Identifying bad processes

Clutter isn’t always a result of owning too many things or being too busy, it is often caused by bad processes. For example, is your purse or wallet overflowing with receipts? Receipt clutter is almost always caused by either not having a process for handling receipts or having a process you don’t use because the method is inconvenient, poorly designed, or not the best process for your needs. Your purse or wallet is stuffed to the brim with tiny strips of paper because you don’t have an effective process in place to deal with receipts.

Receipt clutter isn’t the only problem caused by bad processes — you might have an issue with an overflowing e-mail inbox or suitcases lingering full of dirty clothes for a week after a vacation or shoes constantly in the middle of your living room floor. Do any of these issues strike a chord with you? If not these, maybe you can identify some area of your life where clutter appears because of a bad process?

Take these steps to identify bad processes and replace them with effective processes that work for you:

  1. Identify the clutter. This seems obvious, but can be more challenging to do than you might assume. After looking at clutter for awhile, clutter has a way of becoming invisible. So, take a picture or ask a friend to come over to help you really see the clutter.
  2. Figure out where you want the object to live in your home or office. Do you want dirty clothes to live in the clothes hamper? Do you want shoes to live in the front closet? Do you want receipts to live in the trash or filing cabinet?
  3. Determine a way for the object to consistently reach that storage space. Now is not the time to think you have super powers — be realistic with yourself about your energy levels and commitment to maintaining the process. Mentally map out a plan for how you will process the object so it stops cluttering up your space.
  4. Acquire any materials you might need for the process. In my case, I have to put a plastic zip top bag in my purse to hold all of my receipts for a month. Additionally, I have to carry a purse that is large enough to hold the zip top bag full of receipts.
  5. Use your newly created process.
  6. Evaluate your process. After a few weeks of learning and adapting to your system, take the time to review its effectiveness. If you realize your system was too complicated and difficult to maintain, determine where in the process your system is breaking down and change that attribute. Maybe the object needs to be stored in a more convenient location, maybe the steps involved are too cumbersome, or maybe you don’t have the right tools for the job?

2 Comments for “Identifying bad processes”

  1. posted by *pol on

    I feel like such a fledgling at this decluttering process!

    I read the books, I read your blog, I get inspired and visualize what I want from my space… then I start tackling the things that “don’t belong” and find myself swamped with the things that aren’t mine to make decisions about, or things that make me happy to look at but serve no value to the space, or things that are way too valuable to the space but ugly to look at…. and that’s where it all breaks down.

    I have stuff. More stuff than I want, but apparently it’s mostly going to stay exactly where it is. Becuase it’s handy, it’s pretty or it’s not mine.

    Receipts are a whole other kettle of fish since I’m the only one that tracks them.

  2. posted by Amy on

    *pol, May I ask why are you holding so many things that aren’t yours? Are they your spouses or children’s things?

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