Throw it away. Seriously. Right in the Trash.

Messy DeskHi, my name is Steve, and I’ve been clutter-free for 2 weeks now.  (Hi Steve!)

This blog is long, so bear with me:  I used to save EVERYTHING.  I had receipts in my George Costanza wallet from my trip to Kroger months ago.  I had birthday cards in my closet from when I was in High School.  My room was a disaster: every area of space (dresser, desk, bookshelf) was covered with opened mail, old magazines, and books I had finished reading.

Two weeks ago, I decided to make a change, beginning with my workspace, and it has carried over to the rest of my life.  It all started when I read Tim Ferriss’s blog on Rethinking the Office (whole blog here) where he explains a unique office situation in Europe:

“Through simple redesign of workspaces, Interpolis of Holland increased productivity 20%, and sick leave has dropped from 9% to 2.5%. Last but not least, their new design also brings in 90,000 visitors a year.”

How did they do it? This next part will seem confusing to anybody working in a cubicle or behind a big desk with filing cabinets in a corporate environment:

“Individual offices seem to play no role?

No. Interpolis has open designed work floors and a large meeting floor: The Plaza, which was differently designed by artists. That’s where you can eat, drink coffee and discuss in large or small groups.

And every morning everybody hunts for his desk…

The employees are released, so to speak, in environments where there is no separate desk, where you work almost paperless without standard office desks but several different ones – suitable for all kinds of activities.”

Then, Tim posted a picture of his own home office (if you can even call it that):

Tim Ferriss Office

I looked at the picture, then looked at my desk, and decided that I was going to make a change.  Before beginning the transformation, I forwarded the blog to Andy knowing that he had a similar philosophy.  Two minutes later, he ran into the marketing department yelling, “That blog!  That was how I wanted to set up our new office, but everybody looked at me like I was crazy! I knew it was a good idea!”

30 minutes later, after going through every piece of paper on my desk and realizing they were completely unnecessary, I had a desk with four things on it: my computer, a lamp, my Sixthman notebook, and a glass of water.  Immediately my day seemed less stressful, there was more clarity to each task I needed to complete, and I was more productive.  That night, I went home and cleaned up my room: I took all the papers off my desk, fixed my unorganized filing cabinet (a shoebox with all my important documents mixed in with useless junk mail), and folded all my laundry.  Suddenly, my entire life seemed less stressful.  This stuff actually works!

I’m currently trying to apply this simplistic, minimalist approach to other aspects of my life:

1) Stop buying DVDs!  I have a DVD collection that borders on ridiculous.  However, I haven’t bought a new movie in about 3 months, I have saved tons of money, and I still get to watch whatever I want, whenever I want (thank you netflix and iTunes).

2) Plan to buy a Kindle when I can afford it.  I love to read: I read every night before bed, and every morning right when I wake up.  I often go through two or three books a week, which means I have a bookshelf LOADED with books I probably won’t read again.  If I could condense a bookshelf full of old books into a 6 by 9 inch tablet, that’s one less thing to deal with, right?

3)Make sure all of my bills are paid electronically, so that I don’t have to receive them in the mail and deal with individually: one less thing to remember once the automatic payments are set up too.  Better for the environment as well.

4)Go through my closet, applying the 80/20 rule, and find out which 20% of my clothes I wear 80% of the time, and get rid of the stuff I never wear.  Try it out with your closet.  I guarantee you’ll find plenty of clothes you’ll never wear again, but you’re holding onto “just in case.”  You’ll never wear them, so why not bring them to a homeless shelter or goodwill?

This is where I’m at so far.  Anybody else have issues with a cluttered desk or too much junk in their closets?  Any suggestions on what else I can do to keep it simple?


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20 thoughts on “Throw it away. Seriously. Right in the Trash.

  1. You should see my desk! I am going to make a promise to work on my area in all of my spare moments today.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. When I was living in a tiny cramped apt in NYC (and drowning in my own mess) I read a book called “Clear Your Clutter, Clear Your Mind” and ever since then, at the beginning of every season, I go through every room, drawer and closet. Then I Good Will or consign anything that has not been used in a year’s time or that has no real sentimental value. I also make sure sure that if it does have sentimental value it is either properly displayed or stored so it keeps it’s “worth.” It’s been a total life/space and stress reliever. Plus every four months or so I get the pleasure of feeling lighter and basically finding new and creative ways to share my favorite memories and items with others. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

  3. I’m a huge mess at work, and I like it that way. However, at home, I’ll throw stuff away so fast, you won’t even know you had the thing to begin with. About 2 years ago, I moved, and had a massive “cleanse.” Not the kind that requires lots of juice and no solid food, but the kind where you get rid of anything you don’t need. It was liberating.

    The only thing I never get rid of is clothes (unless they just don’t fit.) I have quite a collection of weird clothing items, and I am lucky enough to lead a life that requires frequent costume changes. Anyone need a tutu and a watermelon hat?

  4. You don’t need a Kindle to read electronic books. I’ve been reading ebooks instead of paper books for years (probably about 5 years now). First on my Palm, but since I switched to a Windows Mobile phone earlier this year I switched over to that too. All books moved with me. I can carry as many books with me as I want, they don’t get heavier :). I’m sure the Kindle is nicer to read books on, but it does mean an extra device to carry along, which was what I was trying to avoid.

    Check out or There are readers for Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile, Windows, Symbian (nokia phones), iPhone/iPod Touch (eReader only) and Mac (eReader only) and a couple of dedicated reading devices.

    I read so many more books now compared to reading paper books. Best decision ever.

    BTW, the nice thing about the reader on the phone is that you can shop right from the reader (a bit like Kindle)

  5. I know it’s not very eco-friendly, but one of the few things that I am sentimental about is the smell of a good book and the way the paper feels in my hands. I love the way old books smell, and new books. I love turning the pages, and bending the flaps. I love making marks in pencil, underlining my favorite quotes. I love the way my bedside table looks when it’s piled up with books I’ve read over and over again.

    I’ll never switch to e-books (until they stop making real books at least), but anyone who’s seen my desk will agree that I needed to read this blog. Thanks Stever. Throwing out old post-it notes now! Don’t worry, they’re going in the recycling bin.

  6. Pingback: The Sixthman Blog » Blog Archive » Why 80% of the Things You Do Might Be a Waste of Time

  7. Pingback: The 80/20 Rule - Why 80% of the stuff you do is a waste of time! | Nerd Fitness

  8. Pingback: The Sixthman Blog » Blog Archive » Decluttering My Bookshelf and My Life

  9. I’m much happier with the Kindle 2 than with the original Kindle (though I was quite happy with the original).

    First, the K2 is much thinner; it’s much better balanced in the hand. It reminds me of the feel of the iPhone 3G, which is also very well balanced.

    The redesign of the buttons is a great improvement. No more the almost unavoidable accidental page turns that occurred with the original Kindle.

    Excellent update!

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