Thing-a-Day 03: Decluttering System

Thing-a-Day 03: Decluttering System

Decluttering System

Monday was very chilly, and I decided to stay in. Looking around, I felt that the space was sucking vast amounts of energy out of me because it is not pleasant. If I want to sit down, there’s always something in the way. If I want to spread out and think, there’s junk on all the tables and couches. I will go to Starbucks and work there because it’s easy to go to and ignore the problem at home, but TODAY I am putting some time into fixing it.

Si after doing a little bit of work, I switched to the decluttering task, which produced today’s “thing”…a diagram of where things should go:

The Process

First, I just got a bunch of shoeboxes and started grouping items together. I didn’t have any preconceived notion of what groups would exist; I just kept moving things around until a particular box had a theme that I could relate to.

Declutter Piles

After I got all the boxes sorted out, I looked at each one and determined what they were, eventually coming up with this working list:


  • computers, printer (next to filing)
  • timer


  • speakers and receiver
  • speaker routing and sound mixing
  • uninterruptible power supplies
  • networking routers and wireless access points
  • power distribution


  • clear of junk, facing away from computer desk
  • physical storage of active projects (in shoeboxes)
  • current catalogs and reading material
  • timer


  • paper, continuity pads, note cards, pens
  • filing: work in progress


  • printer, scanner
  • staplers, punchers, tape, measuring, scales, label makers
  • calculators, extra keyboards
  • digital scales
  • printer supplies
  • monitor cleaning supplies
  • filing: physical mail
  • filing: expenses
  • filing: business tax records


  • books, magazines
  • drawings


  • teacups, teapots, toys, robots, fountain pens, business card holders


  • planners, notebooks, soylent, toys, stationery, pens


  • cameras, audio field recorders
  • chargers, batteries, tripods, bags
  • dongles, flash drives, cdr


  • DVDR, CDR, BLURAY Backup Storage
  • Hard Disk Storage


  • business card folders, bills, invoices
  • process and strategy
  • meeting minutes, agendas, review material


  • wood samples, paint swatches
  • hangers


  • etp5885, etp50, etp75, etp4X6
  • boxes and boxes of them
  • tape, shipping supplies
  • scale

Some things, of course, just file themselves:

Self-filing cat


After looking at all the groups and their purpose, I decided that there probably are two different working areas: the upstairs one and the downstairs one. That’s what this diagram attempts to convey:


The next steps are to label each shoebox and move them downstairs to the Shoebox Filing System, which I have just expanded with another shelf unit. I should be able to squeeze a lot of stuff onto it, and then I can start taking down the ugly shelves I have in the living room.

I should have a less-cluttered living room by tomorrow morning.

In hindsight, the declutter system is this:

  • Get a bunch of empty shoeboxes, and make sure you have a place to rack ’em up on shelves.
  • Start taking everything in the room and putting them in the boxes by “group”, which is just your notion of what belongs with what.
  • Figure out what stuff NEEDS to stay in the room, and what gets used most often. Find a home for them.
  • Figure out where to store everything else. Shoeboxes can get filed in the shoebox storage. Other things may require moving furniture.
  • Hustle until it’s done!
  • Take the stuff you don’t need to Good Will.

It’s not a particularly well thought-out system, but it’s easy enough for me to follow without having to worry about correctness in my filing approach.


DeclutteredFilingThe next morning, I took a picture of the living room as it starts to re-emerge, and the shoebox storage downstairs. The shelf in the middle of the screen contains boxes with the stuff moved from the living room.

There are still quite a few pieces of stuff on the shelves, but they are my “daily use” items or are larger pieces that will be moved once I have the basement cleaned up a bit more.

I also just ordered some business card self-stick top-loading poly sleeves to replace the Post-It notes on the boxes with some cool hand-typed labels. The nice thing about the top-loading poly sleeves are that they can also take index cards if I need more space to write on.

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