Couple laying on floor surrounded by piles of moving boxes.

“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more.”  ~Henry Ford

So many productivity “secrets” seem to create MORE work, not less. We spend countless hours looking for ways to keep our outward focus, always searching for a magical way to get satisfaction AND simplicity from an external source.

We hope and pray that something will appear that won’t require us to change anything we’re currently doing—that somehow the faulty equation of outward seeking and increase will add up to internal serenity and enough. This is another example of bad math.

You can’t keep dragging things home or onto your hard drive while expecting there to be less clutter in your life.

No amount of enthusiasm for “getting things done” is going to break the cycle of clutter building up, you breaking it down, feeling exhausted and also accomplished—until the next time you have to do it all over again. It seems to be an endless cycle. You may tell yourself, “This is just a part of my daily life. I live in a developed country, there’s stuff everywhere. This is both the blessing and the curse of a consumer’s economy.”

I’m going to tell you that it does not have to be this way. There are steps you can take, if you are willing, to make your cleaning/organizing sessions less—less demanding, less involved and finished sooner. How much time do you want to spend interacting with stuff? The average person will WASTE one year of their life looking for lost and misplaced items. You may not think you’re average, but when it comes to stuff, you are probably also NOT the exception.

I never feel bad when straightening up my apartment or office doesn’t take me all day but rather an hour and leaves me time to meet my friend for dinner before a movie.

This has very little to do with the size of your family or your home. It has EVERYTHING to do with where your focus is.

Right now, look around your home or office and take stock. Don’t glance around nervously, not really seeing what is around you. Actually sit and breathe for a moment and see. Of all the stuff you see around you, WHAT IS MISSING? If you have too much stuff, it is possible that you have all the wrong stuff, but it’s more likely that you have plenty of both the wrong stuff AND the right stuff.

If this is true, then stuff, more stuff is not the answer to what ails you.

What simple steps can you take right now to remove everything that you see that doesn’t work, is broken or damaged, that you haven’t used in more than a year or two, or that you don’t like or don’t even remember where it came from? Set a timer or use an app and spend 15 minutes removing stuff. Don’t talk yourself out of it, just do it.

Then, every time you go to pick up something you can’t eat or drink or rub onto your body or someone else’s and bring it home, ask yourself: “Am I making my life simpler or more complicated by bringing this home?” Wake up to the fact that time is short and every delayed decision will eventually have to be made—either by you or someone who survives you.

Wouldn’t it be better to spend your precious time with the people you say are most important to you or doing the thing that brings you the greatest satisfaction and sense of accomplishment instead of accumulating inanimate things for someday or later … particularly when you have no idea if someday or later will even get here and I know that they don’t exist.

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About The Author

Andrew Mellen's picture

Andrew Mellen is an organizational expert, public speaker, and the #1 best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!

Andrew has helped tens of thousands of people worldwide to declutter and simplify their lives while regaining time for the things that matter.

A sought-after authority on organizing and productivity, Andrew's addressed audiences from The Great British Business Show to TEDx. 

Corporate clients include American Express, Genentech, NetApp, Time, Inc., and the US Depts. of Education and Homeland Security.

The media has dubbed Andrew “The Most Organized Man in America.” He writes a featured column called “Ask The Organizer” in Real Simple. In addition, he has written for and/or appeared in: The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, America Now, The Lisa Oz Show, The Nate Berkus Show, Oprah & Friends, Martha Stewart Living Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CW11, HGTV, DIY Network, LiveWell Network, KnowMoreTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, GQ, InStyle, All You, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Healthy UK, American Way, numerous trade and travel publications, and NPR.

He leads workshops and speaks internationally while maintaining a private practice working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, and non-profits to CEOs, award-winning filmmakers, and authors, as well as overwhelmed parents everywhere. 

In 2013, Andrew founded Unstuff U®, the world's first completely virtual personal organization training center, offering classes, workshops, and other online resources for businesses and individuals. 

Andrew is a member of the Experts Collective and serves on the faculty of the New York Open Center in New York City. He speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at places including Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan, and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others.

Previously, Andrew was an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and director and the former Artistic Director of Alice B. Theater (Seattle), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and Shuttle Theater Company (New York). He is a contributing author to Yes Is the Answer: (And Other Prog-Rock Tales).

Andrew lives by his motto: More Love, Less Stuff!® 

Find him on the web at andrewmellen.com.

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