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From the Introduction to LET GO OF CLUTTER

Let Go of Clutter is divided into three parts corresponding to your past, present, and future clutter concerns:

Part I: The Past--Understanding Your Clutter Background

Part II: The Present--Dealing with Your Current Clutter

Part III: The Future--Controlling Your Clutter Quota

The top 10 most frequently asked clutter questions are answered throughout these three parts. Other frequently asked clutter questions, along with their answers, are included in the Afterword. The appendixes provide additional resources to help you continue letting go of clutter.


All participants in my Letting Go of Clutter workshops are asked to write down one question about clutter that is of the most concern to them. Since 1988 I've sorted through thousands of these questions, and organized them into representative categories. Here are 10 of the most frequently asked questions and where you'll find the answers in this book.

Q: Why do we keep all this stuff?

A: See Chapter One.

Q: What can I do about the feeling that I can't let go of the clutter?

A: See Chapters One and Two.

Q: What can I do to make myself deal with my clutter?

A: See Chapter Three.

Q: What should I do about all the magazines and newspaper clippings I want to read someday?

A: See Chapter Four.

Q : Is there any way to keep my desk uncluttered?

A: See Chapter Four.

Q: How do I stop letting my mail pile up?

A: See Chapter Four.

Q: How can I unclutter my closets and get rid of clothes that are still perfectly good?

A: See Chapters Five and Seven.

Q: How do I clear out the wall-to-wall clutter in mv garage?

A: See Chapter Five.

Q: What can I do with cards and letters I can't bear to part with?

A: See Chapter Six.

Q: How long do I need to keep tax papers?

A: See Chapter Four and Appendix A.



During my two decades as a professional organizer, I've gone through literally miles of piles and files with my clients. Practice makes perfect, or at least it makes an expert. Over the years, I've developed and refined an effective purging process: Three-speed purging. You see, the secret to effective paper purging is speed--specifically, three types of speed. (No, not fast-faster-fastest, although sometimes it does seem to work that way.) They are: speed sort, speed feed, and speed weed. Speed-sorting and speed-feeding are used for purging piles; speed-weeding is for purging files.

The three-speed process solves three common paperosis-causing dilemmas:

* LINGERING--spending too much time either reading stuff or staring at it while your mind goes off in 40 different directions.

* SIDETRACKING--repeatedlv stopping to "do" various papers (pay a bill, fill out a form, return a call, create a new file).


POSTPONING--putting aside things to "decide on later" later = never).

Come along with me now and see how I help my clients speed through all kinds of piles and files.



1. I usually set a ticking timer for 10- to 15-minute increments beginning at the outset of the session; it creates a sense of urgency and is an ongoing reminder of the passage of time. Along with the timer, I set short-term goals (as described in Chapter Three).

2. The speed-sorting process is often done on the floor unless there is other open, broad, horizontal space available (an extremely rare occurrence).

3. I recommend having at least one ample, empty trash container handy.  Large wastebaskets or boxes work best for this purpose.  Avoid teensy, cute "guest bathroom" wastebaskets; they fill up too quickly.  Plastic bags that flop over are also a waste of time (except when used as liners).  You want to make it as easy as possible to throw stuff out; struggling with floppy bags and tiny baskets wastes time and effort.


Excerpted from Chapter 3, BANISHING YOUR "ENERGY ENEMIES"

The Importance of Visualizing Desirable Outcomes


t's motivating to see what you're working toward. That's why we love to look at "before and after" photos; they give us a sense of what's possible. But how do you create your own "after" picture while you're still deep in the throes of "before"? How can you conjure up an oasis of order while staring at a major mess? Try this:

* On a blank sheet of paper, sketch out how you would like the room to look once it has been decluttered and rearranged. Sketch as simply or as elaborately as you wish; don't let any perceived lack of artistic ability hold you back.

* If you are a collage-maker and have saved images you'd like to use with your sketch, by all means do so--unless it would take you longer to find the clippings than it would to make the collage. (Memo to creative procrastinators: Just do the exercise. It doesn't have to be done perfectly; remember, you won't be graded on this.)

* Imagine how you will feel once you've let go of whatever is currently cluttering up that room or space. Close your eyes and picture yourself doing something enjoyable and/or productive there. (Note: Doing nothing does qualify as doing something enjoyable.) Let yourself savor how good it feels to be in a space that you have rescued from clutter's clutches.



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