August 2003 Anticrastination Tip Sheet

What's the opposite of Procrastination?
An Idea and Tip Sheet to Blast Away the
Procrastination Habit
From Rita Emmett
& THE PROCRASTINATING CHILD: A Handbook for Adults to Help
Children Stop Putting Things Off


Quote For August

Simplify your life. You do not need all the clutter you are holding on to. Get rid of it now because it is stealing your energy. The clutter in your life takes energy to maintain.
Start with the smallest things. Clear away a little and you'll be amazed at the vast amounts of energy it releases inside of you.
- John Roger


A Clutter Safari

Have you ever heard a great tip to get rid of clutter, and when you tried it, nothing worked?

Either the tip didn't make the clutter go away, OR the clutter went away but 5 minutes later it returned.

We've all tried clutter tips that just didn't work, and by Jove, I think I've discovered the reason why. In reality, there are two types of clutter -- but nobody has identified them so that we can know if the tip we just read is for the right kind of clutter. Well, maybe not the RIGHT kind, but for the kind of clutter that YOU are battling.

Here are a few labels I want to run by you. I'd love your reaction or comments, especially if you relate to any of this.

Let's divide clutter into two types -- like jungle animals, clutter can be "WILD" or "CAGED".

CAGED clutter is usually out of sight, and like an animal, when clutter is in its "cage", it tends to be contained and sort of "under control" (though not completely).

For example, those times you don't know where to put something so you "put it in its cage" - could be a certain desk drawer, or the attic, garage or crawl space.

Other spots for caged clutter might be:

  • files
  • workbench
  • kitchen "hell drawer"
  • basement
  • that spare room
  • junk drawer
  • "in box"
  • under the bed

Now, with caged animals in the zoo, some people advocate that the animal needs to be in a more natural habitat. Same with caged clutter. It's OK where it is, but all that clutter would be much better off in a place where it is no longer clutter. Best place is "thrown away or given away", especially to a group that can use it.

WILD clutter, on the other hand, is when a bunch of stuff starts to accumulate and grow and expand right out in the open where it bugs you, embarrasses you, makes you crazy and sometimes even scares you. It goes where it does not belong, usually some place right in front of your face like your desk, dining room table or bedroom floors.

Lots of other places too, like:

  • kitchen counter
  • top of file cabinet
  • vehicles
  • coffee tables
  • purses
  • office floor
  • night stands
  • corner of room

Wild Clutter has no boundaries and wanders wherever it pleases, and like that jungle animal, it's more potentially dangerous than caged clutter. In this case, because it causes more stress, guilt, and anxiety. And sometimes we find ourselves dusting that wild clutter. How frustrating is that?

Caged Clutter is in a space set aside for clutter, this clutter BELONGS here. This is where we put our clutter. But Wild Clutter accumulates in places it does NOT belong.

Doesn't it make sense then, that a Caged Clutter tip would never work on Wild Clutter? If the tip you read applies to Caged Clutter (such as your garage clutter or your junk drawer clutter) and suggests that you get containers to put things in, that might work IF you are focusing on your Caged Clutter. Then you might even continue to keep that place neat with your containers.

But if you're staring at a dining room table or an office floor covered with tons of junky clutter, how the heck are those containers supposed to help you? You don't have a clue what you'll be finding in that stack of clutter, so how would you even know what kind of containers to get? Or how many?

Alas, my metaphor limps in one regard. With animals, there is a third category. Besides WILD and CAGED, there also are TAME animals. Does that apply to clutter? Nope, because I believe that once your clutter is TAMED, it's no longer clutter.

For example, my mother always told me that everybody has a "hell drawer" in their kitchen, overflowing with junky, useless stuff that they cannot throw out.

I believed her, and always fostered a hell drawer in my kitchen, even though the rest of the house was usually clutter-free. Then one day about 3 years ago, I was at a garage sale and bought a big ol' box of little containers. I went home, ran them through the dishwasher (because they were dusty and grungy and I was too lazy to hand-wash all of them) then went prowling through the house looking for places that needed little containers.

I emptied everything out of my hell drawer, looked at what categories I had, and put all the rubber bands in one little square container, all the pens in a rectangular container, the thumb tacks in a round one, and so forth.

Then I threw out probably half of what was in there -- because I finally admitted I had no use for it, and probably never would. To this day, I do not know what I planned to do with a million itty bitty pieces of string, and thirty-seven squashed, smashed bows for holiday presents.

Suddenly, my Caged Clutter was tamed. And because our kids are all grown and out of the house, it's been fairly easy for Bruce and me to put things back into their designated containers.

Which means that now, three years later, my hell drawer is no longer a cluttered mess. It no longer makes me feel guilty or crazy or stupid or disorganized or messy or sloppy or like "I better straighten it out someday when I get around to it". In truth, it's no longer a hell drawer.

So to my way of thinking, once clutter is tamed, it is no longer clutter.

What do you think?

These are terms and concepts I've developed while working in my seminars. Tell me, what do you think of these labels and these to categories? Do you relate to this? Let me hear from you.

  • Where does your clutter accumulate?
  • Why do you keep it?
  • What's your best way to get rid of it?

The five best responses -- decided upon by a panel of experts (possibly including my letter carrier, my cat and one of our two-year-old granddaughters) will receive an audio tape. If you prefer a CD, I'll see if Mickey, my computer genius can make that happen. That sort of magic is out of my reality realm.

See you next month. Hope to hear from you if you have "Deep Thoughts About Clutter"