By Lissa Cupp, vice president, e-Commerce & Consumer Marketing, ACCO Brands

It’s nearly impossible to completely escape clutter. Whether it’s a junk drawer, the in-box at work or a stack of newspapers near the front door, clutter somehow makes its presence felt.

This clutter, in turn, leads to stress, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and unproductive. Unfortunately, there is carry-over of these negativities from work to home and vice versa. The result is a breakdown of an ideal work/life balance.

This balance must be maintained if you want to be truly productive and lead an ideal lifestyle. One way to help ensure that this happens is to get optimized. There is a great analogy for this: We all know that if we want our computer, for example, to run smooth, fast and efficient, it needs to be optimized. That is, the “clutter” on the hard drive needs to be removed or organized in such a fashion as to allow easy access to files and programs. This rings true for you as well.

While there isn’t a “defragmenter” program that we can turn loose on ourselves, there are several steps you can take to get optimized.

  • One bite at a time: It’s easy to forget that we’re not super-human and can take on 100 tasks at once—but it doesn’t stop many of us from trying! Nevertheless, you need to approach tasks like de-cluttering in small chunks—15 minutes at a time works well. This makes the tasks at hand much more manageable and provides you with a genuine sense of accomplishment when you’re able to complete them.
  • You’ve got mail: Email is a huge contributor to clutter—just think “spam” and e-newsletter subscriptions and updates. Set specific times during the day to check these—we suggest limiting it to 3-4 times, and during the in-between time, turn off alerts or close the email program entirely. For regular paper mail, checking it once per day is more than sufficient. Don’t let either email boxes get too full—they can quickly become overwhelming sources of clutter and snowball out of control.
  • It’s okay to throw it away: When looking at clutter, don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. Purge items when possible. Make this a regular task in your effort to be clutter-free. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!
  • Don’t go it alone: It’s okay and encouraged to ask for help. One person can’t be expected to do everything themselves all the time. At home, ask your spouse or partner to pitch in to the effort. It makes a great productive chore to keep the kids out of trouble, too! At work, look at ways you can move your administrative duties to an intern, virtual assistant or student volunteer.
  • Get rid of the piles: It’s easy to get into the habit of piling up papers. The true task is to organize and actually put away the items in those piles! As soon as you have something that could be stacked up, such as notes and information on a specific project at work or medical bills arriving at your home, file them away accordingly. While you’re at it, purge any old documents that any of these may replace.

It’s difficult—some would say, impossible—to get anything done when your computer isn’t functioning properly. Like your computer, if you’re not optimized, you won’t get much done either. Don’t wait any longer—click “Start” and initiate your own decluttering program today!

Read more about striking a work and life balance as it concerns the clutter around you at

[photo by Justin Marty]

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