“Clutter is simply delayed decisions. Having systems in place makes it easier to make decisions” (Marilyn Gardner).
This morning I picked up a piece of paper from my desk, read it, and told myself to make a decision about it—inspired by Gardner’s insightful definition.
Recycle it? No. It contained some good thoughts I wanted to keep.
Why did I want to keep it, and when might I look for it again? Aha, those were the key questions! Well, I might want to quote it in something I’m writing. Ok, then. I 3-hole punched it and put it in the 3-ring notebook labeled Supporting Material. Hurray. One small victory over clutter. And that little victory was possible because I had a system, a place for it. Making that modest system only took a bit of thought, and now it is reaping rewards.
Clutter is my enemy. It trips me up, wastes my time, hides my treasures, and makes my home a less enjoyable place to be. But while it is my enemy, I am not clutter’s victim.
Gardner’s definition is a gift to me. It frees me from paralysis. If clutter is not the invincible foe but merely “delayed decisions,” then I know what to do: make a decision. Or create a system that will make decisions for me.
Simple? Not really. Creating systems for all my clutter starts to sound like an overwhelming task, but Robert Maurer helps me here, with his book One Small Change Can Change Your Life. He claims that real and lasting change often comes from making one tiny step in the right direction and then letting yourself get used to in. “If your expectation is that a well-run life should always be orderly, you are setting yourself up for panic and defeat,” says Maurer. A healthier response is to look disorder (or whatever is causing distress) in the face and make one small step toward resolving it.
The initial step you make today must be so small and easy to do that you can keep it up. It’s the keeping it up that matters, says Maurer: “As your small steps continue and your cortex starts working, the brain begins to create ‘software’ for your desired change, actually laying down new nerve pathways and building new habits.” And this results in “the neural network for enjoying the change.”
Maurer’s principles can be applied to any change your life is asking from you. For me, it’s a practical way to applyGardner’s insight about clutter.
How do you manage clutter? Can you share any systems you’ve incorporated that might inspire us to design systems of our own? Or have you tried the “one small step” approach to change? Has it worked for you?