No, not just cleaning it up. Living with it. It seems to nag you. It’s always taking up space in your head as well as in your workplace or home. It can slow down your work pace as you search for one piece of paper or a single object in all the mess.
If it seems overwhelming, pick a certain time every day (after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, before bed are all good times because they are easy to remember). For fifteen minutes, work on the clutter. Then you can stop. Because the next day you’re going to work for fifteen more minutes, and so on until done.
First handle the latest papers or objects that have shown up in the space you want to clear. Always have a trash basket nearby. Maybe you want to tackle a craft room. You’ve recently been shopping and piled a bunch of objects on a table, plus you haven’t put away stuff when finished with it. Start when the latest purchases. Remove packaging and throw them away. Put the objects in a designated places. The next time you go shopping, do not consider the trip over until every item you bought is put away. And the next time you stop on a project for the day, do not leave a mess. Put away tools and materials you’re finished with. Lay out the project nicely for the next time you want to work on it.
If it’s your office, start with the day’s mail. Throw away junk without opening. Open every other piece, throw away inside junk and the outside envelope unless it contains a return address or other information you might need—if so, staple the envelope behind the paper. Glance at the piece of paper and put it in your inbox to handle later (bill or to reply, for example), or in a pile to file away (or if your files are handy, simply file it), and throw out anything you can after reading it, or put it in a spot you’ve designated for reading later. Once you’ve done the daily mail, start with any other paper and do the same with it. If you don’t file as you go, save a few minutes at the end of your fifteen minutes to file.
For the kitchen, begin by figuring out where you want everything to be for ease of use. Then empty out one area, go through the rest of the room and gather everything that should go in that area, putting things away in cupboards or drawers as necessary. Of course, throw out things you never use, or donate them.
You may stop after fifteen minutes, but sometimes you may want to go a bit longer. But don’t wear yourself out, because the next day you won’t want to do anything. The trick is to make this a habit, and skipping a day is not good for habit-making. So, go easy on yourself. Be sure that you remember to always put away purchases you bring home right away and that you clean up and put away everything you used after doing a project, making a meal, or doing office work, or anything else. Habits are easier to break than to make, but if you try this system, you might be amazed at what a clutter-free environment you end up with.