My struggle with clutter is a lifetime battle. Bad habits are too deeply ingrained in me to give up without a fight, and if I drop my vigilance, I'll be once again buried in an avalanche of papers, books, obsolete and broken electronic gadgets, improperly stored kitchen equipment, scattered DVDs and CDs, receipts in need of either filing or discarding, and many other categories of junk.
At the moment the situation is under control. Even when I'm busy and let things get a bit out of control, an hour or so of arranging things will return the house to a non-embarrassing state.
The most effective thing I've done is to diminish the sheer number of objects in the house. I spent roughly a month sorting items into categories. I would then store, donate, or discard the item. I'm still not finished with this process, but a month of this procedure made a visible impact on the house. Eventually I want to have only those objects in the house that we need and use, with a few decorative features to give the house character.
Now I'm trying to develop a set of simple habits to keep things from getting out of control to begin with. The photo accompanying this articlie is from our computer desk, taken a few seconds ago. It isn't a very serious example of clutter, compared to many prodigious piles of clutter I've generated in the past, and continue to generate from time to time. But it's straightforward and simple enough to illustrate my point.
Here's a description of some of the items on the table, and why they shouldn't be there.
The pile of books include a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook that I was using to look up the word "online" earlier this morning. I can never remember if the word "online" is hyphenated (it isn't). I had finished with the book, and it should have been returned to my bookshelf. I can reach the shelf without standing up, so there was no reason for me to leave the book on the table.
The yellow paper is a sheet of notes from a toastmaster's contest. I've finished with it and it should have been put in our recycle container. The magazine beneath it is a Toastmasters Magazine that I brought into the office from a paper pile in another room. I intended to put it on my bookshelf, but instead of doing that, I merely stacked it onto another pile of objects.
The watch next to that pile should be either on my arm, or in a spot on a cabinet shelf I use to keep objects I carry with me when I leave the house (wallet, keys, etc). The file folder across from that pile is empty. I removed the contents to give to someone else yesterday, and never stored the folder in its proper place for reuse.
The wires connecting my computing devices are a rat's nest, and need to be untangled and organized.
There are about a dozen more objects on the table that are out of their proper place.
The purpose of pointing out these things isn't that I aspire to be like the television detective Adrian Monk, whose Obsessive Compulsive Disorder triggers anxiety attacks when things aren't perfectly parallel and lined up. I don't mind an informal and lived-in look. But the piles that are beginning to develop on the table in my photo will grow into huge unmanageable piles if I don't deal with them quickly. It's much less work putting one book back on the shelf immediately than it is to periodically re-shelf twenty books.
So in conclusion, I'm trying to persistently train myself to put things where they belong after I've finished with them. The next article I write on de-cluttering is going to address that very topic. In order to put things where they belong, those things need to have a designated place to begin with. The next topic will be the truth of the old adage "a place for everything and everything in its place."