Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris
I was flummoxed when I created a complex database several years ago. I needed help! I went down to the local bookstore and bought 4 of the thickest software manuals on Microsoft Access that I could find.
Then, as I ran into a problem, I’d flip through the tips and solutions thought important by one or another of the Wonks who written the manuals. Sure enough, I’d find what I needed in one of them. But it was never the same one.
That’s why in this post I am giving you the top 6 Clutter Management books that I use. Each has its particular strengths—all are dog-eared with numerous underlined pages. All have different perspectives on this perennial problem of clutter. In no particular order, here they are:
How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself: Time and Space Management That Works With Your Personal Style by Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roesche.
These folks go at it from the standpoint of personal style. You first figure out which (or combination of which) personal style you are, and then follow the tips and strategies within. They’ve got a nice chapter on pros and cons of new technologies and close with a chapter I really like: “Balancing Time-Space and life management.”
Personal styles include, among others:
- Cliff Hanger (I usually wait until the last minute to start work),
- Everything out,
- Right Angler (My office looks very neat, but I can never find anything when I need it)
- Pack Rat
- Total Slob.
Some useful tips:
- When you have trouble getting hold of someone, telephone before or after hours. Many busy people often come in early or stay late.
- Make your to-do list based on your personality type: a detail person’s list will be very different from a Total Slob’s (and they give examples
- Do a desktop survey every six months to eliminate those items you aren’t using and rearrange the ones that you are.
7 Simple Steps to Unclutter Your Life Donna Smallin
How can you go wrong with a title like that. Who doesn’t want simple when it comes to clutter! This is a nice book to scan, as I do, periodically, for strategies to simplify the junk in my life that multiplies like rabbits.
Rather than work with the result, the clutter, Smallin goes for the roots of the cause, those foundational life issues that need simplification.
She has chapters on
- Put yourself first (Energy, weight, wellness, fitness),
- Live authentically (values and beliefs, finding balance),
- Follow your passion (identify your gifts, what’s stopping you),
- Live mindfully (being here and now, nurturing relationships, caring for family)
- Gain financial freedom (budgeting and spending, savings, frugality)
- Lighten your load (unclutter your home, minimize stress)
- Simplify daily living (celebrate today, connect with nature, nourish your soul).
Some useful tips:
- To boost water intake, keep a pitcher of water in frig at all times, never pass a water fountain without taking a drink.
- Squeeze in relationship moments: if you can’t go to a movie with a friend, invite them to go grocery shopping with you. Converse over the broccoli, hit the coffee bar on the way in/out
- Plan uncluttering activities around garbage days. Otherwise you may be tempted to reconsider.
The dedication says it all: “To you, the wonderfully creative and somewhat chaotic people who work from a collection of daily to-do lists whose length and detail rival the NY City phone book…using a work style that moves in six directions at once and is predictably unpredictable, whose best intentions at follow-through get lost as you are struck by a fresh inspiration…” My kinda book!
- How clocks became king (breaking free of assembly-line mentality, monochronic and polychromic time, divergers and convergers)
- Creating your own time management system (messy desk or meticulous order, why traditional time management doesn’t work for some of us, how tolimit your to-do list to 300 items)
- Mental software that uncovers hidden time (permission to play, compounding time, time bandits, executive neglect)
Some useful tips:
- To get out of ‘hurry sickness’ learn to piddle and putter: take off your watch on weekends, take a fe minutes each day to daydream or fantasize, putter in a favorite place such as your garage, kitchen, a garden.
- A messy desk is not always the sign of a cluttered mind: If you can find most things in three minutes or less your system is working: don’t change it.
- For a divergent thinker, any system only works for a while. Plan on a monthly update. Buy different colored post-its, silly pens, colored clips, unusual notepads.
Organizing for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Styles for Conquering Clutter, Mastering Time, and Reaching Your Goals: Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Lamping.
Here is a second organizational book for the right-brained person. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
From the introduction: This book is intentionally designed to appeal to creative people, it delves more deeply into the reasons why some people have problems with organization, it makes unconventional suggestions about how to organize.
Sections include, (among others):
- Creative ways to schedule your work
- The odd couple within us
- The clutterbug
- To keep or not to keep…and where to put it
- Plowing a path through person papers
- The inner struggle as opposites attract
- If you say, ‘I really should clear off my desk,” what you are really saying is” I really should, but I am not gonna—but I am going to feel guilty about it. And because I feel guilty about it, I must be a conscientious person.”
- Limit the number and length of time children’s papers will be kept on the refrigerator, and the number and length of time you’ll keep coupons.
- The measles: for a set amount of time (a week, a month) put a red dot on a paper each time you handle it. If it accumulates too many dots, you know you’ve got to do something about it. If it accumulates only one, either file it or trash it.
This is a classic in the field, for good reason. Solid tips and strategies for moving forward. I have underlined stuff all the way through the book.
Chapters work through 9 strategies including:
- Make your systems fit you and your life
- Sort everything by how you use it
- Weed constantly
- Use the right containers and tools
- Label everything
- Keep it simple
- Decide to decide
- Get help when you need it
- Evaluate honestly and often
Some sample observations:
- It’s easier for human beings to acquire things than it is to give up something when it’s no longer useful. Don’t acquire if you don’t really need to!
- Measure the contents you need to store and take a tape to the office supply or home construction store to measure the container
- Try to do everything as quickly and efficiently as you can. Cutting out extra steps gives you more time for the people and activities you care about.
- On optional professional reading: It’s OK not to read things. You’re just one person, and you don’t have to do all that optional reading if you don’t want to.
I saved the best for last. Julie has written a number of organizational and time management books and they are all good. She says, “being organized has less to do with the way an environment looks tan how effectively it functions. If a person can find what they need when they need it, feels unencumbered in achieving his or her goals, ad is happy in his or her space, that that person is well organized.”
- Laying the foundation (a new way of looking at organization, what’s holding you back)
- Secrets of a professional organizer (analyze, strategize, attack)
- Applying what you’ve learned (traditional offices, home-based businesses, cubicles, mobile offices, garages, bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, kitchens, living rooms)
- Tackling time and technology (conquering the clock, taming technology)
Some useful tips:
- Ship heavy presentation materials directly to your hotel or meeting site rather than carrying them with you.
- Protect jewelry from getting tangled by storing it in a divided box such as dividers for kitchen utensils or office supplies.
- To file something ask yourself: What is this, why am I holding on it to, under what circumstances would I look for it again? Write the first word that pos into your head as the heading for the file.
There are a zillion organizing books out there, representing a multi-million dollar industry. The complexity of our lives guarantees that organization and simplification will be an on-going process rather than a do it once and forget it project.
Here is what I do:
I set aside some time at naturally occurring breaks throughout the year, for example, the start of the school year, a 4 day weekend to check out the piles of paper, the clutter surrounding me at home and work.
Each pile of clutter represents an organizational sub-system that isn’t working and needs to be tweaked a little. I get out these book for review and tackle the problem. I only reinvent the wheels I need to on that 18-wheeler, and gratefully accept the help of experts for the rest.
Clutter is NOT the sign of incompetence, but rather, is indicative of the stressful and busy life we all lead!
Basic mottos: If it’s working, don’t fix it. If it’s not, keep the fix as simple as possible.