Seattle Community

Generally helpful
out of 10
3 votes

I'm Organized, Now What?

You've cleared you clutter, but it keeps returning, maybe you need to dig deeper.  This article can help you reduce the next layer of clutter so you can be more productive, effective and creative in your business.

Written Jun 04, 2008, read 2594 times since then.



This is part two on clearing the accumulated clutter in your personal and business life.  In What A Mess…Where Do I Start?, I talked about how to start to clear away surface clutter. I called that Layer One. Now it’s time to move onto Layer Two. Many times, we stop at Layer One.  Things are organized.  We feel good.  But what happens in a week, month or over six months?  The clutter returns.  That’s why you need to move onto Layer Two. As an entrepreneur it is important to de-clutter not only our spaces, but our time and thoughts. The definition of the verb clutter according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is "to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness."  I know when my office, calendar or brainstorming sessions are cluttered, my movement is impeded and effectiveness reduced.    If you’ve cleared your surface clutter, I’d recommend you wait at least four weeks before Layer Two.  The four weeks provides the distance you need to make the next round of decisions. Here are the steps for Layer Two:
  1. Set aside time to go back through the original area you cleared.  Again, the rule is no more than 4 hours per session.  This process may take longer than the first because of the tougher decisions.  Determine how many sessions it will take and put them on your calendar.
  2. Come prepared.  Same as Layer One - trash bags, donation boxes and recycle bins.
  3. Divide the items into categories.  It’s easier to go through small groups of items rather than the whole area, especially if you’ve already gone through it once.  Take my office.  Instead of going through all of my books, I separate them into categories: business books, writing books, fiction books, etc.
  4. Aim to get rid of 10% of each category.  If I have fifty business books after my Layer One clear, I need to get rid of an additional five.  It sounds easier than it is.  Also, if you labeled anything as I recommended in What A Mess…, this is where I review if I’ve used them or not.
You can use these steps to de-clutter your time as well. First categorize your appointments. Does the majority of your time reflect your goals, values, etc.? If not, reduce the wasted time.  I did this with my calendar. After I removed several non-value tasks, I wanted to streamline even more. I did a time map.   (For information on time maps see What Happened To My Time?) I categorized how I was using my time. I found I spent more time than I wanted to on email. I reduced the number of times I checked email to twice a day, set specific times to check it - once in the morning and once at night, and set a time limit - 30 minutes. After a week, I gained an hour a day! De-cluttering helps you become more productive, more efficient and more creative. If you’ve de-cluttered, reward yourself with some lemonade.  Take a moment to enjoy. Notice how it feels to have just what you need, where you need it, and the time to do it. 

Learn more about the author, Jen Vondenbrink.

Comment on this article

  • Blogging Coach and Copywriter 
Seattle, Washington 
Judy Dunn
    Posted by Judy Dunn, Seattle, Washington | Jun 09, 2008

    Very useful, Jen. It struck me as I was reading this that you and I have something in common. I'm aiming to declutter the information and "white noise" from the solopreneur's "marketing desk" and you are helping people manage the physical messes they can get into.

    The system you described above actually seems like it could work. (Doesn't make the thought of decluttering so overwhelming.) Thanks for these handy tips!

  • Trainer and Coach 
Foxboro, Massachusetts 
Jen Vondenbrink
    Posted by Jen Vondenbrink, Foxboro, Massachusetts | Jun 09, 2008

    Hi Judy - I'm glad you think these tips can take away the overwhelming factor of decluttering. Keeping things simple...that's the name of the game!