How to Get Rid of Clutter Fast

Clean your office or your home by making multiple passes with a laundry basket or box you can use as a moving, temporary holding area while cleaning.

Stever Robbins
3-minute read
Episode #124

How to Get Rid of Clutter Fast

Why Does Clutter Build Up?

The more we buy, the more we build clutter. When we buy a new printer because our old one ran out of toner, we just toss the old one on the floor. Our robotic arm prototype is leaning against the filing cabinet. Last season’s designer hot pants are draped over the flip-chart-size post-it pad we use for notes during our off-site. And that takeout container of leftover meatloaf will make a great snack tonight as we watch the latest episode of Nasal Fluids Explained.

The reason clutter builds up is because it takes effort to put stuff away. First, you have to turn your head and look at the clutter. Then you need to think about what it is. Then, you actually have to pick it up and walk all the way to where it goes to put it away. You’ll potentially have to do an entire trip for every item!

How to Get Rid of Clutter Fast

You could clean up one item at a time, but that would be like eating Oreo ice cream cake one spoonful at a time. Perfectly reasonable, but time-consuming and ultimately, not nearly as satisfying as trying to down the entire sheet cake using a canister of pressurized air and a funnel.

What you should do to get rid of clutter fast is this: Start by grabbing an empty box, or if you’re at home, a laundry basket. Make sure it’s big enough to hold a bunch of stuff.

By making two simple passes around your space with an empty box, you’ll be able to clean up your clutter fast.

Now do a complete circuit of your home or office. When you see something out of place, pick it up and put it in the basket. Your half-eaten meatloaf doesn’t belong on the floor, so into the basket it goes. Your robotic arm prototype? The robot should have that, not you. It goes into the basket, too.  When you’ve completed the two circuits of the clutter-filled room, it’s time to take your basket and visit all of the other places you go during the day.

When you move to a new place, take anything out of the basket that belongs there and put it away. When you get to the office fridge, in goes the meatloaf. As you pass the Robot Army Holding Area, the robotic arm goes right onto the spare parts shelf.  As you put stuff away, you should also pick up any clutter from the new rooms that doesn’t belong there.

How to Get Rid of Even More Clutter

I’m sure you instantly see the flaw in the scheme. What if you start in your office, drop off the robotic arm in the Holding Area, and discover that Melvin’s TPS report is sitting in the Holding Area. It belongs in the office, but you’ve already been through the office.

To catch these stragglers, do a second circuit. Since you picked up everything that was out of place the first time around, the second circuit, if you need one, will simply be putting away whatever’s left over. Voila! Everything has now been put away.

Multitask While Putting Away Clutter

I normally frown on multitasking, but I smile super big at putting things away. I smile so big that this time, I’ll let you multitask. As you’re making your rounds, grab a music player and headphones, put on an audiobook about optimizing supply chain management through the value-added processes integral to your industry’s ongoing paradigm shifts, and get brilliant. You’ll organize your space and you’ll organize your mind. Soon, you’ll be so smart you’ll be promoted to your boss’s job, invent a transporter (like the one on Star Trek), and become the human being single-handedly responsible for Humanity taking over the galaxy. And all because you got rid of clutter fast by making two simple passes around your space with an empty box.

See these episodes for more specific get-rid-of-clutter tips to:

-- organize your wardrobe

-- keep your desk spotless

-- clean your apartment in a hurry

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Clutter image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.