Uncluttering the most troubled area of your home or office

What is the one area of your home or office that is cluttered up more than the other areas? How long has it been this way? Why have you been avoiding tackling this area? Does the thought of improving the cluttered area overwhelm you? Are you delaying making decisions about the stuff in the cluttered area? What is keeping you from ridding your home or office of this frustration?

For most people, the amount of frustration and anxiety felt about a cluttered area in your home or office is disproportionately higher than the energy required to alleviate the situation. The proverbial bark is worse than the bite. You may have felt stress about the clutter for months, but dealing with it might only require two days of your time. Instead of looking at the clutter longer and continuing to let your blood boil, why not simply deal with the situation?

If you’re ready to take on this clutter, follow these steps to make it happen:

  1. Decide what matters most to you. Having a clear set of priorities will help to motivate you while you work. When you know what you want room for in your life, it’s easier to make that room.
  2. Envision exactly what you want at the end of this specific uncluttering and organizing project. How will the space look? What will remain in this area? What won’t be in this space? Draw or write out exactly what you want to keep you on track during your work.
  3. Start small. You don’t have to unclutter the entire area all in one time period. If the project is a large one, break it into small sections and schedule the necessary steps on your calendar.
  4. Work methodically. Make piles of what should stay, what should go, and what needs extra attention (returned to a friend, repaired, etc.). Schedule appointments for charitable pick ups or drop offs. Play music to keep you motivated. Whatever methods you choose to use, just be sure to have a routine in place to give you the best chance for success.
  5. Apply the red velvet rope standard and remind yourself of what matters most to you if you have trouble parting with your clutter. Also, keep your final vision for the space in front of you and avoid feeling misplaced guilt. Take digital photographs or make scans of anything you want to remember but don’t need the actual item to trigger those happy thoughts.
  6. Once the area is clear of clutter, clean it. If the area needs repairs, do them. If you need more or less furniture to organize the space, make that happen. Give the walls a fresh coat of paint if they need them, vacuum or scrub floors, and make the area shine.
  7. Organize the items that will remain in the area. Make sure that everything you plan to keep in this area has a permanent space to live. Remember: A place for everything, and everything in its place. Put those things you will access the most often in the easiest places to access. Put things you will access less often in the less convenient storage spots.
  8. Celebrate! Once you’ve worked through your cluttered area and made it into a space you enjoy, take the time to appreciate your hard work. We all enjoy getting gold stars for our efforts, so give yourself the gold star you deserve.

Good luck getting rid of the clutter in the one area of your home or office that has been causing you the most stress and anxiety.

12 Comments for “Uncluttering the most troubled area of your home or office”

  1. posted by Abubakar Jamil on

    Some really useful points. Thanks for writing.

  2. posted by Anita on

    Very good points, I especially liked the way you pointed out that anxiety can build up to the point where one’s perception of the task is much worse than the reality and the perceived effort it would take to tackle the mess is much greater than the effort it actually takes to get it done.

    My issue is not so much with one big problem area (I live in a tiny studio apartment, so there’s no room for one big problem area, I guess), but with a few small areas (a drawer, a closet etc), each of which have different troubles, purposes and needs. I’ve started taking them on one at a time — this past weekend I fianlly got drawer dividers for my smallest drawers and lo and behold, they’re NEAT! — so I second the point that it’s a lot less daunting if you split what seems to be a big task into smaller bits.

  3. posted by Marjory Thrash on

    We’re a 5 person family, plus dog, plus cats, plus music equipment, plus sewing stuff, plus books and art supplies and cooking things. Over the years, I’d grown absolutely frantic, as we kept downsizing our homes, but not getting rid of the stuff. I had downsized my sewing supplies until they fit into 1 cabinet, including giving up my sewing table and the chair, in order to accomodate his stuff.
    Finally, last Decemberr, I completely lost my temper and started forcing my husband to watch hours of the various cleaning and organizing shows on television. Nothing made a difference, until he watched 2 episodes of Hoarding. He commented on the first one, “Who can live like that?” and during the break, I took him into his “office” – actually the largest room in the entire house and impossible to walk across. During the 2nd show, he commented, “well, they sure need to clean those walls and floors” and I took him into our den area, where we couldn’t get to the walls. It was a wakeup call – he realized we were living like hoarders, and we’ve been emptying, cleaning and painting, and putting back ONLY what we truly want to keep. We have 2 rooms perfect, and another 2 very close. I’ve told the older children, “We’re getting rid of X, Y, and Z. You may have it, but you have to move it out. It’s leaving this house permanently on Saturday.” After the first load went to the Salvation Army and the dump, the kids got the picture, and they now promptly remove what they want.
    This past weekend, my husband gave himself permission to purchase a rolling mechanic’s chest to hold his tools; no longer are they scattered in 4 different rooms and in the shed and in the back porch. In that process, he found all three of the lost pocket knives.

  4. posted by WilliamB on

    in resigned, humorous tone of voice: What if my most troubled spot is my (otherwise well-suited) roommate’s part of the office room?

  5. posted by Lissa on

    Great Tips. Just that push I need to get my home office in gear.

  6. posted by How To Fish - Productivity Assist » Uncluttering the most troubled… on

    […] Uncluttering the most troubled area of your home or office – http://unclutterer.com/?p=9432 […]

  7. posted by Progress with the Paper Nemesis « Declutterer on

    […] of this messy pile. With beautiful timing, there’s a post on Unclutterer this week all about Uncluttering the most troubled area of your home or office. I might take a read of that, then […]

  8. posted by JustGail on

    Nice logical way of breaking up the decluttering task. As a couple others have mentioned, the 2 areas that bother me most are areas that others are the biggest contributors to. Fortunately they are not big areas – the kitchen table and island.

    Marjory – congratulations on the breakthrough with the family!

  9. posted by Mrs. Ward on

    For about a year, I’ve been trying to clean out a downstairs catchall room and have filled exactly *one* trash bag…and that bag finally left the room two days ago. Now I know what my problem is: #2. I need to think about what I’ll do with the room when it is empty. As of now, I have no idea.

  10. posted by sophia williams on

    Interesting post. We run workshops helping people to get more done, and what we often find is that as soon as people know the upcoming datae of our workshop, they start subconsciously tidying and getting back in control! We don’t even have to arrive and already things have started to be clearer, clutter starts to reduce and desks are miraculously tidier! I think this is about peoples’ levels of acceptability, and deep down, we’re all capable of getting into bad habits if we’re not prompted out of them.

  11. posted by TanyaZ on

    The most cluttered area of my house is the kitchen counter. Unfortunately, it gets re-cluttered with dirty dishes every day, so this is not a one time cleanup, but rather an ongoing project.

  12. posted by shelterrific » Blog Archive » blogwatch: where we’ve been clicking this week on

    […] Even MORE helpful advice from Unclutterer: how to tackle the most troubled area of your home. […]

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