I am a creative, stay-at-home, DIY clutterbug and my ever-growing project piles are slowly taking over my desk space. I think most professional writers probably struggle with this. My New Years resolution is to purge—to remove unnecessary items and started projects I’ve yet to finish.
Things that are broken or ruined are a no-brainer for me—toss! I’m not hugely sentimental, so even my wedding dress wasn’t hard for me to pass on (I have pictures, right?).
I struggle with the potential in items—a craft that I know I want to finish, a shirt I might fit back into, photographs that I want to put into an album. I also struggle with the value of items, holding onto things I want to resell or don’t know what to do with because I don’t need them but they aren’t valuable to anyone else.
Rule 1: If you haven’t used it in a year, and it’s not sentimentally valuable, toss or donate it.
Rule 2: Unless it’s completely broken or can’t be washed clean (or underwear), donate it. They will sort it out and toss what they can’t use.
Rule 3: If you are worried about the value, set a deadline for yourself—if you haven’t sold it by then, donate it. If it’s broken then set a deadline and toss it if you don’t get it fixed by that date.
Rule 4: Sentimental value must be contained—keep things that have good memories attached, but within reason. If it’s large, a picture might be best. If it’s small then it should be part of your décor or kept in a keepsake box, but limit yourself.
Rule 5: Set one hour a week dedicated to fixing things and finishing projects. Set another hour (or two!) per week to cleaning out and purging a specific space. Don’t try to do it all in one go.
Stop Buying into It All
This is a hard one for me, but the intake shouldn’t match the outtake of items. We have a bad habit of buying all the coolest things—things we don’t really need. Living Well Spending Less recently posted a genus piece on living Clutter-Free Forever. Her helpful guidelines included: stop the flow, ruthlessly purge, set strict limits and value quality over quantity. Living Well Spending Less points out:
We live in a time of more excess and waste than ever before. We think nothing of a closet full of clothes, where our grandmothers and great-grandmothers only ever had a few dresses and a single pair of shoes to get them by. Holidays and birthdays are accompanied by piles of gifts rather than just one or two, while our kitchens and bathrooms are packed to the gills with gadgets, accessories, and products.
Professional Writers Need Space Too!
Finally, amidst all the purging, cleaning and clearing, you have to set aside a space for your work. Somewhere inspiring and a place where you are able to concentrate but you don’t feel left out.
Personally, I need to be in the central room of my house—I just get too distracted if I am in some side room and don’t know what’s going on. I don’t have a traditional office, but it’s because I feel less confined in a space that feels creative and open. You have to figure out what motivates you and stick with that.
Alethea M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.