Standing Up to Paper

Papers are so light and thin and seemingly innocent, but they are some of the stickiest clutter, and when they form piles on people's desks and counter tops, people often give up and let the papers have their way.

When I was in college, my desk used to always be covered with papers. I didn't question their presence. If I needed a paper, I would go for a hunt on my desk. My experience showed me it's easy to adapt and co-exist with chaos. I was pretty scattered at the time, so I didn't sense something was out of whack.

But then one of my art professors told our class about the importance of having a clean work surface. He said it put you in a calmer state of mind and allowed new ideas to flow more easily. I got very excited at the concept of new ideas and wanted to have them. So when I went back to my dorm room that day I saw my cluttered desk space as a culprit. I went through the papers with glee and threw out most of them. I was amazed at how many pieces of paper I didn't need or didn't care for. I relished the open space.

I use this same sense of adventure when helping people dismantle their paper clutter structures. I sat next to a client at his desk recently. He felt so lost sitting amidst the hills and valleys of paper. He was a smart guy, but the presence of the papers seemed to make him drunk. He couldn't think straight. He didn't know where to start. So I helped him by picking up a flyer for an event and asked him if he was going to attend or not. He couldn't decide. I noticed and pointed out that the date of the event was two weeks ago. He had an "Are You Kidding Me?" look on his face. He read the date and tossed the paper. This gave him the confidence to begin questioning the remaining papers.