so you put it back in the closet and are still mystified why that closet continues to be so cluttered. You need a DISPOSAL PLAN. Instead of packing up a bunch of items, donate it all to one organization. If getting it there is too overwhelming, ask a friend if he will help by delivering your donation bags to Goodwill. If a garage sale, Ebay and Freecycle are too overwhelming now, don't do them. Just donate everything to one place. Being free of clutter will mean more to you than the $39.52 you would make after spending all weekend on a garage sale. Make it easy to get rid of your stuff.

  8. I might possibly need this one day. OR maybe I won't, but maybe someone sometime some place on this planet might need it. Seriously?? A coffee can full of rusty nails? Seven pounds of rubber bands, ketchup packets or used gift boxes (with matching faded, scrunched bows)? Your old used faded curtains that you had hanging for ten years? YOUR TEXTBOOKS AND NOTES FROM SCHOOL??? Seriously? How many mugs, towels, sets of sheets does a person need? Now a bit of reality (Yes, another slap yourself in the face with a trout moment) IF someone told you she needed a thing-a-ma-bob, you would probably forget you had one…because it's buried under all your clutter. And if you DID remember you had it…would you really be able to find it? Seriously?
  9. I just need to get it fixed or repaired. If it broke yesterday and you know how to fix it. OK. Keep it. Otherwise, if you've had it for more than six months, and it still isn't fixed…it’s clutter.
  10.  This brings back memories. Ahhh Sweet Little Grasshopper, let us contemplate boxes of memory-providing mementos…in the storage unit, back of your closet, basement or garage. Um... what is in those boxes? You don't remember? THEN HOW IS IT BRINGING A MEMORY TO YOU??? Our memories are in our minds and in our hearts, not in those boxes. If you absolutely need a memento, then take ONE picture your child drew, not all of them. One tee shirt from college, not 135. One item your grandmother left you, not everything. Then honor her memory by giving the rest of her items to people who need and will cherish and use them.
  11.  It's a gift. When you give a gift, do you expect it to be kept forever? If yes, then you need more face-trout-smacking because that is an unrealistic expectation. If the answer is no, then you understand that gift-giver does not expect you to keep it forever either. Keep it for a while and then get rid of it. If they ask you about it, act absent-minded and say "I was using it but then something happened to it." You don't have to get specific and tell them you gleefully donated it to the Organization of People Who Love Weird Stuff.
  12. I might lose a ton of weight and then I’d fit into these clothes again. Dear, dear adorable, delusional, unrealistic, clueless darlin'. Ask anyone who's done it. Once you lose all that weight you will say "Wear this old, out-of-date stuff?? Heck no. I deserve some cool new clothes for the cool new me." Trust me. It's true.

Many of you sound discouraged and desperate about how your clutter overwhelms you. I'm considering starting a "Conquer Clutter Club" where we work together for 5 or 6 months to help you get rid of your clutter. With a few phone meetings a month we can offer support, encouragement and help, plus it would be a form of accountability. I'm thinking about it. Meantime, here's more help:

  • If you want 21 tips to get rid of clutter, click here.
  • If you want 22 tips for paper clutter, click here.
  • If you want 21 tips to help kids conquer clutter, click here.

Please share this Tip Sheet with 2 or 3 friends who would be interested. And feel free to use this message in your blog or newsletter, as long as you include my bio and contact info:

Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook,
The Clutter-Busting Handbook and
Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress: A Handbook for the Overworked, Overscheduled, and Overwhelmed
2331 Eastview
Des Plaines, IL 60018

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