by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - January: Everyday Actions
Decluttering isn’t easy work, so it’s always frustrating to “suddenly” realize that the clutter has returned. Tricks like doing a 10-minute tidy-up at the end of every day, tackling tasks that take a minute or two when they appear, decluttering for 15-minutes a day, and weekly Power Hours are all habits that, once developed, allow you to invest minimal attention and energy to maintaining those actions.
Systems also minimize the energy and thought involved in getting things done. If you’ve ever tried to follow an organizing or productivity system described in a book or suggested by a coworker and failed don’t think that you’re not a systems-sort-of-person. Instead, make a system that works for you.
What Is a System?
I’m playing loosely with the definition of a system, simplifying the concept because I think we hear the word ‘system’ and think complicated calendars, filing systems, and closet or kitchen organizing tools. So, here goes:
Systems are arbitrary rules that you establish and then follow so to maintain organization or to stay productive.
Some systems that others say they follow:
Habits, Routines, and Systems
While a routine is made up of a series of actions that use cues from your environment to begin the routine (wake up > go to bathroom > make coffee > check email > eat breakfast > put dishes in sink > take shower), systems manage daily, weekly, even yearly tasks.
After reading the above examples, you may realize that you have random rules like these that you’ve established, maybe without much thought.
So, why create systems (or, if you prefer, random rules) for yourself and your home? Like habits that you find useful to your goals, having systems in place save you from having to think about or plan things every time you do a task. Yes, you decide what your system will be, but once it’s in place, you don’t have to think about it.
For example, if you decide that you’ll start folding your clothing – right down to your socks – and you find that the time it takes to fold your clothing is recouped when it comes to finding what you want to wear each day … and it takes less space to store you clothing … then you’ve identified reasons and benefits to folding your clothing. You become a person who folds their clothing.
What Is the Best Organizing System for You?
A system works for you, you don’t work for it.
If a system doesn’t work for you, change the system instead of trying to change yourself to fit the system. A simple way to determine if your system is a good one? You do it without complaint (out loud or in your head).
I think that’s the power of systems. You don’t have to stop and think, “should I go through the mail today or tomorrow?” You know that you do it Saturday mornings before you go to your yoga class. You become a person who does X-task at Y-time – I look at my calendar and plan my week on Sunday evenings after dinner.
You can further deepen your system (or, arbitrary rules), by adding an emotional component – how do you feel when you do that task?
Create a Personalized Organizing System
An organizing system doesn’t help you get organized; it helps you stay organized. If you just spent ten hours sorting through papers in your home office, ask yourself, “Why did it get that way?” If you’re thinking that you never had the time to file paperwork, select a time to do that task on a regular basis.
You may bristle at that suggesting, thinking that if you had the time then things wouldn’t have gotten out of control. However, you aren’t looking for random bits or blocks of time that will open in your schedule here and there. You are saying that this task is important enough to you that you’ll do it every Wednesday immediately after dinner.
Remember, you can’t make time, you can only plan it.
How to Use a Weekly Power Hour
The Simple Side of Productivity
Share a system that works for you in the comments below. (Did you realize it was a system?)
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.