How do you handle clutter? - 2

How do you ensure an item in your house does not get lost? It is important to follow the principles of organizing. Let me introduce you to an important principle of organizing

The principle of inherent potential of an article/item to get lost:

Every article/item has an inherent nature to be high or low in its potential to get lost.

Hence our care for ensuring the article/item to be easily accessible increases as the potential of the article/item to get lost increases. This may appear as common sense but you may be surprised how many people violate this basic principle.
Here is another principle for you.

The principle of inherent current/future value of an article/item

Every article/item has an inherent value-current or future which may range from low to high.

Please refer to the previous post "How do you handle clutter? - 1" for further details on value.
If you want to ensure that your house is clutter free and also you are able to get the articles/items immediately when you want them, you will have to consider these two principles and work with them.
Look at the figure to understand how to apply these principles.
When you get an article, you need to immediately determine its value. Which category does it belong?
  1. Expensive

  2. Daily usage value

  3. Nostalgic value

  4. Contextual value

  5. No value

If it is of no value then throw it out immediately. If the article is of value to you then you need to assess whether it has a high potential to get lost and hence the care for making it accessible is high.

Low care, Low value -You will come across articles of Low care, Low value - these are junk to be thrown away. Example: A rusted bicycle in your garage - Low care because it is there and it is unlikely to get lost. Low value because it is useless now and you have no emotional ties with it.

Low care, High value - these articles are precious to you however you need not put in too much effort to make it accessible as it is already accessible to you. Example: Painting on the wall-low care as it will not get lost and high value because it is expensive and it was gifted to you by your father.

High care, Low value - This is an article that has high potential to get lost, hence you need to take a lot of care to make it accessible. however, this article is of low value to you personally. Example - your friend requests you to safe guard her jewellery while she is traveling to China.

High care, High value - All the stuff that are highly valuable to you and has a high potential to be misplaced. Example - your certificates, your camera, your watches, your documents and important papers, ---

Evaluating the articles/items that pass through your hand and taking appropriate care to make it accessible is an important action that needs to be taken to live a stress free and productive life.

Do share your experience in using these principles by commenting on this post.

How do you handle clutter? - 1

Handling clutter is an important skill to master. Clutter comes in the way of everything you do; Time, energy, money, and opportunity can get lost in a clutter.

I have created a process flow to handle clutter. The diagram is self explanatory, once you understand the definitions of the various terms used.


Clutter: Anything that can get deposited all over your house.

Loose items: These are items that can be moved from one place to another-Example: Paper, pens, books, magazines, jewellery, watches, photographs, wires, stationary items, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo bottles, nail cutter---. These items can, easily, get lost.

Fixed items: These are relatively fixed items in your house-Example: Tables, Chairs, Sofa, Beds, Paintings on the wall, TV, Refrigerator, ---. These items cannot get lost but still may cause clutter.

Value: An item is said to be valuable if it belongs to the following categories:

  1. Expensive items: These are your watches, jewellery, chinaware, diamonds, Nikon D 80 Digital SLR camera, Camcorder, ---. They cost money and are precious to you.

  2. Daily usage items: These are items you cannot do without, day in day out. You need to have them near to be functional-Toothbrush, toothpaste, pens, laptops, shirts, trousers, ties, watches, ---

  3. Nostalgic items: These are items that are very precious to you, as they evoke pleasant memories of the past. You want to preserve them carefully-Your father's letters, the sweater your mother knitted for you, photographs, the greeting cards, your wife gave you over the years, your daughter's little gifts to you, since her childhood---.

  4. Contextual items: These are items that you need on a daily basis or at least on an immediate basis depending on the changing situations you encounter-Winter clothes, snow boots, your certificates, party wear, ---. You don't need these on a daily basis but you would like to have them, instantly, if you suddenly need them when the context and situation dictates that you need them.

Now you are ready to study the process flow and understand it.

It is very useful to apply this process flow and classify your items; You can, then, begin to organize them.

Those that you require daily need to be stored in an area that is near, easily accessible and is constantly known to you. Each item need to have a specific home to "stay put" in.

Those that you do not need on a regular, daily basis need to have a remote, accessible, known, home to be in.

The junk, of course, need to be thrown away.

The horror of clutter unfolds when all these value category items get mixed and spread all over your house along with the junk that get intermingled to create the confusion and distress.

Stay tuned for further posts on the principles of organizing to live a clutter free life.

What is the root cause of your disorganization?

We are disorganized as a family. Our house is full of clutter. All of us attributed this disorganized state of our home to some deep seated disorder in our personalities; Perhaps we inherited some faulty "disorganizing DNA" from our ancestors.

Our belief grew over the period of years until few months back when we decided to sit down and examine this "we are disorganized" belief. After several discussions and analysis we came to a conclusion that the major cause for our disorganization is lack of storage devices.

Please find below the reasons for us being disorganized.
  1. Our strong held belief that we are disorganized

  2. Plenty of ever increasing number of loose items such as books, clothes, paper and other stuff we shop and accumulate

  3. Very poor storage devices in our house for these loose items

  4. Our indecision to buy storage equipments

This led us to a vicious cycle as depicted in the picture.

Last week, we bought three book racks. We decided to focus on books as they are the major ones that are causing all the clutter in our house. The book racks had a near magical effect on our clutter. A large part of it vanished as our books got neatly organized in our book racks.

Our house now looks less cluttered. We also bought an extra storage Almira for our clothes which further reduced our clutter.

We still have to work on other areas such as papers, DVDs etc. which we have decided to tackle in the coming weeks.

The learning from this experience was profound for me. Many a times we conclude that we have a personality defect like disorganization and use that as an excuse to do nothing. What I realized is that invariably the major part of the problem could lie outside us rather than inside us.

It is important to elicit both internal and external causes of the problem. It is far easier to tackle the external cause of the problem (example:buying a book rack) rather than trying to change an internal personality trait that may not be the primary root cause of the problem.

The questions you need to ask yourself constantly are:

  1. Have I identified the internal and the external causes of the problem?

  2. Have I tackled the external causes first?

  3. What is the effect of tackling the external causes?

  4. Is there any internal cause to tackle or was my belief that there is such an internal cause wrong?

Try this approach and do give me a feedback through your comments.

Have you tried doing things for fun which you have never done before?

Many of us get stuck in a routine, even for activities that give us joy. We may continue to go for movies, read the same kind of books, visit the same friends, go to the same mall for shopping---
Unless we consciously take stock and break out of the routine, we will miss out on various other ways to enjoy.

Here are the steps you need to take to break out of your routine and have fun in new ways:
  1. Take a blank sheet of paper
  2. Suspend judgement for about 5 minutes (you are going to think creatively for the next 5 minutes).
  3. Generate ideas to have fun. Write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge. The crazier your ideas are, the better they are. Sometimes you may be writing the ones you are already doing; No problem, just acknowledge and continue. Write non-stop for 5 minutes.
  4. You can, now, begin to judge those ideas. Cross out anything that is harmful, illegal, immoral, and impossible.
  5. Now you have a list of things to do that are clean fun
  6. Segregate the ideas that you can attempt immediately. Save the rest for the future (Example-you may want to visit Paris but you have to first save money for such a trip)
  7. Select an idea that appeals to you most and is feasible for you to do this coming weekend or alternatively, select the idea that least appeals to you ( you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome)
  8. Develop an action plan to do it
  9. Do it
  10. Enjoy

Do share your experience in the comments, because you are going to have the time of your life!

Do you raise your bar periodically?

How about taking everything you do to the next level? How about doing this periodically?

Many of us never raise the bar. We have this habit of quickly being satisfied with our level of achievement in the various things we do. We will either continue to maintain it at the current level of excellence or mediocrity or become complacent enough to let our level slide down.

We need to challenge ourselves by shifting and raising the bar of achievement on preselect areas in our lives.

Here are the steps to do exactly that:
  1. Identify areas in your life you want to focus upon. Strive for balance by choosing from several areas-Physical, Health, Financial, Professional,---
  2. Determine your next level goals in the areas you have chosen
  3. Develop an action plan to achieve them
  4. Periodically review and monitor progress

Once you have achieved the next level in one area choose another area to work upon.

Try it and share your experience by posting a comment.

Do you care enough for people that you take care to remember them?

I have this tendency to forget names. I rarely do forget faces. This is very dysfunctional and I am taking steps to counter it.
How do you ensure that you remember people and their faces? I think we need to go even beyond that.
Here are the steps:
  1. Consciously study the face so that you remember it next time
  2. Repeatedly connect the name to the face. You could use mnemonics if you want to
  3. Enquire and remember what they do in life
  4. Remember the conversation you are having with them
  5. Take their visiting card and study it to connect to the person you are talking to

Let's say you meet him after three months and your conversation goes like this:

You: "Hi! Bob, How are you today?"

Bob: "Fine."

You: "How is your work going on in ---?"

Bob: "Oh! we made great progress ---. This is what we achieved ---."

You : "Great Bob!. Last time you had discussed with me about your trip to Hawaii. How was your trip---?"

Bob: "Wow! that was fun ---"

Just imagine the impact you will have on people if you remember to the above detail. They will look at you differently.

While it is important to record the data of people in your Palm or which ever PDA or low tech device you use, it is more important to register and record them in your mind.

Stay tuned for future posts on how to accomplish this.

Think about it. How much do you remember about people you meet.?

Think about the last person you met for the first time.

How much do you remember about her?