When an Organizing Holder Becomes a Trash Can

At the clutter busting workshop last weekend, someone brought in an organizing holder. It was small and made of metal and wicker. It was over stuffed with mail, coupons, receipts, and note scraps. It looked like the holder was a small animal that tried to eat too huge a mouthful of paper.

I see this on most jobs. My clients buy these items from office supply and container stores. They are presented as an organizing solution. The idea being that if you just had a place to put your things, you wouldn't have a clutter problem. What ends up happening is these things become expensive trash cans and the person feels worse for not being able to organize their stuff.

I dumped out all the items from the holder. I told her it's the best way to start. When we see the item with all the things jammed in it, it's intimidating and we don't want to get involved. With the items dumped onto a table, it becomes something to take care of, kind of like if you spilled juice. We went through one item at a time. Some were from events that had expired. Some were notes and articles she wasn't interested in. There were also receipts she didn't need. They were all tossed in a recycling container. She only kept a few items.

I told her these holders don't work well. When we come home from a busy day, we are more tired than when we started out on the day. We have less capacity to deal with things. When we come across the mail, or we take things out of our purse or wallet or pockets, we might feel too overwhelmed to deal with these things. So if there is a holder, it becomes easier to put them there. It gives a quick feeling of relief. A few days, or a week goes by, and the thing gets filled up. It's hard to feel inspired enough to go through it. People then end up buying more containers and continue this habit.

What I suggest is, first noticing that this isn't working, and the frustration that comes with it. Second, when you come home, stand by the trash can, and go through your mail and your purse, etc. If you can eliminate it before it has a chance to take root, it makes things simpler for you. Third, have a simple filing system for any pieces of paper. Paper is one of the most distracting forms of clutter. If you buy a pack of manila folders, you can mark the tabs in pencil and create a category whenever you want. You don't have to buy a filing cabinet. The office supply stores have small portable file holders. Or you can create a system of your own.