salmon-upstreamI have observed folks making some pretty odd choices in an effort to gain surface area.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Gaining surface area is a very worthy goal.  In fact, I have often stated that a clear work surface is the MOST valuable tool in getting organized and staying organized, but only if it HELPS with regular processes, NOT interferes with them.

Case in point: the kitchen counter.  It’s definitely helpful to keep this surface clear to prepare food, but you can’t deny the need to dry dishes there as well.  So it makes no sense to me when I see people putting their dish rack away and leaving less useful stuff out.  It’s a safe bet that the contents of the cabinets and drawers could use some purging.  This will free up the space you need for the cereal boxes, rarely used spices, rubbermaid containers, and empty bags that tend to clog up the vital counter space.  But leave the dish drainer OUT where you need it everyday.

Here’s another one:  the hamper in the closet.  I work with mothers who are frustrated because their kids leave their dirty clothes all over the floor.  Quite often I find the reason is because the hamper or basket is in the closet on the other side of the room.  Why? Because it doesn’t look nice.  Much nicer to see the floor littered with clothes.  Help your kids help you.  Giving them laundry baskets near the bed gives them no more excuses.

The most important work surface of all is the office desk, yet I am always amazed at the stuff that is deemed worthy of that prime real estate: old newspapers, cds, framed photos, candles, empty coffee cups, promotional items, ugly tchotchkes, and empty gadget packages, to name a few.   So what do I observe NOT making the cut, when room needs to be cleared?  The stapler, the tape dispenser, and even to-do items.  For most of us, if you file away a to-do item, you might as well save your time and throw it away.  There is nothing compelling about a closed drawer.  The purpose of your desk surface is to process work.  If you frequently use your stapler to process work, it should be out, at your fingertips.  Don’t fight it.  Save your fight for the ugly tchotchkes!

TODAY’S KEY TO UNLOCKING CLUTTER:  Don’t sweep the first thing you see off your surface to make room.  It might be something you need everyday to process work. To hide it away is like swimming against the current.  (And you’re not a salmon!)