I know you don’t actually want your desk to be a mess. Who does, really?
You don’t want to be surrounded by piles reminding you of what you haven’t done. And yet, it seems impossible to clear off your desk and keep it that way.
The stuff just keeps coming back.
Maybe it’s the stuff you’re not sure what to do with, or important papers you’re afraid of losing, or stuff you’re still working on—whatever it is, it leaves you thinking “Why waste my time clearing this off? I have other things to do. I never get ahead of this.”
So you keep on keepin’ on.
You don’t like it—but you put up with it because you don’t know what will make a lasting difference. You have other things to do rather than tidying your desk.
But here’s the thing, keeping your desk clear isn’t about finding better ways to organize your stuff—it about deciding what matters to you.
It’s about deciding that you are unwilling to waste your time and energy—your life in effect—tending to things that don’t matter to you.
And most people think that’s what they are doing when they put something in a pile … but it’s not.
You have to deal with those piles sometime
When you put something in a pile, you aren’t declaring that something isn’t important. You’re saying ‘I haven’t decided about this yet so I’ll put it over here and deal with it later.’
I’ll deal with it later. It’s a popular thought—and one that leads to living surrounded by clutter.
Because really that’s all clutter is—something you haven’t made a decision about yet.
It’s deferred decisions, physically piled up around you. And most people recognize that. It’s why they put off dealing with the clutter, because they know they are going to have to make a whole lot of decisions.
Yet, at some point, you will have to deal with that stuff—and until then, you’ve got to put up with the physical mess as well as the distraction of being constantly reminded of these other things you need to deal with.
Life is too precious to waste on what doesn’t matter
As much as we might wish that putting something in a pile doesn’t cost us anything, it does. Every time you remind yourself you need to deal with x, y or z in the pile, or you need to find something in there, or you have a conversation with yourself about whether today’s a good day for sorting through that stuff—you are spending time, energy and attention on it.
And you haven’t yet decided whether it’s important.
It’s just there demanding your most precious resources—time, energy and attention—and yet the fact it has somehow arrived on your desk does not guarantee it’s something that actually matters to you. So before you can be effective at organizing this stuff, first you need to decide if it matters.
It sounds simple but this is what changed it for me
I decided that I wouldn’t waste my one life caring for and storing things that didn’t matter to me. Anything that didn’t bring me joy or help me live the life I wanted to live, I decided to remove rather than being responsible for it.
Because every thing you own takes time and energy to look after.
So rather than spend my life tending to things that didn’t matter to me, I chose to get rid of those things that were a burden rather than a source of joy—and spend that time on things that were part of living a full life for me.
And that little decision changed everything.
Now, over a decade later, I can’t say that I’m perfect and that I never have a pile of things on my desk. I wish. There are always things I’m choosing not to handle right this moment, and I’m always experimenting with different ways to deal with the stuff that’s coming in.
The difference now is that it’s a little pile because I decide before putting it down whether it’s important. And I regularly handle the pile because I’m unwilling to waste my energy going in circles about when I’m going to deal with it.
My tolerance for clutter now is virtually non-existent because I see it as an obstacle to what matters most to me.
Every thing is either serving a purpose—or it’s in the way
That shift in perspective changes your relationship with your stuff. All of a sudden clutter goes from being a benign annoyance to something that’s stopping you from devoting yourself to what you actually want.
Instead of asking whether you might need this thing someday or where you should put it, now you’re asking, is it important for me to do or have this? Is this thing helping me to have the life I want?
Because things that are either important and serving a function (that we care about) in our lives. Or they are junk we can get rid of.
That’s it. That’s what decluttering really is. It’s the process of discerning whether something is important to the life you want to have—or whether it’s junk.
After that, then you can find ways to store the important stuff so that it’s accessible when you need it—and out of the way when you don’t. That’s all organizing is.
But before you can organize, you must decide what deserves to stay, what is worthy of spending your time and energy on.
So today, I’m going to challenge you to name what’s important to you. Where do you most want to spend your time and energy right now? What does living a vibrant life look like for you over the next couple of months?
And if there’s anything in your environment right now that’s getting in the way of that life, get it out of there. Decide to decide—and keep only what matters so you can give your full energy to living the life you want.
How about you?
What really matters to you? And how is that reflected in the things you have around you—or not? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments – click here to tell us what has a place in your life.