Tips For Minimizing The Mess

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Tips, the one-day a week when I dispense useful, actionable and empowering tips!

I can’t claim to be an organizational expert but for the fact that, as a New Yorker, space is at such a premium that if one is to maximize their square footage, one must master the art of organization.

I believe that our exterior is often a mirror of how we’re feeling internally: A chaotic environment = a chaotic mind. And as someone with significant ADHD, an essential aspect to my ability to maintain focus involves living and working in a clean, organized environment. Below are my go-to tips to minimizing the mess and maximizing my living space:

Control The Flow. For me, the key to good organization involves controlling the flow of shit that gets into my home, and by shit I mean the contents of the bags that I bring into the apartment. If I can control what comes in, at least I know that I’m not adding to the problem. Consequently, my home is set up so that organizing the contents of said bags occurs at the front door (see below), so as to minimize the likelihood that unnecessary contents remain in my home and begin taking up my square footage.

Exit station
Exit station

Exit Station. A box is mounted to the side of my front door. I call this box our ‘exit station.’ On the outside of this box are 3 slots for mail (Steph’s, mine & outgoing). On the inside are hooks for our keys & 2 shelves for sunglasses. Because of this box, I never lose my keys or sunglasses & I never forget to mail things.

Bag Hooks. About 12 inches from my exit station are hooks for each of our knapsacks so that they remain off the floor and near the front door. Because neither of us wants the hooks to rip down the wall of our foyer, we minimize the weight of our knapsacks before hanging them. We toss any unnecessary contents (see below for criteria of when to toss vs. when to keep). When we identify something that we need to deal with outside of the home, that item (or a note reminding us of the errand) goes in our respective bag, i.e., a document that needs to be brought to the office.

Toss Everything. Walk into the home of someone who has a lot of clutter and I’m betting their philosophy about keeping things is the exact opposite of mine: If they are unsure about whether they’ll need an item in the future, they keep it. If I am unsure, I toss it. But first, I snap a picture of it on my IPhone & then email it to myself so that I can identify it if I do need it in the future. My goal is to be paperless. I’m certainly not paperless, but I have as few papers as humanly possible.  The point is, my criteria for keeping things in my home is super high, and most things don’t make the cut.

Here is an incomplete list of things that always get tossed: Catalogues, broken items (I never have them fixed and you don’t either), things that I’m not in love with, cards (I keep them for 7 days), unwanted gifts (I’m less concerned about how you’ll feel if you visit me & notice that it’s not out than I am about how the unsolicited gift is going to absorb my scarce square footage), things that I don’t know how to use (I’m never going to take the time to figure it out…and neither will you), and manuals (every manual is available online).

No. More. Projects. Stop turning everything into a project that never moves off your to-do list. If you just decide today that you’ll employ a few of the above-mentioned tips and stop contributing to the mess, the mess will eventually go away because you’ll have systems in place to create & maintain order. Change your philosophy and watch your environment improve tenfold.

What are your organizational tips? Let me know on FB or Twitter @DrDarcySterling