Questions to Ask to Avoid Clutter by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

By meggin@meggin.com
Jan 18th, 2014
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Clutter in a faculty member’s office?  Oh, surely not!?  However, just in case…

Your clutter didn’t arrive on the scene overnight and it won’t disappear overnight (darn it!)  I recommend you print out these questions and post them wherever you have clutter lurking and are ready to start getting rid of it…

  1. When was the last time I actually used this item?  Answer truthfully and depending on the answer, get rid of it.
  2. Can I see myself specifically using or needing this item or information in the future? Tell the truth…and then toss it if the answer is “no.”
  3. Did I request this information or this item?  Your workspace is not a receptacle for other people’s “stuff.” If the item or information doesn’t serve you, get rid of it.
  4. Is this information current or is it so out-of-date that it is a liability?  You are  a professor. You are current, right? Keep your information current, too. You don’t want to be surrounded by out-of-date items. (Exceptions made for history professors, however; they know the difference I’m talking about though).
  5. Would it be difficult or expensive to replace or reacquire this information or this piece of paper?
  6. Is this information available elsewhere?  (Hint: The answer is almost always “yes” in this day and age.)
  7. Are there any tax or other legal reasons for keeping this item or paper?
  8. Does this paper have positive, negative, or neutral emotions attached to it?
  9. What is the worst thing that could happen if I no longer had this piece of paper (notebook, folder, or other paper item)?
  10. Do I have the space to store this paper?

Ask yourself these questions as you go through your files (or your piles). Depending on the answers, you are likely to be able to get rid of 50 – 80% or more of what you’ve been keeping.

Remember: Although these questions were primarily geared toward paper, essentially all of them also work with other types of clutter. So use them as needed!

declutterAnd if you’d like more ideas to help you rid yourself of clutter you will want to access the Get a Plan! Guide® to De-clutter & De-stress: A Dozen Ways to Decrease Your Clutter and Decrease Your Stress. This Get a Plan! Guide® will help you learn a dozen specific ways to start dealing deliberately with your clutter – and then experiencing a reduction in your stress

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